The Trouble With Lads Mags

Here’s a mildly disturbing one from my archive of half started and never finished posts (or “Drafts” as I very originally call them). This centres on a joint study conducted by Middlesex University and the University of Surrey, both of which are in the UK if your geography is as bad as mine.

The study, published in 2012 in the British Journal of Psychology, was one of a group of similar studies that took a look at the sort of dangerous attitudes towards sex that have started to enter the public mindset via the media. In this study a group of men were given quotes from British “lads mags” (Loaded, Nuts, Zoo, etc) interspersed with excerpts from interviews with convicted rapists and told to identify which ones they thought were from the rapists. As I’m sure you can guess, the participants in the study were unable to reliably pick out which were magazine quotes and which were from rapists. What may be shocking though is that, when asked to mark each statement on how derogatory to women they were, the men were more likely to choose the magazine quotes (most of which were from the How To Win With Women type articles that are aimed at teaching those with little to no experience about the opposite gender) as being more derogatory.

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.

- Dr Miranda Horvath, lead study author.

A second group of men were shown the quotes and asked which they identified with more, and a slight trend in that group showed them identifying with the rapists more than the lads mags. Now it should be noted that some of the quotes came from rapists, if not which ones, so they were likely looking to not identify with anything too bad. Which makes it all the more depressing that these quotes from convicted rapists (all of which were originally published in the book The Rapist File) were found to be less disturbing than the sort of things that teenaged boys are reading as a shortcut to actual life experience.

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? Rapists try to justify their actions, suggesting that women lead men on, or want sex even when they say no, and there is clearly something wrong when people feel the sort of language used in a lads’ mag could have come from a convicted rapist.

- Dr Peter Hegarty, co-author on the study.

A third group of men were shown the quotes, only this time they were labelled as being from either lads mags or rapists. What the men didn’t know was that the labelling was random. As anyone can guess, they overwhelmingly sided with the quotes that were labelled as being from lads mags, even when those quotes had been marked as highly derogatory by the other groups in the study. The unsurprising conclusion there is that nobody wants to side with a rapist if they can help it.

Many of the rapists quoted in the study talked about coercing women or having sex with them even though they were initially unwilling (from the viewpoint of the quote), and this viewpoint was reflected in the lads mags. Legitimisation stereotypes such as women saying “No” when they actually mean “Yes”, or “asking for it” when going out in a short skirt have entered the public mindset a long time ago. While these were originally the ways that rapists sought to make their actions seem justified to themselves, they have begun to be normalised by the sort of magazine that sells itself by how much cheap titillation it can fit on the front cover and sic page spreads on how to get the perfect creepshot (actual feature on a cover I saw recently).

There were many quotes used in the study but what follows is a small sampling that was given to one of the groups. See if you can figure out which come from rapists and which came from lad mags.

1. There’s a certain way you can tell that a girl wants to have sex. The way they dress, they flaunt themselves.
2. Some girls walk around in short-shorts, showing their body off. It just starts a man thinking that if he gets something like that, what can he do with it?
3. 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.
4. Mascara running down the cheeks means they’ve just been crying, and it was probably your fault, but you can cheer up the miserable beauty with a bit of the old in and out.
5. What burns me up sometimes about girls is dick-teasers. They lead a man on and then shut him off right there.
6. Filthy talk can be such a turn on for a girl.  No one wants to be shagged by a mouse. A few compliments won’t do any harm either  - “I bet you want it from behind you dirty whore”
7. You know girls in general are all right. But some of them are bitches. The bitches are the type that need to have it stuffed to them hard and heavy.
8. Escorts know exactly how to turn a man on. I’ve given up on girlfriends. They don’t know how to satisfy me, but escorts do.
9. You’ll find most girls will be reluctant about going to bed with somebody or crawling in the back seat of a car. But you can usually seduce them, and they’ll do it willingly.
10. There’s nothing quite like a woman standing in the dock accused of murder in a sex game gone wrong. The possibility of murder does bring a certain frisson to the bedroom.
11. Girls ask for it by wearing these mini-skirts and hotpants. They’re just displaying their body. Whether they realise it or not they’re saying, “Hey, I’ve got a beautiful body, and it’s yours if you want it.”
12. You do not want to be caught red-handed. Go and smash her on a park bench. That used to be my trick.
13. Some women are domineering, but I think it’s more or less the man who should put his foot down. The man is supposed to be the man. If he acts the man, the woman won’t be domineering.
14. I think if a law is passed, there should be a dress code. When girls dress in those short skirts and things like that, they’re just asking for it.
15. Girls love being tied up. It gives them the chance to be the helpless victim.
16. I think girls are like plasticine, if you warm them up you can do anything you want with them.

While some of them are easier to pick out than others due to the language used, the sentiment in all the quotes is disturbing enough to make it difficult. Hit the next page of this post to see which quote comes from which source.

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