UniLad, Rape Culture and Regrets

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.

9 thoughts on “UniLad, Rape Culture and Regrets

  1. And just what does this say about the dumbing down of UK universities?

    Okay, there was always a ‘lad culture’ (aka the rugby club) but it was usually avoidable with a little effort give or take the ‘phwoar! Get a load of those’ to which human (female) flesh always seems to be heir.

    This is a different level of nastiness.

    Oh! And why does captcha insist on using diacritcials these days? :os

  2. While I sort of agree with what you say about nice guys, being shy or socially rejected for arbitrary reasons (hobbies, preferences, sexuality or whatever) is a vicious cycle; you lose motivation, become insecure and fall behind with social skills. Please don’t discourage people from socialising with marginalised groups, they have it bad enough already (“nice guys”, geeks, shy women and so on)…

    Bit of a tangent I know, but something I feel strongly about.

    The UniLad rubbish is absolutely sickening. Hopefully they will severely regret it in future.

    • The problem with “nice guys”, as described, isn’t that they’re socially awkward and lack confidence, per-se. The problem is when they approach any potentially lasting social interaction with women with the goal of turning it into a sexual relationship.

      Being on the receiving end of those kind of attentions is, frankly, exhausting and often more trouble than it’s worth. The social awkwardness then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as ever woman the “nice guy” interacts with tends to become defensive in their presence.

      I’m emphatically not suggesting all socially awkward men do this. What I am saying is that the sort of man who complains that the women he knows only give sexual attention to “jerks”, and not “nice guys” like him, really need to think long and hard about how they actually approach women.

      To the “nice guys” I will say this: find people with whom you share common interests and passions (I appreciate this is harder if one suffers social anxiety and shyness), and see if a friendship develops. If these people happen to be women (and you’re attracted to women), just stop trying to have sex with them. A fulfilling romantic relationship is unlikely to develop if you can’t even manage to be friends with women.

  3. I have a similar list of regrets, but where I hurt people was through a combination of mania, paranoia and immaturity. I would love to go back and apologise to all of them, but accept that some simply never ever want anything to do with me again, or at least that I can’t erase some of the mean things I did – even if at the time, it was because I was severely mentally ill.

    Not sure I’ve got anything constructive to say, other than that you may be being as hard on yourself as I am on myself, and in the scheme of things, it’s not on the same level as threatening to rape and kill someone.

      • I think it’s extremely unlikely that someone like that will do anything of the sort. My experience is that they go through life doing as they please, and any hurt they cause is always someone else’s fault…

        Yes, some of them will grow up, but most won’t…

  4. Due to lack of confidence (when I was pre-T) and emotional immaturity, I was a “nice guy” too when I started university at 18. I approached women with the intention of turning the friendship into something it wasn’t. I feel awful about it now, and would never do the same. Nowadays most of my friends are female and there’s no way I would ever ‘try it on’ with them. But I was just immature at the time, and have forgiven myself because I genuinely didn’t know better. Having said that, I would have never been into the whole “lad culture” that glorifies rape. Even back then, “lad culture” would’ve disgusted me.

  5. This is an excellent good post; the last sentence sums up the situation cogently.

    The sad thing is that many abusive people don’t possess functional consciences and treat their victims or would-be victims as objects. Narcissists are quite common, and I guess quite a few of the UniLad types fall into that category. Objectifying people is a narcissistic trait.

    Off-topic, but I’ve been reading about your trip on El Caminito del Rey. Fantastic! I wonder why they built the walk-way so flimsily?

    • I’m not sure flimsy is the right word – it was built over a century ago, hasn’t been maintained for decades, and is still there despite rocks regularly falling on it!

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