After unilad.com, a site for male students, was temporarily shut down after it “went too far” in a piece about rape, the trouble with male banter is clearer than ever.
Banter. Bants. Bantaaa. Banterrific. Bantersaurous Rex. Bantalope. Lad. Top Lad. True Lad. Uni Lad. LAD: “Lad culture” has been seeping through the cracks in society and making its way on to your computer screen in the form of websites such as “Uni Lad” and “True Lad”- the latter of which helpfully identifies a “LAD” as “a british [sic] phenomenon; beer chugging, banter loving, footie watching, womanising man”.
Lad culture took off in the early nineties as a reaction to the post-modernist transformation of masculinity and the “new man” culture; with the “lad” as a middle-class figure choosing to espouse attitudes usually attributed to the working class. With a twisted sense of irony, “lads” took up an anti-intellectual position; favouring drinking, violence, and a pre-feminist, misogynist, homophobic, racist attitude that saw women both as sex-objects and as creatures from a different species.
– “to the LAD who was interviewed by newsbeat on radio 1 about religious beliefs towards homosexuality… He came out with the line “the bible says Adam an eve not Adam and Steve!”. U sir are a LAD”
– “out in Manchester for my mates birthday and I end up smashing his flatmate (7/10) I told him the next day to which he said “hahahahha yeah she’s a whore mate” I replied “yeah she was pretty easy” he then stops laughing, looks me dead in the face and says “no, she is an actual escort.. its her job..” gotafreebieLAD”
Quotes from the site “True Lad”, where homophobia and sexism are re-branded as “banter”.
If you don’t laugh at “lad banter” then by default you lack a sense of humour. Because you don’t find jokes about women belonging in the kitchen or deserving to be raped absolutely hilarious; you’re a “fun-killing slut” (or similar) who can’t take a joke, and who doesn’t get that “it’s supposed to be ironic”.
This is where I get confused. The whole thing is swathed in so much irony that it’s impossible to tell if the “lads” are being sarcastic or not.
Because I don’t laugh at these jokes, and (even worse) because I’m a feminist, I must hate men, correct? Not at all. Actually, it’s more to do with the fact that I don’t hate myself, and similarly don’t feel the need to take an entire gender and submit them to a constant routine of offensive “humour” to reassert my own sexuality.
“Proof women don’t understand freedom of speech and banter.”
This gem came from Andy, who left a comment on the apology released by the Uni Lad site after the piece about rape.
The thing is, the temporary closure of the Uni Lad site has absolutely nothing to do with “freedom of speech”. People have the capacity to say whatever they like, but does that mean they should? And if that was the case, then Uni Lad surely would have ventured past the old string of jokes about raping women and into a new theme, say… paedophilia. Because that’s just “banter” as well, isn’t it? You could just recycle the rape jokes and say the kids were asking for it. Right?
Wrong. Because the Uni Lad demographic only want to read something they can justify with the line “it’s only a joke, babe”. And of course, rape is so much funnier than paedophilia.
1. “A girl may like anal sex because it makes her feel incredibly naughty and she likes feeling like a dirty slut. If this is the case, you can try all sorts of humiliating acts to help live out her filthy fantasy.”
2. “There’s a certain way you can tell that a girl wants to have sex… The way they dress, they flaunt themselves.”
3.“85% of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds.”
Can you tell the difference between a quote from a convicted rapist discussing his crime and a lads’ mag? Because I certainly can’t.
A study in 2011 discovered that many find it nearly impossible to differentiate between quotes from lads’ mags and rapists. And in case you couldn’t work it out: the first one is from a lads’ mag, and the second was said by a convicted rapist. The third was the joke on Uni Lads that caused enough controversy for them to close the entire site for a few weeks, presumably to write more, perhaps just slightly less offensive jokes, ready for when the site is back online.
I definitely don’t think all male students are like this. If anything, it’s a small minority who feel they have to compensate for their lack of wit and intelligence by reading online sites created especially for that very problem. My housemates, for example, are fantastic. There’s a gender imbalance: two girls and four boys- but we all manage to have a laugh whilst maintaining that boundary between humour and bullying. This is actually the original definition of the word “banter”- a conversation with friends you are comfortable enough around to make and take jokes without being offended.
“Banter” seems now to have evolved into a word that can justify anything from jokes about female referees to a t-shirt sold on the Uni Lad site that said “Keep Calm, It Won’t Take Long”.
I’m rarely shocked about any of the views expressed on sites like Uni Lad and True Lad, because it only takes a couple of clicks on Twitter, Facebook or Google to find a million other examples. In modern culture; jokes that focus on the abuse of women are the norm, part of the “lad culture”. In that world, it’s acceptable.
Online communities like Uni Lad contribute to the normalisation of this degradation and dehumanisation of women, and make it easy for its supporters to threaten women with violence when they object, because they’re supported by the view that women are disposable objects. Say anything against “the lads” and their “culture”, and you’re attacked for having a voice and daring to use it.