Edinburgh festivals: Fringe performer speaks out about 'non-stop' sexual harassment while handing out flyers
A Fringe performer has spoken out about being ‘non-stop’ sexually harassed while handing out flyers dressed in a Gorilla costume in the city centre.
Posey Mehta said she has been groped, kissed and subjected to verbal ‘fat’ insults while promoting her surreal, clown-comedy debut ‘I’m not a Gorilla’.
Ms Mehta said the sexual harassment has been so bad she has gone home in tears and has at times feared for her safety.
She told the Evening News the experience has made her alter her behaviour to try to avoid unwanted attention, while continuing to promote her show.
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The 26-year-old avoids making eye contact or walking near groups of more than two men and has added a bra on top of her Gorilla costume.
But she is now scared to go out alone at weekends to flyer and she will only do it if she’s accompanied by a friend.
Mehta said: “I have never experienced as much harassment. Because I’m in character people seem to think that’s a licence to treat me as less than human. I’ve had loads of men
come up and touch the nipples on my costume or grab my bum without even talking to me first. It makes me deeply uncomfortable. I’m in costume, it’s not overtly sexual. But even
if it were, it still wouldn't be an invitation to touch me without my consent.
"I asked one guy if he’d do this if I wasn’t dressed up as a gorilla. He replied that he would if he could get away with it.”
"I’ve been called ‘f***ing massive, a fat bitch, an elephant. I've had multiple men come up behind me, grab my ass and then say ‘oh sorry! I thought you were my ex,'
"One night, two men who had been verbally abusive when I flyered them later came to the show. Throughout the show, they videoed me and talked loudly about how I was a "fat
c**t." It got so bad that other audience members told them to be quiet.
“After that show, I came home and cried on the sofa. The show has a lot of audience interaction in it and I felt so unsafe in those moments and just being trapped with them in the room after how they had acted.”
Following the incident with men being abusive during the show technicians now have devices to call Underbelly front-of-house in emergencies.
Mehta said she feels the venue is doing all they can but the reality is that performers feel they have to put up with harassment because flyering is the most effective way to promote lesser-known shows.
Mehta added: “I didn’t even know that touching like that on the street without consent was a reportable offence. I wouldn’t know where to start, it’s constant. And I’m so conscious of how I react when I’m out there in costume. I don’t want to put anyone off coming along.”
"I’ve already decided I'll hire flyerers next year because I just couldn't put up with another month of this, which feels so against the spirit of the Fringe.
“I know that I'm not alone in this. I've spoken to multiple other performers, and drag artists in particular, who have also experienced harassment, with many also having made the decision to stop flyering. I hear from Drag acts and others that they felt they had to stop going out alone too.
“I've been teaming up with other solo performers to flyer in groups and support each other. We deserve to feel safe while we're working.”
Edinburgh Fringe Festival has been contacted for comment.