Horror stories regarding disturbing student events or incidents often begin to surface during the weeks after the initial University Freshers’ week period. This year’s bar was set by the London School of Economics’ male Rugby Club, with an incident which has raised some much needed awareness of the sexism and homophobia that comes with Fresher’s Week. Sports Clubs and societies often have infamous ‘initiation’ ceremonies by means to welcome new members, but the LSE’s leaflet aiming to invite new members ended up leaving many feeling alienated and insulted, particularly women.
This so-called ‘banter’ included branding women who play sports ‘beasts’, objectifying female bar-staff and slurring women as slags. The term ‘sloppy birds’ was also thrown in there somewhere for brevity. Absolutely charming. The team have withdrawn their comments, no doubt with tails between their legs, and have issued an official apology and claim that the content does not represent the views of the club (which raises the question; whose views does the leaflet represent?!) but this comes only after they were officially disbanded by the University as punishment.
Many publications have been seen to brand this behaviour as ‘Lad Culture’ which just seems to be creating a cushioning effect for what these members (or at the very least, those who created the leaflet) really are- and that’s simply grouped misogynistic behaviour. It’s easy enough for one to roll their eyes with a sigh of ‘Oh, Lads!’ to excuse this type of behaviour, but there are often severe consequences as a result of this attitude.
The punishment the LSE Rugby Team received is a disproportionate slap on the wrist in my opinion, but it least it shows that this kind of ‘Laddish’ (see; misogynistic) ‘banter’ (see; disgusting outlook towards women and other less privileged minorities) is not continuing to go largely unnoticed. Sexual Assault and general criminal actions during fresher’s weeks are not reported on annually, but the most recent study from the NUS revealed that 37% of women and 12% of men had experienced unwanted sexual advances during this time. 36% of women also said they received unwanted sexual comments about their bodies and appearance; these statistics highlight an awful abundance of lack of sexual respect. The casual sexism present within these cultures is creating a dangerous atmosphere for students during fresher’s week.
What the LSE Men’s Rugby Club did was promote this dangerous attitude and make it appealing towards new students. This is an all too familiar story across campuses, with many societies partaking in ‘Shagcards’ and games which promote having sex with as many people they can by any means possible. Fresher’s Week seems to have successfully achieved becoming its own caricature as a giant sex competition for many, with Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge having Sex education classes focusing on the importance of consent. The mainstream, light-hearted amicable acceptance towards those who brand themselves as ‘LAD’s needs to end.
The actions of the Rugby Club may have opened many people’s eyes to the extent of the vulgarity of it all, but more needs to be done on campuses nationwide to end this attitude. Oxford and Cambridge have the right idea, but it’s a sad world we live in when we need to teach 18+ year olds that respecting sexual boundaries and receiving consent is needed.
[Chiara Bullen – @bullieo]