Comment: ‘Lad Culture’ survey risks Nanny Union

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Goodbye drinking?: the SU could interpret the facts wrong

The results of the Student’s Union’s survey are damning and crucially important in creating a safer campus. The numbers of students who are victims of sexual harassment is startlingly high and the numbers officially reporting instances is an equally shocking minority. These are the key findings of the report and must be acted upon. They are quantifiable figures that can serve to inform policy makers and have highlighted that much needs to be done; however the idea that these problems have been effectively linked to ‘Lad Culture’ is false and detracts from the serious issues of sexual harrasment. The wording of many of the questions was incredibly vague and tied to loose ideas of what people assume constitute ‘Lad Culture’. The only place you can actually get a definition of ‘Lad Culture’ is Urban Dictionary and in the real world most of the signs of it could be succinctly described as simply ‘being a dick’.

Asking students questions like “Is it acceptable to use ‘banter’”, “Is it acceptable to laugh about people’s sex lives” and “is it acceptable to make jokes about a person’s appearance” risk tarring every student with the same brush and turning the Union into a nanny institution. I’ve laughed about my sex life with my friends and they’ve laughed about me with theirs. One of us had sex after going on a Disney social and woke up with Tinkerbell fairy wings and knee high pink starry socks still on. Another had sex on the backseat of a Megabus. That’s funny. It’s the same with appearances, sometimes we look silly, intentionally or not, and we laugh about it. If I were to take things too far and make jokes about an unwanted sexual experience, or about a very self-conscious friend’s appearance, that would not be okay, but it wouldn’t be ‘Lad Culture’. It would be me being a dick.

The wording of those questions was poor as the problematic nature of the answer depends entirely on context, and if the SU began acting on these things they risk becoming a literal ‘Fun Police’. The problem obviously arises when the fun of one group begins to ruin that of another, but again this problem is not necessarily one the Union needs to solve at all times. The SU is not the boss of all the ways we have fun and it should not try to be, we’re all different and we’re all perfectly allowed to be different. Some people like being loud and singing songs. Some people like dancing till 5am and working their way through a pack of Wrigley’s. Others prefer a quiet drink in a small pub. We all have the right to do and say what we want within the limits of the law.

I might get annoyed by the actions of one group, but they might get annoyed and have their night ruined if their fun gets stopped by me complaining. It’s a two way street. If their digression includes a case of sexual harassment or assault then it becomes a serious issue, but not one of ‘Lad Culture’, one of breaking the law. It’s also fairly patronising to suggest that these things always need to be policed. SCORE sells out every week and is one of the most popular events the University puts on. A good proportion of the attendees are women and they wouldn’t keep coming back if they weren’t enjoying it. The event will put off some who enjoy a quieter night in the same way a quieter night would put off those who go to SCORE. Rather than trying to accommodate everyone at the same time, why doesn’t the University do more for people with different personalities? Shouldn’t that be an equal priority?

The results of the survey are important and need to be acted upon with better education and reporting mechanisms. In this sense the survey has been a success and the Union should be commended for tackling these issues and I hope they proceed in a firm manner to find the perpatrators. However, the problems of sexual harassment that have been raised should not be trivialised with flimsy conceptions of ‘Lad Culture’ and attempts to create a Nanny Union that forces us to have fun in one particular way.

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