ARE SEX OFFENDERS AND LADS’ MAGS USING THE SAME LANGUAGE?
07 December 2011
Far from being harmless or ironic fun, lads’ mags could be legitimising hostile sexist attitudes, according to new research.
Psychologists from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey found that when presented with descriptions of women taken from lads’ mags, and comments about women made by convicted rapists, most people who took part in the study could not distinguish the source of the quotes.
The researchers also asked a separate group of women and men aged between 19 and 30 to rank the quotes on how derogatory they were, and to try to identify the source of the quotes. Men and women rated the quotes from lads’ mags as somewhat more derogatory, but generally couldn’t categorise the quotes more accurately than if guessing.
Dr Horvath, lead researcher from Middlesex University, said: “We were surprised that participants identified more with the rapists’ quotes, and we are concerned that the legitimisation strategies that rapists deploy when they talk about women are more familiar to these young men than we had anticipated.”
Due to concerns about their content, from February this year many major supermarket chains and petrol stations in the United Kingdom agreed to place lads’ mags on the top shelf, out of the eye line of children and some have installed modesty boards to hide front cover images.
But the measures to protect children do not address the concerns born out by the findings of the research and Miranda Horvath, is concerned that lads’ magazine editors are not working hard enough to moderate the content of their magazines: "A lot of debate around the regulation of lads’ mags has been to do with how they affect children but less has been said about the influence they have on their intended audience of young men and the women with whom those men socialise."
He added that young men should be given credible sex education and not have to rely on lads’ mags as a source of information as they grow up.
Anna van Heeswijk, Campaigns Manager for OBJECT, a human rights campaign group which campaigns against the objectification of women, said: "This crucial and chilling piece of research lays bare the hateful messages which seep out of lads' mags and indoctrinate young men's attitudes towards women and girls. When the content of magazines aimed at teenage boys mirrors the attitudes of convicted rapists, alarm bells must ring.
“If we are serious about wanting an end to discrimination and violence against women and girls, we must tackle the associated attitudes and behaviours. This means tackling the publications which peddle them. The Leveson Inquiry is currently looking into the culture and ethics of the press. These disturbing findings unequivocally demonstrate the need for the portrayal of women to be included in the remit of this inquiry. Now is the time for action."
*The study used quotes from the four UK lad’s mags with the highest circulation: FHM, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo, published between January and March 2010. (Circulation data from the abc website)
Quotes from convicted rapists from verbatim interview transcripts in the United States in the book: ‘The Rapist Files: Interviews With Convicted Rapists’ by Sussman & Bordwell