High jinks, peer pressure, booze – and more booze: why do men behave so badly on stag dos? | Rich Pelley

The last hurrah? A collective show to the world of anarchic solidarity? A time to take stock, to be joyful, to be maudlin – perhaps all three? What is it about the stag do? They are mainly awful. More often than not, it’s a random group of men, “off the leash” from their families, who act like incapable children and – as soon as booze is on the menu – neanderthals. And things get worse when the dos are held abroad, usually somewhere sunny or a European city – any European city. Before long, you’re not exactly sure what country you’re in anyway.

This means the drinking can start at the airport. Then the sun, cheap beer, language barrier and the sense of invulnerability can kick in, fuelling our terrible reputation as Brits abroad.

Last week, eight British men were arrested on a stag do in Mallorca after a brawl with beach club staff who allegedly repeatedly asked them to stop throwing beer cans and rubbish into the sea. This was notable but not unusual.

I can’t speak to that particular incident, but the pattern is familiar. Why do so many British men on stags feel the need to disgrace themselves so resolutely? I have had many and varied experiences on about 10 of them, enough to observe customs and traits.

There’s certainly a group mentality. You are expected to bring an exaggeratedly laddish version of yourself, even if your laddishness is no larger than your big toe. You might not be that drink-all-day, sleep-it-off-in-the-cells type of person, but the peer pressure may well be enough to make you behave like one. And you need antennae, the fine tuning of which will depend on the group. Working out who are the biggest alpha males (or “knobheads”) among the blokes you don’t know is a vital survival skill. Of course, it might be you.

‘I’ve found myself paintballing in a forest in Nottingham (stag dressed as a hotdog).’ Rich Pelley on a stag do. Photograph: Rich Pelley

Then there are the expectations: it’s got to be absurd. A female friend said she didn’t want a full-on hen do, so another male friend and I took her out on an intimate one. After Pizza Express, then her favourite band, even we thought we’d better go to a strip club. Having phoned ahead, we were awarded a ringside table. We bought her a lap dance, then we went home. Just because we thought it would be funny. It wasn’t really.

It’s invariably less innocent with blokes. One attender was this close to having his lights punched out by a bouncer after being thrown out of a European club and arguing he should get his entry fee back.

On another do, having been charged upfront, we found that the best man had spent half of our money on an overly grandiose minibus journey from the airport. And it’s worth mentioning the finances: last year, research by the insurers Aviva revealed that people often run up four-figure bills on stag and hen dos abroad. At that price, it better had be a life-enhancing experience.

But it rarely is. As my brother’s best man, I led a trip to Dublin and organised daytime five-a-side football. The stag was made to dress as a leprechaun.

I’ve found myself paintballing in a forest in Nottingham (stag dressed as a hotdog). Rowing down a river in Taunton (stag in a miniskirt). Playing mini-golf in Suffolk (the stag, a doctor, had his arms plaster-cast together, so had to be helped to the toilet). And peddling around Amsterdam on a beer bike, which is an open-top ice-cream van that you all sit around while a man in the middle steers and serves you pints. The stags love it. The locals hate it.

The stag got so drunk that he disappeared and was next seen “crawling” up the pavement dressed as Scooby-Doo. He was safely retrieved, but he exemplified the stag-do gamble: you’re out with a bunch of blokes, some of whom you’ll never see again – apart from at the wedding – who may not know you, care little for your dignity and even less about your health and safety.

Hen dos, it seems to me, have different rules, different expectations. Beyond the L-plate signs, the veils, the inflatable willies and the giggles, people make connections. Some become friends for life.

But when it’s men, the hope is bacchanalia and the collective intention is outrage, real or confected. Walking up Park Street in Bristol – with the stag in Lycra – and all of us keen to reach the greasy spoon cafe at the top, we noticed one member had gone awol. He’d sneaked away to get his hair cut. During the stag do! Outrageous. Who does that sort of thing?

The Guardian

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