Visual Sex (“Lads Mags”)

An issue floating around is that of “lads mags” (e.g. Nuts and Zoo) and how they are displayed in shops. This was instigated by the Scottish Women Against Pornography, who seems to have traditionally been against any open visual representation of sex or scantily-clad women.

While CAAN-Scotland has no stance on lads mags as such (they seem to be a dying breed anyway: sales have slipped and FHM closed this year), it is a concern as segregation of media is only a few steps away from censorship. The targeting of these magazines creates a sex ghetto, whereby media dealing with sex is shoved off to one side, under a rug, or, in this case, above a child’s eye level. Remember, this isn’t pornography, it is just magazines with covers that feature “sexy” women. So we watch this issue with interest, ready for signs of censorship.

A History of SWAP’s Problem with Scantily-Clad Women Lads Mags

SWAP has traditionally been against pictures of women that suggest sex, and seem to be really offended by magazines that have such images on their covers.

Their first attempt was back in 2002, with Petition PE476. PE476 calls for “immediate steps to (a) ensure that the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 is fully and effectively enforced in relation to the display of obscene material and (b) review this legislation to determine whether it is adequate or whether it requires amendment.”

Not entirely popular,  the petition is currently listed as having 2 – yes, TWO – signatures. (http://archive.scottish.parliament.uk/business/petitions/docs/PE476.htm)

Document: Correspondence 13

The petition was lodged in spring 2002, and followed up on several times by the Justice Committee. In the end, theJustice Committee decided to “no further action was appropriate at this stage in light of the Scottish Executive’s current research commitments in this area.” (http://archive.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/historic/justice2/papers-03/j2p03-03.pdf) That was January 2003. It’s worth noting that SWAP recommends changing the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982, the document which contains the definition of obscene used in the CJLA. According to  the documents released by the Scottish Government, the “current research commitments” are “two-year study and research programme investigating violence in its different manifestations should include research into the harm caused by pornography.”

Document: Correspondence 12

SWAP wouldn’t let it lie, and after a flurry of letters in 2003 (Documents: Correspondence 11 & Correspondence 14), opened up PE752 in 2004 “calling for the Scottish Parliament to enact legislation to define pornographic material as incitement to sexual hatred and to make such incitement an offence similar to that of incitement to racial hatred.” This petition was less successful than the previous one, gathering only one signature. (http://archive.scottish.parliament.uk/business/petitions/docs/PE752.htm) Yet it still resulted in the Equal Opportunities Committee questioning the Scottish Executive on the “harmfulness of pornography”. Meetings regarding this carried over into early 2005 (http://archive.scottish.parliament.uk/business/committees/justice2/papers-05/j2p05-05.pdf).

In the end, still unsatisfied, SWAP carried on with their most successful petition yet, PE1169. This petition gathered a whopping 568 signatures when it was lodged in June 2008. The progress of the petition since then has been slow but steady.

At first the Scottish Government seemed loath to commence action. After talking with several ministers, they decided to wait until the Papadopoulos report on the “Sexualisation of Young People Review” was published (Feb 2010). They then decided that the issue was worth pursuing and commissioned “a small scale research project on this issue, carried out across newsagents, supermarkets and other retailers to examine the operation and level of compliance with the voluntary guidelines which currently exist”. The results of this report (2011) can be found here.

And that’s where the archives end. The petition website is undergoing an update, so these links might break at some point. However, that will be a sign for us to continue looking for more info on the topic, so stay tuned!

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