Tag Archives: UK university

How lad culture has distorted our drinking habits

‘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.


We need to talk about sexism at UK universities

The London School of Economics, a leading UK university, launched an inquiry yesterday after its Men’s Rugby Club distributed a misogynist and homophobic freshers’ fair leaflet describing women as “slags”, “trollops” and “mingers”. The leaflet, distributed at the university’s freshers’ fair on Friday, encouraged prospective members to “pull a sloppy bird” on a night out, and referred to female “hockey, netball and rugby birds” as “beast-like women who play sport so they can come out with us on Wednesdays”. It was only when an image of the leaflet began spreading on Twitter that the university was prompted to launch its investigation.

Though it pains me to write this, I am by no means shocked, or even surprised by this behaviour. I, too, attended a top ten UK university, and spent four years growing increasingly irritated by the endemic sexism and rape culture that was widely accepted as an integral part of campus “banter”. On the few occasions I attended varsity rugby matches, the crowd would chant about the university’s bounty of “tits, fanny and rugby”. Yet, I was even more horrified by a term that was bandied around freely by scores of sportsmen to describe their nightclub ritual: “sharking”. This term referred principally to the practice of hunting “fresh meat” — preferably drunk female freshers – for sex. This behaviour is nothing short of predatory and reminiscent of Neanderthal hunter-gathers. This is not a case of casual gratuitous sex, but instead suggests women are prey; mere meat to satisfy the hungry jaws of primeval man. Furthermore, this predator versus prey dynamic hints at an attitude that sex is an act of violence against women akin to killing an animal for food, where ultimately men consume women.

A recent NUS survey showed that more than one third of female students (37 per cent) had experienced unwanted sexual advances at UK universities, and two thirds of students said they have seen fellow students endure unwelcome sexual comments. NUS President Toni Pearce, in response to these statistics, has urged UK universities to deal with ‘lad culture’, stating “these stats show that harassment is rife on campus, but we still keep hearing from universities that there is no fear, no intimidation, no problem — well this new research says otherwise.”

Sexism at UK universities is not just a cluster of isolated incidents, but a real and present issue that students face nationwide. We go to university to learn, to better ourselves, to progress, but we do not expect to be harassed, objectified and subjected to misogyny. It is disturbing that the future leaders of our country, future forces for change and future decision makers not only espouse misogyny and the objectification of women, but actively participate in it. If we view universities as microcosms of society, it is patently clear that sexism is a huge problem in UK society; a problem that requires urgent attention.

Some colleges at the University of Cambridge are hosting sexual consent workshops for freshers in their first term, and reports suggest that Oxford University has plans to do the same. I believe workshops and classes of this kind would make a considerable difference in the struggle against discrimination on campuses. On a larger scale, such workshops should be included in the curriculum for high school and sixth form sex education. Other than literacy and numeracy, I cannot think of a more fundamental and vital education than teaching the concept of consent and respect in schools. This is no longer a case of “banter”, but of human rights.