Lads’ Mags and Rape


There is a study being touted around Twitter as evidence that lads’ mags are harmful and should be banned (despite the researchers’ claims that censorship is not the answer) . The study, by Dr Miranda Horvath and Dr Peter Hegarty of The University of Surrey, was publicised in late 2011, but is being used by some as proof during the ‘Lose the Lads’ Mags’ campaign. This is despite being described as “an exercise in false equivalencies” (hat off to you, Georgia Lewis) and Dr Hegarty advising against censorship.

On discussing these issues, I refuse to use the term ‘rape culture’, it seems a trendy buzzword phrase for real and horrific violence and I personally find it offensive. I find ‘rape culture’ is usually used to place something or someone as the threat, as the reason for rape, rather than highlighting that rape exists in a patriarchy. Full stop.

In blog post Forty Shades of Grey, Frank Swain @SciencePunk is quoted : “How can you possibly infer lads’ mags normalise rape unless you show that how rapists talk about women is different from general discourse?… “.

Referring to the male rape of women, I also find during the process of ‘othering’ the causes of rape, or those who rape, we forget that rapists are not all beast caricatures who drag women into dark alleyways at knifepoint. They are friends, boyfriends, husbands, fathers, professionals. They are colleagues, they are religious leaders, they are the ‘nice guy’ you couldn’t imagine violating a woman, they are the ‘wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly guy’. The stereotypes of rapists are not helpful, in fact they perpetuate victim blaming when a woman is raped outside of the ‘stranger at knifepoint’ scenario.

As I said in my post ‘Dangerous Dolls: ‘Object’ and the Lose the Lads’ Mags’
“As the PhD student Sarah Harman of Brunel University wonderfully put it: “ How does porn influence culture’? instead I do feel that ‘how does culture influence porn?’”

We talk about ‘sexualisation’ and ‘objectification’ as if they are causing a ‘porn culture’, but could it be that our culture is fuelling the need for such magazines? That magazines are a symptom of our culture, not a cause

The language in such publications in not unique to these magazines. These magazines are reflecting culture, and not a ‘rape culture’, but attitudes prevalent under a patriarchy. Men and women share many of these ideas. That a woman dressed a certain way is ‘asking for trouble’; that a drunk women is responsible; that rape of a sex worker isn’t rape; that a woman cannot be raped by her boyfriend or husband.

It is now commonplace for rape victims to be bullied by men and women.

Please watch this, one of the infamous Steubenville media clips: .CNN’s Poppy Harlow calling the rapists “promising students” and showing an alarming amount of sympathy for them. Trent Mays, one of the young men convicted of rape, apologised to the girl’s family in court, for sickeningly taking a photo of the victim and circulating it.

Think of 15 year old girl Audrie Pott, who killed herself after having photos circulated following her rape.

Former Wales and Sheffield United striker Ched Evans was convicted of rape, and his victim’s name was lambasted round twitter. Seven men and three women, aged between 18 and 27 from north Wales and Sheffield, were charged with revealing the victim’s identity. What kind of a society do we live in where rape victims are bullied, shamed and have their identities spread round social media?

Women’s magazines and daily newspapers are just as guilty of reinforcing the dangerous essentialist idea that men need and have a right sexual intercourse, and that sexual aggression is normal and part of nature. Just look at sex advice columns in women’s mags or the likes of the Daily Mail. A man writing that his wife won’t have sex is treated with great sympathy, the man has needs. ‘Sexperts’ tell women they should ‘go along’ with sex, even if they are not in the mood, and that ‘once it gets going’ they ‘will probably enjoy themselves’.

In many countries, such as Morocco, (reported by Women Under Siege here) men have rights to sex from their wives. Spousal rape was only criminalized in England in 1991! A woman complaining that her husband won’t have sex is dismissed, that is not a ‘real’ problem, women don’t ‘need’ sex; whereas men have rights.

In my blog post Authentic Pleasure for Women I spoke about how women’s sexual pleasure is not considered by the medical professional at large, but rather her ability to engage in vaginal penetration. “For women suffering from various vaginal or vulval pains, online medical sites helpfully recommend they apply anaesthetic gel so that they can “tolerate” intercourse”. If medicine is telling women to ‘tolerate’ intercourse, what message is that sending out?

Jezebel ran a post on this study:
I draw your attention to the following quotes:

“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?

5. What burns me up sometimes about girls is dick-teasers. They lead a man on and then shut him off right there.

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.’

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 “.

Have your heard these concepts before? I certainly have, and not through reading lads’ mags. You can have to take a look at the Nick Ross debacle to see what support his ideas have. Let’s not pretend these ideas derive from these magazines. These ideas are reflected in the media. Lads’ mags are being singled out in a moral panic.

When we talk about pornography, or lads’ mags, or page 3, or lap dancing, or purchasing sex causing rape, we are recirculating essentialist myths, that men need sexual intercourse and cannot control themselves. That women’s bodies or behaviour cause men to rape.

Banning these magazines, or porn, or sex work, will not stop rape.

Comments and feedback gratefully received. I am @princessjack on twitter.


Harman, Sarah (2012) On pornography, Unpublished paper presented at Let’s Talk About Porn, Royal Holloway University, London.

Read more from Georgia Lewis at ).

Women Under Siege: