Comment: “Our campus has not escaped the ‘lad culture’ identified by the NUS”

Lad culture, University of Leeds, NUS report‘Lad culture’ is epitomised by websites such as ‘UniLAD and ‘the Lad Bible’ through offensive and misogynistic photos and jokes, and has been linked to the amount of harassment and assault experienced by students. The prevalence of this culture among our peers on campus and online is also linked to the reluctance of most women to speak out and report their experiences.

Perhaps initially we could have hoped that the aforementioned websites were isolated. In my experience, blatant ‘lad culture’ is far more prevalent online, perhaps because the lads can cower behind a computer screen and, if challenged, can simply respond with a photo of their penis or request you make them a sandwich ‘for the bants’.

If ‘lad culture’ was simply the overgrown schoolboy attitude towards toilet humour and drinking, I could ignore it. However, through social networking websites it’s become increasingly hard to avoid offensive content that is damaging and poisonous. All it takes is a Facebook friend to ‘like’ the apparently amusing photograph of a woman tied up and gagged with the caption ‘It’s not rape if she can’t say no’ for it to show up in your newsfeed. Based on the statistics, when you share such a photo on Facebook, you’re likely to be sharing it with a victim of sexual abuse.

Our campus has not escaped the ‘lad culture’ identified by the NUS. When there’s a Twitter account with over 3,000 followers dedicated to documenting ‘Who’s looking hot in the [Edward Boyle] library?’ and student-run publications declare that “The library is good for three things: learning, Facebook and females”, the online culture inevitably affects the way students feel on campus. It might surprise some people, but sexual objectification isn’t a compliment – and when you can’t even escape it in the library, you really have to worry about the effect this has on students’ wellbeing and studies.

The reaction against ‘lad culture’ isn’t purely a case of men against women; there is plenty of resistance from male students too. Bizarrely, it’s often other women who applaud and share this content even though it so often objectifies, stereotypes and mocks victims of rape and sexual abuse. However, if you object to the chauvinistic content you’re labelled a prude and met with the response ‘it’s just BANTER!’ ‘Banter’, the word sends shivers down my spine; if there’s one quality all fans of UniLADs lack, it’s wit.

When rape and sexual assault are trivialised and mocked so openly, the ignorance around what actually constitutes rape is unsurprising. Online content undeniably informs the way many of its viewers learn to act within society. The majority of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows personally: rape is being committed by students, and against students, within our student communities and on our campuses. It routinely goes unreported, unpunished and unrecognised, and it is dangerous to deny the part ‘lad culture’ plays.

Words: Freya Potter, second year History student and member of LUU Feminist Society.
Photo: Leo Garbutt.

Click here to read our feature on ‘lad culture’ at the University of Leeds

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