Blog: UniLad. Ohhh Dear.

Ah, University. Three years of Pro Plus, unfeasible deadlines and flat pound pints in the SU. Happy days. Where once school filled you with nameless dread, University was a gleaming bastion of openness, new ideas and experiences. You emerge older and wiser, trembling hands clutching a degree and a slender grasp of the big wide world. Perhaps you’ve made friends for life or met the fellow you‘re going spawn with. Perhaps you have contracted scurvy from a dubious diet of Super Noodles and crisps. Whatever state your brain and health was in, you would have no doubt been aware of the jolly ‘lad’ culture that floats about in the background of day to day life.

But what, pray, is wrong with this? Lads are harmless, no? Vigorous young fellows fresh from the snuggly womb of their home towns, teeming with hormones, impotent energy and a rampant, sex drive sated only by brief yet rapturous post-club fumbles. Ah, the cheeky scamps, reeking of Lynx and fried breakfasts, bless ‘em.

Perhaps you had little to do with them. You may even have exchanged pleasantries in a corridor without note. Or maybe they were more pertinent – maybe you unwittingly attended a sports team night at the Union and happened upon them braying loudly and gyrating their sweaty crotches in your direction of an evening when all you wanted was a cheese toastie and a pint. Oh. Perhaps you encountered them drunkenly straddling inebriated cheerleaders on a dance floor sticky with spilled Sambucca and other, far more sinister substances. Perhaps you were among those cheerleaders and now feel a faint sense of disgust?

They may have grabbed your bum as you waited for a drink, attempted to look down your top or made reference to your hot, hot, gash in an endeavour to chat you up (true story). This would all be uttered in the name of ‘banter’ of course – no harm done. Yes, Uni is a place to let rip in a way that you probably never will be able to again, and for the most part your questionable and ‘legendary’ – my god, don’t you just hate that word – antics will blur into hazy, fond memory. Former lads may even feel shame. But no harm done, right?

Recently, however, the ‘lad culture’ of the UK’s Universities has been pushed into the harsh light of the public eye due to the so-awful-it’s-almost-parodic website, UniLad.com. It has mercifully been taken down, due to a medley of offensive articles which not only demean their female counterparts completely, but frequently make light of sexual assault in a staggering variety of inventive ways. Despite the site’s owner posting a feeble ‘apology’ on both the main site (which once used to post cheerful T-shirts bearing the slogan, ‘Keep Calm, it Won’t Last Long’) and their Facebook page, their followers haven’t taken this apologetic stance. In response to women who have taken it upon themselves to complain about the content – including victims of rape – the site’s members have done nothing but continue to belittle and demean, for the sake of ‘banter.’ To disagree with them is to have sand in your vagina, and provokes demands to return to the kitchen, all hiding under the cuddly blanket of ‘freedom of speech.‘ Ah, informed debate. Invigorating.

By all means, a lot can be gotten away with due to freedom of speech, I have always ascribed to the belief that if one controversial subject is funny, they all are. Laugh equally, right? But laugh from a distance. Laugh when you know a slight insinuation of something darker is not the sole intent. Language is ever-adapting. Now I know a lot of folk won’t agree with me, but take the word ‘frape,’ meaning to log into someone’s Facebook and change their status to something about them stinking of poo or whatever. HILARIOUS. Ahem. While the word originates from ‘rape’ there is no threat of your friend emerging from the computer, Ringu-style and attacking you. They have removed the dignity and order of your page and made you look stupid. That’s it. To compare the word ‘frape’ to a threat of something more sinister is pedantic at best. But that’s not the issue here.

The ‘banter’ on the UniLad site, however, isn’t this harmless (in my opinion) creation of dubious words. It is filled with genuine misogynistic threats towards women. Advice on how to take advantage of wasted freshers, identifying ‘slags,’ sharing stories about violent sexual experiences, girls crying – all to prove ‘laddishness.’ And for me, the most offensive thing of all? It isn’t funny. Not one jot. There is nothing funny about sexually violent language aimed at women – their classmates, friends and colleages.

‘It isn’t rape, it’s surprise sex?’ Ho ho, a classic.

‘Someone needs to change her tampon?’ Lololol, period jokes. Funny stuff.

‘She needs her backdoors smashing in, that’ll lighten her up?’ Haaa, harmless fun.

‘If I came across you I wouldn’t hesitate in raping you, I would have to kill you first though… so you didn’t struggle.’ ??? I don’t see how even the most base level, low IQ shit could find that funny. The others are a pretty far stretch themselves. This is a threat, not thrown about in jest but aimed squarely at a female facebook user who complained publicly on the site. A glance at the comments reveals a wealth of honking, sweaty ’lads’ posting similar things when female users post opinions.

At the time of writing, Facebook have done nothing about this. The site is still floating along quite merrily, with the corresponding UniLad website promising to clean up any inappropriate material. (It will then be even more of an empty wasteland surely?) While pages containing racist and homophobic abuse are frequently removed by Facebook, nothing has happened here. The volume of sexually violent language and the sick, congratulatory nature in which it is doled out is staggering, and the way the hooting idiots that populate the site rally around when confronted with an angry comment is pretty frightening in itself.

You’d hope that these guys would grow out of such actions and ways of thinking, but alas I highly doubt this is true. At sixteen I saw my classmates touching up drunken, scantily clad girls at parties, clutching bottles of vodka and pretty unaware. At twenty-three I experienced something slight but similar from a ‘lad’ with a good job, good prospects and a good upbringing. But I was drunk and asking for it, right lads? When I complained, who’s fault was it? Mine, of course. How dare I be drunk and sit next to a wasted, horny guy? I’ve lost count of the times similar things have happened to my friends, with varying consequences. A bit of ‘banter’ on the internet may seem innocent to a good proportion of the guys involved, but it serves to perpetuate an ongoing symptom in society that women are ‘asking for it,’ and when they don’t, taking it is all part of the banter.

Society: Unilad and rape jokes – who’s laughing?

‘Ranty feminist’. That’s how I described myself at a party last weekend, because it’s just easier that way. To me, it says I will rebuke you for a comment that is sexist in nature, no matter how harmless you think it is and I will not make apologies for it. To others it says something entirely different, but in that sort of environment there isn’t always time to explain the nuances of my gender politics. So I set the bar low and hope for the best. And hope, perhaps naively, that once you see I’ve shaved my armpits, you’ll be so confused that you’ll ponder on my application of the F-word and find me later on in the party to ask to hear more.

Certain conversations of my youth stick out in my memory as milestones. Possibly the most important was in Freshers’ Week at university. A particularly mixed-up young man who had the misfortune to share a flat with me was overheard to state that “women who masturbate are dirty.” Challenging his stunted and hateful view of women rated way above not looking like a fruitloop in front of my new friends on this occasion. Suffice to say I tore him a new one and for the next year he professed to finding me “fucking terrifying”.

When Unilad reared its ugly head to a liberal crowd on Twitter last week, some argued that it was best not to bring attention to it. But I, like many others, knew I couldn’t leave this one alone…

“And if the girl you’ve taken for a drink […] won’t ‘spread for your head’, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds.”

An extremely shocking line that you might expect to see written on a pro-rape forum in the deepest darkest recesses of the internet, where monsters lurk, but this was written on an openly available and ‘mainstream’ website called Unilad.com. Given that a group of men and women participating in a study at Middlesex University found it difficult to differentiate between statements given by convicted rapists and lads’ mags descriptions of women, I guess it’s hardly that surprising that it’s hard to place it.

The site has been temporarily suspended, but in a nutshell, the stories on Unilad have been inspired by ‘real-life’ stories in lads’ mags like Zoo and Nuts*, which usually involve something along the lines of two female friends who didn’t know they were lesbians until they shared a changing cubicle in Topshop, suddenly finding themselves wet and horny and tearing each other’s clothes off. But Unilads’ stories are not ‘titillating’, they are violent and contemptuous towards the female ‘protaganist’.

In one story, There Will Be Blood, a ‘lad’ is sick on the breasts of a woman whose period comes during sex and wipes menstrual blood on her walls. In Stirring The Porridge: a ‘lad’ pressures a girl who has arrived at his house for sex to make herself available for the whole household, despite her seeming ‘uncomfortable’ with the idea. Terms and phrases like ‘slag’, ‘whore’, ‘she was asking for it’ pepper the nonsensical and grammatically heinous language. I paraphrase as the site has now been removed with an apology.

‘Shell’, a commenter on the Facebook page, has been threatened with rape and murder, which she is now taking to the police. The threat was made by a ‘fan’ of the site, not a Unilad writer, but the page is acting as a forum for men to spew hate speech at women in the name of ‘lad’ banter. These are probably men you work with, go out with, live with. Hopefully not, but the fan page has over 84,ooo fans. How many of those are men that think rape is OK if she’s so drunk she can’t remember if she invited them in or not? Hopefully less than the thousands who think it’s funny to joke about it. Trivialising rape in the media leads to less convictions as the myths that lads’ magazines and tabloids perpetuate enter the public perception.

Call it ‘banter’ if you’re fucking stupid, but whether or not violence is intended, the comment represents everything we should be fighting against in the name of ending violence against women. 1 in 7 women at university will be raped or sexually assaulted. A woman is raped every 9 minutes in the UK. Tell me when this starts being funny?

We are certainly going to be cleaning up our act on unilad.com”, they sayI very much doubt they have any idea of the danger of their content. They are simply hiding from a very large baying crowd of women who have had E-fucking-NOUGH of this bollocks. I look forward to seeing what the newly launched site has to offer when they’ve crawled out of their fetid holes.

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*Pardon the misleading links. But Zoo and Nuts can kiss my big fat lesbian ugly virgin beehind.

Visit uniladevidencemag.tumblr.com to see a running feed of violent language affiliated with Unilad. 

Excellent ode to Unilad in the Guardian, by @NaomiMc