‘Lad’ and ‘banter’ are two words which I have come to despise after my time at university. They are words that echo through university halls across Britain, and festers amongst the dirty rubbish, breeding more and more ‘lads’ like the bacteria that thrive on the unwashed plates of student dwellings. For those who haven’t been to university, it may be difficult to understand what the correlation between university life and lad culture is. I found it a culture shock when I first joined university, having previously been confined to an insular all-girls school.
My first encounter of a competitive attitude to drinking began in fresher’s week, when I noticed that students, particularly males, seemed to take great delight in urging each other to drink as much as they could as quickly as they could. At first, I blamed this absurd hedonism on fresher’s week excitement; surely this couldn’t be the norm? That was until we were gradually introduced to ‘lads’ from older year groups. These boys were even worse, they seemed to delight in the fact that freshers were struggling to keep up with their reckless drinking habits, and ‘down it fresher!’ soon became a motto that I was accustomed to. As first year passed by, this indulgence in incessant drinking did not seem to subside. Yes, there was a quiet lull during the exam period, but this seemed to simply act as a catalyst for even more unruly behaviour after exams. It was almost as though the sobriety of these three weeks in May justified the vomiting on pavements and swinging from lampposts that would proceed.
Of course, I drank at university too, and I am in no way saying that university students are not allowed to have a good time. But there are many experiences I can recall in my three years at university where drinking was taken too far; so far that it became a sport, rather than a recreational pastime. On many of these occasions, this excessive drinking would be the result of a club’s ‘initiation’ or ‘social’. Rugby socials, in particular were the most alarming to me. Rumours about the various things rugby players expected each other to do permeated campus from fresher’s week onwards. I soon came to realise that these rumours were not far from the truth as I met more and more people from the rugby team, each with their own anecdote about what they had had (or at least what they could partially remember) to do at a rugby ‘social’. I even (inadvertently) got myself caught in the crossfire of a rugby social when I was walking to my friends house one evening in second year. As I walked up the road leading to one of our University college bars, I was gradually overtaken by a group of around 30 young men dresses in nappies. Yes, nappies. What was even more disturbing was that these men were eerily silent, since they were being commandeered by someone (the rugby captain). I was, admittedly, slightly bemused by this, but it was nothing too out of the ordinary, since students often roamed the streets in fancy dress on a weeknight, as part of their socials.
When I arrived at my friends house I told them of the strange scene I had become embroiled in and they weren’t too taken aback ‘oh, that’s the rugby social’, my friend nonchalantly informed me. ‘They dress as slaves and the older players act as their masters’, he said. ‘The master tells them what to drink and if they don’t do it they can punish them.’ Yes, I was shocked, but I wasn’t surprised, these boys were lads, and this was just banter wasn’t it? The next day, this same friend, who was on the rugby team but refused to partake in the socials, for obvious reasons, told me these boys had been told to bring a bucket with them to the social. In this bucket they had to urinate, be sick or do whatever else they needed to do in it as the night progressed. Then, at the end of the night, these boys, sorry lads… were encouraged to empty the contents of this revolting bucket onto one of the universities notorious hills and roll down it in their nappies. What’s perhaps the most shocking about this is that none of my friends, myself included, really questioned this behaviour. It was deemed funny and simply an aspect of university life that was to be revered, for it was ‘banter’ after all.
Since leaving university, I have become increasingly conscious of how vulgar this behaviour really is. Alcohol can be enjoyable — we all know that– but is there really any need for people to force each other to drink to the point where they can no longer enjoy themselves? It seems that it has now become the norm for people to drink themselves into oblivion simply for the sake of a ‘social’. These socials in turn make us anti-social, as we become incoherent, aggressive and a shadow of our former selves. I am in no way saying that this behaviour is exclusive to males, but I do believe that ‘lad culture’ is partly to blame, for it seems to celebrate excessive drinking.
Only last year, we saw the damaging effect of Neknominate, which escalated at a rapid scale, resulting in several deaths which were believed to have been directly linked to the game. This goes to show that drinking has become much like a sport, where people are becoming competitive in terms of how much they can drink and how fast they can do it. Universities, I believe are breeding grounds for such behaviour, since downing drinks has become tradition in student unions across the UK. I think it is the time to realise that this isn’t acceptable and alcohol is in fact a very dangerous drug that should be approached with caution.