Banter Is Just A Way Of Silencing Rape Culture On Student Campuses

So says Everyday Sexism’s Laura Bates. Because you’re a ‘killjoy’ if you dare to speak out


by Debrief Staff |
Published on

Yesterday the everyday-girl-turned-Everyday-Sexism campaigner Laura Bates reignited a very important debate about rape culture on campuses around the UK. Talking at Oxford University’s TEDxOxford conference, she argued that the word ‘banter’ is being used to excuse casual misogyny on campus – and intimidate those who might want to speak out about it by making them sound like ‘killjoys.’

Tweeting ensued. And her arguments went down well with those students in the audience:


The Everyday Sexism Project founder’s comments couldn’t have come at a more important time, either. New research from the NUS shows that female students are at increased risk of sexual harassment and violence on campus – and that 50% of student have experienced ‘prevailing sexism, laddism and a culture of harassment at their universities’.

As the report puts it: 'Examples of ‘lad culture’ on campus were cited as occurring in extra- curricular activities, social spaces, and learning and teaching. The respondents also identified ‘lad culture’ in areas of the student experience not previously explored by the research, including media and social media, and student democracy and representation.'

It’s something one student journalist and current Cambridge student Jinan Younis wrote about powerfully in The Guardian, saying that she’d been surprised to hear her friends studying around the UK all tell similar stories of sexual abuse and harassment in their first term away. 'Some had had their drinks spiked, others been sexually assaulted in the toilets of clubs – but the common theme running through all the stories was that none of the women felt able to speak up for themselves because of so-called ‘laddish’ behavior that dominates university social life,' she wrote.

Younis cites various examples of the ‘banter‘ that pervades the Cambridge social scene, including men measuring their evening’s ‘success rate’ on whether they get laid or not: ‘At one student party, a boy was asked about “rapiest” thing he had done. He said that he had made sure a girl was heavily drunk before attempting to kiss her, to which another boy replied, “That's a pretty standard pulling technique for most guys.”’

Depressingly, Younis’s experiences are hardly news. Every month now there seems to be a new example of rape jokes going around campus, including most recently a Durham college rugby club’s “It’s not rape if…” drinking game.

Still, by talking about the problem Bates and others hope to affect some change. And it’s an issue that will be back in the headlines again next month when the NUS host a national summit on how to counter ‘lad culture’ in London. If you want to attend, you can register for the event here.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter @Rebecca_hol

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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