YOUNG VOICES

Lad Culture Is Harmful For Men Too: Males Peer Pressured Into Becoming Sexual Predators

12/02/2014 16:27 GMT | Updated 12/02/2014 16:59 GMT
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Young males are being peer pressured into becoming sexual predators at university by a lad culture which is "rife" in sports teams, according to researchers.

New students see lad culture as offering a "reassuring, safe identity" when they first enrol at university, one students' union officer claims, meaning it is often "impossible to change their behaviour".

Although much is made of the adverse effects lad culture has on females students, resulting in some dropping out of university, it can take its toll on males too.

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Isabel Young, a researcher at Sussex University, told a Society for Research into Higher Education conference males faced intense pressure around their sexual behaviour, and particularly if they belonged to sports teams.

"Young men are peer pressured into losing their virginity, and being made to believe it is degrading to go home alone," she said.

"Lad culture is rife in sports teams initiations. I've heard reports of young males at one university being forced to take roofies [a date rape drug] and run naked through areas of the city notorious for anal rape."

Young says this pressure leads to predatory sexual behaviour, especially on female first year students, and the idea of "fresher fucking", where older male students prey on young women.

But men are tiring of the stigmatisation which comes which being linked to lad culture. In a blog post for HuffPost UK, Gloucestershire University student William Davie said sites such as LadBible and UniLad made him want to "tear my own eyes out".

"I also had a deep and burning disrespect for some members of my own gender.. As a gentleman with many female friends [these sites] both disturb and disgust me."

Kelsey Daly, a student at Westminster University, told HuffPost UK he thought lad culture was "absolutely batshit crazy".

"I find lad culture genuinely offensive at times when we are reduced to being completely obsessed with sex, cars, drinking and generally just testosterone filled blokey blokes," he says.

"I find it embarrassing that those from the opposite gender would have read some of the 'LAD' comments online. 'Wench' for example is something that is thrown around like cannon fodder to any female who dares call somebody out on their BS. It's absolutely batshit crazy.

"The Return of Kings website is a prominent example of the worst type of 'LAD' culture as it exemplifies everything I hate about said culture. It's like it was written by a 12-year-old who was harshly dumped and is now taking it out on the rest of womankind."

A member of staff from the London Metropolitan University, who wished to remain anonymous, told HuffPost UK: "The term lad culture disguises too much, it dismisses what is happening.

"Male students are victims of this culture too."

Holly Christie and Vic Clarke, both young volunteers at the sexual health charity Brook, agree.

"I think it definitely harms male students," Christie says. "Many males I knew at university didn't actually agree with the actions, opinions and words spoken by a lot of the other guys but peer pressure is something that shouldn't be underestimated.

"Often (especially during freshers period) men want to fit in and say what needed to be said to make them fit in with the 'lads'."

Clarke adds: "It creates a mindset among young men that is used as a tool to create an 'in' group - where they are faced with the choice to shame others (for not being 'top lads') or be shamed themselves and be excluded from the group.

"Particularly during sports team try-outs and initiations, young men can be pressured by others to display ridiculous, harmful, and misogynistic behaviour that they would otherwise not consider in the name of 'banter' to feel included in a friendship group.

"I really pity them.”

Previous anecdotal evidence from sports initiations lays bare just some of the ordeals male students have to undertake in order to be accepted by their older peers.

In 2008, footage appeared of Gloucester University students paraded down the street with bags over their heads, drinking and vomiting, while being watched over by a man in a Nazi-style uniform.

Another incident, this time at Northumbria University, saw freshers "systematically humiliated and degraded" after rugby initiations.

"Second and third years chose freshers to hold up by their feet until they saw off whatever drinks were put in front of them,", one student recounted. "There were other instances of [older] years being sick on freshers. Members were ordered to try and get with passing girls."

Another student at Worcester University told of male sports players having to do sit-ups while they gave another male player oral sex.

Richard Parry, campaigns officer at Newcastle University, says: "Laddism offers new students a reassuring, safe identity and a culture.

"Unfortunately it's impossible to change their behaviour through confrontational campaigns, there's a reluctance of sports clubs to commit to anti-lad messages and so we need to think of other ways of targeting them."