Lads

I’m handicapped in thinking about this by the fact that I’ve never seen, let alone read, a lads’ mag. I’ve spent the past few minutes trying to figure out what they are, which has led to my finding out what “lad culture” is, which I’m not sure I wanted to know.

In an ironic, self-conscious fashion, “lads took up an anti-intellectual position, scorning sensitivity and caring in favour of drinking, violence, and a pre-feminist attitude to women as both sex objects and creatures from another species”.

Oh I hate that “ironic” thing. Pretentious jerks in the UK are always telling you they’re doing or saying whatever it is “ironically,” which just means don’t go thinking I’m a jerk merely because I’m acting or talking like one.

That get out of jail free card probably is why we get treated to so much misogynist name-calling, though – it’s “ironic” or “self-conscious” or “rebellion against stifling political correctness” or all of those. Having it both ways – all the fun of vomiting hatred and contempt onto women and feeling hip and witty and “ironic” at the same time.

So, a study by a couple of psychologists finds that rapists and lads’ mags use the same language.

Psychologists from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey found that when presented with descriptions of women taken from lads’ mags, and comments about women made by convicted rapists, most people who took part in the study could not distinguish the source of the quotes.

The research due to be published in the British Journal of Psychology also revealed that most men who took part in the study identified themselves more with the language expressed by the convicted rapists.

Psychologists presented men between the ages of 18 and 46 with a range of statements taken from magazines and from convicted rapists in the study, and gave the men different information about the source of the quotes. Men identified more with the comments made by rapists more   than the quotes made in lads’ mags, but men identified more with quotes said to have been drawn from lads’ mags more than those said to have been comments by convicted rapists.

The writing is very muddled in that last para, but if you watch the video it becomes clear: when the test subjects thought the comments came from lads’ mags, they identified with the comments, whereas they didn’t when they thought the comments came from rapists. They also thought the comments they thought were from lads’ mags were “normal” (while the ones they thought were from rapists they considered extreme). That last one, though it’s not even a little bit surprising, is blood-chilling. Yes of course they fucking do – just as all these teeming shits think it’s “normal” to call women bitches and twats and cunts day in and day out. Misogyny has been normalized. That’s what we’re saying; that’s the problem.

Dr Miranda Horvath and Dr Peter Hegarty argue that the findings are consistent with the possibility that lads’ mags normalise hostile sexism, by making it seem more acceptable when its source is a popular magazine.

Exactly. I knew hostile sexism had been normalized, to put it mildly; I just wasn’t very aware of lads’ mags. Lads’ mags are joined by lads’ tv shows, lads’ websites, lads’ facebook pages, no doubt lads’ apps, and so on.

Dr Horvath, lead researcher from Middlesex University, said: “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.”

“These magazines support the legitimisation of sexist attitudes and behaviours and need to be more responsible about their portrayal of women, both in words and images. They give the appearance that sexism is acceptable and normal – when really it should be rejected and challenged. 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, of the University of Surrey’s Psychology Department, added: “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, Campaigns Manager for OBJECT, a human rights campaign 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.”

Men call us things.