this article is relevant, I really like it:
When you find out someone went to boarding school, you should treat them as if you'd found out they'd served multiple jail terms: with suspicion, but also with sympathy. I went to boarding school, and I'm not proud, except of the fact that I got through it without losing my mind. In the outside world, a lot of people see Cambridge graduates just as a lot of Cambridge students see ex-public school pupils: smug, over-privileged, ready to put their feet up until one of their old friends offers them a job. Of course, the stereotype is accurate a lot more often in the latter case than in the former. That's why I wanted to forget my past when I got here: some people never really leave boarding school, and I wasn't going to be one of those people. After my leavers' dinner, my original dream of putting my boarding house to the torch was sadly reduced to the milder rebellion of refusing to buy a school tie. Still, I thought I was free. But a year and a half later, I find myself in an all-male drinking society, and proposals for the design of our official tie are getting emailed round. How did I go so wrong?
Drinking societies, for their ex-public school members, are all about hopeless nostalgia. There's nostalgia, first of all, for a time before girls invaded one's life. At school, our only term-time contact with girls was at the occasional, humiliating 'house dances' - and I think most drinking society members who didn't go to boarding school would be appalled to find out how closely our formal swaps seem to be modelled on them. Put on a nice shirt, endure half an hour's awkward small talk, then sit at a long table, boy-girl-boy-girl, over a better-than-average canteen meal, then dance to bad pop while everyone watches everyone else to see if they've 'pulled' (dear God, how I loathe that word). The only difference was that the dancing took place in the same hall in which you'd just eaten, not in Cindy's, and no one's teeth were dyed blue with WKD because you weren't allowed any alcohol.
Why on earth would anyone choose to recreate these soul-flaying evenings? Because some people find a return to those days comforting. Back then, you knew when the girls were going to arrive, you knew when they were going to leave, you knew that there was no need to judge them on anything deeper than looks, and you knew that, if you embarrassed yourself, you were unlikely ever to see them again. After a lifetime of single-sex education, some people never quite get used to living with girls. How else do you think it took Magdalene until 1988 to accept women students? When your interactions with the opposite sex are regimented that carefully, everything can seem as safe and simple as a leisurely flick through Nuts.
There's also nostalgia for a time when being a man was a less ambiguous thing. All-male drinking societies, with their strict male-female ratios and haze of flirtation, implicitly exclude gay people - but then, with their festering homophobia, so do boarding schools. You're a success at a drinking society if you down a lot at your initiation and then fondle a pretty girl after the dinner, two criteria of masculinity that haven't changed for thousands of years. None of that 'New Man' stuff here.
Lastly, there's nostalgia for a time (which none of us have actually experienced) when being from public school really was like being part of an exclusive, privileged club. Thankfully, these days, there are very few institutions left where having an old-school tie will guarantee you a job - and this makes a lot of people feel cheated. But join a drinking society, and for a little while you can pretend that you're still part of an acknowledged elite (with ties and everything!)
Perhaps you're in a drinking society that follows the usual single-sex formula and yet it has no public school members. Or maybe it has a few, but you're not one of them, you've co-existed normally with girls all your life, and you enjoy it anyway. How do I explain that? I don't need to. I've sometimes had a good time at formal swaps. But you should ask yourself why exactly you're imitating this twisted social institution, originally invented by old public school boys, for the benefit of old public school boys, to the exclusion of all others. You're participating in this bizarre regression ritual when it doesn't even apply to you, and giving your support to these ancient, ugly notions of sexual politics. The most important thing for Cambridge's future is to end its private-school dominance - but now that we've had a little bit of sucess in that, why should we hold on to the worst features of the previous era? With all these public school boys going out into the world and making everyone else imitate their customs, we might as well still be in colonial times.
So that's why I'm resigning from my drinking society, and I won't be joining any in the future. The ties were the last straw. For a while I wore pink nail varnish to the formals to register my discontent about the kind of man they were turning me into, but, as I learnt when I left school, mild rebellion gets you nowhere. I can't forget my past, but I can do my best to make up for it. We're adults now: if our mates ask us to join a club, we should be capable of turning them down. Who's with me?