Consensual Violence

I was violently attacked by a muscle-bound youth. But he committed no aggression against me.

With a big grin, the young man shoved me hard through the crowd. I staggered, wheeling backward on my heels for a few futile steps before falling flat on my back on the concrete floor. My glasses bounced off my head and skittered into the forest of stomping feet behind me. I flailed over my head for them with my arm, but then the guy who’d pushed me jumped right on top of me.

I was not angry at my assailant. I had asked for his attack just by being there, in the mosh pit.

This was my first mosh pit, and my first heavy-metal concert. (The band was Iced Earth, by the way, and its main songwriter has a G. Edward Griffin–inspired quasi-libertarian side project called Sons of Liberty.)

Much of what I saw at the concert wasn’t surprising: the huge urban barbarian in a chain-mail shirt; the skinny teen boy with hair that hadn’t been cut since he was in diapers; and the four-and-a-half-foot-tall, 80-pound girl in a torn Slayer shirt. I knew those characters would be there.

I also knew there’d be a mosh pit, with great big guys and skinny little guys and 80-pound girls shoving and smashing into each other right up close to the stage.

As I got closer to the mosh pit — song after song, I’d edge my way toward it, seeing if maybe I could get a taste of what it was like before joining in wholesale — I realized that it worked as a spontaneous space that allowed for some low-level violence (shoving and elbowing and so on) without aggression. That’s when I jumped in.

Context Is Everything

Aggression, as I understand the term, involves an uninvited invasion or use of force against person or property. To be aggression, it has to be nonconsensual.

For instance, if I use a coat hanger to bypass t…