‘Lad culture’ – a topic that pushes buttons for feminists and free-thinkers alike. It’s a term that denotes casual sexism, homophobia and much more, all hidden under the banner of ‘a laugh’. A sugar coated-pill of hatred and condescension, sold as a supplement to ensure socially aptitude. May contain: that’s so ‘gay’, ‘your tits look great’ and ‘rape isn’t rape, it’s just surprise sex’. Nothing dangerous. Just a bit of banter.
What actually does seem ‘a laugh’ is that journalist like Jack Rivlin (who yesterday published a piece in the Daily Telegraph condemning those who critique lad culture as ‘prudish’ and abnormal) are oblivious to the innate irony of articles defending lad culture. Unfortunately for Jack, with every sentence he writes, he reinforces the argument against himself. With every sentence that excuses this kind of abuse that lad culture entails as ‘normal’ or being ‘cool’, with every joke like ‘are you a beer-drinking male who likes sport and having sex? Then I regret to inform you that you, sir, are a rapist’, he further shows why it’s so important to cut down lad culture at every turn. When broadsheets like The Telegraph can’t even see the problem of publishing a piece that defines trying to tackle issues of normalised rape as as ‘moral panic’, ‘hysteria’ and just ‘whingeing about the popular kids’, it just goes to show everyone is taking the pill, without even realising it.
‘The idiot who makes jokes about “surprise sex” and says women belong in the kitchen? He’s just that: an idiot… The rugby captain who loves casual sex and getting hammered? Sorry to break it to you, but that sounds to me like a normal guy enjoying his youth.’
Unfortunately, lad culture makes the rugby captain and the idiot the same person. It binds drinking, sex and social interaction, with sexism, joking about rape and domestic abuse. It pretends that it’s a ‘cool’, ‘boozy’ and ‘normal’ thing to do and essential to being a guy. The term ‘lad’ becomes irreversibly attached to the male sense of identity, to the point where defending being ‘a lad’ becomes synonymous with defending being a man – the article constantly interchanges the two phrases. Calling out ‘lads’ as people who normalise rape doesn’t make them rapists, it just perpetuates a culture that undermines the reality of rape, which is destructively ignorant and harmful.
When I began University, I was labeled ‘a slut and ‘a whiney feminist’. In our halls of residence, we had a ‘lad of the month chart’ pinned to the wall opposite a nightclub poster with a girl on her knees and the tag line ‘Tequila: Come and Swallow’ (I presume it was a girl, the poster didn’t show her face, just her thong-clad arse). Women were, very kindly, allowed as contenders on the chart, as long as they were good enough to be branded ‘lads’. As long as they didn’t mind being called a ‘slut’ in place of their actual name, and could have ‘good banter’ as well.
The people perpetuating it by slut shaming and using phrases like ‘that’s gay’ weren’t always sexist; it just seemed like the fine, accepted thing to do, so they did it. And so it became the norm. If you had a lot of sex and were female, that was slutty and therefore bad. If your sexual preference meant you liked people of the same sex, then that was essentially the same as being really weird. If you had sex with a girl who wasn’t up for it, that was just a bit funny. No one questions it, because no one realised the reality of it.
The irony of an article that justifies lad culture by perpetuating all its harms – the normalization of misogyny, homophobia and rape – is astounding. What people need to see is that eradicating lad culture isn’t specifically for women, or for homosexuals or for rape victims, as Jack seems to think, it’s for anyone who wants to stop being ignorant, and look outside a toxic haze that forces you define your worth by how insulting you can be. People finally need to see the pill for what it really is, plain and simple: hate.
By Ruby Lott-Lavigna
Written April 2013