UCL Confessions’ Dark Side
[Trigger warning: the following post contains description of sexual violence.]
‘UCL confessions’ – a Facebook page featuring anonymous ‘confessions’ from UCL students with nearly 3,000 followers – appears to have been taken down in recent days.
In all likelihood ‘confessions’ probably followed the same fate as the UCL Buzz – since renamed Gower Buzz; since renamed the London Tab – UCL management demanding them to remove the ‘UCL’ part from their name. However the page admin appears to have taken the nuclear option: deletion rather than renaming. Before it disappeared ‘confessions’ received complaints of misogyny from UCL Women’s Network – the posts they complained about apparently being just the tip of the iceberg. Below is one of the first ‘confessions’ that appeared on the page, which was quickly deleted after being posted.
Like with any outlandish story posted anonymously on the internet – especially on a site whose popularity rests on its ability to shock – my first instinct is to cry bullshit. Anonymous internet forums are where proportionality goes to die.
Nonetheless, the above post demands a little more attention. If it’s true, someone thought that raping someone was simply another anecdote that fits cosily within the page’s description of “disgusting, hilarious, embarrassing confessions”. If it isn’t true, someone thought… exactly the same thing. In either case, sexual violence is seemingly considered all in the “spirit” of a crazy night at the Roxy or Moonies.
Some were quick to lambast the anonymous poster for their crime. Nonetheless, there were several other misogynistic, racist and homophobic posts on ‘UCL Confessions’ that remained largely unchallenged by the online community – many of them garnering ‘likes’ galore. The issue here is one of context: the genuinely hilarious sits alongside the skull-shakingly horrendous, causualising the sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia of some posts. When bigotry-soaked anecdotes pour out in response to the call of “Don’t be shy, lets just have a laugh!” we have to question not only the sense of humour of the individuals posting, but the culture that tells whoever runs the page, whoever likes the posts, whoever leaves them challenged, that this kind of behaviour is okay.
Let’s be clear, UCL Confessions was not a place of penitence, where students came to purge themselves of their crushing guilt – It would, indeed, be much less problematic if it genuinely peered at the rotten underside of UCL life. In truth, it was a place for people to glory in a ‘student experience’ defined by a culture whose lifeblood is the denigration of anyone not deemed a ‘lad’: aka anyone not straight, white and male.
The problem is not that the confessions were shocking or unusual. The problem is exactly the opposite: in a culture that routinely excuses this kind of behaviour – especially when it parades itself as humour – the prejudice that underpins it remains most normal thing in the world. If the person who ran ‘UCL Confessions’ has any sense of responsibility we can only hope they’ll come forward with the name of the person who ‘confessed’.