A D.C. drag performer is safely at home after D.C. Superior Court prosecutors declined to pursue charges against her following an incident at Dupont Circle Underground in which she was accused of “unwanted sexual conduct” for twerking on a customer during a performance last Saturday.
Kabuki Bukkake, who was one of several drag performers hired as part of several Pride Month events at Dupont Circle Underground, which was displaying an exhibit on drag culture, featuring local D.C. drag queen Shi-Queeta Lee and drag king Pretty Ricki. As part of its Pride Month festivities, Dupont Circle Underground was hosting drag shows on Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m., followed by drag brunches on Sunday morning, for the entire month of June.
As Bukkake took the stage and began performing to Cardi B’s “WAP,” she tried to pick out an audience member to come on stage — a frequent gimmick utilized by drag queens in order to “mess” with audience members and get a reaction from the crowd.
“I brought someone on stage, and this is impromptu, right? It’s not like we had planned ahead,” notes Bukkake. “We couldn’t figure out how to get her on stage with me and twerk and that’s it. There was a lot of confusion in the moment. The adrenaline took over and I guess some of the actions I did on stage she did not find funny at all.”
Bukkake says the woman’s outfit got caught on Bukkake’s outfit, and one of the “spaghetti straps” on her tank top ripped, although her breasts were not exposed.
Bukkake says she hasn’t seen video of the incident, but is aware that one exists, because other people have told her about having watched it. According to those people, Bukkake was twerking and fell on top of the woman, and in trying to get up, grabbed her neck, appearing — from the crowd’s view — to be simulating oral sex.
“My act has never gone that far with women,” she says. “With men, they get a kick out of it. Actually, women tip me so I will play with their boyfriends and husbands or whatever.”
The show went on, and the woman did not complain or talk to management. But afterwards, Bukkake discovered that officers from the Metropolitan Police Department were on hand to arrest her, because the woman — after calling her parents and recounting what happened — then called police, alleging that Bukkake had sexually assaulted her during the “WAP” number.
“I was trying to explain to one officer that there is an area where maybe I took it too far,” she says. “I don’t know people’s sensitivities. I don’t know their past. I don’t know what they’ve gone through in life. So that’s something that moving forward I have to keep in the forefront, that not everyone is in a place mentally and spiritually where it’s funny to them. It can be misinterpreted as someone being abused.”
“The police were very understanding and actually as baffled as I was, that it had gotten to that point,” says Bukkake. “But because of their job, they had to go through with the whole process. I can’t speak on what the other person told the police officers on site, but she was not willing to speak to Dupont Circle Underground. She was not willing to talk to me. She just wanted me to be seen in handcuffs and put away. That’s what I was told by the detectives.”
Bukkake and some of her fellow drag performers stayed around to talk to police and answer questions, but ultimately, officers told her they had no choice but to take her into custody, where she’d have to remain for the remainder of the weekend.
Around 1:45 a.m., they arrested Bukkake, placing her in a paddy wagon and transferring her to the 2nd Police District office, and then, ultimately, to Central Booking at the DC Jail, still in her drag outfit. Luckily, though, even when she went to Central Booking, Bukkake was placed in a separate cell and kept away from the general population.
According to an incident report from MPD obtained by Metro Weekly, the complaint says “Sub-1 [the complainant] reported S-1 [Bukkake] engaged in unwanted sexual contact with her.” The report says the complaint was “cleared by arrest” on June 20, 2021.’
Per MPD policy, the complainant’s name and identity has kept confidential.
Bukkake says being arrested was extremely traumatizing, bringing up memories of when she herself was sexually assaulted.
“I spent 38 hours in jail,” she says. “I was in full drag, so I had to take everything off. And drag queens will know, none of our bodies are real. It’s pads, it’s tights, it’s layers upon layers. I took all that off. I had to borrow sweatpants and a oversized T-shirt from someone, and couldn’t get my contacts out. So one of my contacts broke in the process. I didn’t even notice, because I was so overwhelmed with the adrenaline and emotion. I only noticed when I got to the jail cell. I’ve got an eye infection that I’m treating right now.
“I’d never been in jail, never been locked up,” adds Bukkake. “I didn’t know what I was walking into. The amount of anxiety of the unknown is overwhelming, being in there with people yelling, fighting with police officers, yelling at each other,” she adds. “I had to relive my own sexual trauma for 38 fucking hours. I even almost started to believe that I was a sexual predator or something.
“I am a person who works a spiritual program. I have a God of my understanding. I have practiced acceptance, tolerance and love even towards those who have done me wrong, you know, and, you know, forgive my trespasses, as I forgive others,” Bukkake says. “But even that did not prevent me from just breaking down and crying and just feeling totally hopeless. Psychologically, I don’t know that I’ll get over it right away. I just want to get back to some kind of normalcy. But it goes beyond just that moment for me. I can’t speak for the other person involved, but for me, this is truly traumatic.”
Shi-Queeta Lee, the principal of VanHook Productions, says Bukkake’s fellow drag performers were shocked to learn that the woman who had been brought on stage for the “WAP” number had called the cops.
“I don’t know if the young lady is lesbian or she’s straight, but the friends that she was with were definitely gay,” Lee says. “And they were sitting on the front row of the show and throughout the course of the evening they were enjoying the show, clapping and dancing and singing along and everything.
“…She seemed happy-go-lucky with the friends she was with,” says Lee. “And some of the managers from Dupont Circle Underground went over to speak with them. Then she was bawling, crying and saying that she was this and that. I don’t know what words transpired between the managers and her. And then she was fine and dandy. She was eating gummy bears or whatever [snack] they were eating with her friend. And then more police came and then she’s boo-hooing and crying and all that stuff all over again. And around 1:45 a.m., the cop says, ‘Unfortunately, we’re just doing our job. We do understand and we know what goes on and what happens in a drag show. And we really don’t want to arrest him, but we have to do our job, it’s protocol.'”
Lee also notes that, following Bukkake’s arrest, Dupont Circle Underground closed its doors and canceled its drag brunch the following day, meaning that not only Bukkake, but at least five other drag performers lost out on money they would have earned had the venue moved forward with regularly-scheduled events.
She says that most people who attend a drag show know that it can be a pretty raucous affair, and that performers may often push boundaries and be irreverent, doing shocking things that wouldn’t pass muster in other live shows.
“When people come to a drag show, you should expect the unexpected or you know, what drag queens do to entertain a crowd. A lot of times when people come to a drag show and someone is pulled from the crowd, nine times out of ten, they will come with you up on stage because they want to be seen, or they want to impress their friends, or, for instance, drag queens may pick on the straight men that come to the show. And most everybody’s pretty cool with it,” she says.
Lee says she held a Facebook Live and Instagram Live broadcasts earlier this week to inform the community what happened to Bukkake, and the general reaction was one of shock at the arrest and skepticism at the woman’s accusations of “unwanted sexual contact,” noting that even when the strap on her shirt broke, her breast was never exposed. Lee also said the woman’s demeanor, laughing and clapping with some of her friends afterwards, didn’t raise any red flags to indicate she might have been uncomfortable about what occurred on stage.
“I’ve been doing drag for 25 years, and nothing has ever happened like that,” says Lee. “People have sometimes said they felt uncomfortable and spoken with the manager or to an individual entertainer afterwards. But for us to be in a safe space that was given to us at that time, and then for her to call the cops and say that she was sexually assaulted in front of 200 people, that’s ridiculous.”
Lee also worries that negative press from incidents like Bukkake’s arrest will make it harder for drag performers to perform, as the number of safe spaces for drag queens seems to dwindle with every passing day.
“We strive so hard and work so hard to find safe spaces for us to perform. There’s no gay clubs to perform in, it’s mostly only bars now. And a lot of them don’t hold drag shows,” Lee says. “And then the underground is something special for a safe place for us to perform for the whole month, with June being Pride Month. And then someone has the privilege to come into our space where we perform, knowing that’s a safe space for us, and says that she was sexually assaulted after she is the one who came up on stage. It wasn’t that she was being forced to be on stage. She went on stage, and she probably felt embarrassed or felt some type of way after her dress strap or shirt strap broke or whatever. But in most instances, you would go to the manager and you say something to someone before calling the cops.”
After spending 38 hours in jail, Bukkake was expected to appear in D.C. Superior Court at 1 p.m. But upon arriving at the courthouse around 11:30 a.m., she learned that the assault charge against her had been dropped, with prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia deciding not to paper the case.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia was not available for comment.
While Bukkake is relieved to be out of jail, she is following up with an attorney to see if she can get the arrest expunged from her record.
“I have to follow up on this because I as I understand it, the case was not papered, which means I was arrested with these charges, because that’s what the other person claimed. When this was presented to the prosecutors or to whoever when it goes up the up the ladder, it was dismissed. I didn’t see a judge. I didn’t talk to a prosecutor, none of that,” she says. “But I was fingerprinted and was entered into a database of sorts. I mean, I have a mugshot on file. So I don’t know how this will haunt me moving forward.”
Bukkake worries that those who find out about her arrest will judge her, or that she could even lose her full- or part-time jobs.
“I work in a nonprofit 12-step recovery clubhouse, so having these charges against me doesn’t make me look good. I’m also a dog walker. I take care of people’s dogs part time, and there are some people who trust me with their dogs, which are their babies, and their possessions, the keys to their house, their cars. The consequences go beyond just wanting to see me punished for whatever she claims I did.”
She notes that this could affect her ability to find steady employment in the future.
“If I walk into an employer and they say, ‘Have you ever been arrested?’ I have to let them know I’ve been arrested for sexual assault. That is not something that I, as an employer, would look at and say, ‘Okay, this is the person I want working with us.'”
Like Lee, Bukkake also wonders what her arrest will mean for other drag performers.
“As an entertainer, as a member of the gay community, we were supposed to feel safe at this [Dupont Circle Underground] event. That’s the whole point. That’s how pride started, and for something that could have, in my opinion, could have been addressed and taken care of right there on the spot, for it to be taken to the proportions that it was taken to, the ramifications of those actions have become bigger than the incident,” she says. “And I don’t want to undermine the trauma that the other person claims to have gone through because it was never my intention to cause any harm, psychological or physical, to anyone. And I don’t dismiss that, I only have my perspective, but I think it could have been addressed. I saw the young lady while I was waiting to speak to police. She was laughing and talking to the detective, while I’m over here thinking my life is over.”
She says the incident may lead her or other drag performers to dial back their acts or tread cautiously when interacting with audience members, thereby potentially affecting the quality of the performance.
“For us to go into a drag show, to feel like it’s not a safe place, seems so ridiculous to me. Moving forward, am I going to tone down what I do in my act? Probably…. I have to be mindful of what I’m doing on stage. And if you’ve ever been on stage, you have five minutes to get five hundred people to clap and be entertained and sometimes the adrenaline takes over. There’s no rules in drag, but maybe moving forward, I don’t want the patrons to come to drag show and feel like they can’t sit in the front because they might be hurt, they might be sexually assaulted. That’s not the message that any in any drag show or any promoter wants to give,” Bukkake says.
“I’ve been going to drag shows since I was 18 years old, when I could go to the clubs and watch them. It’s always been about a sense of community, a sense of safety. No one is judging me. I’m finally a place where I can be accepted, and we can have fun and rejoice and be proud of who we are and what we are,” she adds. But maybe, moving forward there have to be rules as to what the drag queens can and cannot do. Maybe that is what needs to happen. I don’t know. I really don’t.”
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