The RAG Week event Mr St Andrews has been criticised for being “sexist and misogynistic” as students mimicked sex acts on stage and one girl was exposed to the audience after a “wardrobe malfunction”.
The event was advertised by the Students’ Association as “the sexiest, silliest and, dare we say it, raunchiest night of RAG Week”. It is one of several annual events that raises money for three chosen charities.
During the event the 14 male contestants had to complete various tasks, ranging from chat up lines to stripping women, in an attempt to win the title of ‘Mr St Andrews’.
One of the challenges set was to put condoms on cucumbers. Another involved stripping around women who had to stand and pretend to be stripper poles.
During another challenge, where the aim was to rapidly strip female volunteers to their underwear, one of the contestants accidentally pulled the woman’s underwear off as well.
Similar incidents allegedly occurred at the RAG Week Catwalk fashion show later the same week, when one girl pulled down a guy’s underwear and the female models had to dance away from drunken attempts to strip them.
Speaking about the incident at Mr St Andrews, Karla Reyes, a third year student, said: “The event is part of student life but the incident was unfortunate. I think it should be addressed by the management.”
But Matt Williams, one of the men competing for the title of Mr St Andrews, defended the organisers: “As far as the ‘wardrobe malfunction’ is concerned, I think that’s to blame on the guy who did it and it was certainly not supposed to be a part of the event, so it’s not really fair to pin that on the event or the organisers.”
It is traditional for girls from AU clubs to volunteer for Mr St Andrews and this year there were two tasks that they could be involved with: acting as a stripper pole or getting stripped down to their underwear.
One of the girls, who said she preferred to remain anonymous, said: “I knew I didn’t want to do it because I felt it would be embarrassing… I didn’t want pictures of that on the internet because I need to graduate and get a job and I just don’t want to be perceived in that way.”
She suggested that the events could have been arranged differently: “I think they could’ve made it funny without using actual girls – in Mr Uni Hall the guys had to take a bra off a chair or something with their mouths.”
The nature of the tasks and incidents that took place this year led first-year student Jo Bowman to say “the whole event was sexist and misogynistic”.
Fiona Lewis, the RAG Week coordinator, said: “Mr St Andrews is intended to be a playful and satirical event that raises money for charity. All the participants were aware in advance of the nature of the event and no one was forced or explicitly requested to do anything – everything that occurred was the decision of the participants.”
Some have defended the event as simply “good fun.” Mr Williams added: “I personally thought the tasks were good fun to take part in and not really misogynistic; however I can see why people may think that.”
Kittsie Ann Klaes, who filmed the event for BubbleTV, said: “I think some of the challenges were so outrageous that the competition should be seen as just a bit of fun, rather than sexist.”
Other students took issue with the event but not explicitly because it was sexist. One, James Turner, described the event as “superficial but not sexist”.
Asked about the type of events held in St Andrews, Stina Waseen, head of the St Andrews Feminist Society, said: “I think it is a shame that there is such a big cult in St Andrews surrounding fashion shows / catwalk events, where people of all genders are encouraged to take their clothes off. This, I argue, contributes to an objectification of the human body, which in turn amplifies the pressure on both women and men to be thin, tall and ‘sexy’.”
A spokesperson for the Athletic Union said: “The AU had no knowledge or involvement in the picking of volunteers for the event. Students that chose to take part in the in the event did so of their own desire with no involvement from the AU. The AU treats all members with respect and adheres to a strict policy of equality.”
- Updated 25 February to include a statement from the AU