Patrick Englefield: Aber confessions are a reflection of, not an influence on, our behaviour.

THE ABERYSTWYTH Confessions page carries the warning that it contains “language, stories and sexual content that some viewers may find offensive”, and if there’s a more effective way to draw a crowd on the Internet, humanity has yet to find it.

It’s crude, it’s rude, it’s totally lewd, and that’s about all there is to it. If I was reviewing this anomalous little slice of Facebook culture, I would be out of ideas already because all that can really be said about the content is summed up in the aforementioned warning; “…may find offensive.”

We’ll never know exactly how offended the University was by the content of the page, but their intervention certainly demonstrated that they were unhappy about the use of the University’s crest; after all, what is to stop innocent young students from thinking that they have stumbled upon a genuine University administrated page?

Well, how about a few dozen stories about drunk sex? How could you fail to convince the board of Governors or the browsing parents that all the anonymous wetting the bed stories weren’t your idea? After all, the page currently carries the Aberystwyth Town crest, and I’m sure that nobody is going to assume that the local council set it up.

But whatever, it’s the University’s prerogative to protect it’s copyrighted logo, and if a large number of the stories seem to revolve around hyper-sexualised Union events, that’s neither here nor there.

Speaking of the Union, Education officer Jess Leigh got in with her two cents to blame the page on “laddish” culture, which she seems to equate with some kind of invading force, permeating our University. Well, it’s nice to have something external to blame.

It’s also nice to know that the University is taking such an interest in this element of peoples personal lives; a spokesperson, interviewed for The Courier, frets that the content of the page could lead to the “exploitation of  young people”, and notes that “the behaviour described… is highly offensive.”

Two words: Friday night. Go out on a Friday night, and it’s readily apparent that the University lifestyle leads to the “exploitation of young people”, whose “behaviour is often highly offensive.” Aberystwyth Confessions is a reflection, not a cause, of the kind of life that many students lead, a lifestyle which is the obvious result of giving several thousand young people several thousand pounds and letting them loose on a cosy market town full of pubs.

This is the same kind of posturing uproar that surrounded the Aberystwyth Uni Memes page, another source of lame humour based on the particulars of life in our town.

At least in that example it was the inappropriate display of locally known individuals that rubbed the Uni overlords the wrong way; the problem with the Confessions page seems to be it’s honesty regarding how a minority of students act.

The main accusation of the day, one that cannot be shied away from, is sexism.

Assuming it’s true that gentlemen don’t kiss and tell, there is a dearth of gentlemen on this particular page. Most of the contributors seem to be male although commenters and fans are split pretty evenly  male/ female, so I’m not drawing any conclusions yet. The general attitude to women, as understood from the stories, does seem painfully misogynistic, but, hey, welcome to the Internet.

Of course, I’m not saying that there  is any medium in which it is reasonable to talk as if the suffragette movement never happened, but rather that the Internet is the boiling pot for all and any unrestrained expression, even mind-numbing swill like ‘Aberystwyth Confessions.’ We are, after all, discussing a Facebook page where contributors post anonymously, on a sexualised topic, for the purposes of entertainment, and saying that the format contains a little too much sexism is like saying  that the average online political debate contains too many inane references to Hitler.

I suppose the fear is that the content implies an underlying and inherent misogyny among a group of young educated males, but I’m just not swayed by that. Like getting behind the wheel of a car, going on the Internet, anonymously, turns people into thoughtless morons.

So what conclusions can we draw today? Well it turns out that some students are having recreational sex but the University won’t endorse it; most men are less sexist than in the 1920`s, but some are more; Gentlemen don’t kiss and tell,  but “lads” may shag and blog.