Are Sex Offenders and Lads’ Mags Using the Same Language?

January 24, 2012

Words By: Katt Watt  

Its comforting to think that, in the 21st century, it wouldn’t be difficult to differentiate between the words of a convicted rapist and advice printed in a popular lads’ mag. Unfortunately, the results of a study carried out by the University of Surrey have shown that both men and women have trouble separating statements made by rapists and the way lads’ mags describe women. “In a group study, we distributed quotes on bits of card to 20 men and women and asked them to rank how degrading they were to women, then we revealed some were from rapists and some were from lads’ mags, and asked them to attribute those quotes to either group,” explained Dr Miranda Horvath, a lecturer in forensic psychology at Middlesex University. “The group guessed correctly 50% of the time. They clearly had considerable difficulty making quick decisions about where these quotes came from.” Four publications were used: Nuts, Zoo, FHM and Loaded, while quotations from rapists were lifted from police interviews. Overall, the quotations from lads’ mags were ranked as more derogatory.

Here are two quotations: “A girl may like anal sex because it makes her feel incredibly naughty and she likes feeling like a dirty slut. If this is the case, you can try all sorts of humiliating acts to help live out her filthy fantasy” and: “There’s a certain way you can tell that a girl wants to have sex . . . The way they dress, they flaunt themselves.” Which is which? Shockingly, the first is from a magazine, the second from a convicted rapist.

Dr Peter Hegarty, of the University of Surrey’s Psychology Department commented: “There is a fundamental concern that the content of such magazines normalises the treatment of women as sexual objects. We are not killjoys or prudes who think that there should be no sexual information and media for young people. But are teenage boys and young men best prepared for fulfilling love and sex when they normalise views about women that are disturbingly close to those mirrored in the language of sexual offenders?”

Anna van Heeswijk, a member of OBJECT, a human rights 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.” 

Too damn right.

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