Despite progressive changes occurring throughout Ireland in this decade, findings have proven the prevalence of toxic attitudes in young men. Safe Ireland’s newest research explores attitudes towards gender equality and domestic abuse in Ireland’s younger generations.

Ireland’s young women are still facing catcalling, sexist remarks and attitudes from peers, among other serious and intimidating behaviours from men. “Lad culture” has been brought to the attention of society and the media, yet there is not enough emphasis placed on education and reprimanding for negative behaviour and language. 

27% of men aged sixteen to twenty-five believe that men should act as head of the household, while 20% of the men surveyed believed they should earn the most money in the family. Traditional and often oppressive gender roles and stereotypes are found to be acceptable.

Young women surveyed acknowledged that not all young men embody lad culture. Potentially, their need to express peacekeeping views of “not all men” could indicate the ingrained fear of backlash for speaking out against unacceptable behaviours. This is plausible especially at a young and influential age, where people wish to build interpersonal skills and explore relationships. The women surveyed expressed worry for their future in relation to partners, as there may be potential for macho self-image to manifest into a deeper issue of abusive and violent behaviour.

2019 has been an unfortunate year for violence against women, as have years previous. The Central Statistics Office reports that for the fifth year in a row, recorded sexual offenses have increased. Conor McGregor faced investigastion for a second sexual assault charge, yet maintains huge support and is soon returning to the UFC. High-profile celebrities continue to share their MeToo stories, facing backlash and accusations of lying for attention. Women still need to fight to be believed. Prolific cases such as the 2018 Belfast rape trial shone a gloomy light on the reality of misogyny and sexism even within the law. Text messages between the accused struck a chord with women and men across the country, most of the public appalled yet not shocked by the derogatory commentary allowed and enabled within these groups of men. 

Within a human rights, feminist, environmentalist or activist bubble, it’s easy to assume real progression is happening. Safe Ireland’s study has shaken the notion that negative lad culture is an issue of the past, highlighting the need for education at a younger age, positive role modelling and absolute intolerance for misogynistic or violent behaviours. Older fathers in the survey regard the bravado and misogyny found in younger boys as “natural jostling and bravado.” 

Minimisation of toxic behaviours justifies and enforces inequality in practice. Language is action, and setting an example with words precedes and possibly prevents future violence. Victim blaming has proven to exist in wider society rather than in niche phenomenons like the incel (involuntarily celibate) communities and violent men. 16% of adults and 20% of men believe women might provoke abuse against themselves. Older mothers stated that young men could be vulnerable to how women dress or act, perpetrating sexism against women from women who have been socialised to believe these things.

Despite the belief in universities and media that stigma surrounding mental health issues or personal problems is decreasing, 25% of people believe that domestic violence is a private matter. This outlook has the potential to create dire consequences, from avoiding seeking help to isolation and further distress. 

This research is a wake-up call as well as a motivation to continue utilising resources, striving for gender equality and implementing change at a policy and community level through education, mentorship, role modelling and public campaigns. Older family members are a clear target group for updated education, as unknowingly they could be reinforcing oppressive views on the home and our gendered positions in the world.


If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre runs a national 24-Hour Helpline which can be contacted on 1800 77 8888. Telephone counsellors are available to listen 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year and offer a free, confidential listening and support service.


Photo by Jan Koler


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