Lad culture: What can be done when it's everywhere at university

 

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The Independent Online

It’s Saturday night in Bath – the queues are forming outside the clubs on one of its main streets. As the club rep hands out a leaflet to a young group of lads in rugby colours, one of them gropes her. She neither flinches nor squeals, simply rolls her eyes and hands out the next pamphlet.

“The problem with these rugby society lads,” she says, dangerously close to a group of them, “is that they have a firm belief of self entitlement. They’ve been told they’re brilliant, they’re sporting stars. So any woman should be lucky.”

A lad passes close by. “I wish I got paid every time my ass got touched, it’d actually be worth doing this,” she adds.

This scarily passive attitude is not something only the staff have had to develop. “My boss told me to ignore boys if they touch me” says one rep, who naturally wishes to remain anonymous. “Apparently they’re just being ‘lads’ and they’re just having ‘banter’, so all’s forgiven.”

As the evening continues, a colourful array of characters who one never seems to see around campus suddenly emerge like maggots from the woodwork onto the dance floor. They are grotesque characters, they wriggle and shove, shout "banter" and generally try to invade any personal space you once had.

One bar girl's evening becomes progressively worse as a table occupied by an all-male university society begins to grope her while she removes their glasses. She ignores them, displaying every hint of her British stiff upper lip of which only aggravates them. “You’re an ugly bitch anyway,” one of the boys exclaims.

As the girl leaves the table, the boys return to their conversation, dismissing anything that had just happened.

“To be fair, if I’d said anything I would’ve only got complaints which would led to me being nearly fired” she shrugs.

It’s perhaps unusual that with everything that has been reported in student press that this hush-hush attitude is common.

We saw at the beginning of the year NUS issue a report in which 50 per cent of its participants mentioned "prevailing sexism, 'laddism' and a culture of harassment" as being prevalent at their universities. From this, the NUS demanded for a summit to be held on Lad Culture. And yet, what has been the real result?

it is easy for people to proclaim that action needs to be taken, but hard to put it into effect. We’ve seen the NUS’s research, the LSE's Rugby team being challenged and Cardiff University refusing Dapper Laughs this year. But, that still hasn’t necessarily hushed lad culture.

As my evening at the bar progesses, one of the bar staff tells me: “I don’t mind if they want to touch me, or buy me a drink. If I’m getting tips who gives a shit?” A twist, perhaps, on the whole attitude of lad culture. A young woman exploiting an exploit, you could argue. But it seems naive, missguided. These young staff have been harassed so many times that their skin has been thicken, and their attitudes have had to change.

We’ve allowed this sweeping generalisation that is "lad culture" to obscure terms like "sexual harassment", "misogyny" and "abuse". We’ve handed young men the supreme get-out-of-jail-free card by dismissing their actions as commonplace.

There’s never going to be an easy way to put an end to it; it’d be naive to think we could. But perhaps we shouldn’t treat this culture as the norm. Women should be entitled and encouraged by their bosses - even in an environment in which it is common - to be able to call out sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour.

As the Saturday night draws to a close, and the final lads are leaving, the club rep sums it up: “If we make these boys feel isolated when they do these 'laddish' things, it'll hopefully encourage them to stop."