The SU’s lad culture survey is just baiting for horror stories

We all know a ‘lad’ when we see one. But asking for stories instead of opinions is not the right way to confront lad culture, says Joe Chapman


If you follow UoN SU on Facebook or twitter, this may have popped up on your news feed recently.

It’s your invitation to participate in the “Experiences of Lad Culture in Nottingham” Survey. On the surface, it sounds like a good opportunity to collect a balanced set of opinions about ‘lads’. Maybe some questions will show that boys are actually more anti-‘lad’ than girls, or that opinions differ greatly depending on which hall you were in.

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Well, actually, no. Click on the link and you’re taken to a page with a box to write “your story.”

Obviously, this is only going to attract the most extreme views. People will answer questions whether or not they have a strong opinion, but stories are different.

When someone tells a story, they do it because something has made them feel strongly one way about something.  No-one would tell a story conveying no particular opinion – that’s how you become the boring uncle no family member talks to at parties.

Is this the ultimate lad?

“A group or ‘pack’ mentality residing in activities such as sport and heavy alcohol consumption…”

Having guaranteed extremes of opinion, the writers of the survey have done their best to limit them to one end of extreme. Rather than wanting opinions on what the term ‘lad’ means to Nottingham students, the SU tells us:

“‘Lad culture’ can be defined as a group or ‘pack’ mentality residing in activities such as sport and heavy alcohol consumption, and ‘banter’ which is often sexist, misogynist and homophobic.

“It can range from misogynist jokes and ‘banter’ circulating in friendship groups which make you or others feel uncomfortable to more extreme examples such as pressures to engage in profuse sexual relationships. Some stories may include sexual harassment, molestation, or even sexual violence.”

That’s a pretty hardcore view. Apparently when I describe someone as “a bit of a lad”, I’m really saying “he hates women and/or gay people, and may be a bit creepy.”

We’re all familiar with ‘lads’, and know them when we see them. They’re the ones we see vomiting in the queue for Ocean, being pulled upright by their mates and going in anyway. We see photos of them on sports tours getting misspelt tattoos and running naked across beaches.

Laddish, but lads?

Laddish, but lads?

This doesn’t really fit into the uni’s idea of a ‘lad’, who sounds more like the sort of comedian most of us are too young to remember, squeezed into an AU hoody.

Sexist and homophobic attitudes are the very upper limits of lad culture. Anything beyond that can’t be grouped with these ordinary guys who just push each other on occasionally.

We know that a big group of ‘lads’ can pressure each other to do stupid things and that this can have consequences, for them and others. But they only do stupid things for the purpose of a good story.

If a guy forces someone to “engage in [a] profuse sexual relationship”  in order to tell his mates, there’s something wrong with him and it goes much deeper than who is in his group of friends.

Although the idea of lad culture is clearly only just coming to the attention of the uni’s overzealous survey writers, guys spurring each other on is nothing new.

So why is the SU baiting for stories tying ‘lads’ to the worse excesses of male behaviour? Well, according to the survey, it’s for “training events and campaigns related to harassment and discrimination.” This goes a long way to explaining the “survey’s” agenda.

They need some stories they can use to really hammer a point home and don’t mind tarring all ‘lads’ with the same brush to get them.

The ultimate lad?

The ultimate lad?

They also don’t shy away from blaming sports clubs, as that apparently is where the “pack mentality” often resides. They really love their broad strokes, don’t they? Are the Quidditch team famous for their disgusting initiations and hazing?

You may be surprised to read this but, somewhere in their survey, UoN have a point. But if the SU want to find out where problems start, the solution is to provide what I thought they were providing in the first place. A survey asking detailed, balanced questions to gauge people’s reactions to and opinions of lad culture.