Partying in Vegas has given me a glimpse into the best, and worst of human behavior. I’ve witnessed (and personally experienced) women in nightclub environments getting groped, harassed and borderline assaulted.
I also went to Wet Republic one year (about 5 years back) and met a group of marines who were doing the gold-standard Vegas “guys trip.” They approached me and my girlfriends and started typical “pool chatter” (Where are you guys from? Where are you staying? Where are you partying tonight?) So yeah, there were NO discussions going on about the state of the union and topical world affairs. But hey, it’s a Vegas pool party, and no one is there to talk politics. It’s the ultimate “let me stare at hot, tanned people in next to nothing” escape from reality.
But, I digress.
So as my girlfriends and I are mingling poolside with the “marine team,” we notice a heavily intoxicated girl in the pool (She was barely able to keep her eyes open, so she may have been partying with things harder than booze). We watched as a group of guys surrounded her, as she was sitting in a donut-shaped “floatie.”
Then, things got gross, and molest-y pretty quick. The guys were dipping their hands under the water, and it was pretty obvious what the agenda was — they were trying to get to her butt/crotch area. So they basically found a discrete way to sexually assault a girl “out of view” (under the water). And whatever girlfriends she had were nowhere in sight (they were probably in the bathroom getting higher than the empire state).
So now, “girl code” kicked in for me and my girlfriends. Even though we didn’t know this girl, we knew we had to be her “stand in friends” and help her.
Our first instinct was to alert the pool security. We knew that standing up to a group of drunk bros in that type of environment may escalate the situation and turn violent.
But, there was also a caveat with alerting security — simply locating someone would be a challenge. Bodies were packed in like sardines and we knew it’d take a few minutes to find someone to help. Meanwhile, this poor girl would continue to be violated.
We had to stop it. NOW.
There was a moment we were worried that the dreaded “Hey, It’s none of our business/We don’t want to get involved” mentality would kick in for our new marine friends, but then…they made us proud. Damn proud.
We looked over and literally saw their chests swelling up. Their body language changed. They all looked at each other and of gave a collective nod. One of the guys said “Let’s go.” And off they went.
We watched as the marines got in the pool and formed a perimeter around the girl, creating a barrier between her and the “men” in question. They stood confident, and addressed the disgusting gropers/assaulters somewhat gently like: “Hey, what’s up. How’s it going?”
I realized this wasn’t polite banter, it was “code” for: “I know what you’re doing, so stop, or we will make a scene. Your choice.” The assaulters quickly slithered away once they realized they were outed.
God Bless America! My girlfriends and I were relieved the girl was now safe. It also restored our faith that good will and humanity still exist in the hearts of young men.
We did end up alerting security, but, by that point, I’m doubtful anything happened. With so many almost-naked bodies in the pool, the nasty gropers could have possibly argued that the touching was “accidental.” It happened very quickly, and phones were out of reach so, unfortunately, no video was taken to verify the assault.
Still, I’m hopeful these good men stepping in and making their presence known left an impression on the sleazebags in the pool, for any future temptations of nasty, gropey-ness.
Reflecting on this incident led me to explore why certain men adhere to a guy code of “protecting women” and others decide to go with that other, shitty code of “I’ll just look away and not say anything.”
Is it character? The company they keep (their bros)? Or a mixture of both? Does a man’s willingness to take action come from peer influence? It seemed for our marine friends, intervening to help a woman, or anyone, in a compromised state was a built-in understanding within their crew. This obviously could have been a by-product of military, and the brotherhood that exists within that culture.
But… I’ve also had experiences involving men in the military who acted in a manner that was pretty much the opposite of honorable.
It’s undeniable that character and personal beliefs are involved when exploring the willingness to act. But, I’m a firm believer that the more men stand up, then more will follow suit. Taking action should always be the norm, and not the exception.
To this day, I still feel guilty that I hesitated before stepping in to help this girl. I’m well aware that the burden to speak up should not fall entirely on the shoulders of men. But in this instance, a group of girls jumping into the pool in bikinis wouldn’t have carried the same intimidation factor that a group of buff marines did. Odds are, that guys who won’t respect a woman’s body, also won’t respect her voice.
But getting older makes you bolder, and I would definitely do it different if it happened again. And to all the men out there who follow the same code as the fine gentleman who stepped in that day at the pool, when others would have looked away — I salute you.
Thanks for making “guy code” great again.