The last year has seen a number of high-profile cases of violent crimes against women. In March 2021, the tragic murder of Sarah Everard by serving police officer Wayne Couzens shocked the country. This was followed by brutal murder of primary school teacher Sabina Nessa by a random attacker. Stories of police offices sharing racist and misogynistic messages in their private WhatsApp groups eventually forced Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick to resign in February.

Another problem related to the safety of women has been the rise in spiking of drinks in nightclubs. Data released at the start of this year by 23 police forces under freedom of information laws showed there were 1,466 reports of spiking incidents last year, up from 722 in the year before.

Understandably women are fearing for their safety in public like never before. But up until now, the focus has been on what actions women can do to remain safe. Now the emphasis is rightly changing on to how men should change their behaviour.

The ‘lad culture’ that is so prevalent in male-dominated spaces can no longer be tolerated. And just as it is no longer acceptable for white allies to just be ‘not racist’ but instead be actively ‘anti-racist’, so it is now incumbent on men to change their own behaviour and that of those in their peer group. We gathered together three young men (all in their 20s) to discuss attitudes towards women.

Ibrahim Khan, a student at The University of Leicester, said that the recent cases have made him re-evaluate his behaviour.
“I have been shocked by the recent cases. It is awful. I never worry about anything happening to me as a male.”

“Hearing stories from my friends and seeing similar stories on social media put things into perspective for me; every woman will have a story of her own.”

“The only way to improve things is to change your own habits. I’ve been guilty of saying and doing things that could make women feel uncomfortable. However, I have made a conscious effort to stop”.

Cheyan Trivedi, a student at Birmingham City University understands the responsibility that men have in this widespread problem and believes that we need to call out our friends more.

“I think as guys we need to call out behaviour more often. Take in a real-life setting, if you're in town, you'd never do what some guys do in nightclubs. If guys are just doing laps in clubs and looking for girls to get with, that is weird,” he said.

“In any setting, people like and should be entitled to their privacy. Even as guys, we don’t like being stared at by either gender. We should try to get rid of some of the smaller things that may make women feel uncomfortable. On a night-out, of course everyone wants to have a good time, but there is clearly a difference between having fun and going too far and being inappropriate.

“I think it’s important for guys to think about what they're doing and how they would feel if they were in the females’ position. Very few people are going to want loads of random people coming up to them in nightclubs when you're just trying to have a good time with your friends.”

Trivedi outlined a key way to tackle this culture.

“I think regular communication is key amongst friends. Sometimes you may not notice that you are doing something wrong. It’s not always black and white, it’s a very nuanced topic. So just having your friends explain it to you will definitely help to change the culture,” he concluded.

Senna Patel, a student at The University of Kent was also aware of the differences in experiences between men and women both in and outside of nightclubs.

“When all the spiking’s were happening, some of my girl-friends weren’t having open-cup drinks because they were worried about spiking. Whereas I never worried about something happening to me. When I'm out for a run for example, I’ll happily have my headphones on really loud, whereas I am aware that it is different for women. Obviously, I will still try to be safe, but I don’t have to take the extra precautions that women have to. It’s almost like a privilege to not have to worry about these things.”

Patel similarly pointed to communication and an openness from men in order to change the current predicament.

“If one of my friends said something I didn’t like or agree with or thought that they’ve gone too far, I would call them out on it. But at the same time, I would be open to being called out as well, if people thought that I’d gone too far.

“I think upbringing plays a massive part to why it happens but also to eliminating it. University is a great place because you meet so many different people but also people who conduct themselves in different ways.

“I think continually running campaigns and reminding people what is or isn’t acceptable and highlighting the cases of spiking is important. A lot of people will know someone who has been directly affected, so hopefully this will help to change guys’ behaviour”.

It is encouraging to see that young men are now considering the effects of their own behaviour, and willing to change to help women feel safer. Let’s hope that this new decade will see the end of toxic ‘lad culture’ and an improvement in how women are treated.


Callum Ferguson

Callum Ferguson recently graduated with a 1st class BA Hons in Sport Journalism from The University of Brighton. His dissertation was on the under-representation of British South Asians in football and he continues to write about under-representation, continuing the conversation by spreading awareness about the issue.

Callum has a passion for using his writing to create positive change within society and working towards a more racially inclusive society.