The aim of the latest poll was to find out how often blog readers had been directly targeted in pubs either by harassment or mockery. It’s more than just the unwelcome attentions of the pub bore, but rather when there is an obvious element of malice or ridicule. The results suggest that this does happen, but isn’t really all that widespread. As I said in the previous post, I recall maybe two or three occasions in my late teens and twenties when I was singled out, but it hasn’t happened for many years despite venturing into plenty of strange pubs.
There is a long continuum between a bit of gentle joshing and outright bullying, but it has to be said that, if nobody ever said anything to another customer in a pub that they might possibly take amiss, then nobody would ever say very much and pubs would be very dull places. It does raise the question, though, of whether bar staff should be expected to intervene in interactions between customers unless they’ve actually reached the stage of shouting or physical violence. To my mind, the answer is “not really”. If you’re in a situation that you feel uncomfortable with, the best option will generally be simply to leave. It also has to be said that the clientele of pubs and their behaviour toward each other only reflect wider society. You can’t point the finger of blame at pubs for failing to enforce standards of propriety that nowhere else does.
An obvious example of this phenomenon is women in pubs being the subject of unwanted attention, which has been discussed at length in the comments on the previous thread. Often this falls more into the category of straightforward bullying rather than anything that represents a meaningful sexual approach – I’m not saying one is any less bad than the other, but the two are different. But it spreads far wider, with anyone who doesn’t conform to a “norm” becoming a potential target – and that can include the itinerant beer geek.
Although in retrospect humorous, one example I recall was when the CAMRA posse approached a pub on a Friday night pub crawl, in full “best foot forward, casketeers!” mode, and some wag called out “save the f*****g wallaby!” In a group, that can be laughed off, but if directed at a solitary individual it could come across as intimidating.