UK survey: 1 In 7 women students have been subjected to sexual assault or violence

// 21 March 2010

womens-campaign-logo-150x70.jpg A recent UK survey of 2000 women by the National Union of Students is summarised in a report titled Hidden Marks (direct link to PDF).

1 in 7 women students (14%) has been the victim of serious sexual assault or serious physical violence while at university or college, according to the results of a survey conducted by NUS today.

Here are some of the findings of this survey from the NUS Women’s Campaign:

  • 12% have been stalked while at university or college
  • In 60% of these cases of sexual assault or stalking, the perpetrator was also a student
  • Only 4% of women students who have been seriously sexually assaulted have reported it to their institution
  • Only 10% of women students who have been seriously sexually assaulted have reported it to the police
  • Of those who did not report serious sexual assault to the police, 50% said it was because they felt ashamed or embarrassed, and 43% because thought they would be blamed for what happened

NUS Women’s Officer, Olivia Bailey, said:

“It is extremely disturbing that so many women students are assaulted and harassed while at university or college, and it is particularly worrying that the perpetrators in many of these cases are fellow students.”

“Women students can be left feeling like they are to blame for the violence committed against them. Clearly, not enough is being done to encourage women students to report all instances of assault or harassment to their institutions or to the police.”

“This report is a wake-up call. Universities and colleges must work more closely with local police, victim support services and health services in order to give victims the security and confidence to come forward. Institutions must also deal with all reported instances of assault or harassment with the utmost seriousness, so that no students are left in any doubt that such behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK added:

“With research showing that a third of the UK population habitually blame a woman who’s raped if she’s been ‘flirtatious’ or worn sexy’ clothing, it’s sadly not that surprising that so few students report sexual violence.”

“We’re never going to break a vicious cycle of low levels of reporting meaning few perpetrators being brought to justice if we don’t tackle this issue of women feeling they may be disbelieved or even blamed.”

“We need a public information campaign to challenge this ‘blame culture’ and university campuses should be a key location for this.”

A PDF copy of Hidden Marks: A study of women students’ experiences of harassment, stalking, violence and sexual assault can be downloaded here.

Comments From You

Jennifer Drew // Posted 21 March 2010 at 10:22 am

We need more than just a publicity campaign debunking the myths and lies perpetuating concerning women’s supposedly accountability with regards to male sexual and physical violence being committed against women.

However, this survey is invaluable since without such evidence male-dominated society will continue to ‘bury its head in the sand.’ The report neatly ties in with the Home Office commissioned report on sexualisation of girls.

We live in a women-hating/contempt for women and girls society and given male violence against women is commonly portrayed within popular culture as ‘entertaining’ or ‘what women and girls want’ it should come as no surprise many boys and young men believe it is their innate right to commit sexual/physical violence against women and girls.

Prevention must be the focus, because prosecuting male offenders will not stem the tide of male hatred/male contempt for women unless we go to the root of this immense social issue.

The government has announced some initiatives but as usual they are ‘band-aids’ and do not go far enough. Announcing student teachers who intend to specialise in PSHE will also receive training in the innumerable reasons why male violence against women and girls is endemic and affects all women, is another ‘band-aid.’ Because all teachers need to undergo mandatory training with regards to male violence against women, not just new student teachers specialising in one subject.

What use is ‘equality’ when women and girls continue to be subjected to male sexual violence, male sexual harassment etc. and then women but not the male perpetrators and bystanders blamed for supposedly ‘allowing these males to commit such crimes against women and girls.’

Universities too have a vital role rather than simply focusing on attendance figures for the various courses they provide. Feminists fought a very, very long struggle for the right of all women to enter further education and this right does not mean it is the right for male students to inflict sexual violence on female peers.

Redheadinred // Posted 21 March 2010 at 10:49 am

Sadly, this is not even a bit surprising…

Maeve // Posted 21 March 2010 at 12:47 pm

Thanks for this post, Helen. A friend of mine was recently handed a survey to complete, asking for opinions on how safety could be improved on campus, did people think there should be better lighting, for example. She wrote that if men didn’t attack women it wouldn’t matter if it was pitch dark.

I just don’t get how anyone can blame victims under ANY circumstances. It is not only cruel, but way beyond stupid.

Troon // Posted 21 March 2010 at 1:32 pm

From the point of view of someone acting as a tutor at an HE institution, these horrifying figures seem, if anything, rather low. This year alone have heard directly from 5 female students who I would describe has having been sexually assaulted. That’s about 1 in 7 of my female students (my course is male dominated), but I’m at the end of a fairly long list of people any woman who has been assaulted would wish to consult.

I obviously don’t want to reveal any details, but hope my experience in trying to help others deal with these issues might illustrate some of the problems in dealing with assault at a university level and inform debate on this thread. The first thing I would mention is that, in my experience at least, the frameworks of support for victims are far from poor. When I first began work in two of the three institutions I’ve worked at I was, even as a male tutor with no obvious pastoral role, extensively briefed on who to contact at what stage, who to refer students to, and critically on what not to say or do, including in one case role play sessions led, extremely bravely, by a previous victim of assault. I cannot really assess outcomes in any but the vaguest way, and am concerned that they treat symptoms not causes, but the systems are far from poor and certainly don’t suggest a lack of interest (my experience may be atypical). They are certainly better than those in most non-university workplaces.

One of the key problems is that the way victims feel as been made harder by a real problem of definition, which affected both male and female students, and which also affects reporting and tolerance. Most of the instances I have encountered are ones where ’pulling technique’ (imposing oneself between victim and exit, plying with drinks, picking on the already drunk) is clearly assault, yet is not seen as such by the victim or her friends. In once case, a group of female students were alarmed because one of their housemates had been raped, but then turned on the house mate (who left university, a life ruined in other ways too by a rape) because it transpired she had let her attacker into the house. These are common problems, but the enclosed world of many campuses makes them worse, because the victim will often be young and herself unsure, and have to suffer working alongside and being judged by those who knew her assailant too. As long as there is a general sense she wasn’t ‘really raped’ her life is made even harder.

We have sought to do something about this. As an institution we seek to send very clear signals as to what is and isn’t acceptable in the public spaces (bars and clubs) we control, asking bar staff to intervene rapidly, as much to signal good behavioural norms as anything else. We post clear signs about what is and isn’t assault. Yet universities perform a huge number of roles (course provider, support provider, landlord, social space) and there are good reasons why students wish these roles kept separate. Since they are adults we don’t proactively lecture them on behaviour. They understandably feel that their social lives must be their own and segregated from the way they are judged and taught. For this reason all our pastoral care networks are reactive rather than proactive. We lack the information (and this survey is too broad to help) or the means to police our students social behaviour or intervene in space we have no say over (e.g. bars in town, their own homes), even if they would accept this invasion of privacy. We cannot even impose sanctions (basically, expulsion) on someone who was actually committed of assaulting a fellow student, since the crime was non-academic (and although this is, to my mind, wrong, in other cases of illegality-especially unproven illegality-this separation is clearly appropriate). If they commit the crime in buildings we own, we can refuse to give them space on campus, but this only because it is a clause of their contract (and it is in some ways dubious, no private landlord has the right to make someone homeless because of a criminal act).

Everything others above say is true and important, but it doesn’t help those of us without our heads buried to act. The survey raises awareness, but its recommendations highlight issues we do know about, but leaves practical implementation to SUs and institutions. It might spark action, but what action precisely? Are the assumptions about how university pastoral care should work generally flawed, or flawed only in these cases? (I tend to the latter, but transparency would demand a list of crimes similarly serious, and raise a huge raft of moral and legal issues-about proof and jurisdiction) How might those, both tutors and non-tutors, who wish to combat rape culture best do so, how might they be supported? Is there really anything that universities can do outside the learning environment and the spaces they directly control? A lot of us need no persuading of the extent or seriousness of assaults on those with have some duty of care towards, and have been worrying about this for a long time, but need something more than this on which to act.

Lindsay // Posted 21 March 2010 at 3:11 pm

Helen G, a timely post.

My niece’s friend is a real live wire. Purely on the basis of this, some lecturer decided she must be on drugs. He reported his outrageously groundless suspicion. She protested her innocence, so did her friends and family, and her parents had to get a lawyer to write a stiff letter. The university apologized and backed down. Lecturer got off with an apology. Now this lovely girl is no longer such a live wire, because she’s afraid to act ‘too cheerful’. In the meantime female students are being assaulted and intimidated, and there are only vague nods to the safety on campus issue. Why wasn’t this lecturer more concerned about that rather than making groundless accusations that could have ruined someone’s career and reputation? Sorry for the derail, but I wanted to illustrate how some people who work in universities seriously need to get their shit together.

I read the report you linked to, and agree especially with the ‘zero tolerance’ recommendation.

Louise // Posted 21 March 2010 at 5:52 pm

@ Troon

Well said – I too work in a university where there are some great student support services and a large number of clued-in tutors (and other staff) who would like to be able to do something constructive to combat the pretty pervasive rape culture that we see around us.

But yes, at an institutional level we don’t know what else we can do. We can make sure the university bar doesn’t serve cocktails called “Roofie Ready”, but can’t stop the privately-run bar across the road from doing the same. We can make sure we have a zero-tolerance policy towards any type of stalking or aggressive behaviour from students (for example, last year, a student was expelled because of his threatening behaviour towards a lecturer in her office), but only on university grounds . Where an incident happens in the street or in students’ homes, the university is usually not even informed.

So it’s great that the NUS ran this survey and can raise awareness of the truly shameful state of affairs of violence towards women. But universities (or the few I’ve worked in over the years, at least) can’t do much more in working with the police and victim support units than we’re already doing. We’d love to do more! But universities are all too often left out of the loop entirely when something happens outside the campus boundary.

Colin // Posted 21 March 2010 at 7:36 pm

This report is depressing, if rather unsurprising, reading.

Although I don’t spend any time on uni campuses these days, I get the impression that the general ethos is far more laddish than it was when I was student back in the mid to late 90’s. Whilst there always were laddish male students, this kind of behaviour seems to be more acceptable these days, with the likes of FHM and their grisly roadshows being allowed into some union bars.

Jeff // Posted 21 March 2010 at 8:08 pm


As a current student, who’s visited a number of different universities, I disagree. At no point have I seen any kind of behaviour I would term “Laddish”, not even in the sporty “Jock” types whom you would expect the most to exhibit such behaviour.

This report, whilst horrible, doesn’t surprise me particularly. Unfortunatly, people who abuse women exist at all levels of society, and the circumstances at university, such as frequent inebreation, would almost certainly make such attacks simpler to carry out.

C // Posted 21 March 2010 at 8:17 pm

Not even remotely surprised by the findings of the report. I know people who work as residential hall tutors who have told me some real horror stories, and I have anecdotal evidence from other sources, plus I’ve been a student… I would say that the culture in halls really doesn’t help either because I think the prevailing attitude is to assume your fellow students are all lovely, and to suggest otherwise is to be seen to ruin the fun, however questionable the fun might be. Some of the responses above seem to support this. A number of universities have hall complexes the size of small housing estates, which only encourages a particular culture I think because it then becomes a little world of its own… not healthy.

Troon // Posted 21 March 2010 at 9:56 pm


I don’t know what world your university exists in, but the culture of every one I’ve been in has been saturated in laddism. The fact it even surfaces in seminars shows just how normalised and acceptable it is, even before you start listening to what people are saying outside of them. And, as others will point out, inebriation or bad lighting wouldn’t make anything easier without this, because there would be no desire to assault. Neither is it good enough to say that assault is terrible but this is just life for a generation who have grown up believing that one normal way 18-year-olds have sex is by raping or being raped. That world needs changing, but even if it can’t be university should be special, a better and more comfortable place to explore in a broader sense who you are and what you think without being threatened, a better mini-world not just a brutal reflection of the shiteness of the broader one.

But, as Louise pointed out, applying those ideals is incredibly difficult. beyond any issues of confidentiality, if we as tutors even report when we suspect assault on what is always flimsy evidence, we can end up doing exactly what the tutor in Lindsay’s post did-acting from concern but in ways which are incredibly damaging. We can talk about a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach, but I’m not even sure where the boundaries of action would be in terms of enforcement beyond university space in working hours. A year ago, for instance, I told off two male students standing outside the college bar at about 10.30 for commenting on a picture of a female student, along the lines of ‘she’s not pretty but she’ll always get some because she’s easy’. I told them this was unacceptable in a university social space, which it should be. But, it isn’t set down as such (it isn’t overtly threatening), it isn’t my job to police this space (it’s a security matter), but neither am I just a private citizen (either student could have justifiably complained had they been assigned to me as a seminar tutor given the ‘history’). And both could argue (wrongly I think) that this really isn’t any business of university authorities just because it takes place in ‘our’ space, when the same students making the same comments outside a pub in town would be free from any censure. To me the comment is part of a spectrum leading to assault, in that it portrays female sexuality as about availability not desire. But would students really want us policing them like this, or feel our integrity in developing them academically wouldn’t be compromised if we did?

It doesn’t have to be like this. When I was an undergraduate some friends of another student made very similar remarks loudly in my college bar. 40 or 50 people looked at each other, stood up, walked over and asked them ‘politely’ to leave and not come back. And that, ultimately, must be the solution-that NUS members do not make such comments and that, if they do, other NUS members tell them to stop. I don’t know how to encourage this change, as C points out it’s pushing against a tide, but would really like to know.

sianmarie // Posted 22 March 2010 at 10:11 am

not surprised but saddened by these findings. i graduated 4 years ago now but even then there was a laddish presence in uni – although my friends weren’t like that luckily! but now i hear about bristol university’s lad’s mag and the lack of women’s officers in a lot of universities and think, wtf is going on here?

Helen S // Posted 22 March 2010 at 10:34 am

Also not surprised by this. I graduated 5 years ago and went through a few weeks in my second year where a random guy (I never found out if he was a student) would trail me down the road towards my house whispering these horrible sexual things. It always happened when I was alone and I was so terrified the only way I could get out the situation was by diving into a shop. I never reported it to my uni simply because there was nothing I felt they could do (I’d also been mugged a month or so previous to this so was well acquaintanced with their procedures, and they were great).

A more serious story I have happened shortly after this. A friend of mine moved into a house with a few of her other mates, and their landlady had a habit of letting herself into their house uninvited. Unfortunately one day the landlady’s boyfriend did the same, and sexually assaulted one of the girls. I believe he was eventually taken to court, but never found out the outcome as the student involved left uni straight afterwards.

Unfortunately when you’re a student you’re vulnerable to so many – fellow students, landlords and locals, and there are so many dubious individuals who hang around student areas (and student towns) preying on (largely) female students.

I now work for a uni and know our student services do a great job trying to look after the safety of our students. This isn’t helped by budget cuts – we now no longer have security 24/7 on our campuses, which is starting to reflect in the kinds of crime happening on and around the campuses.

Troon // Posted 22 March 2010 at 11:06 am

Sorry for multiple posting, but I wanted to pass on some vaguely good news as a result of this. My institution has just responded by resending the list of numbers to ring if a student reports assault (there are three, all guaranteed to ensure a female member of staff and trained counsellor arrive within 20 minutes with one phone call), and the guidance to tutors on what constitutes harassment. That they did so should, I hope, demonstrate to any sceptics here that institutions are actually bothered about this, and can only be a good thing.

Also appended was a summary of the report written by our women’s officer. She is clearly to be commended in writing this so speedily, in putting pressure on the university to resend its current policy, and in highlighting issues of access to campus and lighting which are specific to our situation. Yet her summary is about entirely focussed on reporting and physical ‘prevention’. I can see why she doesn’t mention it, and am not criticising her or the authors of the broader survey, but NUS bars on my institution have over the last term promoted an external ‘High Street Honeys’ event in exchange for cash; held on their premises Moulin Rouge, Vicars and Tarts and Naughty Schoolgirls parties (one college women’s officer actually appeared at Hustings on her way to the last, and still won); and allowed any and all societies to advertise themselves using sexualised images of women (I may be wrong here, but I don’t think the University Greek club is three women hanging out on a beach in Greek flag bikini thongs, kissing and huddled together-although the last might be an anti-hypothermia measure given our weather). Across the country dubious men’s rights arguments are being used against women’s officers. And the NUS continues to allow these clubs to remain affiliated. It reports that a large number of its members are being assaulted by its other members, and allowed to get away with it by a culture among its membership which tolerates this, yet thinks the answer is for institutions to make clear policy by punishment, ignoring the fact that it is far better placed in terms of both knowledge and power to act preventatively.

I’m sorry, this issue does really bother me, and this isn’t a criticism of any of the report’s authors, but Jennifer Grey is surely right that this needs to be tackled preventatively, which means the NUS itself taking responsibility for policing and educating its membership, as well as changed measures by institutions.

Jeff // Posted 22 March 2010 at 1:21 pm

@ Troon,

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that “laddish” attitudes are non-existent in university, but I have certainly had little if any experience of them. Especially not in seminars or lectures. Granted I wouldn’t usually associate with anyone likely to display such attitudes, but as I said even when around the stereotypical “Jocks” I can’t say that I’ve experienced it.

Nor, incidentally, was I saying that inebreation etc are the major cause of these attacks, rather than the perpertrators of them. Unfortunatly however, the simple fact is that many of the aspects of university life make such attacks easier to carry out.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 22 March 2010 at 2:42 pm

Troon: I personally consider the Greek system toxic.Sports teams and other all-male environments lead to toxic environments for women. If fraternities were banned on all campuses, along with certain sports (such as American football, football and rugby) I suspect the amount of rapes would go way down.

cim // Posted 22 March 2010 at 2:50 pm

Troon: “but NUS bars on my institution”

Here’s the problem. NUS has no bars. Students’ Unions affiliated to NUS have bars, but NUS has no control over whether or not Students’ Unions follow any particular policies it has (if it required affiliated Students’ Unions to follow all its policies, lots of Students’ Unions would probably leave). It’s not a Union in the Trades Union sense of an organisation with local branches, and it has no control whatsoever over its members (either the affiliated Students’ Unions or the students themselves).

Similarly, the clubs are not NUS clubs but Students’ Union clubs – and NUS can’t make the Students’ Union do anything with them.

Now, on the one hand, all Students’ Unions will have a relatively strong – on paper – equal opportunities and anti-discrimination policy. On the other hand, in practice this is usually read as “The Students’ Union shall commit no discrimination that is unarguably obvious even to the ultra-privileged.” and so nothing ever comes of it.

“ignoring the fact that it is far better placed in terms of both knowledge and power to act preventatively.”

Knowledge, perhaps, but definitely not power. Conversely the local Students’ Unions and the university have between them the power to do something but usually lack the knowledge to realise they should.

Jeff // Posted 22 March 2010 at 3:21 pm

@ politicalguineapig

Are you planning on banning all the American Football/Rugby/Football teams? Or just the male ones? What about the all female teams?

My instinct is to poo-poo your statement, but I’ll try and understand. Could you please explain how you think that banning rugby, football and america football would stop rapes?

Hannah // Posted 22 March 2010 at 4:37 pm

This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, going on the experiences of friends and my own time as a student. The sexist, predatory ‘lad’ culture was definitely very prevalent on campus and in halls and I get the impression it’s actually got worse since I was last in education (2005).

Politicalguineapig // Posted 22 March 2010 at 7:58 pm

Jeff: I meant all male rugby/Am football/football teams, and cheerleading for good measure. I think a ban would decrease rapes because fraternities and male sports teams encourage predatory environments to flourish.

Also, rugby and American football, and to a lesser extent football, often cause significant head injuries, and young men need all the brain cells they can muster. (And all-male environments are bad for any nearby women.)

And while any sports player on any team can and does misbehave, members of the ones I’ve mentioned seem especially prone to sexual and/or domestic violence.

As for cheerleading, it encourages rampant objectification and seems to inhibit brain function. See: George W. Bush for proof.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 23 March 2010 at 1:52 am

Jeff: I don’t think a ban on American football, football or rugby would stop rapes- I’m saying a ban would decrease rapes.

From what I’ve seen from the news, male players in those three sports tend to engage in sexual/domestic violence at a higher rate then other athletes. Athletic teams often contribute to an environment where sexual predation is encouraged, which is why I’m very down on men’s sports in general. Same goes for fraternities.

Troon // Posted 23 March 2010 at 9:33 am


Sorry for seeming to have a go at the national union specifically. I am well aware of the structures of the union, both as ex-student rep and current academic, and did write about affiliation. But, yes, it was lazy to use NUS to mean student unions nationally, and I hope I didn’t suggest any explicit criticism of the current team on this issue. Neither, I should stress, was I seeking to attack the women’s officer at my own institution for her report-it is absolutely obvious that she was presenting herself to the university authorities at very short notice to stress their responsibilities, and that this had an effect of sorts. But the broader point surely remains? Local student unions are running events which, if not actively promoting sexual assault, at least strengthen the currents of acceptance for it, as part of their ‘entertainment’ remit. At the same time a dedicated but minority group of activists within the local union are seeking to publicise and promote acceptable behaviour. Even the NUS isn’t entirely unimplicated in this: these events were publicised using NUS logos, and entry and alcohol was cheaper on production of a card bearing that logo. The sports teams and others commented on here are using cards which make their membership of the NUS clear-regardless of who issued them-and benefitting from the discounts they bring across the country. And, if the funding structures are anything like they were in my day, funding structures are linked. You comment that if the NUS (or for that matter local unions) were to demand their anti-discrimination policies were adhered to except in the most obvious cases affiliations would fall, as if this were the worst evil that could happen. But surely there must come a point where student organisations draw the line, and recognise that if they are really serious about promoting equality then they cannot allow affiliation from organisations which actively damage those aims . I can’t be the only one who finds the idea of an organisation (at local level, but affiliated) which has one branch advertising High Street Honeys competitions above an NUS logo whilst another seeks to use an NUS report to educate against the worst implications of the objectification of women somewhat odd.

This really isn’t an attempt at buck passing. Local unions and universities do need to act, and I hope at my institution some of that will focus on prevention and education rather than just treatment afterwards. But, as Louise said, it is very hard to act as an institution beyond our own space at set times, which is why I find this so frustrating-a suggestion for something that I could do or push for would be very nice. And local unions surely need to accept that part of tackling this is curtailing the ‘fun’ of some members, and that it is unacceptable for both them and the NUS to allow their names to be used to promote activity which contradicts their own policies. Otherwise what happens is we and the women’s officers sit down, thrash something out, which is a bit better at least, but bog all really changes.

cim // Posted 23 March 2010 at 9:53 am

Troon: “affiliations would fall, as if this were the worst evil that could happen”

That does appear to be the impression some NUS officers have, though. I don’t personally see disaffiliation as a necessarily bad thing, but I also don’t see how NUS forcing out Unions that use sexism in their marketing (i.e. most of them) would benefit the female students those Unions represent.

You’re right that it’s very odd that these organisations have strong equality policies, and officers who often do excellent work promoting them also have a commercial arm that uses stereotypes and objectification freely. (NUS centrally is much the same – their commercial arm organises some of these events)

The reason for it I think is tokenism – many of these unions have a Women’s Officer, so they think no-one else needs to deal with “women’s issues”, but the Women’s Officer doesn’t have the political power within the Union to fix things like the commercial side on her own (and especially not against the unexamined privilege of the other mostly male officers).

Troon // Posted 23 March 2010 at 10:08 am


Sorry for multiple posting again, but you did reply to me. UK universities do not, to my knowledge, operate a Greek fraternity system. There are some living spaces that end up dominated by certain groups once students choose rooms, but these are unusual given the pressure on accommodation on most campuses, and are certainly not institutionally recognised, they are self-selecting friendship groups not part of the formal structure of university life.

I agree on sports teams, but sense (and I am just sensing) that in Britain, where college sport isn’t a coached industry but more of a kick around, the problem is more in the way these ‘elite’ groups come to dominate nominally shared spaces and dictate what is acceptable, despite their numerically minority status than in something intrinsic to the sport (rowing teams in Oxbridge do the same, for instance). Which returns me in some ways to my first point, what would people on this thread wish institutions to do to police space on campus better, or to make it clear, punitively and preventatively, both what constitutes assault and that it is utterly unacceptable?

Jeff // Posted 23 March 2010 at 10:18 am

@ Politicalguineapig,

Cheerleading, I’m with you. All the way. Everything else, no.

I’ve so far re-written this comment three times, and I’m really struggling to come up with a polite response, so much do I find this ridiculous. Banning all-male sports teams because of the very few who go on to abuse women would be like banning marriage because most rapists are men. I find it difficult to believe that anyone would sanction such an imposition on other peoples freedoms, especially a feminist.

I’m going to continue playing football with my all male team thanks, I assure you, none of us are rapists.

Jeff // Posted 23 March 2010 at 11:14 am

Let me just clarify here by the way. I’m not advocating no action at all, I’m just saying that banning men from playing sports is, in my opinion, not only going to be ineffectual in preventing rape, it’s just going to raise hell with no positive results at all. What is needed is an awareness campaign to educate young men on the rights and freedoms that women have, and how they should go about respecting those rights and freedoms. Actually taking away rights and freedoms from men is not remotely going to work. I honestly doubt whether banning all-male teams, without simultaneously banning female teams, would even be legal.

Troon // Posted 23 March 2010 at 11:18 am


Agree with you all the way, although suspect the huge financial and practical advantages of NUS affiliation give it more power than it would like to admit-nice cop-out for the centre’s unwillingness to act. But it makes implementing the report very hard. For instance, I sit on a committee responsible for deciding opening times, prices, usage restrictions for the bar. Last year we (i.e the nasty institution) managed to gain consent for putting up a poster explaining what constituted assault only because the Entertainment Rep thought it frivolous and sent the Women’s Officer instead. On all other cases she has stated the position that she gets space for NUS theme nights, and we can’t impose restrictions (which is true). Her slogan on running was ‘Promising you nights as big as my tits’, with accompanying poster.

@Jeff and politicalguineapig

I’m not trying to intervene but there may be a slight culture clash here-American college sports teams are elite and privileged beyond belief – they’re the equivalent of Premiership reserve teams multiplied by the closed nature of campuses. UK teams are different, most lack even coaching staff yet alone university granted privileges. Politicalguineapig’s comments make huge sense in that environment.

But I would ask Jeff to think about the issue. Most bars on my campus hold about 100 people. The influence in that space of a sports team of 20 is huge. And if they start loudly teasing their mates for not pulling, commenting on the absence of a certain member of bar staff one of them fancies or moaning they can’t get overly pissed because their girlfriend will mind and anyway, nudge nudge, I’ll be happier if she is it does create an environment in shared space which is offensive and objectifying. And regardless of whether you or your mates are rapists, general attitudes to sexuality means this is unhealthy in a way a mixed group of 20 people or a women’s sports team might not be. Would you want bar staff to ask you not to talk like this, or to talk more quietly, or to break up the group? Would you be happy for this to be done in order to create an environment in which objectification was less acceptable, or is this too unlinked to assault in your mind for you to think it fair? And if your Women’s Officer proposed it, would you argue she’d overstepped her remit, would your mates complain they needed a ‘men’s officer’? I don’t know, but prevention partly hinges on your attitudes to others enforcing behaviour in the absence of direct complaint.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 23 March 2010 at 11:32 am

with regards to cheerleading, i think that should be considered case for case. yes ones at the side of american football teams are pretty awesome, but at my uni, its only a sport within itself, which requires a lot of physical fitness, and at least a fifth of these are boys. like a lot of the sports societies at uni, it was arranged by students that want to do it, with the funding of the NUS. my complaint with that one group is that girls arent allowed the boys uniform even though some of them will be performing the same tasks and would therefore look more the part without the skirt. also theirs considering such things as radical cheerleading!

nick // Posted 23 March 2010 at 11:40 am

politicalguineapig ….

why not ban males from going to university ?????

I work at a students bar at a local univerisity as security ……and yes when a couple of rugby/football teams get drinking then things can get out of hand …..but we deal with that quickly ……but the ladies teams can be quite a problem too ……so …why not ban alcohol ?????

as for sexual assaults …I’ve not seen or heard anything …..but i’m not saying it does not happen …….but no females have come up to me saying they have been sexaully assaulted ……but i dont think the students that come in to the bars and get slaughtered are any worse or better than other students at other universities ……

Jeff // Posted 23 March 2010 at 11:48 am


Don’t get me wrong, should there be sports teams out there in which the whole bunch of them are coming out with comments like that, and generally making pigs of themselves, then I doubt anyone would be complaining if the bar staff threw them out. My point is that punishing the male populace of a campus for the actions of a few Jocks is innapropriate. I’ve been to plenty of bars with my all-male teams where we’ve sat in a corner, gotten drunk and made no trouble of any kind. I’m not saying that such attitudes are none existent, and I’m not saying that some sports teams have a few or a lot of players that are like that. What I’m saying is that banning all male sports teams is a step too far. All male though we may be, any women would be perfectly safe (from us at least) in our company, nor would she be made to feel ill at ease. There is no legitimate reason therefore to ban us from playing together.

I’m not quite sure what you are asking with the Women’s Officer question. If you mean “If she proposed the banning of all-male sports teams…” then yes, i would argue that she had overstepped her remit. Neither I, nor any of my friends (that they’ll admit) think a “Men’s Officer” is necessary. If anything, i’d just assign a second Women’s Officer.

Jeff // Posted 23 March 2010 at 11:50 am

@ nick,

Seriously. How many women have walked up to you, a total stranger, and announced that they’ve been sexually abused? That’s not really a reliable way of determining how prevalent such attacks are, is it now?

sianmarie // Posted 23 March 2010 at 12:00 pm

nick – what jeff said.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 23 March 2010 at 2:26 pm

Troon: Yep, I am from the U.S, and I do think there’s an unhealthy culture at universities across the board. Once they get to college level, the athletes tend to be spoiled brats without any sense of empathy.

Jeff: I am happy that none of your friends are rapists, but the same is not true of most sports players. The point is that sports do not contribute to a healthy environment, so one can either have sports or have a good environment for women.

Also, sports are frivolous and an education is not. Banning certain sports from campus does not have an impact on most people’s future earning power or future plans. An education is a neccesity for both sexes, being on a sports team isn’t.

Kate // Posted 23 March 2010 at 2:34 pm

How are sports frivolous? What happened to encouraging people to be well rounded, not to mention physically healthy? Numerous studies have suggested that sports are particularly beneficial to young women, helping to boost self-esteem. I think it is completely ridiculous to say most sports players are rapists and that sports are incompatible with a healthy attitude to women, so ridiculous in fact that like Jeff I can’t think of a reasoned way to respond to it.

Jeff // Posted 23 March 2010 at 2:54 pm


I literally smacked my gob in shock when you just said that most sports players are rapists. That’s the most ridiculous thing I have heard in a long, long time. If you could show me any evidence, even if it came from the Sun, that suggested even remotely that most sports players are rapists I might eat my hat. But frankly, after that stunner, I’m going to find it hard to take you seriously.

Your assertion that sports cannot equate to a healthy environment for women is simply not true. Accepted that you may know of some teams that are misogynist, but tying all male sports players in with that stretchs the imagination to an unrealistic degree.

And lastly, sports are very definetly not frivolous at all. They encourage a healthy lifestyle, teamwork and a competative attitude, all of which will serve you just as well as a more academic education later in life. Last I checked, Mr Beckham earned more than me and he fobbed off university to attend a football college!.

nick // Posted 23 March 2010 at 3:23 pm

jeff & sian ….

I’m working in the bar/clubs in the union as security …I’m there to help anyone/everyone ……if there is trouble we will get it sorted ……

and yes …..if anyone said they have been sexually assaulted then I would take that very seriously …….I’m not saying it does not happen …….I’m saying no one has come to me saying that ……….none of the staff are brain dead thugs …..we do our job and anyone can come up to us if they need to ……….

Helen G // Posted 23 March 2010 at 3:32 pm

nick – I appreciate what you’re trying to say but would be grateful if you’d refrain from using disablist language.



Kate // Posted 23 March 2010 at 3:34 pm

Nick, I respectively suggest that you do a bit of research on how women respond to sexual assault, especially if you judge yourself to be in a position where you may be someone’s first port of call. Maybe you’re employer could arrange training?? It’s not like getting your bag snatched. Women are unlikely to immediately go up to you as a bouncer and tell you what happened. Just think about the environment, no matter how “not brain dead” you are, you’re asking a woman in a vulnerable position to come up to you as a man and a complete stranger and shout across a potentially noisy, hostile bar that she’s been sexually assaulted. Does that really sound like a credible scenario? And that assumes that the assault even takes place in the bar.

Julie K // Posted 23 March 2010 at 3:47 pm

“One can either have sports or have a good environment for women.” “I am happy that none of your friends are rapists, but the same is not true of most sports players.”

Along with Kate and Jeff I have to strenuously disagree with these assertions. Granted, some male sports players have a bad attitude to women, but so do SOME men in every walk of life. To suggest that sport is in some way intrinsically linked to violence against women is ridiculous and an insult to (a) the many women who love and participate in sport, and (b) the many men who don’t condone the attitudes you describe.

Sport is no more frivolous than any other leisure activity. Do you honestly think that if sport on university campuses were banned, those individuals who behave badly towards women would suddenly stop doing so? I don’t think so. Their behaviour is not caused by their sport.

Jeff // Posted 23 March 2010 at 3:55 pm


I appreciate that as security you are there to help, and I have no doubt that if you showed up just prior to an assault, or with it in progress, many victims would be happy to see you. But if an attack has already taken place, just think about the liklehood of somebody who has just been seriously abused approaching somebody who is not only a man, but also in all liklehood a very hefty, well built man. Bouncers are a deterrent, nobody wants to mess with them, but unfortunatly I wouldn’t really call them a friendly face to a recent victim of abuse.

Troon // Posted 23 March 2010 at 4:23 pm

I promised myself I wouldn’t comment again for a while, but did want to follow. Politicalguineapig can obviously defend herself, but I do feel that something is being lost in translation here. American college athletes live together, establish fraternities which can police who is ‘acceptable’ in their space, are extremely well treated and know they will make a huge amount of money. They have the kind of institutionalised protection which allows them to hit a tutor during a seminar and be asked only to apologise. That this culture of all-male exclusivity and protection from any consequences is conducive to rape seems to me a very valid point, even though the idea that practice of the sport itself causes the problem is not one I share.

Ally // Posted 23 March 2010 at 4:42 pm


What students need is not a bubble that doesn’t represent the shiteness of the outside world. They need to know exactly how to deal with that outside world, and students are, after all 18 years old, they are adults. Students do not want their university experience to be an extension of (or beginning to) boarding school.

The same applies to the NUS. It would be paternalistic and degrading for them to refuse to support entertaining events that included potentially objectifying themes. I know many intelligent, high-flying career women who expect equal pay and equal treatment. They also expect to be able to wear what they want and like to dress up. Avoiding themes (such as Moulin Rouge) which they find perfectly acceptable is patronising and stinks of a subtler form of victim-blaming. The NUS would not just lose the affiliation of men, but of many women, and it would give a negative misrepresentation of what is about.

In terms of what should be changed, from my experience of university the main problem is that being the perpetrator of an assault sexual or otherwise does not result in expulsion from university. There was recently a case at my university of a boy pulling another boy’s trousers down. The boy initially complained, but was later intimidated into backing down. The perpetrator was later expelled for failing a penal exam. This is a massive two fingers up to victims. It basically says that failing an exam is a more important failing to the university than the psychological anguish of a fellow student. That should not be the message. If that boy had been an academically brilliant student, he still should not have been allowed to stay in the university, where other people have to live with him in closed quarters and attend classes, tutorials, seminars and lectures with him.

The second problem is the culture of dealing with things internally so that the excesses of youth can be dealt with in a manner which doesn’t have such damaging consequences in later life. That might be a sensible approach to nicking a rival sports team’s equipment before practice, but not sexual assault. That is not just a matter for the dean. It is a matter for the police. Having such a problem dealt with by the university equivalent of being sent to the headmaster’s office is trivialising a serious criminal offence.

Re sports teams:

There is a definite culture of male-chauvinism surrounding sports teams, some so than others. I think this is mainly the result of them being male-only teams, with a male only social life, to which women are invited to occasionally and largely for the purpose of the men (and a few of the women) to get laid. They also seem to attract men with a particular view of masculinity. It is a difficult problem to solve because it is a case of something which is morally neutral and has positive aims attracting the wrong people for the wrong reasons, and generating a particular culture.

Troon // Posted 23 March 2010 at 10:24 pm


I appreciate how much you disagree with what I’m saying, but hope I can at least give what I would see as context, from my standpoint, for the points you make.

First, I simply disagree that university should not be a bubble, and should be about teaching people to ‘deal with the outside world’. I know exactly why this seems hugely paternalistic (indeed, having worked before university found the transition so acute I almost left twice) but at its heart is not a desire to closet, but the basic belief that what I do in my interactions with students is help people develop their intellectual capabilities, and that this demands actions which mitigate the effects of that world. Obviously in that world you can’t turn up in Ug boots and PJs, get off work because your family is in crisis, receive favourable treatment because your partner and your best mate told you they were sleeping together two days before your final assessment, or ask your boss for cash to help prevent you having to work ruinously long hours in a second job. Neither can you be free to concentrate on your performance without worries over your safety and the nasty sexist culture that surrounds you. But you get one shot at a degree, none of these things should matter to it, and universities should do all they can to minimise their impact. That’s not a paternalistic hand-me-down, it’s their job, it’s what you contribute to their funding for (and anyone wanting help should remember this and ask as soon as they do).

On punishment, the cases you report sounds awful, and I agree that the message sent is terrible. The difficulty is, though, that we cannot enforce punishment unless a complaint is proven, and that is incredibly difficult even for those with investigative powers (which we as institutions don’t have, we can cooperate with the police or ask students, that’s it). In the case you cite the complaint was withdrawn. My institution, for instance, has a zero-tolerance policy (exclusion) for any proven harassment, but it has never been used because it is so hard to prove. If the attack happened off campus, we would have no jurisdiction at all. In my experience a huge amount that ends up with deans ends up with them because of probative difficulties. Deans can impose penalties without such standards of proof, including separating people. They can also ‘hint’ to others that any academic misdemeanours be brought to their attention or punished hard, because here proof and jurisdiction are clear. But we can’t say this, and still need proven academic failure, because we cannot punish someone for something unproven. But that academic sanctions are used need not demonstrate that academic performance is held more morally important, just that it is the most practical sanction. But I agree the effect is hugely damaging, it’s just hard to see what you would wish done (expel people for unproven offences outside our jurisdiction?).

I agree that the way punishment is seen is part of the problem, but so too must the generally pervasive rape culture which besets campuses. There are, as I said in my first post, really good reasons why our responses are best in supporting victims (reactive individual support is central to the system), but poor at punishing or changing endemic culture. But the last two in some ways go together-the rationale for the problems in both is non-involvement in student life unless individuals request it-which means we have little ability to prove anything and punish, as well as keeping our (in your opinion paternalistic) hands off student ‘entertainment’

Claire // Posted 23 March 2010 at 10:28 pm

Trigger warning (moderator’s note): The following comment contains a description of sexual assault which some readers may find disturbing and potentially triggering.

I was seriously sexually assaulted and strangled whilst at university. I also had a man come into my hall of residence, despite security, knock on my door, blag his way into my room on some social pretext and basically hold me hostage for three hours. Terrifying. After the first violent assault, I was working in the college shop one evening when a group of loutish sportsmen came in. They started pointing at the reclaim the night posters and laughing about how women couldn’t stop talking about rape because that was subliminally what we all wanted so much. It was awful. Not one of the women near me, who all knew what had happened to me did a thing to stop them. I ran out of the shop in a lot of distress. In the end some actually rather geeky history PhD student (male) who knew me too went over to them and apparently had some choice words. These men – 18 year olds – were honestly chastened. That’s interesting. It’s almost like nobody had told them before.

You arrive at uni to be bombarded with leaflets about safe sex, contraception, rape crisis. It made me feel vulnerable. I’m also a CSA survivor. I don’t agree with the post that says it’s patronising to 18 year old students to make them aware of these issues. Or to be singled out as a section of society to be educated in this way. The doctors, teachers, social workers, politicians and lawyers of this world all pass through university and if you don’t tackle their attitudes there, when are they going to be tackled. There is a very broad range of sexual awareness and behavioural awareness amongst people of that age from all different backgrounds and uni is depicted as this friendly place where you leave your bedroom door unlocked when you’re using the communal kitchen.

My concentration went completely during the run up to finals after these assaults and trying so hard to cope. In the end I went to my tutor. A man. He was very good. Professional and respectful of boundaries so not prying or patronising. To this day I don’t know if I owe my 2i to his intervention or whether I really got it on the strength of my marks. I didn’t get the help I felt I deserved or wanted. But I did get the mark I wanted, I stuck it out at uni, and I’m glad.

I agree with the posts that point out the town/gown distinction is wrong here. Rape and sexual assault is not part of student life, it’s part of life. It’s right to take it out of the university setting and universities shouldn’t try to handle these issues themselves when they just don’t have the expertise. too many people here are trying to be experts about something that isn’t a student issue – it’s an issue.

If the statistic for student attacks is higher than for the rest of the population in a town I would suggest two causes: sensible but cosseted and privileged educated women (sorry I know that is elistist) who go to university are probably more likely to report, they are encouraged to report because of the student literature. And also the free culture and openess which universities encourage makes people who already come from quite protective backgrounds sometimes vulnerable and trusting.

My daughter is horrified about the non-segregated toilet and washing facilities at the university of her choice and the proximity of people she doesn’t know – especially of men. She says she’ll feel vulnerable and wants to be in an all female block – which isn’t on offer. 18 years old is still in my experience an age where people lack emotional maturity.

Victoria // Posted 24 March 2010 at 12:28 am


I enjoy my career and expect equal pay and equal treatment (although I can’t see the latter coming without an end to the use of divisive expressions such as “career woman”). Moreover, while I too like to wear what I want and dress up, surely all women should have the right to question contexts. Wearing sexy lingerie can make you feel like a free sexual being; wandering around a campus plastered with images of women wearing the same items to market boozy evenings for the lads can make you feel like a piece of meat. Rape culture is in the messages sent out, not by what a woman wears, but by whether she is portrayed by others as an object. This may be straying off the point a bit, but I remember a few years ago seeing an interview on CD:UK in which Cat Deeley mentioned that they got loads of complaints when a female singer wore next to nothing, but hardly any when a male singer had nearly naked female backing singers. It’s depressing, but this kind of says it all: it should be objectification which is condemned, not active female sexual expression, and every time a student union supports an event which reinforces the former they undermine the latter and make it harder, not easier, for women to wear as much or as little as we like without others making ridiculous judgements. “Objectifying themes” are not linked to sexual freedom, but quite the opposite. It quells free sexual expression when the claustrophobic student environment that surrounds you characterises female sexuality as something on offer to the default “real” male students along with cheap vodka shots. The appropriation of female sexual activity into a matrix of messages all aimed at young males, reducing women to passive, doe-eyed dolls, has nothing at all to do with freedom. You may think avoiding things which ultimately damage people and limit their ability either to feel free or to see others as free human beings is worthwhile in order to avoid being “patronising”. But really, I doubt you, or indeed anyone, truly believes this in all cases of objectification and discrimination, and it certainly isn’t worth believing here.

Politicalguineapig // Posted 24 March 2010 at 5:45 am

Troon, Ally: That’s pretty much my point. Sports teams tend to encourage a bad environment, and it’s almost impossible to seperate the practice of the sport from the behavior of the players.

Which is why I feel that certain team sports should not be encouraged until the players grow up (which would appear to be half-past never.)

Also, in university environments the administrators fail across the board when it comes to meting out any punishment for bad behavior (especially honor students, wealthy and well connected students and student athletes), so they’re a big part of the problem too.

Helen S // Posted 24 March 2010 at 11:35 am

politicalguineapig – just to stand up for us ‘university administrators’ a little bit here. Those of us who aren’t lecturers/deans/on the academic council or the executive are very often made the feel second-class in terms of our place at the uni. We’re very much aware that students are the ‘customer’ and the academics are the ‘front’ of the business so when decisions on punishment for crime need to be made (and usually done so by us), very often we get shouted down. It’s sometimes seen as too draconian to give out suitable punishment, since, as I’m often told, students ‘pay our wages’. It shouldn’t have an effect on serious crime, but in reality it does.

Of course, this is a completely separate issue and I hope it doesn’t muddy the waters too much, but this is my experience (and that of my colleagues) at my particular uni. And it’s very frustrating.

Jeff // Posted 24 March 2010 at 12:34 pm

@ politicalguineapig,

Again with the association of sportsmen and rape. I’m still waiting to hear how you’ve arrived at such an innacurate conclusion.

At some point, you are going to have to realise that not all men are sexist, chauvanist pigs. Merely because a group of them congregate to perform an activity does not increase the likelhood of them holding particular views, nor does the activity in question, sport or otherwise, increase the liklehood of that. Some all-male sports teams, I have no doubt, will consist of people who will objectify women. Some of them might even be rapists. That does not mean, not even for a second, that all the men who play that sport will hold the same views or be any more likely to rape somebody.

No matter what the nature of the sport is, they are not automatically linked to a certain set of views over women. The least sexist bloke I know is a six foot something, rugby and American football play brick shithouse. I couldn’t take him out with crowbar. On the flip side, the most sexist person I know (who, annoyingly, is my housemate) hasn’t seen daylight all year and the most physical activity he does play little model wargames with his all-male club.

This is like saying that, thanks to Hitler, we should ban vegitarianism due to the liklehood of it leading to holocaust. Yes, it’s that ridiculous, and yes, it’s that offensive.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 24 March 2010 at 2:05 pm

surely if sports is a place which encourages laddism and rape culture (regardless of actual rape) then really more anti-violence and objectification campaigns should be aimed at sports societies, rather than banning the sports?

Claire // Posted 24 March 2010 at 3:59 pm

On the correlation between sport and violence, there was some research done which showed a marked increase in domestic violence perpetrated by football supporters after their team lost a game. The negative PR around this is why some premier league clubs have begun white ribbon campaigns.

The research convinced me there was a correlation between spectators and DV in certain sports (football particularly) but I don’t know if the sportsmen themselves were to blame or the drinking and laddishness that comes with pack activity such as football supporting.

Amy Clare // Posted 24 March 2010 at 5:31 pm


“All male though we may be, any women would be perfectly safe (from us at least) in our company, nor would she be made to feel ill at ease.”

Sorry to pick on you, but that statement just jumped out at me when I was reading the thread. What sprang to mind was… how do you know? Men who harbour misogynist views, who commit rape, sexual assault, harrassment etc are perfectly ‘normal’-looking for the most part and are often seen by others as ‘nice guys’/’decent blokes’/choose your term. I can see how you could make that reassurance for yourself, but can’t see how you could possibly know that women would not be at risk from other members of your team.

I don’t think the answer is to ban sport – but targeted education campaigns could help, because there is definitely such a thing as a pack mentality, and there is a connection with sport.

Sport (and physical prowess generally) is very highly valued in our society, particularly male team sports. Our society heaps praise on talented sportsmen and tells them they are amazing because of their awesome physical power and skill. It’s not hard to see how this could translate in the minds of young sportsmen (at uni or anywhere else) to arrogance and a belief that men are the best generally because they’re the best at sport (not true, but this is the message our society gives us). Get a group of such men together and you have a misogyny petri dish.

As the space is all-male, there is little opposition to sexism, as most men (not all, as we’ve seen on this thread) don’t tend to call out sexism among their male peers, even if they’re not particularly sexist themselves. It takes a strong person to stand up to sexism – doing so can make you unpopular – and upon arriving at uni, most young people just want to make friends and fit in.

All this is a roundabout way of saying that I can see how male sports teams at university could foster misogyny. It would be a good idea to target a campaign there and indeed at any other all-male group or society.

Ally // Posted 24 March 2010 at 8:35 pm

@Victoria “people have different levels of emotional maturity at 18”. People have different levels of emotional maturity at 57, by the time they are 18 everyone should have the requisite emotional maturity to live on their own and interact with others without expecting the latter not to be chauvinistic pricks.

There seems to be a dual failure by fresher’s week anti-rape campaigns. (1) Rape alarms, warnings about excessive alcohol and safety measures for getting back into university halls place the onus on the potential victim i.e. women to avoid being raped and label them as “cosetted” or “immature” if they don’t go around expecting to get sexual violence if they aren’t careful and (2) It creates a false dichotomy where these precautions are supposedly intended to combat potential attacks from townsfolks (of course you will be safe when you have been walked back to halls) when in actual fact your fellow students are going to be inebriated, immature, out for sex, and much more likely to be dangerous than anyone else is.

Women are encouraged to be walked home from events by ‘friends’-people they may have known for 24 hours or less, who they are lulled into trusting because after all, they go to the same university, so they are equals who are there to provide each other with an intellectually stimulating environment and graduate on chummy grounds, not screw each other over, right?

I know of at least one case of a woman who allowed a man to walk her home, as she was drunk, resulting in him thinking she was up for sex (which she subsequently could not remember). “Why else would she have asked me to walk her home?” Errrrm, to avoid that precise outcome, maybe?

(Trigger warning)

A great deal of nasty experiences happen in the grey area somewhere along the scale running between drunken mistake, feeling obligated or intimidated and fighting tooth and nail to the last second and it is difficult to see how a rape alarm achieves anything except placing more guilt on rape victims who do not fall at the very self-defensive end of that scale.

Fannying about with what events are and are not ‘objectifying’ seems to be to be trivialising and patronising, without actually dealing with the actual problem, which is actual sexual violence, and not whether the theme of the particular party is objectifying. Intervening at a point where there is no actual problem in a way that restricts freedom just doesn’t seem to me to be a desirable way of dealing with the problem.

As for comments in the bar, the appropriate way of dealing with that seems to be precisely what happened in your case, and what generally happens-those people who are incapable of comporting themselves are subject to a form of social censure by either the person they have offended or other members of the JCR who have thought things through a bit better, not punishment by academic staff.

Jeff // Posted 25 March 2010 at 11:17 am

Amy Clare,

“Sorry to pick on you, but that statement just jumped out at me when I was reading the thread. What sprang to mind was… how do you know? Men who harbour misogynist views, who commit rape, sexual assault, harrassment etc are perfectly ‘normal’-looking for the most part and are often seen by others as ‘nice guys’/’decent blokes’/choose your term. I can see how you could make that reassurance for yourself, but can’t see how you could possibly know that women would not be at risk from other members of your team. ”

Well, granted I can’t see the future, but so far in the three years I’ve played and socialised with these guys, I’ve never heard any of them utter anything remotely misogynistic or sexist. These are not (and apologies if I’ve given this impression) people with whom I train once a week and see at monthly socials, they’re pretty much my best friends. I see them all, at the very least, a few hours each day.

I agree with the education campaigns you mention, however I think the campaign should be an all (male) inclusive one, rather than aimed at sports players.

Troon // Posted 25 March 2010 at 6:00 pm


I’m so sorry that happened to you. I know it is entirely besides the point, but your tutor can’t ‘fiddle’ grades unless you have demonstrated work at that level. You may have got less than you serve, but not more.


You’re right about why academics don’t intrude-and I thought I’d said as much in my first post. But the consequences are huge: we can’t for instance have a zero-tolerance approach with expulsion in our own bars if you adopt the self-policing you wish, nor improve the political credibility of SU women’s officers forced to run ‘obvious’ campaigns on safety because of their position in their union, nor do anything about the sexism we see around us, or about the fact too many students believe being too drunk to remember having sex is a ‘mistake’ not an ‘assault’.

So what we do is apply ‘band-aids’ as Jennifer Drew put it, trying to compensate in some way. And the bit of me that thinks on these cases individually is tired of playing a minor role in applying these band-aids to terribly tortured and damaged young women knowing the same instances are going to occur year on year, that there is little we as an institution can do if we are not allowed to ‘intrude’ or ‘closet’, and that the woman student crying when I open the door is going to be just another victim of the conveyor belt of non-righteous non-intervention. But I am capable of recognising that I can’t do more, and shouldn’t, at least not in the university context-both for her (no, be honest, their) sake and because of what is owed to other students.

But, equally, to somehow deny that this non-intervention is problematic, or is part of the problem, or that student culture is dangerously sexist in ways which encourage rape (even if no more so than society more generally) is to deny the experiences of, or be crassly cynical of the motivations of, those who approach it from angles different to your own. Including many of those of us who wish to help but really, really don’t know how within these limits.

Victoria // Posted 25 March 2010 at 10:22 pm


“Fannying about with what events are and are not ‘objectifying’ seems to be to be trivialising and patronising, without actually dealing with the actual problem, which is actual sexual violence, and not whether the theme of the particular party is objectifying.”

I was sexually assaulted as a student, by one men out of a group who pulled up in a car alongside me while I was walking to my partner’s. While I was making my initial statement, one of the police officers on the scene said to the other that it sounded like “a stag do prank gone wrong”. As in, one assumes, he wasn’t a “proper” sex attacker, not like the saddos who go it alone. My attacker was a normal bloke out with his mates, part of the great ironic continuum, which starts in the student bars, on the pages of FHM, at precisely the type of parties you think are so irrelevant. So I’m sorry if you think people like me just “fanny about” without dealing with the “actual problem” of sexual violence, but I find your utter failure to see that there’s a continuum that supports and justifies rape culture throughout society trivialising in the extreme. I don’t know though – perhaps, in my sheer terror, I failed to see my attacker’s ironic raised eyebrow, his cheeky chappy wink, the nudge that would have reassured me that this reduction of my whole being to no more than an object for his own (and his mates’) amusement was simply for play. Not a real assault, but a knowing re-enactment, which has all the same attributes, except it’s all a game. Rather like a party, you could say. And I guess you think anyone who can’t recognise the difference between the two just isn’t clever enough?

Politicalguineapig // Posted 26 March 2010 at 1:48 am

Jeff: Pretty much what Amy Clare said. Every few months, there are reports of violence against women perpetuated by athletes. And these guys always get off with a slap on the wrist, and go on to rape again.

Admittedly, it’s partly the environment they live in which encourages it, but it’s hard to seperate the undesirable behaviors, the pack mentality and the sport.

Better to just lance the wound and discourage some sports all together.

For those who think education will help, it doesn’t. No amount of education can discourage a rapist. You are assuming that they think other people are people, not objects.

Aden Ford // Posted 17 July 2010 at 6:15 am

I myself do not have borderline personality disorder but I wanted to share my experience about my ex-girlfriend who was later diagnosed to have borderline personality disorder.

Have Your say

To comment, you must be registered with The F-Word. Not a member? Register. Already a member? Use the sign in button below

Sign in to the F-Word

Further Reading

Has The F-Word whet your appetite? Check out our Resources section, for listings of feminist blogs, campaigns, feminist networks in the UK, mailing lists, international and national websites and charities of interest.

Write for us!

Got something to say? Something to review? News to discuss? Well we want to hear from you! Click here for more info

  • The F-Word on Twitter
  • The F-Word on Facebook
  • Our XML Feeds