Barmaid Sophie Stevenson, 24, fell in love with Dutchman Jesse Mateman, 21, after they met in Barcelona in August. But when she later spent £350 for a trip to Amsterdam to see him again, she found herself alone in the airport, reading a text message that said “You’ve been pigged”. Sophie was just the latest victim of "pull a pig" prank where cruel young men determine the ugliest girl of any group and "pull" her for their own amusement.
“I was devastated when he sent me the message," Sophie recalled in an interview. “Boys and their friends think it’s funny, but they don’t think how scary it is for girls. It wasn’t just being stood up, it was the shock and confusion. I panicked. I thought, ‘If this guy is horrible and crazy enough to make me come all this way for a joke, what else is he capable of?’" Jesse knew her hotel, her name, her number – he could have planned even more cruelties!
On his part, Jesse released a statement claiming he had never slept with Sophie, that he was not in love with her, and that the whole story was a lie. He later changed his mind, admitting that he did sleep with her, but that they were never contacted after Barcelona. Sophie's story is a lot different. “We met on the night of the terror attack when our hotel was in lockdown so my friend and I were on the rooftop having a drink," she said. “Jesse and his friends approached us and started chatting. I thought they were nice guys. We met up again a few days later, then spent the rest of our time with them. I slept with him in the hotel room and when I left, we spoke to each other every day."
“We’d talk about our day, what we were up to, that we missed each other, and that we wanted to see each other again," Sophie expanded on the duplicity of Jesse. “He was going to visit me, but couldn’t come over for a while, so I suggested visiting him. He seemed really chuffed and was messaging me right up until I was getting on the plane. When I got there and he didn’t show, I honestly couldn’t believe it. It was bad enough that he ignored me, but to text me saying, ‘You’ve been pigged’ was just awful."
Research by the National Union of Students showed that 50 of young people have experienced “prevailing sexism, laddism and a culture of harassment” at universities. This lead the then Women and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson to announce a summit “lad culture” to discuss the rise of such behavior in the UK. Sophie agrees with the sentiment. “We shouldn’t stand for this as women. That’s why I decided to name him," she said. "I was so embarrassed, but I thought, ‘If I tell people what he’s done, just as a laddy joke, then maybe he’ll realise how awful it is, and it will make other guys think twice before playing these games with women.’”