Only a year ago a judge sentenced four men to death for the gang rape and resulting death of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in New Delhi, and the verdict sparked a mass of public demonstrations in support. That brutal crime, and a string of similar assaults that have occurred since, have brought global attention to the problem of sexual violence in India and prompted reforms that both expand the law and impose harsher penalties on rapists and sexual offenders.
At the same time, the UK’s student population seems to be going the opposite way. Almost coincidentally on the same week the Tequila video had been released, a young girl at Bristol University claimed that she’d been raped outside of her halls after having been on a night out.
In the UK, when starting university as a fresher, there is a lot of pressure to be a wild party animal, along with the expectation, particularly for boys, to ‘pull’. Whether it be a kiss and a grope in the club or going back to someone’s flat to seal the deal, a big part of being a fresher, and a university student in general, is about sex. Virgins and those in relationships are mocked, whereas boys getting laid every week are congratulated and seen as a ‘lad’. Girls that sleep around however are labelled ‘sluts’ and thought of as ‘easy’, despite the fact that they are always being approached by boys who feel pressurised to get them into bed. As if this kind of sexual attitude amongst students wasn’t harmful enough, this predatory and aggressive behaviour is now being taken advantage of and promoted by clubs to entice students to their events.
This targeting of young people through sexual means is also seen abroad, especially on the infamous party islands such as Zante and Magaluf, also known as ‘shagaluf’ – which says it all really. Again, the goal of these holidays for many is to wreak drunken havoc away from their parents and either lose their virginity or add a notch to their bed post. BBC3’s documentary ‘Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents’ has showcased many examples of this, with the boys’ conversations and behaviour being dominated by the girls they have, or will, conquer. Many of the parents have also been shocked by the kind of games that are undertaken on the popular booze cruises, where girls are told to give random men ‘pretend’ blowjobs, and get into various sexual positions. This is also common in the clubs, with girls lying on the bar under someone’s crotch having alcohol poured into their mouths.
This rise in rape culture is becoming more apparent and attempts at combatting it are increasing, but what shocks me is the lack of adherence to the problem here in Leeds, especially after the incident. In many of the universities around the UK, Robin Thicke’s song ‘Blurred Lines’ has been banned due to its ambiguous lyrics which seem to promote sexually aggressive behaviour, such as ‘I’ll give you something big enough to tear your ass in two’. It encourages the absurd idea that women provoke sexual assaults in the way they dress or behave, and therefore are ‘asking to be raped’. Sussex University is taking a strong stand against rape culture, and more ironically because of the ‘violation’ scandal in Leeds. Their women’s officer, Alice Phillips, is raising an ‘End Rape Culture’ motion at the Student Council on Friday 28th November. This will include resolutions to prevent known rape apologists such as George Galloway being given a platform, to campaign against myths about rape and to educate students about consent.
Such an objectification of women’s bodies such as we have seen in Tequila’s video is typical of rape culture, as it normalises violence against women. It begs us to ask the question of just how far the UK has developed in terms of tackling the issue of unspoken sexism in schools and universities, which manifests itself within our nightclubbing culture. Before we get too comfortable we need to look beneath the surface; we need to educate the younger generations about the moral implications of sexism, and to de-construct a very apparent underlying issue.