Welcome week quickly fades to a blurred reel of cheesy snapshots as August transitions to September: dresses and sandals, warm laughter, red cups, porch hangouts and extended coffee dates. For some of my friends and me, this also meant using the warm air and free time to dance a weeknight away at the (in)famous Rick’s American Cafe.

On our way we picked up some friends, and as the night unfolded we danced and hugged bodies with familiar faces, jovial and intoxicated, celebrating life as 21-year-old University kids. Friends came and went, kissing our cheeks as they scampered out the door. As the night came to its organic closure, I was left with my two girlfriends — one of whom was off talking to someone near the bar.

Marching through the club to the dance floor with one friend’s hand in mine, my friend stopped to yell at a boy we had just passed. Red and flustered, she explained to me that he grabbed her ass as we walked by. Unnerved by aggressive male attention, we walked quickly toward the exit so she could take a deep breath outside. As soon as we exited the doors, we realized that we had left our last lingering girlfriend in the club, intoxicated and alone, without trusted bodies to walk her home.

Immediately we turned back to the two boys guarding the doors and asked if we could quickly run in and grab our friend who had been left alone in the basement of Rick’s. They denied our access explaining that they were no longer offering admission to the club, and that they were trying to get people out at this hour of the night.

We were completely taken aback. Our friend was alone in a dark club full of aggressive men, and we were raised with the attitude that you never leave a girlfriend alone. We were taught that we could leave our male friends alone if they like. Women are constantly told to watch our drinks, carry mace, wear nail polish to test our drinks for roofies, learn self-defense, never walk home alone, not trust strangers and not get too drunk.

We persisted and continued to argue that we would just be a moment; we had to retrieve our female friend who was alone in a packed club and had no one to walk home with. My friend explained to the male guards that it is all too common for a woman to be sexually assaulted on the streets of a dark city, even Ann Arbor, where there have been many reported and unreported sexual assaults. However, despite our pleas to grab our abandoned friend, the guard boys persisted that we could not re-enter.

A minute or two into our confrontation with the guard boys, another boy who had been in the club that night ran up to the door and asked if he could run in to grab his debit card — he was immediately re-admitted. This made us fume with rage. I wondered aloud, “Is a piece of plastic so much more important than a PERSON??”

The boy countered: “It’s a debit card.”

Frustrated by our decision to fight back, one of the guards sassily told us that we could “take it up with the manager” if we wanted to re-enter. His tone suggested that we would make a fool of ourselves asking, because the manager would never let us in.

After more futile attempts to reason with the boys, we approached the manager of the club who was talking to some policemen on the sidewalk, and because he was a fair man — or maybe because the cops were watching — he immediately required his guard boys to let us in to retrieve our friend.

That night I felt like a victim. I felt completely powerless as a woman trying to protect my girlfriends. These buff white boys at the door could have easily stopped me had I tried to fight my way through them to my friend. They were in control of her safety, of my power and of my ability to follow my overwhelmingly strong instincts to retrieve and protect my friend.

It seems like every day I read articles in the paper about the movement to create justice for rape victims on campuses, to launch movements to teach men not to assault women. I get UHS alerts regularly about the latest woman assaulted on the street at night. I console friends about their traumatizing experiences and build rage-filled calluses for the continuing subjugation of women in our contemporary society. We need to learn. We need to fight. We need to protect our women.

She was left to fend for herself. A boy’s credit card was quickly retrieved. Hey, it was important. It was his debit card.

Maris Harmon is an LSA senior.

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