A British study says "lad mags" with scantily clad women are responsible for sexualizing young people, and that the government should put age restrictions on their sale. But would such restrictions fix the problem?
In a report to be officially released tomorrow, psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos says the magazines — like Zoo and Nuts — cause "a drip, drip effect" in which a particular kind of sexuality seeps into kids' lives at younger and younger ages. According to the Guardian, Papadopoulos writes,
Look at porn stars, and look how an average girl now looks. It's seeped into every day: fake breasts, fuck-me shoes ... We are hypersexualising girls, telling them that their desirability relies on being desired. They want to please at any cost. [...] And we are masculinising boys – many feel they can't live up to the porn ideal, sleeping with lots of women.
The study recommends not only age restrictions on the sale of lad mags, but new placement of the offending periodicals, which are often positioned at kids' eye levels, next to comics. And these recommendations come just as Britain's Royal College of Psychiatrists calls for warning labels on airbrushed images of women to help stop eating disorders. The Guardian asked Natasha Walter — a vocal critique of lad mags and their influence on young girls — whether such restrictions would help. Though she endorsed moving the magazines to the top shelves of newsstands in order to create "some spaces where people can be free of this kind of thing," she also said,
I'm not sure about this suggestion that age restrictions should be placed on lads magazines [...] it just seems to me that when we know that young teenagers are able to access explicit pornography so easily over the Internet, it feels like [...] it would be hard for it to have the kind of impact that those who are proposing it would like to see it have.
She adds that in interviews for her book Living Dolls, she found that, "sex was now seen much more as a kind of performance rather than the intimacy and communication and emotional experience that it was once seen as, and I think that's clearly tied in to the rise of pornography." While it seems idealistic to say that sex was once all about "intimacy and communication and emotional experience," it may be true that porn has popularized a particular aesthetic in which the way women look (and sound) is more important than how they feel. It's not clear that there was ever a time when "how women feel" was widely culturally valued, but it's possible to imagine a society in which this would be the case. Would this society be lad-mag-free? Maybe — but it would also be interesting to see other conceptions of female sexuality enter the mainstream, so that sex began to look more like the multifarious experience it is, rather than simply a parade of bikini-ed breasts.
Lads' Magazines Should Be Restricted To Curb Sexualisation Of Children – Report [Guardian]
Airbrushed Fashion Magazine Spreads Should Bear A Warning Label, Say British Psychiatrists [NY Daily News]
Lads' Mags: 'Sex Is Now Seen Much More As A Performance' [Guardian]