Lad Culture: The Real Root of the Problem
Emile Yusupoff looks into lad culture, and whether we’re all secretly condoning it
It has become fashionable to blame the supposed misogyny of ‘lad culture’ for harassment and assault on campuses. It’s not controversial to say that macho posturing (‘banter’, drinking games and the systemisation of ‘pulling’ into competitions) is obnoxious. However, it is a huge leap to blame it for rape, and pinning blame on this (vaguely defined) culture, asides from ignoring individual responsibility, misses that it exists for a reason.
One complaint is that treating women as potential conquests objectifies them. Though unpleasant, everybody does this, not just lads. Indeed, if there were no supply of like-minded females, lad demand would not be met, and ‘clubbing’ would not exist. More damagingly, lad culture is accused of legitimising violence against women. Although thinking irreverent humour is actively used to foster tolerant attitudes towards assault is foolish, attitudes like ‘she definitely wants it, she’s just playing hard to get’ are worryingly common.
However, ‘laddism’ is symptomatic of deeper problems: social perspectives on sexuality are defined by manipulation and insecurity. People seem incapable of having simple feelings and being direct about them. Inefficient and unpleasant mating rituals such as ‘clubbing’, ‘flirting’ and the need to drink heavily (i.e.: a night at ‘The Hive’) are examples of avoiding dealing with sex properly. In reality, people who find one another attractive should simply say so and have sex immediately. Instead, we have rituals, intoxication and theme nights.
Lad culture is the end result of attempts to get around this through aggressive directness and devaluing women (going as far as specifically aiming to ‘pull the pig’). This is obviously negative, but only exists because of the system. Where intent is not clearly and directly stated, there is the potential for abusing ambiguity. Having unclear distinctions between sexual interest and general social interaction, as well as requiring the need for duplicity and innuendo, creates the environment that produces lad culture. Aggression only functions in a context of subterfuge, as directness makes it irrelevant and ineffective.
Where the question is simple and direct, the answer can be so too. Where people engage with sex with clear heads and honesty, there’s no context for games or frustration fuelling ambiguity. We will continue to live in a dystopia until people can, with no prior social routines, just say ‘I find you attractive and would enjoy intercourse. If you feel the same, let’s do it. If not, that’s fine, and I’ll leave you alone’.