Stag dos make men uncomfortable but most can't say no, study finds
They are billed as a rite of passage, involving escalating levels of debauchery, depravity and hi-jinks, but a study has suggested men do not actually enjoy stag dos.
In recent years the traditional pre-wedding stag party has given way to hedonistic weekends of drinking, drugs and ritual humiliation which often leaves men in hospital or police custody.
Now research from the University of Salford in Manchester and the University of Madrid has found that many men are troubled by the extreme nature of stag dos but feel pressured by society to participate.
Dr Anthony Ellis and Daniel Briggs made an ethnographic study of stag parties, following groups as they partied in Ibiza, London, Liverpool, Manchester and Bournemouth.
They found that many men went along with ‘deviant’ behaviour so they would have stories to tell in later life which could be used as a kind of ‘cultural capital’.
But the price for their memories is an ‘uncomfortable’ and expensive night in which they are often forced to ‘suspend moral behaviour' and place themselves in risky and harmful positions.
One groom admitted he had been forced to visit a lapdancing club even though he "didn’t want to see half-naked women, let alone pay for them", while another was left half-naked while friends scrawled offensive messages in marker pen on his face and body. One man had to fight off robbers, while another described being forced to drink so much that he soiled himself.
“Harm and humiliation has become part of the theme, and not in a benign way, in a quite sadistic kind of way,” said Dr Ellis.
“We found this palpable feeling that people felt they had to enjoy themselves and if they didn’t enjoy themselves they were missing out, even if what they were actually experiencing was quite frightening.
“People told us that they had had quite troubling experiences and the general atmosphere is one of intense pressure to over-consume.”
The average stag do abroad costs around £512 (€575) per person and lasts for three nights, with popular destinations including Prague, Amsterdam, Krakow and Barcelona.
Earlier this month, a British stag party caused anger after taking selfies with a blow-up sex doll at the Ground Zero memorial of victims of 9/11.
In February a 12-strong stag travelling from Bratislava to Luton acted so appallingly that their Ryanair flight was forced into an unscheduled landing in Berlin, where airline staff handed the Brits over to waiting police officers.
In 2013, Ollie McAninch, 33, claimed he developed shingles after he was kidnapped by his friends driven out into the countryside and forced to cycle 10 miles to his own stag do wearing only a mankini.
Journalist Richard Holt, 42, of Richmond, ended up in A&E following a stag do mishap in 2008.
“Stag dos are brilliant - an all-too-rare opportunity for men to forget all their responsibilities and behave like idiots,” he said.
“Sadly for me this meant drunkenly falling out of a hotel window and smashing both of my legs to pieces on the pavement 25 feet below. It looked like I might never walk again. After some genius surgery and a lot of very tough rehab, I have made a full recovery. I consider myself lucky though, as I was able to bounce back.
“Silly stag debauchery is one thing, but everyone could do with a reminder that the idiocy can go a little bit too far.”
However Martin Daubney, the former editor of Loaded magazine, believes that the debauched stag do may have had its day as men choose healthier and cheaper options like go-karting or coasteering.
“Most men loathe stag dos, but they are afraid to admit it,” he said: “If you don’t participate you are viewed as a traitor to masculinity.
“I’ve seen friends attacked by police Alsatians, or end up in police cells. It always seems to be the groom who gets in the biggest trouble, as if we’re ritually shaming the man who is abandoning singledom.
“But I think it is changing because Brits are becoming unwelcome abroad. There was a glory period where cities like Amsterdam or Prague or Dublin welcomed the Brits because they spent large amounts of money but now they are put off by the trouble.
“Young people are also drinking less and doing less drugs, so the stag do is really a dried-up old sandwich that is past its sell-by date.”
The research was published in the journal Deviant Behaviour.