It’s hard not to feel sorry for Britain’s so-called student radicals. They really do try so hard. While genuine radicalism, revolution and upsetting the status quo have long since fallen off their agendas, they still really want to Do Something. Or, at least, have something against which they can strike some moral poses.
For the past decade, campus radicals had the supposed scourge of the far right to keep them occupied. The right-on crusaders could pretend that the BNP, the EDL and all-manner of marginal and anachronistic fascistic throwbacks were a huge threat and rally the troops against them. Now, with the EDL effectively disbanded and BNP leader Nick Griffin bankrupt and reduced to asking his members to sell scrap metal in order to keep his flailing party going, the student set have been scrabbling around looking for another ignoble enemy.
So what fluffed-up enemy have the student apparatchiks come up with? Well, taking heed of that great Michael Jackson protest song, they’ve decided to look in the mirror in order to make a change. The new enemy, the new scourge of society, the new target for all their pent-up political furies has revealed itself among their own number – stalking their union club nights, pecs glistening in a low-v, with the smell of sex in his nostrils. I’m talking, of course, of the Uni Lad.
Following a slew of feminist-led campaigns at British universities, which have seen Robin Thicke’s banal come-on anthem ‘Blurred Lines’, soft-porn lads’ mags and Page 3-featuring tabloids banned from universities, the NUS held a ‘Lad Culture Summit’ in London last month. Supported by the Everyday Sexism Project and Universities UK, the summit was aimed at tackling the way that lad culture, and its nefarious bedfellow ‘rape culture’, have laid siege to campus life, apparently turning Britain’s male students into creatine-baffing would-be rapists.
The website Uni Lad was a prime target for their ire. Part news-site, part soft-porn hub, part ‘lad bants’ repository, Uni Lad was decried by Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism Project as spurring on sexual harassment and rape at universities, citing the crass rape jokes published on the site as proof that ‘lad culture has led to the normalisation of sexual assault on campuses around the country’. The claim that this was merely ‘banter’ – and that surely there is a distinction to be made between what someone may find funny and their propensity for rape – was, as Bates put it, merely ‘a very clever way of silencing the problem’.