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.