Wednesday 21 February 2018

The violence, not the booze, is different

Working it Out

In John Masterson's day, he doesn't recall any girl being threatened.
In John Masterson's day, he doesn't recall any girl being threatened.

John Masterson

It is that time of year. After the exams, young people will get drunk and behave badly. There will be squeals of indignation on radio shows. Callers have conveniently forgotten just how much booze they have put away in their time. If self-righteousness was a subject plenty of us would get A Plus.

I behaved as badly as I possibly could after my Leaving Cert. As did some of my mates. I went to a school where alcohol was severely frowned on. That made it very attractive. Most of us were eager to tank up at the first opportunity. I got in two Leaving Cert parties — one in Dublin, where I went to school, and one in Kilkenny, where I was happy to join the revellers I knew for a second bash. Each had two essential ingredients — alcohol, and members of the opposite sex.

We wanted to get drunk and we wanted to get as close to sex as possible. Going the whole way’ was a rarity in those days, because of fear of pregnancy. Girls made sure they kept their wits about them. Try explaining to a teenager that condoms once required a doctor’s prescription.

I know that at my Leaving Cert celebrations nothing more violent occurred than some idiot overturning a dustbin. Today, it is different. Alcohol has always been involved in violent crime. But the anti-social dunken behaviour of today is something to do with a change in people and expectations, as well as with the chemical they consume.

The relationship between alcohol and violent crime is not a simple cause and effect. I know there are other drugs involved, but the finger still points at alcohol as the main drug of choice. It is ridiculously easily available. And cheap.

Throughout the world, drink will be a factor in almost half of sexual assaults committed, and a similar proportion of non-sexual assaults. I hope we are not discussing some post-Leaving rape this morning. Again, in my day, I don’t recall hearing that any teenage girl was, or felt, threatened. Undoubtedly, the level of violence has increased. And from what the rape crisis centres say, I suspect there the prevalence of coercion has also increased.

Some changes are good. Today, teenage pregnancies in Ireland are at their lowest level since the 1960s. Having peaked in 1999
at 6.2pc, they are now a third of this level at 2.3pc, comparable to 1963 when, according to Philip Larkin, sex was invented “between the end of the Chatterley ban and the Beatles’ first LP.”

How many generations are we from post- Leaving Cert celebrations with plenty of alcohol, no violence, and consensual sex ?

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