Home Comment The carnival comes to town: a critique of Rio SSB

The carnival comes to town: a critique of Rio SSB



The Safer Sex Ball – a celebration of all things sexy, or a cover up for some darker issues behind the six-pack and stilettos?


So SSB… It’s the one time in the year that girls and guys dress in basically nothing and nobody else can say anything about it…



… because it’s safer sex, duh.

Well I’m going to. SSB sees the female population get absolutely wasted, as the only way to make going out in public, in their underwear, tolerable.

The male population do likewise, although they do it to give the rest of us a rather uncanny reenactment of Neanderthal man. Within five minutes of our coach journey (at the pre-watershed hour of 8pm – what would the BBC say?) the ‘c’ word had been used as many times. An explicit (literally) example: “the rugby club is full of c**ts”. Good to know mate.

Two lessons I learnt in the first 5 minutes:

1) Going to SSB virtually stone-cold sober is both uncomfortable and headache-inducing. I can do *virtually* sober nights out – but here everyone is off their face. To varying degrees of facelessness, but still all pretty severe.

2) Don’t sit on the aisle at the front. Just don’t do it, promise?


For these particular members of the male population, I wish that request extended to something else. It was disgusting. Misogyny left me gaping in disbelief at times.  Suffice to say that screaming “f**king bitch” to the back of the coach , along with screaming “do you want some bitch?” is not okay.


There is a glaringly clear irony to the whole SSB situation. Arguably the two front page stories of this term have been ‘Colin-gate’ and #NeverOk. So, essentially, the peer pressure, drinking culture and behaviour at social events, in addition to challenging the notion of unwanted sexual advances from others. It works on all degrees of the spectrum. No gender is more accountable – I saw girls at SSB who were noticeably taking advantage of guys, who were in turn being pressured by friends to follow “SSB expectations”.

To me, it is honestly ludicrous that Exeter can so heavily spotlight these issues, in the same term that not one, but two SSBs are held.

Yet I went. Yes. I paid the extortionate ticket price – thus saying farewell to the gorgeous UO cardigan that was sacrificed in the name of this spectacle. It was certainly entertaining at times, I did laugh in disbelief, as much as sigh in despair. I had a lovely evening with my flatmates, having not gone out together properly in some time. I managed to stick to my resolve not to enter a certain shop named after a season far far away. Ebay came to the rescue with a Topshop playsuit you could argue is lingerie. I felt more like a  Dancing on Ice contestant.  But even before… none of us were that excited. None of us were loving the dress code. I think that could be said for a lot of people!

Again, enter alcohol.

So there were moments of entertainment, but for free I could have sat in my living room and watched a documentary on animals in the wild, or Geordie  Shore – coming from a born and bred Newcastle girl, that is saying something.

I could have sat there, my arms wrapped round that lovely piece of Urban knitwear that would never call you a bitch, or threaten to cover you in vomit, and I think I would have had a much nicer evening.

But hey, it’s an Exeter tradition, right? Kind of like going for tea on the green, watching flaming tar barrels, going to the Lemmy, kissing eels…

Who am I to judge?


Sophie Harrison, Online Books Editor 

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