Online magazine, UniLad, which describes itself as “A place for university lads to share friendly banter. Not to be taken too seriously.” on its Facebook page, seems to have got itself into a bit of a pickle.
In advice (or, as the magazine seems to prefer, “banter”) for “lads” hoping to land a date, UniLad recently explained:
If the girl […] won’t ‘spread for your head’, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds.
As one might imagine, quite a lot of people were very upset about this, and it got the online magazine (temporarily?) shut down. The Facebook page, however, remains. The “banter” has continued there, only it’s turned into a fight between those condemning the endorsement of rape culture and “lads”, many of whom are reacting negatively to the sort of exposure they’re getting.
And by “reacting negatively”, I mean “retreating into extreme misogyny, up to and including threatening to rape and kill their critics” (seriously!)
Here’s a particularly egregious example: Someone called “James Bedford”, in a comment thread, told a women:
If i came across you i wouldn’t hesitate in raping you, I would have to kill you first though.. so you didnt struggle.
Nasty. Very nasty.
This got me thinking back to when I was at university, as a sexually frustrated, hormonally confused, 20 year old. I’m in an “interesting” place here because at that point, to all outward appearances I was male. I wasn’t a “lad” – indeed, I’d not long escaped a schooling where those who were fully signed up to what’s now recognised as “lad culture” made my life a living hell. That doesn’t mean I didn’t engage in objectifying and misogynistic behaviour though, because I did. I guess I had some of the traits of what is often described as a “nice guy“. The thing is, “nice guys” aren’t actually all that nice – they tend to approach friendships with women with an ulterior motive, and then become angry when those women become tired of the clumsy and inappropriate pressure to have sex with them, and move on.
I appreciate that I was young and emotionally immature, and in the 18 years since I’ve grown considerably as a person (and, perhaps, also been afforded the opportunity to experience misogyny rather more directly than most 20 year old “men” ever will). I don’t regret that I had a whole lot of growing up to do; what I do regret, 18 years later is knowing that in gaining the life experience I now have, I have hurt people.
People come and people go, but what I’ve come to learn is that the losses that tend to carry on pricking my conscience forever are the ones where I wronged someone, and quite often that wronging took the form of misogyny or objectification. I’m not just talking about friendships ruined because I tried to push them into being something they weren’t; there were more casual encounters too where I behaved like a dick towards someone. I remember several, and I regret them all.
We all leave footprints as we go through life, and it’s inevitable that some of the places where we tread are places where we leave damage. Living with ourselves as we look back and survey that damage is part of being an adult. I do know, however, that when I look back at my footprints, none of them involve me threatening to murder and rape people.
Those on the UniLad Facebook page threatening women with sexual and other violence, dismissing our humanity and even threatening to kill us; they will have to live with themselves 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now. Some of them will look back at what they said and did to women who didn’t deserve it, in the name of “banter”, and have to imagine it happening to their own future teenage daughters. Misogyny and rape culture don’t just demean women; they demean all of humanity.