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Put them on the top shelf, please

29 Jun 2006 / 0 Comments / in going off on one

Men’s lifestyle magazines. Lads’ mags. Call them what you like, but they’re in the news. Titles like ‘Nuts’, ‘Zoo’, ‘Maxim’, ‘FHM’ promote sex, cars, sport, competitions and so on, but actually it’s mostly (heterosexual) sex.

They are sold cheaply and displayed in shops mostly at eye level where children and young people may be exposed to them. They contain adult material: photos of young women with most of their clothes removed and advertise products of a distinctly sexual nature. Some shops sell them responsibly by putting them on the top shelf and covering the front so only the title is visible. But most don’t. Claire Curtis-Taylor MP yesterday called for lads’ mags to be made top shelf material by law. I’m no prude, but I agree.

Lads’ mags are patronising and offensive to both men and women.

Most blokes who have any intelligence wouldn’t waste their time with lads’ mags anyway which seem to assume men are club-wielding Neanderthals whose only interests are footy, getting pissed and a shag. Being a man is surely about more than just these things? They talk about things in a grossly insensitive ways and encourage men to see women as inferior beings willing to get their kit off at the drop of a hat. They encourage men to believe all women should be sexually available at all times and perfectly formed, whatever that means. And we’re just not! As boys grow up they need to learn what it means to be a man and how to be a man. Getting pissed, leering at women, having a quick fuck and watching the footy is not a stereotype I want my teenage son to aspire to.

Lads’ mags are so prominent and easily accessible, we need to think about what kind of message this is sending out to boys and young men. Today, one in four women are victims of rape and domestic violence. I have no idea if lads’ mags contribute directly to this, but they really can’t help men to understand that women are not silent objects of beauty to be owned, shagged, beaten.

And indeed what kind of message is it sending out to girls and young women? It’s shocking but sadly not surprising that some surveys show that 63% of teenage girls aspire to be glamour models; 25% lap dancers; and just 4% doctors.* What a waste.

How would men feel if every time they went to the shops they were faced with pictures of sexy, lean, tanned, handsome men with their ample wedding tackle barely covered up? Probably not so great about themselves… Good gods! What the hell happened to sex equality and women’s lib? Somehow it’s mutated into a raunch culture where girls pose virtually naked and they are liberated by it. Wha? The Daily Mail (not normally a paper I would recommend) today carries an article by Joan Bakewell about it here

Society has been exposed to pictures of naked people, both men and women since human beings started to create art. It appears to be a human trait. It’s the way they are created, what they are used for, and how and when they are presented which makes the difference between art and beauty, exploitation and objectification.

Having said all that, I understand some people might consider these mags to be a bit of fun and I wouldn’t wish to deny these men their bit of fun. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t want to be exposed to it, nor do I want my kids to be exposed to it. Put them on the top shelf, please? If nothing else it’ll stop me ranting.

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