Wednesday, 1 February 2012

In which I am depressed by the notion that rape is a subject for 'banter'

There are plenty of awful things on the internet, but yesterday I was made aware of the UniLad site. It’s vile.

Ostensibly written for young men at university, it championed ‘lad culture’ – the sort of thing Maxim used to write about in the early 90s – and seemed to focus solely on getting drunk and getting laid.

I use the past tense because, following a Twitterstorm, as of yesterday the site was taken down, citing regret for offence caused by one of its posts.

In a very short version of the story, a piece (I’m loathe to call it an ‘article’ for fear of lending credence) ran on the site apparently condoning non-consensual sex. When called on it by a young woman, the response of the site owner was to call her “a dyke” – and, presumably, to think nothing more of it.

Twitter did what it does best, rallied round and outraged ensued. The site is now down, with at least one university taking disciplinary action*.

I wasn’t initially going to post about the whole thing, because it’s just so depressing.

Normally I’ll take Twittermobs with a pinch of mob rule-salt, but this one was different. This brought to light not just a vile site run and read, I would argue, by boys who have no place at university, judging by the levels of intelligence on show. Instead it casts a focus on yet another deeply saddening example of the misogyny that seems to be increasingly pervasive in society.

(Can I just make it clear at this point that I don’t for a moment think that the disgusting content on UniLad would have any support from the right-thinking majority of the world’s population, male or female. Its portrayal of women is ghastly, but just as nausea-inducing is its portrayal of men. I don’t know any men, at university or otherwise, who’d identify with the vulgarity, crassness and downright abhorrence displayed. No one I know would dream of demeaning themselves – and women in general – by saying, believing, or thinking such vile sentiments.)

I’m not what people refer to as “militant” about my brand of feminism – I don’t think holding doors open for women is an act of “benevolent sexism”. I also like to think that I have a sense of humour, and am quite happy to take a joke directed at women, or myself – if it’s genuinely funny.

But rape isn’t funny. It isn’t a subject for ‘banter’. It’s something that destroys people’s (let’s not forget – it’s not only women who are victims) sense of self-worth, confidence, lives.

UniLad’s defence is one of ‘free speech’. But this isn’t an issue of free speech. It’s an issue of pervasive misogyny, of misunderstanding that rape isn’t a question of desire – rape is about power and violence.

And I do wonder whether, at its logical conclusion, the material written by UniLad could even been seen as incitement. If someone clever and legally inclined would be able to argue that case in a court of law, I’d be thrilled. Then the ghastly individuals behind UniLad – creators and readers alike – might think twice about just how funny their ‘banter’ really is.

* Update: this was the case when I read a piece on the Huffington Post yesterday (31st Jan). The article has since been changed, and I can find no reference to it.


Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Also, as if the articles themselves weren't bad enough, the comments on the Facebook page which I went on to in order to click "report" on their assss, were equally as worrying.

I was however cheered to see a few comments from blokes who was equally dismayed at the content, one of whom wrote something along the lines of "How funny that all you talk about is how to get women, yet when women actually come on here, none of you have the balls to reply to what they have to say" - The women in question on the FB page were posting very relevant questions and harrowing stories about their own rape experiences.

Which sums it up really. Like I said on Twitter yesterday, I wander if any of the blokes involved have sisters, and how understanding they'd be if their female relatives were on the receiving end of this "banter".

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

*wonder. Doh.

Redbookish said...

I teach some courses to undergrads which are feminist oriented. What I find depressing is often today's female undergrads internalise some of this stuff. They have ideas about women's behaviour which belong in the late 1950s.

I feel like running full-on '70s feminist consciousness-raising groups with them, to tell them it is *not* just all about individual choice, and there is this awful thing called patriarchy which unfortunately seems to enable "boys" (for they are not men) to behave like this as if they're entitled to.

It's very depressing and makes me snort any time anyone says "We're post-feminist now."

But I'm old, and I don't scoff at Germaine Greer.

Smidge said...

Have you seen TrueLad? I guessing UniLad is based on this, or even an offshoot. I must admit some of the stories on Truelad started off funny, but it soon descended into a pretty disgusting portrayal of how some young men really think.

Rita Maria said...

You might know this already, but I read this a while back and I really think it adds some important arguments and numbers to the question:

"Why Rape Jokes are Never OK"

P said...

This is shocking. I knew nothing about this, so thanks for highlighting it. I really don't understand why some men (or boys, more appropriately) can think that rape can REMOTELY be considered a subject to joke about, let alone pretty much ENCOURAGE it.

HC said...

It's the phenomena of detachment and the use of humour to commercialise the uncomfortable which spins your head when you sit down and analyse it.

Frankie Boyle has made a career out of rape and paedophile jokes and I know for a fact that I have laughed at some of them. Obviously I am probably laughing at the tawdriness and 'unbelievability' of his humour rather than sanctioning either rape or paedophilia but I am still not happy that I laughed at all, nor indeed that this is on primetime television. I guess both of those parts are out of my control.

What is in my control is my tolerance of the growing acceptability of casual violence, the subjugation of women and the abuse and ruin of children.

Which is why I am glad this post is here, because it needs people like this to stand up and stay "for f*cks sake, just stop" before we acquiesce ourselves into self destruction.

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