I’m guessing that you’re all going to hear a lot about lad culture and rape culture from any education supplement you read coming up to Freshers’ Week. Probably so much that you’ll soon become sick to death of the phrase.
Sadly, I don’t think a lot of the people throwing around the term ‘lad culture’ know what it means, and what is worse, the phrase sheds unhelpful light on what the issue is. People often get it mixed up with rape culture, too. Luckily for you, I’m here to help.
The problem is not that people act like lads. I and other feminists have no issue with rugby teams chugging beer, wearing stupid outfits and running around Salvo like maniac children. That is not sexist.
What is sexist are some of the attitudes perpetrated by these lads and also others who you wouldn’t expect – such as authority figures, judges, police officers.
Referring to women as ‘slags’, taking photographs of people on your team getting with them, shouting at passing women that they are ‘asking for it’, and, as happened to one of my friends, pushing her over because she is an Asian woman. These attitudes are sexist and are fostered by the hyper-masculine culture of these people showing off to each other.
And this is how we get to rape culture. When people don’t respect women, it plays into a difficult culture. When there are competitions about how many you can get with in a night, when you have fox hunting socials where the women are hunted as prey and socials which treat women as something to be consumed, this ‘blurs the lines’ (sorry) between what is a bit of laddish banter and what is rape culture.
And rape culture is so much more harmful than laddism. Rape culture is when we, as a society, label certain women as ‘slags’ who deserve to be raped. Judges ask women who report rape whether they were drinking at the time, they ask girls as young as 13 whether they were being ‘provocative’ – as if anyone provokes and therefore deserves assault. Police officers tweet that if you don’t want to get raped, don’t get drunk, as if it is the victim’s fault for being taken advantage of. Women in relationships are not believed if their partner rapes them.
This is obviously far worse than simply calling women slags, but this sort of thing does not happen in isolation – these two attitudes are linked. Labelling a woman as a slag who is ‘asking for it’, having competitions about who can shag the most Freshers and posting ‘ironic’ sexist statements from Uni Lad on Facebook all play into this idea that women aren’t worth much, that women don’t have sexual autonomy, and ultimately that sexual assault is a fun game.
But it isn’t restricted to lads, and people in sports teams, though judging by the media, that is what you would think. Rape culture is everywhere, as a recent article in the Mirror showed about the Bullingdon Club, which David Cameron was part of, which didn’t let women go to official socials, but they were allowed to serve as ‘entertainment’ at less formal dinners. The club members made them go on all fours and whinny like horses as they joked about ‘riding’ them. Reports of sexual assault in Parliament have recently been revealed. Women who are beaten and raped are often not believed, or they are told that they were asking for it, or not to make trouble or ‘ruin a man’s life’ by telling their story. This is regardless of where they are in the class system or whether or not they hang out with Uni Lads in nightclubs.
So no, I don’t hate lads. Drink as much as you like and wear togas until your heart is content. When you use women in your games, when you treat us like chattel, that is when I have a problem. Being a lad doesn’t equate to being a rape apologist but the cultures are linked and until that ends we will have a massive issue with sexual assault at universities.