Sam Radford

March 31, 2021

Alcohol and men’s behaviour

Why is alcohol a taboo subject when talking about controversial issues in society? 

I wrote last week about what men can and should be doing to look out for the women around us. How we men can help women feel – and be – safer. 

But isn’t it interesting how the worst behaviour towards women happens late at night, after people have been drinking? 

We don’t talk about the drinking part though. We discuss men’s behaviour. And how women feel on the streets after dark. But it seems having a conversation around our alcohol habits is off limits. 

We don’t want to get in the way of people hitting the pubs and clubs (or parks and gardens since Covid), and getting drunk. It’s all just fun – people having a good time, we tell ourselves and each other. 

But is it? What if, to see progress in how we men treat women, we need to change cultural behaviours around alcohol? 

We can’t laugh off boorish, laddish, drunken behaviour. It has to be called out, and any sense of cultural acceptability removed. 

I can hear some people saying, ‘you can’t blame the alcohol’. And I agree – to an extent. 

Yet we all know alcohol can bring to the surface our worst instincts that we otherwise manage to keep buried. Ideally, we foster a society where those instincts are never cultivated in the first place. But changing our attitudes towards alcohol consumption could make a difference in the meantime. Men will not get into a state where those worse instincts surface. Women will stay mentally and emotionally alert enough to better recognise danger.

The effects of alcohol are not unknown. Aren't we obligated to be responsible with the amount we consume? And self-police each other when we’re out with friends? Might drinking less, and encouraging those we’re out with to drink less, be one thing we can do to help protect the women around us? And help women better protect themselves? 

It’s not a perfect solution. It’s not the only part of whatever the solution may be. But isn’t there at least a conversation to be had here?

(If you’re interested in exploring this subject in more detail, chapter 8 of Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell is a fascinating case study of an alcohol-fuelled incident at a fraternity party.) 

What do you think? Should we be talking about the role of alcohol when it comes to men’s behaviour and women’s safety? I'd love to hear from you – just hit reply or drop me a note. I read all your messages, and always try to respond.