The fate of lad mags must surely be the one thing on this planet that I really shouldn't be concerned about. 1) I'm gay, so most of the content (i.e. barely clothed women) is of little interest to me, 2) I regard cars, football and exercise with the disdain they all very much deserve and 3) I'm nearly 30!
If Loaded, FHM, Nuts, Zoo and pretty much any other magazine aimed at the majority of young men were to suddenly disappear, would I really feel that bad? Probably not, I would have thought. In fact, if you had told me yesterday that they were going out of business I may have taken you out for a celebratory pint.
However...today, a "Lose the Lads' Mags" campaign was launched via a letter to the Guardian. Rather than attempting to convince men that such magazines are beneath them or just pressuring stores that sold them to drop them, they have taken the tack of threatening the use of the Equality Act to get rid of these magazines from stores to protect employees from "pornographic material".
Something about this really rubs me up the wrong way. I've heard all the arguments about the objectification of women, the evils of pornography and the horrors that result from a man reading Nuts (personally I think the true horror is what a man needs to be like to actually want to read Nuts, but hey that is just me). But none of them ever really address things with an even view. Gay men, and I very much include myself in this, objectify other men all the time. I've had women not just reading 50 Shades of Grey in my presence but openly discussing the intricate details of what is described in there (including within my work environment). In fact I've had women at work send me half naked pictures of men and ask me exactly what I think about them. But my sexuality, and those of the women I work with, seem to be "acceptable", yet heterosexual male sexuality is looked at as if it something to be deeply ashamed of, controlled and kept away from "decent" people.
I believe sexism still very much exists. And I think rape and violence are real issues (when they happen to women or to men) that need to be discussed and solutions looked into. I do not believe that reading Nuts is what changes a man from being a decent, upstanding member of society to being a rapist or a abuser or someone who doesn't hire a woman for a job she is capable of merely because she is a woman.
But I also believe there is an almost puritanical dislike of heterosexual men's sexuality that really is beginning to border on the insane. So shops get rid of Nuts, Zoo, Loaded etc (is Loaded even still published, let alone still read?). Shouldn't they get rid of Gay Times and Attitude too (especially their naked editions)? Aren't those naked issues actually sexual harassment of any male employees? Are gay bars and clubs up and down the land in breach of the Equality Act for exposing their employees to copies of the free gay mag Boyz? Let me tell you, the contents of that magazine make Nuts and Zoo look like a Ladybird book. I've asked this question many times before but are male porn stars being objectified? If men reading Nuts makes them have a poorer attitude to women (rather than that I suspect some of those who read Nuts have a poor attitude towards women, which is quite a different thing) doesn't looking at gay porn mean I'm more likely to treat men badly? I personally don't think it does, and thus is can't be the act of objectification that is the problem.
I absolutely hate to say this but: Toby Young makes some good points over at the Telegraph. Caron makes some reasonable points about feeling uncomfortable with men reading these sort of magazines in public. However, I feel uncomfortable when a straight couple start making out in front of me (a mixture of not wanting to appear to be looking at them and not wanting to be seen to be not looking at them on purpose as this would mean I had seen them which would be embarrassing enough; a very British problem), but does this mean I would expect them not to? I'm not a big fan of it that is for sure. What about the man who gets uncomfortable because the guy across from him is reading Attitude? Is that man within his rights to remonstrate with the Attitude reader? I think not.
This is all a bit of a brain dump, and would almost certainly be ripped to shreds by any feminist intellectual out there, but I really feel very uncomfortable indeed about telling off men (generally of the lower, poorer classes) for daring to buy something others don't like.