IS lad culture something that boys grow out of when they become men? This is a question I found myself asking recently.
On a night out with some old friends, we found ourselves dancing in a city centre bar, pretending we were at some house music festival. One of the group, who had been on a trip back from his new life abroad slapped a girl on her bum. I didn’t see the act but I noticed a bouncer speaking to the guy and also talking to the girl at the bar.
I quickly realised what had happened and asked the guy in question about it. He told me honestly what he had done and ended with ‘he told me do it’, pointing at one of the other guys in our group.
We are men in our early thirties, some with children, some married and some who don’t go out socialising in town all too much. I didn’t want to be part of a group that were behaving in this way. I felt what if that girl was my wife or my daughter in 20 years’ time. I would be angry if some drunk guy on a night out with the lads did that to anyone I care about.
I told him I wasn’t OK with that at all. I left and made my way for some sloppy junkfood and a taxi home.
The next day I found myself thinking did the the guy even care I had made such a stance and left, or did he even hear me tell him? I wanted to get in touch and tell him how it was not OK to come back to this city on a fleeting visit from his life away and act like such an idiot, not in my city where I live, which I’m extremely proud of.
This was lad culture at play. Where a group of men get together and revert to being the boys, the lads, whatever you want to call it. Guys who behave like this are likely the very opposite when they are in the company of their wife or children. Which is showing two sides to a person.
I prefer when people are just themselves, the same person when with friends as they would be with family or anyone else.
I wonder where have all the gentleman gone? Is it only in Downton Abbey that we see men being overly polite and holding the door open for others?
And therein lies the problem, gentlemen are men. Lads who never grow up and become men is where this idea of lad culture lives on. When the lads get together to wreak havoc on a night out and go on a session, you can be sure that drinking, poor language, disrespect of women and much more follows.
But when do lads grow up? I’m not quite sure that they ever really do. The recent scandals with the high profile Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood and financier Jeffrey Epstein show that the boys’ club can go on and the culture of being a lad is perfectly acceptable as long as no one finds out about it. Shocking abuse of power and extreme wealth were the platforms from which the sexual abuse and sexism stemmed in these cases.
Where does the lad culture stem from? Is it the way parents raise children? Is it peer pressure? Is it something else? It’s hard to answer exactly.
Closer to home, we had the Ulster rape trial where two rugby players were accused of sexual assault and rape of a young woman. They were found not guilty of the charges. However, the details of the case, including the group text that was used by the accused and their friends was an example of how lads behave when they are in an enclosed setting, safe in the comfort of the private chat group, where sexism and a complete lack of respect is normalised.
How would we feel if that woman was a family member?
Is there a perfect recipe for raising a gentleman? I don’t think so but leading by example is a good place to start. Being polite, friendly and holding the door open for someone will cost you nothing.
A smile at the right time may brighten a day for someone and don’t hesitate to help a person across the road if they need help. It’s easy to walk by but again the little effort it takes to help costs nothing.
And guess what? Helping others and being kind will make you feel good about yourself.
As a parent you do your best, you teach your kids the difference between right and wrong. You teach them to stand up for themselves and to have respect for other people. I hope that I can show my own son how to be a gentleman and I hope that all of our sons grow into men, not lads.