Lads' Mags and Little Girls

I am glad to discover that I am not the only person increasingly disturbed by the gauntlet of magazines that little girls (& boys, for that matter) have to walk past just on a trip to the Newsagent.

A family friend over from Auckland took his two nieces to the local newsagents in Kent yesterday and swore never to use that particular newsagent again because he was appalled by the covers of the men’s magazines, at child height that could not be avoided on the way to the counter.

‘Well, Bro’ said his brother, “Looks like you won’t be going in any more newsagents then, because there’s no choice. It’s like that in every one.”

I spend more time than is usual in the company of Kiwi’s these days. But it’s cool, because New Zealanders whether in NZ or in the UK don’t consider feminism to be a dirty word and don’t see why those wanting to access porn in their local newsagents whether hard core or the soft (but uber-misogynistic) type pedaled by weekly lads’ mags can’t just reach up to the top shelf.

I was struck on visiting New Zealand for the first time earlier on this year and Auckland in particular how family friendly the place seemed. In London, particularly if you don’t have children, you can forget that children exist. It is not a child friendly city.

But I do think it’s more than that; I beginning to come to the conclusion that it’s not a particularly female friendly city either. I’ve lived in London for 15 years now, so really can’t speak for other places but my kiwi friends all agreed that the UK is not a female friendly place to live – when compared to New Zealand – of course, I’d prefer it every time over, say, Saudi Arabia or Iran – obviously! But just because London is relatively free and equal for women doesn’t mean to say that it is free enough!

Yes, I find I’m getting more and more oppressed by the increasing sexualisation of women and young girls. It feels like, in London if you’re not walking past a lap dancing club, your walking past a poster for one or running the gauntlet of pneumatic young women all over each other on lads mags.

It is not, as I’ve said many times before that I want to ban anything or spoil consenting adults fun. As a consenting adult, I’m no stranger to fun, but I dare sy you wouldn’t want to know the details and I’m not telling anyway.

And I agreed with the Lib Dem stance on extreme pornography and believe that lap dancing clubs have a right to exist (although I think they need to be regulated more and the women working in them could do with proper employment protection). It may not be to my taste, but matters of taste are neither here nor there when it comes to banning things or censorship.

I do believe that the sexual objectification of women is harmful to both boys and girls (Caron has a great argument about this, in this post here); it encourages and rewards women for acting in an overly sexual way.

I think it harms the ability of young people to form, healthy relationships where they can be themselves and don’t feel pressure to act in just one way. And I accept it is currently difficult to prove the link.

But I do get to say how it makes me feel.

Sex and our sexuality is a vital part of our beings and humanity but it isn’t everything.

Increasingly, Londoners are getting duped into thinking that if we object to the pornographic norm, which only reflects one rather misogynistic view of human sexuality, spread all over our public spaces, then we are being somehow oppressive and impacting on freedom of expression.

But right now, I feel that it’s women and girls that are being oppressed and I don’t see why, just because the likes of John Grey or Peter Stringfellow want to maximize their profits, we should shut up and attempt to free up women from low paid jobs, and domestic violence and horrific rape conviction rates, whilst working around it.

The reaction of the Uncle to these two little girls from Auckland tells me that it’s not just me, and it’s not just women who can see the harm and that there is a different way.

You just wouldn’t have to put up with these things in New Zealand, a country where prostitution is legal and it so could be argued is more liberal than the UK. But in New Zealand, accessing pornography whether hardcore or soft is a choice and a place where if you want to be surrounded by sexualised images of women you can be but you can pop out to buy a Sunday newspaper with your nieces in tow without having to.


Andy said...
5 May 2009, 00:26:00

I don't want to sound like an apologist for men here, but.. I have seen a fair number of images sexualising guys in London too, on posters on the tube or whatever. In a newsagent, for instance, you'll likely see Men's Health, etc, every bit as prominently displayed as the lads mags, and, assuming a nice, progressive newsagent, Gay Times etc too.

But yes, I agree with the main point. I have occasionally wondered whether there was such a profusion of such images when I was 'ickle. It seems unlikely, but maybe you just don't notice it so much as a child?

Dan Brusca said...
5 May 2009, 12:51:00

In respect of employment protection for girls working in lapdancing clubs, it should be said that most girls lacking this do so simply because they're not employees, but rather self-employed. These days your typical lapdancer will work in a number of different clubs.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
6 May 2009, 08:58:00


There are images of sexualised men but it is just not of the same order as for women.


That's my point - becasue they have to work as self employed it gives them zero protection. It's legally perfectly possible to be employed by more than one club.

However, the bosses who run the clubs would rather and have the power to push all the risk onto the girls. This is an oppressive regime rather like the dock workers back in the 50's and 60's or gang leaders today - except even gang leaders pay the workers for the work they are doing.

It is an unequal power relationship and not one, I would expect the majority of girls if speaking freely would choose.

DaveA said...
8 Jun 2009, 18:10:00

Jo, from my, err, indepth study of lap dancing clubs most of the women make a tidy living, £200-500 a night. Many of them are eastern European and really are there because they want to be. It is also ironically a very safe environment where women can ask the bouncers to eject any bloke whose behaviour they do not like.

I do not want to sound cheap here but your attiude to sexual images, seems more in tune with Mary Whitehouse.

Jo Christie-Smith said...
9 Jun 2009, 09:17:00

Aw, Dave, is that what they told you? Hmm, one born every minute, isn't there?

How about you come up with some academic studies?

DaveA said...
9 Jun 2009, 09:43:00

" We can hire girls from Eu, or girls with residence permit in EU. Girls are making from 3000-9000 euros p. month, accomodation is provided and 8-15 girls in club at a time... "

"High-earning lap dancers face losing a share of their income to the taxman after the High Court ruled that the dancers – and not the clubs where they perform – are liable for VAT."

Jo Christie-Smith said...
9 Jun 2009, 09:54:00


From your article:

A spokeswoman for Spearmint Rhino said it was “very difficult” to say how much a typical dancer earned each year but added that all dancers were required to declare their earnings to the taxman as a condition of working in their clubs.

No one has suggested that some lap dancers don't earn £200-£500 on some nights - especially perhaps in central London - but then most lap dancing clubs are no in central London. And most lap dancers don't earn anything like that - in fact many are in debt to their clubs.

Plus, the times online article is not an academic study into the impact of lapdancing but a ruling that as lap dancers are self employed if they earn over the CAt threshold, they do, like all other self employed people have to pay (& so charge) VAT.

And it doesn't occur to you that a stripper recruitment site might be just putting a rosy glow on the whole earning potential for lap dancers?

I think your response to my request for academic studies has, if possible, served to undermine, your original comment rather than bolster it.

Sure, you go on kidding yourself that they're all really happy to be there if it makes you feel better about going to the clubs - but, make no mistake, you are kidding yourself.

Sylv said...
20 Oct 2009, 10:22:00

Jo - Do you have nay information on the laws or practice in New Zealand regarding the display of sexually explicit newspapers and magazines which are often referred as "lesser material" compared to top shelf pornography? I would like to know whether they are displayed in opaque bags and whether age-rated.

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