THE BLOG

In Defence of Gents

11/03/2013 23:54 GMT | Updated 20/04/2017 11:42 BST

I have already called out lad culture in this blog, arguing that any form of behaviour by men which demeans, or upsets women is abominable, but pointing out that luckily it's not representative of every single member of the male sex.

I repeat. Lad culture is not representative of every (or even most) members of the male sex.

The recent article in the The Huffington Post UK on the harassment of female students at UK universities was incredibly well written and I'm not suggesting that such harassment is not a major problem that requires dealing with urgently. As mentioned above, behaviour that makes women feel uncomfortable or threatened is unacceptable and has no place in our society.

However, I have a major problem with the article in that it seemed to suggest - perhaps inadvertently - that lad culture and the sexist behaviour that comes with it, is the culture of every male student at university in the UK.

Um. Yeah. No.

According to the latest statistics available from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (for the year 2011-12) there are currently about 2,496,645 full and part time students at university in the UK. Of these about 1,089,685 are men. To suggest that all of these men have at some point engaged in some form of deliberate sexist behaviour is ludicrous. To suggest that even 50% of them, (some 544,842 people) do is laughable.

This, I stress, is not to suggest that there is not a major problem in our universities. Clearly, there is, if over 68% of female students claim that at some point they have been the victim of sexual harassment. I will agree that maybe guys don't always know that they are doing. Things that we may consider harmless little jokes, girls may find offensive. But in my experience once this has been pointed out, those jokes have usually petered out fairly rapidly.

The problem seems to be that of stereotyping. The stereotyped image - not helped by sites like UniLAD - of a male university student is of a hard drinking, banter mad, sexist frat boy. The stereotype of sports' team members was even worse. In fact sports teams were called out specifically in the article. But the point about stereotypes is that they aren't accurate. I know quite a few members of sports teams and while they do like a drink, I doubt that any of them would ever engage in any form of sexual harassment. Similarly I know quite a few guys who might be considered 'lads', but once again, I'm fairly confident that they know where the line is, and wouldn't cross it.

Once again, it is clear that there is a problem about unacceptable male behaviour at British universities, and it is one that needs to be dealt with urgently. But to suggest, even accidently, that this is behaviour typical of every guy, is both unfair, and, as the statistics will back up, extremely unlikely. Gentlemen do exist, and there are rather a lot of us out there.