Boys don’t know how unsafe girls feel at uni

We face catcalling and assault on a daily basis

| UPDATED assault lad culture rape

Why did the woman cross the road?

It may sound like the start of a joke, but it’s actually a pretty important question.

With two thirds of female university students admitting to changing sides of the street when alone with a man walking towards them, this precaution is not a work of fiction. It’s a safety measure – one of many, in fact, that guys don’t realise girls do on a daily basis.

(Photo: Paul Tomlin)

The list is longer than the skirts we’ve been told to wear if we don’t want to be mistaken for sluts. In all honesty, it’s getting a bit tiresome: having to be careful just because of how our chromosomes randomly aligned.

A second year student, who wishes to remain anonymous, told me: “I was once waiting in a queue for a club wearing a backless top and I saw a girl looking right at me as she said to her male friends that I was ‘clearly asking for it’. It made me so angry, so I actually spoke up and confronted her.”

It’s not just the male students who promote this kind of culture, but it’s worrying that many students don’t realise how bad it can be.

Picture this: Freshers’ Fair, walking away with a stereotypical bag of freebies. A guy would open his and find a Dominos voucher, a couple of pens, a poster of all the student club nights and a flyer from Fetish Society because they were walking around with the lads and the “banter” was on fire.

(Photo: University of York Marketing)

For girls it’s a different story. Yes, we get Domino’s vouchers because Domino’s are fucking on it at Fresher’s Fair, free pens and that very same poster.

But as we delve into our canvas bags we will discover added extras in form of a police issued rape alarm and a bottle stopper to minimise our chances of being spiked.

We think nothing of this, because we’re girls and we are always at risk, right?

“I always think about how to escape a situation if I’m alone and a guy is around” isn’t a great thing to hear a friend say. Neither is “I carry a biro in case someone tries to grab me”, nor “I keep hold of my keys – it’s like an instinct, I don’t notice I do it sometimes”.

“I don’t notice I do it sometimes”

It’s scary. It’s normalised. It’s wrong. However, upon discovery that actually reporting an incidence of sexual assault to a college official starts with “were you drunk?” it’s obvious to assume that it’s down to us to look out for ourselves.

This doesn’t just mean in clubs as the stereotype goes, but that’s not a bad point to emphasise. Sharing taxi rides, communal trips to the bathroom and “text me when you’re home safe” are all measures installed to protect ourselves and our friends.

Then there’s the behaviour we’ve come to accept as a norm. Walking down Piccadilly and being catcalled, cutting some shapes in Kuda only to have our arses opportunistically grabbed by some desperate punter who’s lost his mates – or walking quickly away from a guy because we made eye contact for 0.3 seconds and now he thinks he’s “scored”.

Most of us think nothing of it – they’re standard night out expectations. Expectations that guys don’t even know we have been forced to have. Expectations of sexual assault.

It’s time to end the blissful ignorance of male course mates, male flatmates – all men. Women are taught to feel at risk and university life is no exception to the rule.

Its’s not to say that men don’t get raped and assaulted. They most certainly do – it happens and it shouldn’t. But men and women are living the uni life with two entirely different experiences.

And only one of them has to constantly feel under threat.