Uni Lad & Why Every Man Must Fight The Trivialisation Of Rape
, February 1st, 2012 13:17
After a Twitter firestorm, misogynist website Uni Lad has closed itself down. But, argues Luke Turner, we must remain vigilant for its belittling of rape
Ah, the young male. Full of vigour and hormones and spunk, lively of thought, energetic of mind. Half of the population was one, once, including me - it is as a retired youth that I have been so depressed and angered by the Uni Lad farrago of the past couple of days. Since Tuesday evening, the internet has been lively with disgust and outrage aimed at Uni Lad, a website that claimed to have 8,000 visitors a day, and has 70,000 "likes" on its facebook page. The most offending article, called 'Sexual Mathematics' concluded thus: "If the girl you've taken for a drink... won't spread for your head, think about this mathematical statistic: 85% of rape cases go unreported," it chortled. "That seems fairly good odds". And the final addendum "Uni Lad does not condone rape without saying surprise".
Yesterday, the site posted a mealy-mouthed Facebook apology for this worst offence, only for the comments beneath it to be filled with a torrent of charming young men (writing under their own names, it should be noted) posting such vignettes as "just a bit of rape banter" (four likes) "9/10 people enjoy gang rape, who ever complained needs to check statistics" (59 likes). Depressingly, it's not just the lads themselves coming up with this repellent trash. One apparently female Facebook user wrote "Rape = surprise sex" (39 likes), another comes up with the customary accusation in this situation "girls complainin [sic] about this article are probably closet lesbians and guys complainin [sic]are probly [sic] small dicks who cant [sic] get a girl to even look at it"
Uni Lad has today closed itself down, replacing the site with a static page saying they're "certainly going to be cleaning up our act" before a future relaunch. Having read a fair few of their articles before the site went, it's fair to say that if they were to remove all the offensive articles, they'd be left with precious little left. Articles advocating hunting out drunk women who seemed "innocent" and "vulnerable" were two-a-penny. No doubt the disappearance of the site will see their readers honking off about liberal PC lesbian witch hunts. I for one will be very surprised if the Uni Lad site that emerges in a couple weeks will be a place of high discourse, discussions of how to acquire the finest linens at a reasonable price, and exhortation to clean-limbed, improving exercise. In fact, their shop is still very much a going concern. There, you can buy t-shirts (see above) emblazoned with slogans like "Keep Calm & Carry My Beer", with its uncanny echo of our Prime Minister David Cameron's "calm down dear" outburst in the House of Commons last year.
It is a struggle, as a young male, to reject the boorish, misogynist identity that society throws upon you. It begins with gender conditioning in infancy, and continues through the musty locker rooms of secondary school, where "gay" becomes pejorative and the physical prowess and macho fronting are the keys to popularity. This is heightened by anything from, say, Lynx adverts, to certain strands within music, to the behaviour of professional footballers, to now being just a click and a typing flurry away from tube after tube after tube of pornography. We're biologically programmed to be obsessed with sex, after all. It's a powerful, dangerous force, a drug almost, that all men battle. As men, we must try and be honest with ourselves, and explore our sexuality, of whatever hue, in a way that is respectful to ourselves and others. Sexuality is a very private emotion, but public braggadocio all-too-easily twists it into something else. The danger with Uni Lad is how blase it, and its users, seem to be in their attitude to rape and violence against women. What Uni Lad terms "rape banter" is dangerous because it not only normalises the act, but brings that normalisation into the sphere where men like to brag and boast. The chauvinist bigots then deploy, as they always do, the great fig leaf of free speech.
Rape is a weapon. As research by Amnesty International and others have shown, it is used by soldiers in warfare from ancient history to Sudan to Libya as a means of subjugating the territories they move through, perhaps as a means of lashing out after suffering intense trauma. Male energy when cornered, defeated, insecure and powerless becomes twisted, unpleasant and violent.
In the United Kingdom, unemployment for 16 to 24-year-olds currently stands at 20.3%. With future prospects bleak and (if these Uni Lad users are indeed students) debts on the rise, this vile outpouring of anger directed at women (who academically continue to do far better than men) is arguably a manifestation of this frustration, lack of self-belief and positive identity.
The selfish, aspirational, fame-obsessed contemporary culture that equates fame and money with meaning and therefore attraction to the opposite sex, is what has created a climate where a site like Uni Lad can apparently thrive. It's a similar mindset to the grab-what-you-can attitude that we saw in the nihilistic materialism that inspired some of those involved in last summer's riots.
But just as was the case after the riots last summer, let's not taint all of young British masculinity with the grotty emissions of the Uni Lad cohort. Hopefully this group of ignorant young men grow up and, looking back down that helpful new Facebook timeline, feel thoroughly ashamed. For the rest of us? It is surely the duty of all men to not be unafraid in objecting to, and fighting, this reprehensible website and its idiotic, small-minded opinions. Where misogyny is to be found, so too are its equally vile bedfellows of homophobia and racism. We, though, will be stronger. For all the users, 'writers' and followers of Uni Lad have is a miasma of ill-used testosterone and desperate, inchoate sexual frustration. Everything, in fact, that their pathetic witterings profess they aren't.