Basically, the publishers of such literary gems as Nuts, Loaded and Zoo have until 9th September to start issuing their journals in “modesty bags” or risk a firm refusal from the Co-op chain to even stock the publications on its 4,000 shelves.
While part of me is smirking at the thought of the busty models on the cover of Loaded being forced into an opaque polythene chastity belt I can see that this is a complicated issue (unlike the content of the issues at the centre of the conflict).
I don’t think anyone would disagree that the sheer amount of virtual female flesh that is currently on display around the Western world is deeply disturbing in its volume. Bus shelters, newsagents, internet, calendars, television and computer games all over our technologically advanced hemisphere are awash with tanned cleavage and airbrushed thigh.
Time was when I was a kid you’d have to strain your neck up to the top shelf of a newsagent to see an exposed naval or the slightest hint of pokie action. Nowadays you have to shift aside glossy images of buoyantly racked soap stars and pop singers exercising their diaphragms by sitting legs akimbo just to get your hands on the latest CBeebies magazine for your children.
Now I am not a prude. I’m a normal, sexually dynamic bloke. If I see a picture of an attractive woman (doesn’t have to be a supermodel – in fact, personally, I have leanings towards the real woman end of the spectrum) I’m going to have the expected response.
It’s a no-brainer that to commodify women and use them to sell product is morally, sexually and intellectually wrong. It’s actually worse when the product that is being sold is sex itself. There’s a weird kind of slavery ethos at work at that point that is worse because it is so insidious. Everyone is compromised by it. Everyone is cheapened.
I really don’t want my boys growing up in a world where one half of the human race is seen merely as a mass marketing tool and the other responds unthinkingly like the tools they undoubtedly are.
And yet I look at some of my blog posts – the last one is a good example – and it is plain that I’m not beyond throwing up a picture of an attractive actress to draw attention to my blog. Sure I don’t take the pictures and I don’t ask the models in question to pose so provocatively but I still use them to attract readers to my blog, to boost my stats.
I’m guilty as charged, milord. I guess it’s a good job my blog isn’t published as a glossy magazine because maybe it would be in a brown paper bag under the counter at the Co-op along with Zoo. Though I would hope that the articles contained inside mine would be a darn sight more thought provoking.
The issue at the heart of the problem is sex education. It hasn’t kept up with the march of progress. The hearts and minds of the young are ceaselessly influenced by the online world. And that world is, to quote shadow health minister Diane Abbott, completely pornified and the pornification has spread out into the real world too. This totally skews the attitudes of the younger generation towards sex, to each other and to themselves. Kids these days have far easier access to hardcore pornography than my generation ever did. Too easy access in my opinion. And it is barely regulated meaning that there’s a lot of nasty stuff out there being passed off as “the norm”. That is highly dangerous to an impressionable mind.
Sex education needs to catch up with this technological boom, catch on to what is happening and redress the balance. Because what is missing from this huge deluge of objectification and sex marketing is emotional content and emotional context – the most important aspect of any kind of sexual relationship. Without it objectification is inevitable.
With it the only thing that is inevitable is a just and righteous sense of outrage.
We need to teach people to re-engage with their hearts and minds – not just their genitals.
At best, chastity belts and modesty bags just sidestep the issue and make the whole topic even more fetishized. At worse they collude and allow the status quo to continue.
And surely nobody but nobody wants the Quo to continue?