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Lads’ mags are crude and unpopular with the majority of society, and they objectify women. They stereotypically include silly articles, game reviews and other trivial non-news. They produce little if any benefit to society as a whole and some claim that they even cause harm as they can make men objectify women, more than some already do. I do not read lads’ mags. However, I personally find this response to ban them distasteful. It is the response that someone gives when they dislike something, whether for good reason or not, and without thinking declare a misguided position. When the general public does not like something we don’t just ban it. We don’t ban things which are unhealthy such as alcohol, fast food (of which plenty is available on campus) and cigarettes because of the concept of freedom of choice.
The decision to ban lads’ mags is a clampdown on the freedom of the individual to look at and buy what they want. Everyone who attends this university is aged 18 and upwards, we can drink, smoke, join the army if we wish and have sex. Why should we not also have the choice to read what we wish? Almost every adult is capable of making a decision on what they want or do not want to read. One advocacy group even stated that they didn’t want to ban the magazines because they didn’t want to create new legislation; they just wanted to stop shops from selling them, which is essentially banning them in all but name.
One argument which is made is that shops who sell these magazines are breaking the law under the Equality Act of 2010 because front covers showing a woman who is partially naked can be constituted as sexual discrimination and harassment to both consumers and employees. Surely this could easily be got around by both putting the magazines on the top shelf as per tradition and using plastic packaging so the front cover is obscured.
Some may also argue that lads’ mags cause sexism within society because of their objectification of women. I would argue, however, that lads’ mags are not the cause but a symptom of the problem in society regarding the objectification of women and ensuring they are not sold does nothing to solve this. The way to stop the objectification of women in society is through a root and branch approach. It needs to start from the bottom up, which requires providing better sex education in classrooms to address the issues of sexism and body image plaguing today’s society. These lessons can be taught from an early age when people are the most impressionable by telling children it doesn’t matter whether they are skinny or fat or tall or small. This would promote real changes in attitudes which people who believe in equality are truly looking for rather than a benign gesture which falsely rails against sexism by taking an obvious target on. The way you win the battle on sexism is not by banning magazines, which would be akin to trying to beat racism by banning political parties like the BNP.
If the root and branch approach was taken lads’ mags might well die out or at least they would have to change to make them better for consumers and the general public. Many of the arguments made against lads’ mags are also made against online pornography. These arguments ignore the fact that many men find semi-naked or naked women arousing and I don’t feel this demographic should feel bad about satisfying this urge when women consent to allow people to look at their body. Men and women who find these magazines to their taste should not be stopped from enjoying them as long as these people cause no harm because of them. J.S. Mill argued that the state should not interfere with an action unless it was causing direct harm. Not everyone who reads these magazines causes harm to people, so why should the magazines not be sold to the people who enjoy them and cause no bother to anyone?