That sounds both alarming and frustrating to be in your shoes, watching your friend behave in a way that seems counterproductive, if not actually risky. Whether this is happening in a nightclub or a sex club—I can’t tell, and it doesn’t really matter—women and people perceived as women are quite often targets for harassment in spaces where they are not in a strong position to object, and I’m glad that you’re being alert to your friend’s safety.
Of course you are wondering, why is she acting this way? There are a few possible reasons:
First stop here is to determine if your friend is drunk or high. If that’s what’s going on, don’t leave her alone, not with her harasser or any other person at that club. If she’s super messed up, could be a good time to bundle both of you into a cab and roll on out of there. Treat her like you would a drunk friend who wants to drive themselves: get ‘em away from the immediate danger and deal with the incriminations in the morning.
If your friend is only mildly buzzed, just stick with her like Red Bull residue. If you’re there with more people, I would try getting a couple more friends in on a scheme to distract her or talk with her. Surround her with a barrier of fun people with hawk eyes for that harasser, but not in too obvious a way, just more a “staffing the lookout points” and getting ready to swoop in.
If her response doesn’t seem to be based in booze or whatever, then it’s time for a quick check-in. Verbally. Take her off to the bathroom, sit her down on the radiator, and ask her what’s going on. Tell her what you see is happening, and ask her if she’s okay.
If she says, no, I’m not okay, I’m not feeling good about what is going on out there with that person, but I don’t know what to do about it, that’s when you get busy and strategize. If she says something like yes, I’m fine, what are you talking about?, then I’m sorry, but you have to take her word on it and let her make her own decisions. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be keeping an eye on her, but it does mean you don’t get to pester her about it.
In all possible scenarios here, the goal is to keep your friend safe, whatever she may actually be feeling about the situation. The further away she is from being drunk, the more you may have to keep a hands-off approach, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop keeping an eye out.
Ugh. I hate that this sort of question comes up, but I’m glad I’m here to answer it. If you are too–if you think my writing is an important contribution to consent culture, whether on the stage or here in my blog–consider becoming a patron of mine on Patreon!