Sunday, 14 Jul 2024

‘Sharking’: Harmless Custom or Feeding Frenzy?


At universities across the UK, there is a tradition known as ‘sharking’ that has sparked both curiosity and concern among students. This article delves into the concept, exploring its implications and shedding light on the wider issue of university traditions turning sour. Join us as we examine the culture surrounding ‘sharking’ and discuss ways to address this problem.

What is ‘Sharking’?

‘Sharking’ refers to an older student pursuing a younger student, but it carries connotations that give it a predatory nature. While some argue that it is simply a harmless custom or right of passage, others believe it trivializes unacceptable behaviors such as harassment, coercion, and even sexual assault. The line between consensual pursuit and unwanted advances can become dangerously blurred under this tradition.

A Widespread Phenomenon

‘Sharking’ is not unique to Durham University; it is prevalent across the UK. Memes about the topic inundate unofficial Facebook pages of universities nationwide. However, this widespread acceptance tends to normalize the exploitation of power for social and sexual purposes. The age difference between the individuals involved, often just a year, becomes the source of power in these dynamics.

The Gray Areas of ‘Sharking’

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While some ‘sharking’ stories involve club night harassment and predatory behavior, not every encounter is a horror story. The term itself is broad, encompassing anything from consensual relationships to potential abuses of power. The issue lies not in dating someone younger, but rather in the surrounding culture. When an unofficial tradition gains traction, social pressure builds, and the combination of alcohol, sex, and dating can lead to troubling consequences.

The Bigger Picture

‘Sharking’ is just one example of a university tradition that fosters peer pressure and abuse. Sports initiations, for instance, subject freshers to traumatizing and degrading activities in the name of team bonding. These traditions highlight the darker side of university culture. Addressing this issue requires a collective effort and a change in mindset.

Taking Responsibility

Reversing years of embedded toxic culture cannot happen overnight, nor can it be solely entrusted to the university staff. Students must play an active role in looking out for each other and refusing to participate in a culture that normalizes bullying and harassment. By speaking out against abusive behavior, students can begin to challenge the status quo and promote a safer environment for all.


Frequently Asked Questions

Stay tuned for answers to commonly asked questions about ‘sharking’ and related university traditions. We’ll provide insights and guidance on how to navigate these complex issues.


‘Sharking’ may appear to be a harmless university custom on the surface, but it has the potential to perpetuate harmful behavior. It is crucial for students to recognize the role they can play in dismantling toxic traditions and promoting a culture of respect and consent. Let us challenge these norms and work towards creating a safer and more inclusive university experience.

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