Why you should be worried about Dapper Laughs: he’s making sexism mundane

The internet comedian is turning retro sexism into a viral phenomenon, and now that he’s been give his own ITV2 show, the message is clear: misogyny is just as mainstream and marketable as ever.

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Photo: Dapper Laughs/Instagram

A person called “Dapper Laughs” is, apparently, a super big deal. Although he didn’t show up on my radar until quite recently, Twitter has assured me that this lovechild of Danny Dyer and a sexist Topman T-shirt is an internet sensation. 

I’ve also been told that he’s a comedian, although I’m struggling to find any evidence to support this. His brand of, not comedy exactly – more like yelling lists of words – consists almost entirely of harassing and degrading women. This is what’s known as “banter” – ie: being obnoxious, but louder and faster. And there is nothing Dapper Laughs won’t mock in the name of banter. Rape, domestic violence, sexual assault: you name it, this guy will demote it from a serious issue to a dad joke. A kind of horny dad joke, but a dad joke nonetheless. Laughs – real name, Daniel O’Reilly – rose to fame via his Vine channel, by posting short clips of himself making some pretty retro sexist jokes, claiming he has a massive dick, and using the word “moist” a lot. In one Vine, he pretends to threaten his girlfriend with a gun for wearing a short skirt. LOL?

O’Reilly’s definition of funny has been deemed so toxic by Cardiff University that their students’ union recently voted to ban him from doing a gig there. What these students have recognised is that the likes of Dapper Laughs are making sexism mundane. And this is where the danger lies. O’Reilly/Laughs has just been given his own show by ITV2, who have taken it upon themselves to promote this hyperactive throwback from some wanker on the internet to TV star. The clear message here is that misogyny is just as marketable as ever. It’s been pointed out that feminism’s fourth wave has become a bit of an industry. If so, Girl Power is a burger stand and sexism is McDonalds. The fact that social movements are just as tied up in the free market as everything else is often overlooked.

I’m new to Dapper Laughs, but I’ve been horribly aware of the lad culture industry that spawned him for a long while. A “lad”, for those fortunate enough to think it’s just old fashioned slang for “boy”, is someone who is part of a competition to see who can degrade women the most, in the name of banter. Grabbing a woman’s arse? Banter! Rating a woman’s tits, out of ten? Banter! Shooting a woman? Top notch banter!

Dapper Laughs is hardly the first man to achieve internet fame by normalising sexual harassment. British YouTuber and professional slimebag Sam Pepper made the news last month when a woman accused him of rape. Pepper previously groped his way into the spotlight by uploading a video where he approaches women in the street and pinches their arses. Seriously, that’s this dude’s idea of a punch line. Hashtag banter?

Even James Blunt (remember? That whiney man who had a song out once) is part of the turd festival that is banter. Earlier this week, Blunt, who was recently appointed Metro’s agony uncle, jokingly gave a reader some very rapey advice. These were Blunt’s words to a man going through a sexual “dry patch” with his girlfriend: “A dry patch… Hehe! Mate – dump her. We’ve got to send a message to girls worldwide that this is just not acceptable.” Consent, eh? Fuck that. Banter!

Outside of the internet and the media though, one of lad culture’s favourite haunts is our universities. In a recent article about the phenomenon, the Guardian reported that 68 per cent of women at UK universities have been sexually harassed. The Americans, who have a solid history of university sexism deployed by fraternities, are probably wondering why us Brits have only just recognised this as A Thing. What seems to have happened is that aggressively macho frat culture has somehow hitched a ride over the Atlantic.

A driving force behind this movement is the idea that those opposed to it are simply humourless. The sour-faced feminist trope is an old one, and it’s still being used to silence women. The banter brigade have convinced themselves that they own comedy, meaning that anti-banter is fundamentally anti-humour. All the obvious problems with this aside: these guys are just shit at being funny. Their material is weak, tired and staggeringly dated.

So inevitably, I hope, lad culture is eventually going to find itself on top of the comedy scrapheap, along with blackface, mime artistry and that plastic singing fish from the 90s. Meanwhile, funny women will still be kicking arse, not grabbing it.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist.