Toxic Club Culture

Sela Musa | Features Editor


How making sure you aren’t a killjoy seems to be in the small print of joining university sports clubs.

Toxic club culture (TCC) refers to one of the many subcultures created by clubs – mainly sports clubs – that alienates certain people in and out of them.

There’s disagreement on what makes a culture ‘toxic’. For example, the drinking culture in sports clubs might be argued against being toxic; drinking contributes to many parts of university life, so why is it ‘toxic’ when in sports clubs? However, in sports clubs the line between being uncomfortable and being a ‘killjoy’ is a lot more blurred.

RHUL students have stated how they were deterred from joining or continuing their membership with our own Rugby team due to practices like initiations. One student said that people were dared to ‘drink obscene amounts’ and ‘drink p*ss’. Another, from the Hockey team, stated that she does not drink for religious reasons and the heavy drinking culture ‘isolated [her]’ and ‘led [her] to not returning to the club’. This is not saying that sports clubs should not have their social side – and this probably does not apply to every sports club – but there is something currently wrong if students are leaving because of it.

We can easily say that we’d never make someone actually uncomfortable, but is it not uncomfortable to admit that you are uncomfortable; isn’t there that thought that you are putting a downer on the fun? Even writing this, my first thought was am I being a killjoy for bringing this up? If it is uncomfortable to even discuss, then it is uncomfortable to be in an environment where you feel like the odd one out because you don’t want to drink your own urine.

It should not have to be a gross dare that justifies someone feeling uncomfortable, and religion should not have to be used to explain not wanting to drink – there is no reason needed. There are people that are confident to only do what makes them comfortable, but there are also those that are not. With the existence of practices like initiations, how else are those students meant to feel other than completely and utterly uncomfortable?

TCC culture does not improve for those outside sports clubs. A student from our Hockey team stated that the men’s side of the club referred to the guys as ‘secure or gay’: a guy is ‘secure’ if he gets a girl at a social event, and ‘gay’ if he does not sleep with her. This ‘joke’ completely objectifies women and fuels misogyny, and it alienates the LGBTQ+ community. It attempts to excuse homophobia by revelling it in a ‘joke’, and it may explain why there are no out LGBTQ+ students in the upper ladies’ side of the team or in the entire men’s side of the club.

The personal experiences of students recorded in this article are just a few of countless ones. More awareness of the destructiveness of TCC would mean that there would not be groups in RHUL sports teams treating women as sex objects that make men ‘secure’. The LGBTQ+ community would perhaps make up larger proportions of teams. Students would not be leaving sports clubs because they feel pressured to join the culture.

With TCC comes toxic masculinity and this makes it harder for people – particularly men – to contest it. Thus, the issue goes unspoken and people continue thinking that the experiences recorded above are only harmless jokes that do not mean anything. If you think that they are harmless, then they are only harmless to you.

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