On your night out you may have been catcalled or insulted as you walk down the street, groped at the bar, or even felt pressured into doing something discriminatory by other students. These incidences could have been a result of a rising problem UK universities are facing dubbed ‘lad culture’. Not only has the Students’ Union launched it’s ‘It’s No Joke’ scheme aiming to tackle the sexual assaults and harassment which are a product of lad culture, but the National Union of Students has called for a summit on the problem. In new research conducted by NUS, it was even revealed that 50% of those who are studying identified “prevailing sexism, ‘laddism’ and a culture of harassment” in university. Many of the experiences which are considered a product of lad culture can’t be overlooked or dismissed as they are outright sexist and harassing, but more and more frequently it has become apparent that students may be doing these things as a part of a group in order to be perceived by others as ‘tough’ or ‘hard’.
This issue affects those who experience the abuse leading to feeling unsafe or uncomfortable in certain situations, and also those who feel pressured to partake in lad culture in University. Perhaps one of the most common times we do encounter this is on a night out, especially from groups of lads attached to sports or societies. As a friend I know who tried out a university sports group told me, getting away with these kinds of things is “actually presented as one of the advantages to joining the club” by older members. There are a number of things we can be doing in order to deal with lad culture at our University which could stop or reduce the problem overall, or tackle specific issues if something is ever to affect you.
My first bit of advice is to look at the ‘It’s No Joke’ campaign which genuinely offers some valuable suggestions which will help any student of any gender to minimise the lad culture around University. After all, we should seek to stop lad culture altogether rather than be telling those who experience it to deal with it. It starts with looking out for one another and checking that your friends are okay. Respecting each other is also incredibly important and understanding that your comments or actions could be uncomfortable or offensive, whether that is in the club or elsewhere. If you witness it, I would strongly encourage challenging the behaviour constructively so we can have a better understanding of what is offensive. Staying quiet about the behaviour will only allow it to carry on, and having an open dialogue about what isn’t acceptable will make people more aware of how it makes others feel.
As you can tell by my statistics at the beginning, if you’ve ever had a bad experience as a consequence of lad culture you are not alone! You will be taken seriously; it is understood that ‘banter’ is not a good enough excuse for something which is plainly sexual harassment. You can get plenty of help here at university through The Disclosure Response Team and the Student Advice service. Another idea is to talk to a Union representative about it if you see it occurring in your sport or society.
Dealing with lad culture at university starts with changing attitudes and calling people out when you see abuse occur. It’s something we can easily do on any night out or around university, and it should mean that everybody has a good time and feels safe and comfortable.
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