Heavily made-up young women in scanty clothing and high heels pouring off commuter trains into city centres for a night of binge drinking, and probable sex: such a scene is a common sight in any British city on any Saturday night.
But now an extensive new study has shown that the so-called “ladette” subculture’s combination of socially accepted heavy weekend drinking and uninhibited sex has resulted in previously unthinkable levels of unplanned pregnancies and abortion.
Research by the University College London, published this week in the Journal of Public Health, examined connections between alcohol consumption and sexual activity among 25,000 women aged 16 to 44 over a ten-year period. The study found that the hard-drinking ladettes, notorious in Britain for their aggressiveness, foul mouths and sexual promiscuity, are 40 percent more likely to have abortions.
The study showed that overall the number of people drinking to excess had tripled in 10 years. But women who drank to excess were 1.8 times more likely to have taken the abortifacient morning after pill at least once over the last year, and were 1.4 times likelier to have had at least one surgical abortion in the last 18 months.
Britain currently leads Europe in terms of its abortion rate, with approximately 200,000 abortions per year. The high rate recently caused the country to be labeled the “abortion capital of Europe” by Tory MP Anne Widdecombe.
The study is being seen as a heavy critique not only of the promiscuous ladette subculture, but also of the UK’s drinking laws, which were changed under the Blair Labour government in 2005 to allow 24-hour alcohol sales.
Other figures released by the Office of National Statistics have revealed that excessive drinking among women has doubled in the last ten years, with the sharpest rise between 1998 and 2006. In that time, from 8 percent to 15 percent of women were found to be drinking regularly to excess. In 2009, one fifth of all British women reported that they were drinking more than 15 units of alcohol a week.
The “unit” of alcohol is a measure used in Britain as a guideline for the consumption of alcoholic beverages, with a single unit defined as 10 millilitres of pure alcohol, or roughly half a pint of beer.
Such “anti-social behaviour” is shown to shorten lives. Previous research, undertaken by the universities of Cambridge, Cardiff and Birmingham, published in the Journal of Public Health in 2009, found that “childhood and parental predictors of offending, self-reported delinquency at age 32 and [criminal] convictions were significantly associated with death and disability by age 48.”
In May 2009, the Home office reported that 241 women are arrested every day for violent behavior, for a total of 88,139 in 2008, with many arrests being associated with drunkenness. Violent attacks were listed as the most common reason for females to be arrested in 2008, higher than theft. The numbers of young women and teenaged girls, particularly those under 18, arrested for violent attacks doubled during the time of the Blair/Brown Labour party rule.
Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman at the time said, “It is particularly worrying that so many teenage girls are resorting to violence, often fuelled by a binge-drinking ‘ladette’ culture.”
The term “ladette” was adopted as a description of the female version of the pre-existing “lad culture” of poorly educated working class young men, largely from public housing complexes – called council estates – that focuses on drinking, sexual promiscuity, soccer and sexually explicit “lad” magazines.
This subculture, which first appeared in the early 1990s, is heavily associated with crime, often defined by the criminal justice system under the mild umbrella term “anti-social behaviour.” Such behavior can cover anything from loud swearing and public drunkenness to mugging or assault. The notorious “ASBO” or “anti-social behaviour order,” widely ridiculed for its slap-on-the-wrist approach to crime, is commonly handed out for these offences.
In July 2010, new coalition government’s Home Secretary Theresa May announced that ASBOs, invented under the Blair government, would be abolished and that new measures, based on “community-based social control policies” for anti-social behavior, would be developed for England and Wales.