Clare Moody

MEP for the South West and Gibraltar

Universities and Violence Against Women

StandByMeLogo_635x265.jpgOften defended as 'harmless banter', jokes on social media; student nights at the local club; initiations to join a sports team – all seem influenced by an element of ‘lad culture’, the NUS studies finds. While many may think this is all in the spirit of fun and socialising, from a female perspective, it is far from a joke.

The NUS found that 50% of study participants identified "prevailing sexism, 'laddism' and a culture of harassment" at their universities. These nights out and sports teams initiations can quick spill over into sexual harassment and humiliation. This has led lad culture to be defined as pack mentality resulting in sexist, racist and homophobic banter, often spilling into harassment and violence

Sexism, inappropriate behaviour, unwanted sexual comments and even overtly sexual advances, studies have found that British universities are awash with this what is known as 'lad culture'. 

Thanks to research from the NUS, the evidence are damning on the wide reaching impact on the lives of students:

  • 1 in 7 women had experienced a serious physical or sexual assault during their time as a student
  • 68% had been victim of one or more kinds of sexual harassment on campus.
  • More than a quarter endure unwanted sexual comments about their body
  • Two thirds say that they have seen fellow students experience, sexual comments and overtly sexual conversations

Other NUS research on lad culture has shown that 37% of women students have faced unwelcome sexual advances while at university while more than 60% of students have heard rape jokes on campus.

These seemingly endless statistics paint a picture of University life dominated by a culture that is harmful to students and impacts on their day-to-day lives and in certain cases has the potential to alter their lives forever.

What’s more respondents to the NUS research described university education as ‘gendered’ and cited issues such as the characterisation/status of particular subjects, classroom interactions, and negative attitudes towards feminism and gender-related topics. This is not a healthy environment to study in.

For many, this seems an unproblematic trend, just a new way of structuring and understanding the way students have fun. But there have also been worrying accounts, particularly from women students, about the negative impact and harm that ‘lad culture’ is having on their educational experiences and indeed their lives more broadly.

Thankfully the tide is hopefully turning against Lad Culture as more and more people speak out against it. The NUS recently launched the #standbyme campaign aimed at raising awareness around sexual violence on campus’ as well as working with the “Good Night Out” campaign – they go into clubs and bars and train their staff on dealing with and preventing sexual harassment. A continuation of momentum is needed to tackle the issue and we need to see more female and male role models speaking out against Lad Culture.

These organisations and their campaigns are vital if we want to raise awareness of the problem that is still brushed aside by many as “banter” and just a bit of fun. No one should be subject to any harassment or worse just because of whom they are. This behaviour this culture must be dealt with before it starts to define what a University experience is not only for women but also for men. 

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