Our time at university is important for many reasons, whether because it’s where we find our friends for life or realise our career ambitions, it’s the place where we come into our own as adults. As we develop emotionally and socially as young people, what could be more damaging than an environment dominated by gender stereotypes, the pressure to act recklessly and the sweeping dominance of 'lads'?
Whereas lad culture is seen by many people as harmless fun amongst young male students, I see it as a pressure group creating the myth that time at university should be spent in a certain way. Students should be having 'top banter' and going 'on the lash'. This focus on flaunting heterosexual conquests and the pressure to behave in certain ways alienates not only men who feel pressure to fit in but also female students. There is misogynistic behaviour, where a girl is seen as a number out of ten depending on how fit she is. The modern student is living in a world defined by pictures of objectified women, directions on how to get laid, and why you should down as many Jägerbombs as possible on a night out.
To anyone who maintains that lad culture is just a joke, I would direct them to the odious UniLad.com or the new social trend University Confessions. Lad culture is embodied by these sites, where offensive, bigoted comments are dismissed as banter. UniLad, for instance, is a site that 'started with a group of lads telling tales of drinking and fornication', with articles on subjects like How to get a regular booty call, and advice that runs as follows: 'think about this mathematical statistic: 85 per cent of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds'. Can comments like this really be dismissed as just having a laugh?
These issues are to some extent being addressed by the increasing media attention on how much young people are drinking at university and by gender movements such as The Everyday Sexism Project. However, I think a lot more needs to be done beginning with universities recognising that lad culture is a problem that young people are having to deal with in day to day life.
Although some people could argue that a young person is always going to be put under pressure, the specific trend of lads is particularly worrying as it implies a 'normal' student goes out every night and sleeps around. What is most worrying is that many students really do just see laddish behaviour as something amusing. It needs to be made clear that it has much wider - and scarier - connotations than just harmless banter between a couple of UniLads. We are at university to build a future not condone a culture that demeans both men and women.