I’m not exactly a crewdate connoisseur. I’ve only been to about three in my entire university career, and aren’t sporty enough to go to one of the top geezer affairs Oxford legend states the rugby or football crewdates are. But I do believe crewdates, much like organised religion, student politicians and Fever club nights, are too often judged on their worst instances rather than appraised holistically. The crewdate has a reputation for being male, misogynistic and malignant, a place for destructive alcoholism and abrasive loutishness. My point is not to say this reputation is never earned, but merely that crewdates have and can be so much better.
There’s something dangerous but also liberating about it being socially acceptable to stand up and announce with the downing of a glass your own dark secrets.
Crewdates can be places where the bonds of your subject group, university society, or sport are deeply strengthened by that most important of social glue – getting absolutely sloshed and spilling out every secret you have. Eventually, once you know all the incredible, scandalous and plausibly illegal things your colleagues have done, everyone ends the night slightly closer, if not just for legal reasons. The crewdate fine/sconce is almost like a time travel device that allows you to find out things about relative strangers you’d only know from another three months of generic small talk. Moreover, there’s something dangerous but also liberating about it being socially acceptable to stand up and announce with the downing of a glass your own dark secrets.
But even without the fines there’s just the fun of it all. Of the variety of alcohol related activities in Oxford, from club nights spent completely waved, to the mellow tipsiness of a kitchen sesh, the crewdate offers a unique opportunity. It is almost as if a group of students scrambling to drink from a shoe or touch a wall allows the inherent insanity of going to Oxford University to manifest itself in the physical world, offering a certain catharsis after days spent cranking out essays or problem sheets. Yes, crewdates and the activities that take place in them are stupid and ridiculous but hey, so is life. Maybe it’s that final synthesis of the absurd existence with feeling actual hatred at your shoelace because it impairs your ability to get a shoe on your head fast enough that creates so much bliss.
Of course, a big argument against crewdates is precisely this reliance on drunken escapades; not everyone likes to drink and it can feel like an exclusionary environment for those who don’t. First of all, I have encountered people who spend crewdates wholly sober; the camaraderie and fun of spending an evening in a restaurant with friends doesn’t have to be enhanced by alcohol. Often the good, and yes frequently drunk, company of others is enough to let yourself go and have a good time even if alcohol is not for you.
often the only thing you have to destroy is your social standing rather than restaurant furniture.
And what about the perception that they are primarily male-dominated spaces of aggression and thus exclusionary in a different sense. Obviously as a man I don’t have the experience to know what crewdates can be like from a female perspective. But I do recognise that some crewdates can get pretty boisterous and physical, particularly it seems at the aforementioned all geezer events sports crewdates can be. I would again highlight that if this isn’t your cup of tea, not all crewdates are like this – often the only thing you have to destroy is your social standing rather than restaurant furniture.
I guess I would end by saying, just like the essay I gave in this week, crewdates aren’t perfect. In fact, even more like my essay, they may be very far from perfection. But again, just like my essay, that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth believing in. As a fun way to relax from the crushing pressure of Oxford life, get to know people better, and generally have a good time, crewdates, exactly like my essay, probably deserve a solid 2:1.