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Last Updated: Friday, 8 December 2006, 09:53 GMT
On the lash
Arrested, incapable and play fighting

By Megan Lane and Tomiko Newson
BBC News

The days of women sipping a gin and bitter lemon in the pub while the men knocked back pints are long gone. Women are drinking more, and getting violent with it.

Kirsten Maile is bright, attractive and eloquent. She wants to study to be an underwater diving photographer. She is also on probation for ABH - actual bodily harm - after she rammed a bottle into a girl's face.

Nor is it the first time that she has lashed out while drunk. She has twice been charged with common assault, and claims to have "wrapped a girl's ponytail around my hand and smashed her face against a basin".

Kirsten has now sought help
"It doesn't seem that big a deal to me. You see it on the TV, on the streets, loads of fights. Every time I have ever hit someone, I've been drunk. It's easier to lash out, harder to hold on."

She knows that it may just be a matter of time before she loses her rag again. And if she gets caught, she'll go to prison.

Dr Jon Cole, of Liverpool University's School of Psychology, says that while alcohol doesn't make people more aggressive, it stops us making sensible choices: "You make the easiest choice, which is often aggression."

A woman takes exception to being arrested in Cardiff
9% physically attacked by woman who seems drunk
41% seen woman who seems drunk attack someone else
60% say number of women getting drunk and aggressive is higher than five years ago
31% say it's about the same
ICM surveyed 1,129 people aged 18-34
In a survey for BBC Three's Bashing Booze Birds, almost one in 10 people aged 18 to 34 say they have been physically attacked by a drunk woman. And 41% say they have seen a woman who appears to be drunk attack someone else.

Kirsten knows alcohol triggers her short fuse, but believes there are other factors.

"I grew up watching people around me using alcohol as an escape route. There was aggression in the house; my father and his girlfriend physically fighting, constantly arguing. Me and my father, me and my mother arguing down the phone. One big argument."

Kirsten has now sought help for her problems with alcohol and aggression.

Binge Britain

Part of the problem is that Britons drink twice as much as in the 1950s, and are drinking more in single sittings. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, only one in four women and one in six men say they never binge, according to the Institute of Alcohol Studies. Among 20-something women, 60% of the alcohol they consume is in bouts of heavy drinking - more than six units a day.

Nicky O'Conner, centre
Nicky O'Conner, out in Cardiff
Last month, the government launched a 4m campaign to stop binge and under-age drinking. Alcohol alters judgement and perception and can lead people to take risks with their health and safety that they would not normally consider.

Nicky O'Conner, of Cardiff, says alcohol makes her more confident - and more chippy. "If a girl looks at you, gives you a dirty look, you stick up for yourself - 'what's your problem?'"

Although there are no official figures on alcohol-related crime, it is estimated to cost 7.3bn a year. Criminologist Douglas Sharpe, a former police officer, says many violent offences occur close to licensed premises.

"We are constantly being told that crime is falling, and yet violent crime is rising and one of the reasons violent crime is rising is because of alcohol."

The Glasgow Centre for the Study of Violence sent its researchers out to monitor pub fights; women were involved in almost half of all the pub fights they observed.

Collapsed and attended by ambulance crew
According to medical research, testosterone - the hormone connected to male characteristics such as aggression and sex drive - rises in women by up to 50% when they get drunk. In men, it falls.

To test this theory, journalist Nicky Taylor got in a boxing ring sober, and after downing a bottle of wine. Before drinking, her main concern was not getting hurt (and keeping her bra straps in place). Drunk - and with her testosterone levels up 10% - she let fly, regardless of the consequences.

A woman's place

It is not just that more women are drinking more; the liquor industry is courting the female pound with a vengeance, designing drinks and venues specifically to appeal to women and their increasing disposable income.

Nicky Taylor, in Bashing Booze Birds
Drunk in the ring
The now ubiquitous All Bar One chain was among the first, opening in Sutton, south London, in 1994. Two women came up with the concept for the Mitchells and Butlers Brewery - they wanted somewhere they'd feel comfortable going on their own.

Today, the traditional boozer is an endangered species. Instead women flock to bars made-over with big windows, stylish sofas, chandeliers and posh loos. And to drink? Think pink. Rose dominates the wine list, and cocktails are the order of the day.

With more women in employment, there's money to spend on going out for a good time. But that good time can fast turn sour, as Nadia, a 25-year-old mother of one, can attest. She lost an eye when a drunk woman threw a pint glass at her. A two-inch shard punctured her eyeball.

Her attacker was sentenced to 18 months in prison, but has only served five. Nadia, meanwhile, has a glass eye and will have operations for the rest of her life. "I hate her. I just absolutely hate her," she says.

Bashing Booze Birds is broadcast in the UK on BBC Three on Sunday 10 December at 2100 GMT.

This debate has now closed. Here's a selection of your comments:

I was attacked by 4 drunk teenages, which included 2 girls and 2 boys. It was a completely unprovoked attack, and now thankfully one of the girls has been charged with affray. Unfortunaley the other three were never caught. I do believe young woman these days get very violent when drunk, as they don't think about what they are doing at the time and it's like they are invinsible. I have seen many incidents whilst out on a night in town, where young woman have been thrown out of clubs and fighting in the street. It's not a good look. I think it's bad enough to see men fighting, but's not right

Its nice to be able to be a women now and have a friendly stylish place to go and enjoy a drink or get in a mess women can have fun aswell but yes, women are so agressive now its like they have to prove a point the roles have changed from back in the day its the men wanting to have fun with no worries!and the women causing the problem.. ive even seen women throw bottles at men.. do they think thats ok because they can say they had a drink? or i suppose they'd say they were threatened by the mans behaviour? I worked in a busy bar 8 out of ten were women fighting the other 2 were men fighting over women haha
lauren, liverpool

I used to be bars manager in our students union so I have seen many drink fueled fights first hand, and I would tend to agree that women can be far more vicious when they fight.
Dan, Guildford

When i have worked as a bar man in a hotel and we had a policy that large groups of women were not allowed in as they had a tendency to get violent. Groups of men were easy enough to handle but women were awful. I have had things thrown at me if i refused to serv them and other customers would be attached for giving the girls "the eye". Also from my nights on the town i can confidently say most the people making a scene have been women. So much for being lady like, seeing girls in thi state is not attractive at all.
Friday Morning, Oxford

I can't help thinking there is nothing worse than an otherwise well-presented, well-spoken, girl totally out of her face and abusive to everyone around her... reminds me of drunken football hooligans. If you can't control yourself when drunk, the answer is simple: DON'T DRINK!!! Only boring or shoallow people need to be drunk to enjoy themselves.
Jason, London, UK

A problem with research of this type is that they use the units that were introduced in the 80's when we were drinking sweet German wines at 9% and fizzy lager / beers 3.5%. The reality is that the problem is far worse with wine being drunk in 175 / 250 ml measures at 12% and lager / beers at 5%. Bringing these higher stength drinks in line with the unit guidelines suggests that people are drinking far moe thsan they realise. The sooner the Government looks at it from this perspective and address it with adequate funding in alcohol education and treatment services the bettr.
Paul, Devon UK

I can't much be bothered to comment on binge drinking; i've done it and i've grown out of it, as i expect most people will. What does worry me is that someone can assault you, cause you to lose an eye and gets only 5 months in jail for it. 10 years, minimum. 5 months, or the original 18 months, it's just pathetic.
steve, London

Women getting drunk isn't a new phenomenon. 10-20 years ago when I had my "drinking years", my male and female friends would get completely hammered almost every Friday after work. Some continued through the weekend. What I can't fathom though is the apparent increase in violence from women. Of course there was violence through drink in my day but it was usually men, not women, although there were exceptions. It is puzzling to read about women becoming violent when drunk because when sober, most of us abhor all kinds of violence. It simply isn't in our genes to either approve of, or enjoy it. Personally, I think anyone using violence when drunk should be punished in the same way as they would have been if they were sober. Drunkenness isn't an excuse and if someone knows they become violent when drunk, they shouldn't drink to excess. If they do, then they are being totally irresponsible and in some ways, that makes any offence of violence even worse because it could have been avoided.
AW, South Yorks

There is nothing more unbecoming than a lady hurling expletives under the influence of the Devil's water. The rising number Bashing Booze-hound Birds is just another sad indication that society is unravelling like a big wooly jumper snagged on the exposed nail of decadence.
Ace, London

This is a real problem, irrespective of gender. We do not seem to be able to break this cycle of drinking and violent behaviour simply through stricter door policies and by extending opening hours (although they are both steps in the right direction, IMHO). Time to go back to the classroom and educate children about the dangers of drinking like we do about unsafe sex. If we can make binge drinking (more) socially unacceptable, we may foster the fabled "European" approach to this type of socialising.
Dave Wright, Cheltenham, UK

Gone are the days for many where the hand that rocks the cradle fails to set an example of respectable and proper behavoir.
Andrew Corsham, London

Ah. the battle for equality seems to have been won. Women are equally as stupid as men now.. We should all be so proud. On the plus side i can show these stories to my young daughters and explain that this is not what they want to encounter and most definately do not want to emulate.
Richard, Huddersfield

Bashing Booze Birds? which came first, i wonder, the title or the actual research.
julian evans, moscow

Isn't this article just an advertisement of the BBC's programme on 10 December? Isn't the BBC supposed to be anti-advertising?
John J., London

Absolutely disgraceful. Whats the point in putting yourself in danger for 1 night of drinking, especially when you have kids. Not a very good example to set for them for when they get older. When are people going to realise that drinking alcohol is not worth it and only ruins lives?
Sarah, Nottingham

Has anyone looked at the problems some women have in conceiving and their drinking habits prior to that ? IVF is difficult, expensive and painful enough to go through without the need for IVF being self-inflicted.
CMM, London

Bashing Booze Birds? Is this
matt armes, norwich

Reading the above account of Nadia loosing an eye, and her attacker being sentenced to 18 months, but serving a mere 5 is testament to why violent attacks are so frequent, and on the increase. Being intoxicated should never be taken as an excuse, or as a mitigating circumstance for such terrible violence being used. Until sentences reflect the gravity of the injury inflicted, a perfect example being as here when a young woman will spend the rest of her life with only one eye, then this sort of act will continue!! This Governments wanton recklessness and utterly corrupt stupidity in bringing in 24 hour drinking to a country with nothing like a 'Cafe Culture' will be reflected in accounts of violence like the one above..
R. Attenborough, Nottingham

In Plymouth the Police had a caravan where they would "deposit" drunken people to recover. The experiment was successful, and I believe they now have a grant for a building for this purpose. This relieves A & E Departments and prosecutions, and limits the violence caused by alcohol. Should this not be a repeated exercise in other cities which have the problem of binge drinking? I think this could also be expanded upon to identify those with a severe alcohol problem and staff either in the new building give couselling sessions, possibly with A.A. and assist attenders in their withdrawal.
A.P.Cull, Totnes Devon U.K.

When I lived in Exmouth,Devon down dy the sea,yes,the town with 36 pubs,you would have more drunk women then men and they used start about 80% of the fights.You used to see them bashing each other out in the pubs and the strand gardens.Over the years a number of pubs were done over to represent goldfish bowls with pink walls and cumfy sofa's,The women were notorious for being more violent than the men.The number of aggressive violent,drunk women/girls was shocking,they somehow see themselves better and bigger than men when their drunk.A few of the female drinkers I went out with got like this,the more they got drunk the bigger their imaginary testicles got,unbelieveable,just goes to show whatt this dump of a country is turning into.
Stewart Runalls, Chippenham,Wiltshire

I think that alot of these problems have come about because of the feminist movement. Girls think that becasue they can, they have to, do everything to the same extreme as men, men not liking this think they have to go further, so the amount we drink goes up and up. They've taken our jobs, they've taken our wages and now? Now they get randy and violent when they are drunk. Is there nothing sacred anymore?!?
Ian Hughes, Carlisle

I really think that its unfair to focus solely on women's reactions to drink.The violence carried out by drunk men is taken for granted ('boys will be boys') and barely commented on. Is it really one rule for 'us', and one for 'them'? You even use the phrase 'A woman's place'- implying the unspoken 'is in the home'. It is not in the home, and drunken violence should be targeted as one issue, without this sexist focus on women.

I think this story cleraly highlights the fact that some women have lost all respect for themselves. I enjoy a drink and going to my local pub at the weekends but never get to the point where I'm so drunk I think I can take on the world, I think it's embrassing to wake up in the morning thinking 'what have I done' As for punching people and getting in fights it's a bit sad really, it's bad enough when guys do but when you see girls fighting it's disgusting. But girls are getting more aggressive and I am sometimes worried that I'm going to be 'started on' because I've looked at someone funny (not meaning to) As for the girl featured in your article I'm glad shes getting help as I wouldn't want to meet her on a night out! You can't always blame your behaviour on your upbringing we are all capable of making the right decision.
Jo, Burgess Hill

Why do stories about alcohol-related violence only make headlines when those responsible are female? All alcohol-related violence is a problem and should be addressed, gender isn't an issue here. Violent drunken males should be treated with equal contempt.
Victoria, London, UK


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