Sunday, August 10, 2008

Lads Mag's And Red Top Tabloids Do Contain Porn

I have been contacted by email by someone who asked questions about my campaign which implied that he sees that the publications I find so offensive are just harmless fun.

It is important to expose the actual content of Lad's Mags and Porn Papers to illustrate that they promote misogyny, are indeed pornographic and are inappropriate for public consumption. Below is some research by Object which examines the actual content:

Please visit their website at for futher analysis of the content of these publications.

Because the person who wrote me the email probably covers a lot of points that people who disagree about the reality of gender inequality probably share, I have reproduced my response below, which may cover other similar objections to the campaign:

To your first point:

Firstly, I read your post discussing the results of your poll. Now, i'm interested as to why you refused to let other blogs link to it. Surely a poll about abolishing porn restricted to a blog that campaigns for abolishing porn is going to yield the result that the majority of respondents want porn to be abolished? Surely by opening this up to other blogs, you'd get a larger response, and one that is more representative of society. Further, by allowing the poll to be shown on a website that has never before discussed the issue, you'd get a less biased response? I haven't read the blog that originally linked to your poll, but I'd be fascinated to know your justification.

I didn't actually refuse to let other blogs link to it. What happened, was a blogger who openly admits to harassing feminists on the web put up a link to my blog and encouraged others to bombard it with negativity. There was no inkling of consideration for my arguments, just incitement to cyber-bullying. Shortly after this person linked to my post (I quickly retrieved the data from my poll as I sensed what was about to happen), the women's poll was suddenly voted on about 15 times and I could safely assume it was not by women, (as this blogger was not a woman and his blog is very 'laddish' and probably has a mainly male readership). Prior to this person linking, some women said they did not want a complete ban, but just a campaign for consideration, but to my actual surprise, the vast majority said they wanted a complete ban. None said they were happy as things are. After this blogger posted, about 15 votes appeared on the women's poll saying they didn't mind at all.

I know this was sabotage as the vast majority of people who found my blog though his link and posted comments were male. I was trusting people to be truthful about their sex, then Jackart decided to break that trust by voting a number of times on the wrong poll. That's why I regretfully had to end it. I am disappointed that I couldn't get wider stats.

To your second point:

My main contention is probably rather more interesting to you.:

I've been reading several of your posts, and the all seem to centre around the fact that you think the law is unequal between the sexes, and that people who read FHM on the tube are actively discriminating against you/women. Now, I don't know if you've ever considered it from this angle before, but the law is, in fact, perfectly equal. You (i'm making the assumption that you are a woman) have just as much right to look at images of mostly naked men/women as I do of mostly naked men/women.

In order for you to understand the inequality here, you have to look a bit deeper into the history of gender inequality and sex discrimination. Historically in the uk (and it is still the case in many other countries) women have been denied equal access to many things, for example, the right to own property, the right to education, the right to equality before the law, the right to bodily integrity, etc. I could go on, but I trust that you are educated enough to know this. In effect women have historically been considered either the 'property' of men - i.e. - a wife, not dissimilar to cattle, etc, - or alternatively they have been considered the whores of men (which would give them certain freedoms not afforded to wives -such as economic independence). The third option was of course menial work such as being maids, wet nurses etc. In other words, to put it crudely, their role has been to cook, clean, be fucked by, and/or reproduce for, men. Feminists over the centuries have fought hard to change this status quo and have made many advances.

Today, in western culture, although women now have more options, there is much to suggest that women still are the sexual property of men. The normalisation of pornography and the suggestion that women should aspire to be porn stars peddled by the media is the main force behind this. A hyper-sexualised image of a woman feigning sexual arousal in order to make a man feel that he is entitled to dehumanise that woman and view her as an object to be bought, sold and consumed by men, again like cattle, is a degradation of the female sex in relation to the male. She is viewed as an object. As a commodity. As property.

There is no way you can feasibly deny that female flesh depicted in a hyper-sexualised and dehumanised manner is unequalled in quantity by images of hyper-sexualised, dehumanised male flesh. There is simply no comparison. This is a form of gender inequality. It suggests that men are functional and women are decorative - or that men are consumers and women are consumables. If you look at the headlines on lads mags, the analogy between buying and selling cattle and buying and selling women is most apt. The women are almost overtly segmented into 'cuts' of rump, shank, etc. There is rarely any acknowledgement of them being intelligent, thinking, feeling human beings. They are just a body, to be consumed, like meat.

If there was no history of rape, sexual trafficking, forced prostitution of women and no history of exclusion from seats of power, perhaps these lads mags wouldn't be so insulting to many women. In fact, perhaps I as a woman would only feel the superficial blip of annoyance a man might feel when he sees an image of an objectified male. Unfortunately, because of the history, no one can ever know.

I don't think a man who exposes me to misogynistic pornography that he is perving over on the tube is deliberately discriminating against me. I think he simply couldn't give a shit how I feel. He feels entitled as a man, to do whatever he wants, in spite of whatever impact it might make upon me as a woman, because he sees my need for decorum to be inferior to his need for public sexual expression and gratification. I have no desire to look at porn in public. I have no desire to consume endless images of men being degraded. To say I have an equal freedom to do so is completely missing the point. I don't want the freedom to look at porn in public. I want the freedom to use public transport without being confronted with images of women being degraded. That is how the law is unequal. It favours male freedoms over females. To be clear - I do not want to do as men do!

To your next point: Because you choose not to exercise your right is your choice, no? On second thoughts, I remember seeing your spoof 'The Stun'. By putting that in the public domain, surely you are exercising your right?

By creating my spoof, I was merely trying to highlight an issue by reversing the sexes. To be honest I felt uncomfortable about doing it. I felt bad for the young men in those images. The whole process felt sadistic. That made it all the more upsetting - no one seems to care for the women in hyper-sexual images - since this sadism against women is endemic in the media. I also felt uncomfortable on a train where I had my spoof out. A woman came on the train with four young sons. I hid it, because there is no way I would want any young and impressionable boys being exposed to it and negatively affected. Again, I felt upset to thing that no-one cares to protect young girls from such images in the same way. I do not want the right to bring such material onto public transport. I am only doing so, to raise awareness.

Out of curiosity, has anyone ever expressed outrage when you've displayed it?

Outrage, no. But some people have been very annoyed and others have enjoyed the humour as they have 'got it'.

The lady who occupies the desk opposite me at work exercises her right by displaying a nude calendar of Robbie Williams. Now, the sight of Robbie Williams waving his bishop around happens to be particularly distasteful to me, but I haven't said anything, nor will I, mainly because I know that she's perfectly entitled to have it, and she doesn't have it to actively discriminate against me personally. Our localised society at work is much better off if I just ignore the picture whenever I see it (every day, as it's facing my desk) and don't take it personally. This brings me nicely to my second point: by looking at this stuff, men aren't actually discriminating against you.

I refer you to my comments above about how it is not equal when men and women do this, because of the history of inequality, the brunt of which you have never felt and never will feel, as a man. Also, I think its completely innappropriate for your colleague to be putting images like that up above her desk. Can't she keep her sexuality in her private life?

Discrimination in the eyes of the law must occur maliciously against either an entire catagory of people, or against a specific individual. Every black person gets offended by being called a nigger - it's discrimination. It obviously isn't the vast majority of women who are offended by softcore pornography, as there are so many women out there who either consent to take part in it, read it, or respond to the letters page/have interviews/write articles for magasines such as Nuts and FHM. So it can't be discrimination against women, as there are so many who are consensually actively involved in the industry. It isn't a form of harassment against you individually because it isn't targetted against you individually.

I'm glad you brought up the topic of race here. Some black people swear blind that they do not mind being called a nigger. Most do as it is reminiscent of subjugation into slavery. Now as a woman, I mind being called, 'totty', 'tart', 'bitch', 'slut', 'whore', 'dog', 'cunt', etc, etc. These terms are often used when referring to women in pornography. I find that language discriminating. Some women will swear blind that they don't find it offensive, but I do, because it is reminiscent of subjugation into sexual and domestic slavery. These words do offend me personally, because they are an insult to my sex. I don't care if I am being targeted individually or if it is my entire sex that is being targeted. I still feel personally harassed when I am exposed to that language.

The turn of phrase that men are arousing themselves whenever they look at this stuff in public, and that it should be illegal for this to happen is also interesting. My argument here may be reductio ad absurdum, but a law against this would make it illegal for most people to see Pirates of the Carribean at the cinema: many men I know find Kiera Knightly veryattractive, many women I know find Johnny Depp very attractive, and we all get a fair amount of pleasure from the film for this reason.

I am not trying to ban sexual attraction, or sexual arousal. I want to stop innappropriate sexual conduct in my prescence - and most people would agree with that. It is illegal to expose yourself in public, but not illegal to expose the public to images of other people exposing themselves. Huh? And the difference between say, the contents of The Star newspaper and Pirates of the Carribean is not exactly like for like. One is deliberately created for sexual stimulation, to facilitate masturbation, the other is just a couple of people who happen to be attractive in a movie. For the record, I do actually find gratuitous sex scenes in films a bit intrusive - primarily because they linger on the woman and rarely on the men. The gender inequality could only be balanced if every time you see a pair of breasts, you saw a cock for the same length of screen time. The resistance to doing this is because of the sexism of the movie industry - this again harks back to the idea of women as meat and men as consumers.

You may be one of these feminists, like my girlfriend, who argue that women only wear wear short skirts, low tops and make up because society forces them to (thank you, Germainne Greer), or that a pen is in fact designed to look like a penis purely to discourage women from education (I can't remember who's idea that was originally), but I sincerely hope that your arguments are more logical than this.

I'm a little bit disturbed that you could speak so disparagingly of your girlfriend's beliefs and arguments. I'm sure her ideas make more sense than the caricature you have presented. I do hope you are not one of those misogynists, who argue that rape, domestic violence, sexual trafficking, etc are a hysterical figment of women's imaginations. In order to understand the nature of sex-decrimination and harassment, you have to be able to see the bigger picture and include those rather tricky commonalities. I know I've kind of rushed through here, but to be fair, if you are genuinely interested in equality between the sexes, there are plenty of books to read on the subject.

I hope I've been able to answer some of your questions.



Jackart said...

Any joy lately? Or is this campaign over?

My Girlfriend read FHM recently and declared it "much more interesting than the rubbish in Women's mags". Make of that what you will.

Laura said...

you're GF needs to find some more intellectually challenging reading material. I recommend new scientist.

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