Unilad: an entire culture summed up in one hideous website

// 5 February 2012

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A photograph of a large group of women at a demonstration carrying a large banner with the words RAPE: A GLOBAL PROBLEM. This is a guest post by Sarah McAlpine, who can be found on twitter @sazza_jay.

This week I happened upon a website, Unilad, in which one writer ended a horrendously offensive with the now infamous line:

“And 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.

That seems to be fairly good odds.”

Apparently this is supposed to be some sort of a joke, devoid as it is from any wit – although I can’t imagine a circumstance under which you could describe the statement as funny.

Soon after reading the article, I informed them that it may break hate speech laws. They responded, not-at-all predictably, by asking me, “are you a dyke?”

Almost immediately the twittersphere was engulfed in outrage. Thousands were calling on the website to apologise and remove the offending content. It turned out UniLad’s offensive content was actually the entirety of the website. Articles advising readers on How To Fuck Your Lecturer, informing you on The Problem With Slags and a particularly cheery anecdote called The Angry Shag which depicted smashing a woman’s face into the wall during intercourse in order “to knock some sense into her”.

They then removed the website and left an apology there; www.unilad.com, and on their facebook page, where commenters pondered the best way to punish humourless, lesbian bitches like me. One in particular involves raping us to death.

Since Wednesday, at least one of the students has come under investigation by their University. They obviously want to distance themselves from the scandal, and are keen to show that the website isn’t a reflection of their campus culture.

They are perhaps a little optimistic. As a recent graduate I’d love to agree, and say that UniLad are a rare breed, that misogyny was about as common on campus as early starts and that the men are enlightened and respectful of women. Sadly, many students’ experiences don’t fit that narrative.

Whilst at University, I had the misfortune of meeting a ‘UniLad’ or two. They all had one thing in common- a complete and utter lack of any empathy for women. I’d go so far as to say that they didn’t think of women as people at all.

One of the first phrases you’re introduced to during Fresher’s week is Faffing. This describes sexual intercourse with a first year student (or, Fucking A Fresher). The phrase is used almost exclusively against women, normally by older students. There are several Facebook groups dedicated to the objectification of female students- one at my University was run by the male members of a society wherein they could discuss the female members, and any sexual relations they’d had with them. Rape jokes are two a penny, and women are constantly referred to a sluts and whores. Many of these so called ‘lads’ have real issues with concepts such as ‘personal space’ and ‘sexual autonomy’. Unwanted groping is par for the course on a standard night out.

What I’m saying is, sadly, there is a persistent and growing ‘Lad’ culture on our University campuses. UniLad is not that uncommon, and this is harmful, and dangerous to female students.

Last year studies showed that the attitudes of rapists towards women are reflected by mainstream ‘lads’ mags’. In fact, participants were unable to successfully differentiate between statements made by convicted sex offenders and those found in the likes of Nuts and Zoo. I can only imagine what they’d make of the articles found on unilad.com.

1 in 7 women will be seriously physically or sexually assaulted whilst at University. Rape is a terrifying reality for many female students. These so called ‘jokes’ on UniLad describe genuine experiences for women, and it’s important that this story doesn’t focus on one horrendous oh-so-funny comment about rape. It’s about an entire cesspit of hatred, bigotry, homophobia and good-old fashioned sexism, an entire culture summed up in one hideous website.

Women have to live within this culture everyday, wherever they go. It has no place in the hallowed halls of learning, on our streets or in our homes. Enough was enough for me. That’s why I called out UniLad, and why I’ll continue to call out others like it until we see the back end of Lad Culture for good.

[The image is a photograph of a large group of women at a demonstration carrying a large banner with the words RAPE: A GLOBAL PROBLEM. It was taken by Chris Hacking and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]

Comments From You

Yes. // Posted 5 February 2012 at 7:32 pm

”Unwanted groping is par for the course on a standard night out.” I am a uni student and this is so true. And if you say anything against it people think you’re a hairy feminist lesbian.

Sal P-A // Posted 5 February 2012 at 7:49 pm

Speaking as a university lecturer, articles like “How to fuck your lecturer”, although not illegal, are also a problem – not only are they disrespectful but precipitate difficult situations in which female lectures face unwanted sexual attention. At my university sexual relationships between students and staff (quite rightly) come under a lot of scrutiny – and with me – like most, (dare I say all), of my female peers – its frankly never gonna happen! So propagating this idea that it’s both common and welcome is generally not helpful in exacerbating the difficult position female lecturers can find ourselves in, working in a very male dominated arena. I have been lucky, or perhaps pro-active, in managing potential situations, but clearly these ‘lads’ don’t think I deserve the same amount of respect as my male peers. Moreover, most universities would take a very dim view of students sexually harrassing their lecturers – the students themselves stand to lose out if they for a second ‘buy in’ to this lad culture.

Sarah McAlpine // Posted 5 February 2012 at 8:02 pm

In reply to “Yes”- you could try talking to your Student Union’s Women’s Officer about the introduction of a Zero Tolerance policy, http://www.nusconnect.org.uk/news/article/6074/1341/ which many Student Union’s up and down the country are taking.

It’s not going to solve all the problems you experience when you’re out, but it might be a good place to start =]

Laurel // Posted 5 February 2012 at 9:21 pm

not many unis have a womans officer. we had liberation officer, bt theyre pretty limited on what campaigns they can do. theyre supposed to take on a set amount. 2 small and one big, in a year like, and its got to cover every single discrimination…

Tabitha Long // Posted 5 February 2012 at 11:04 pm

When I was at university I was known to kick off at anyone who groped me uninvited while on a night out. I was (and still am) not afraid to educate people as to why they have no right to lay their hands on me. Curiously, it seemed the more I fit their image of someone who looked like they ‘invited’ that kind of interaction, the more effective my words were. I hope I made a few people question their attitudes by speaking out, when so many may feel uncomfortable about objecting.

The sad thing is that women are still encouraged to find value in sexual attention. So many of my friends (strong, intelligent people) found it flattering when someone felt them up. They didn’t seem to get that it had nothing to do with them personally.

Sarah McAlpine // Posted 5 February 2012 at 11:05 pm

@Laurel is your university affiliated with the NUS? Most NUS Student Unions will have positions for LGBT, Ethnic Minorities, Disabled and Women’s Officers- although, sadly, they are not always filled.

If not, is there a Welfare Officer you could talk to? Or a democratic structure you’d feel safe in to get your issues heard?

Do you mind if I ask what University you attend?

Zoë Scandrett // Posted 5 February 2012 at 11:59 pm

You could always campaign to your union to get a Women’s Officer. Try emailing Estelle Hart (estelle.hart@nus.org.uk) – NUS Women’s Officer – to ask how to go about it. The NUS Women’s Campaign can help you out :)

rose411 // Posted 6 February 2012 at 12:01 am

oh my gosh, I gasped in horror when I read what the quote was on that disgraceful website!!

How could someone express such a thing is beyond belief. I hope someone swings a crowbar in his balls really hard by accident! That’ll give a little karma relief.

rape is wrong, should never happen and should end forever.

anywavewilldo // Posted 6 February 2012 at 11:33 am

@Yes: “And if you say anything against it people think you’re a hairy feminist lesbian” – I am a hairy feminist lesbian – when people (sic) try and faze you out of challenging sexism by using heterosexism as a threat – I think it’s best to summon up some solidarity rather than distance yourself.

Shadow // Posted 6 February 2012 at 2:32 pm

‘Women have to live in this culture every day, wherever they go.’ Precisely and that culture is the now normalised and widely accepted one of misogyny and acceptance men have the right to view/treat women as dehumanised sexual service stations. Now where do such ideas emanate from? We need look no further than mainstream media and popular culture, both which endlessly promote male hatred/male contempt for women as ‘ironic/funny/post modern etc.’ all of which are used to minimalise/deny the reality of embedded male hatred/male contempt for women and girls.

Male Supremacy is not something invisible – it is real and fact male university students consider it their right to subject female students to male sexual harassment is indeed frightening. These males once they graduate will continue their campaign of viewing/treating women as disposable sexual service stations and when these males obtain employment they will subject female employees to the same male sexual harassment/verbal violence.

But naming the problem as male violence/male hatred/male contempt for women is seen as divisive and promoting myth women are being labelled as victims. But as usual these are common tactics used to ensure focus is never on male accountability or even on how male supremacy system ensures men are the ones accorded greater socio-economic power than women. and as always it is men’s version of ‘definitive truth’ which is widely accepted as ‘reality!’ Hence the reason why so many commentators engaged in women-hating rhetoric because holding men accountable is a ‘no no’ in male supremacist systems.

anneLou // Posted 6 February 2012 at 2:47 pm

Hey! Great article, I would like to use the 1 in 7 stat in my work, where do you reference it to? Thanks.

Sarah McAlpine // Posted 6 February 2012 at 5:52 pm

anne lou- you can find the study at http://www.hiddenmarks.org.uk – a study carried out by the NUS Women’s campaign.

Ms. Sunlight // Posted 6 February 2012 at 6:07 pm

anneLou – I would suspect it comes from the National Union of Students. Here’s a link to their study:


Zoe // Posted 6 February 2012 at 8:43 pm

Italy is a discrace, apparently men convicted of gang rape don’t have to be jailed… http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/feb/03/italian-court-gang-rape-jailed

Laurel // Posted 7 February 2012 at 8:33 am

I went to Lincoln, and yet it was NUS, but the NUS is a pretty horrible beaurocracy to be honest. not easy to get anything through to anybody. not the fault of the officers. They just don’t have much power. Never had this problem on a night out though, besides people thinking they were dancing with me.

JessLeeds // Posted 8 February 2012 at 2:59 pm

Leeds Uni doesn’t even have a Woman’s Officer any more, it has an ‘Equalities Officer’…

Imogen // Posted 24 February 2012 at 9:17 pm

UniLad isn’t the only place where this rubbish takes hold, several of my male friends are fans of this Facebook group called The LAD Bible: https://www.facebook.com/LADbible?sk=wall

The worst thing is that I’ve been in relationships with guys where they’ve made similar jokes about women being inferior to men, or jokes trivialising rape, and they didn’t seem to understand why I would be offended. Often dismissing me as ‘over-reacting’ or being ‘a militant feminist in a time when women already have equal rights,’ or someone who ‘couldn’t take a joke,’ can’t say I ever found those conversations too charming.

UniversityGuy // Posted 22 April 2012 at 2:40 pm

I am a male university student and I’ve had the misfortune of living with so-called ‘lads’ for the last two years. I am delighted to have found this article as the issues that you have highlighted here are very true and need to be dealt with. For me, this ‘culture’ has also made me think twice about the value of university – my campus is full of ‘lads’, and my housemates are constantly making noise (interrupting my studying) and getting drunk (interrupting theirs). Therefore I worry about my degree; if they can behave like this, do the minimum level of work, and still graduate, then how much is my own degree actually worth?

The attitudes to women (and sometimes even race) exhibited by ‘lads’ should not be tolerated, and yet the problem is so widespread within my university that I am considered the outsider for not ‘having a laugh’ like everyone else. This situation has had me down since my first few months on campus when I realised that I was surrounded by people living this lifestyle, so it is very supportive to see that articles like this do exist and that in the wider world outside of university there are probably a lot more people who share my views.

Once again – great article, and good luck with tackling more sexist ‘lads’ in future!

Matt Perryman // Posted 18 February 2014 at 4:09 pm

I am with UniversityGuy on this, luckily I was able to ignore the ‘lads’ (I really dislike the term).

I mean it seemed that in its very early start in the 90’s people argued it was young boys going through a self destructive phase as they moved into adulthood and supposed maturity.

But no its far more insidious than that and it needs to stop now.

No, ifs, and or buts, LadCulture that promotes mysogony and Rape needs to end….Now.

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