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July 19, 2013 3:26 PM   Subscribe

"The high street is becoming a no-go area for kids, which is really unfair. Why shouldn't they be able to go into a supermarket, or a newsagent? The people who make the displays aren't thinking about it from a child's point of view. I don't think David Cameron goes to a supermarket with his kids very much." Following the No More Page 3 campaign and a backlash against lads mags, the Guardian asks readers to send in and comment on sexualised images of women on the high street. But is this just another form of censorship, hypocrisy, or even sexual repression?
posted by mippy (215 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
(This one, for me, seems somewhat incongruous, as Jean Paul Gaultier's men's fragrance has always been quite homoerotic in their advertising - D+G do something similar for Light Blue, but if you see images of gay sexuality on the high street, it's almost always lesbian titillation aimed towards men.)
posted by mippy at 3:33 PM on July 19, 2013


If a child is too young for them to understand these images then they don't do any harm, if they're old enough to understand them it's already too late to "protect them". We live in the age of the internet and porno, your 13 year old can find as many pictures of scantily clad ladies as he wants (as can your daughter with naked boy pictures for that matter). Does your six year old care about boobs and dicks? No.

So, I'm going to go with the sexual repression one.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 3:34 PM on July 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think there is a difference between going to look for it, and not being able to avoid it. As well there is a difference between a nude body and and aggressive sexualiuzed body.
posted by edgeways at 3:38 PM on July 19, 2013 [40 favorites]


If I live forever I will never get used to the fact that everyone thinks that a breast is the last thing a child should ever see, as opposed to, oh, I don't know, the first thing?
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:38 PM on July 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


Does your six year old care about boobs and dicks? No.

Says the childless one.
posted by schoolgirl report at 3:38 PM on July 19, 2013 [35 favorites]


WEll - not threadsitting, honest, just waiting for it to get cold enough to have a shower before I log off - I was a fluent reader by three and also tall for my age. British newsagents have a 'top shelf' where pornographic magazines are 'traditionally' kept, and my mum still remembers the embarrassment of trying to answer, in PG terms, 'what does a flavoured condom do Mummy?'

My interpretation is it isn't so much that boobs and dicks are a bad thing, it's more the use of women as, essentially, decoration. I'm sure my mum would have tutted at music videos in the 80s and 90s when I was little, but there are some videos - Eric Prydz's Call On Me, and another with a woman in a cap playing a saxophone that I can't remember the name of - that women have actually asked to be removed from gym playlists because they made them feel uncomfortable. I don't have kids, but I can imagine feeling a little uncomfortable if my six year old saw those.
posted by mippy at 3:39 PM on July 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Does your six year old care about boobs and dicks? No."

Heh, my mates daughter was about 4 when she said to him "I know the difference between you and me."
posted by marienbad at 3:40 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think small children are pretty interested in boobs, willies and bums. I have nephews, I know this.
posted by mippy at 3:41 PM on July 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


The gender imbalance makes it clear to me that this is about women specifically and not sex in general. I mean, there's no beefcake on Page 3, is there?
posted by en forme de poire at 3:45 PM on July 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think there is a difference between going to look for it, and not being able to avoid it. As well there is a difference between a nude body and and aggressive sexualized body.


This.
posted by OwlBoy at 3:45 PM on July 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ok, little kids are interested in boobs. And they will mimmic what they see adults do in music videos or whatever. I mean I don't need to be a parent to understand this. You know I have been around kids before believe it or not and, gasp shock and horror, was six myself. But my point was that this isn't going to hurt them at all. Kids say embarrassing things they don't understand in context and then you correct them. It's not like they're traumatized for life by finding their dad's porno stash or seeing it sold in the supermarket.

This whole restructuring of society to either "protect" children when there is very little to no evidence that's what we're doing is sort of lame. Plus even if we are protecting kids we would have to weigh this against the huge loss of freedom that adults have to face by tiptoeing around a select few having to sit down with their kids for 5 minutes and have an embarrassing conversation about sex. Sex oh noes!
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 3:49 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's never too early to get children acclimatized to being either the purveyors or the recipients of the male gaze!
posted by scody at 3:51 PM on July 19, 2013 [88 favorites]


I think small children are pretty interested in boobs, willies and bums. I have nephews, I know this.

But is it harmful? It seems like the message that it's the worst thing in the world itself is harmful.

That said, how nudity is presented might be less than excellent, but that's true of lots of other imagery we present in advertisements vis a vis body image--who's "pretty", what you should wear, etc.
posted by maxwelton at 3:51 PM on July 19, 2013


I think this is a form of visual pollution and to some extent (or perhaps a very large extent?) an effort to repress women or define what they ought to be. That said, are laws the answer? Perhaps local ordinances, but not national laws. It really ought to be up to the people that live in communities to discuss what kind of community they want to live in, rather than relying on a paternalistic central authority to set the rules.

A friend of mine from NZ who did the traditional year abroad in the UK (working as a bus driver) mentioned that Britain and Japan of all places share some similar characteristics. There's a binge drinking culture in both countries, for example, but there's also a definite "low" culture in each country with broadsheet sports tabloids with lots of T&A.

You also see numbers for call girl services in just about every phone booth (not so much anymore), and girlie mag sections in convenience stores. So, as everyone says, Japan can be a highly sexualized culture.

However, individual communities have resisted things like nudie mag vending machines (driving them out of town, and even away from the city outskirts). But it takes a community effort.

The flip side is that nudity is officially censored in Japanese porn. Genitalia can't be shown. Why is that?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:53 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


what does a flavoured condom do?

What does a flavoured condom do? One doesn't normally suck a condom-wrapped dick, does one? IME, there's only one thing that happens after the condom goes on, and it doesn't involve tastebuds.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:56 PM on July 19, 2013


One doesn't normally suck a condom-wrapped dick, does one?

I think one is widely encouraged to use some sort of latex prophylactic barrier when engaging in oral sex to curtail the spread of STDs, yes.
posted by yoink at 4:02 PM on July 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


If a child is too young for them to understand these images then they don't do any harm

Just because children can't articulate reasoned arguments around an idea doesn't mean that that idea cannot have a profound (negative) effect on their self-worth and world views. Children are incredibly good at picking up all kinds of subtle and unconscious signals and if those signals tend to say something along the lines of, "It is great to shows your tits because that makes men fell good and when men feel good then you will feel good", well they're going to engage in all kinds of messed up behavior. It's not even about nudity in public or men but how incredibly powerful marketing/media is, what kind of messages that kids are being bombarded with every waking moment, and in whose interest this is done.

Having said that: who are these idiots who need to casually watch a pair of tits when reading the newspaper? Why aren't they on tumblr or xhamster? isn't there a Government Programme for these people?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:03 PM on July 19, 2013 [24 favorites]


It's never too early to get children acclimatized to being either the purveyors or the recipients of the male gaze!

Yeah pretty much this. I really do think being exposed to so much male-gazey-ness as a kid did some weird things to my body image and sexuality.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:04 PM on July 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


Foci for Analysis do you have any non-biased hard evidence that exposure to pornography is harmful to prepubescent children? I grew up with internet pornography and it didn't bother me. I know girls who did too and they seem fine. It seems like if we're going to be making society wide policy decisions like this we should have some rational scientific basis to go on. You're statement "well they're going to engage in all kinds of messed up behavior" doesn't seem supported by my life experiences at all and seems speculative.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 4:06 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


ISMJ, I think you may be confusing what people mean when they talk about "harm" here. They do not necessarily mean that a child will experience emotional distress and trauma upon seeing these images; more, that the "harm" done is imprinting children at an early age with messages about how men and women should present themselves, what qualities meet the approval of men and women and such.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:09 PM on July 19, 2013 [32 favorites]


Does your six year old care about boobs and dicks? No.

Says the childless one.
posted by schoolgirl report at 3:38 PM on July 19 [3 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


or the one who was never that stripe of child. I have no children (and never will) but I vividly recall that I was *obsessed* with *bits* at that age. I don't think that is unusual.
posted by Ennis Tennyone at 4:09 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should caveat that you did say that people should go to xhamster or the internet for pornography so I wasn't claiming you were against that. I guess I should have made it clear that I meant to draw the parallel between high volumes of internet pornography and a sex interested wider society and how neither really had a negative impact on anyone I knew growing up.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 4:10 PM on July 19, 2013


neither really had a negative impact on anyone I knew growing up.

I would gently suggest that you really have no meaningful, reliable way of knowing that.
posted by scody at 4:12 PM on July 19, 2013 [58 favorites]


Page 3

When I was very small, I was convinced that men had dark hair and women were blonde (all the women in my family were) because that's what I saw in the media and in my older sister's toy collection. When I was older and discussing sex with friends, I was under the impression that all men, everywhere, were desperate to have threesomes because it was the ultimate male desire. You'd be surprised what people, and kids, unwittingly pick up.

I didn't see porn until I was well into my teens - this was pre-internet, just after the advent of Loaded, and during Catholic school, so the idea that women could enjoy sexual images was not yet known to us - but I certainly saw Page 3, and the newsagent on the way to school stocked The Sport. I don't think many here would advocate banning porn (though there is some debate about 'violent pornography' in the UK at the moment) - the discussion that's been opened is whether fairly sexual images in mainstream media and even POS is something we should blindly accept. Even with the easier availability of pornography these days, it's something one has to actively seek out, so there is more of a choice element in terms of consumption.
posted by mippy at 4:12 PM on July 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


"You know I have been around kids before believe it or not and, gasp shock and horror, was six myself."

Still are, seems.

"IME, there's only one thing that happens after the condom goes on, and it doesn't involve tastebuds."

You can't taste things with your dick? It's a marvelous party trick.
posted by klangklangston at 4:13 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Marisa that is a fair interpretation of harm. Is there any evidence of this interpretation being the case? Does this "imprinting" cause social or psychological problems in later adulthood? Again I'm doubtful there is nonbiased scientific evidence to support this.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 4:14 PM on July 19, 2013


Flavoured condoms are to encourage people to practise safe oral sex. I think. I've never in my life seen a dental dam, so who knows.
posted by mippy at 4:14 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can't taste things with your dick? It's a marvelous party trick.

Note to self: avoid the dip at klangklangston's parties.
posted by yoink at 4:15 PM on July 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


I hear the habanero condom is extra fun.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 4:16 PM on July 19, 2013


The point, as I see it, has nothing to do with the whole 'protecting parents from having to explain sex to their kids/kids from being traumatised by seeing breasts' thing.

Rather, the campaigns are saying there are clearly all kinds of horribly fucked-up things in the mainstream culture re: the male gaze, women as sex objects, consent etc etc, which specifically relate to the way women's bodies are presented in commonly available and visible media. Spending more than ten minutes in the company of a little kid will demonstrate they are voracious absorbers of the information around them, and it is vanishingly unlikely the depictions of women and sexuality kids encounter just waft over them like a summer breeze. The fact that kids don't see these images from the point of view of a sexual person doesn't mean they aren't internalising the many, many messages in this stuff, most of which are all kinds of gross and if used to build a picture of what is normal and acceptable in society, which is literally what kids tend to do with the information they absorb, would likely lead to a wildly inaccurate and sexist picture of human interaction forming a framework upon which eventually, as they grow up, these people will construct their own sexual identities.

If this is censorship, it's a type of censorship there is overwhelming precedent for in terms of healthy, responsible depictions of say, same-sex partners or gender-variant people being functionally invisible from the point of view of a little kid. So hey, I'm all for giving it a try the other way around for a few decades, then we can report back and see if the last couple of generations are any less fucked up about women and sexuality.
posted by emmtee at 4:16 PM on July 19, 2013 [29 favorites]


When I was very small, I was convinced that men had dark hair and women were blonde (all the women in my family were) because that's what I saw in the media and in my older sister's toy collection.

Funny... that actually reminds me of something else- my mother is taller than my father, and once as a kid I went up to them in total confusion and asked why they had gotten married, since dads are taller than moms. No one TOLD me that dads are taller than moms- I just absorbed it from every single media photo I saw of "a family", and since it was so prevalent I treated it as absolute fact.

No big deal. But through that same process of keen childlike observation of the world around me, I also got a whole lot of ideas about what women should look like and act like, and by the same process I accepted it all totally, and as it turns out I don't fit many of those standards, and yeah. It's damaging for kids to see that stuff- not because Porn Is Bad Lol but because the idea that the only acceptable woman is a hot think blonde with her boobs out is bad.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:17 PM on July 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


would likely lead to a wildly inaccurate and sexist picture of human interaction forming a framework upon which eventually, as they grow up, these people will construct their own sexual identities.

Is there evidence that this assertion is the case emmtee?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 4:19 PM on July 19, 2013


If you put 20 six year olds in a dark room with two nude statues and one centimeter-high representation of a god's butt, they will find them and be unable to focus on anything else. And they're already picking up on gender cues at that age-- way more comments about nude male sculptures, because the nude male figure is so rare in most places.

They're not stupid. They're already modeling families and roles and reading by that age.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:21 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there evidence that this assertion is the case emmtee?

You keep asking for evidence, but how on earth would you construct a study to provide the kind of 'hard non-biased evidence' you're looking for? Are there any studies that meet those criteria that fail to show a link? Or could the lack of evidence be due largely to the difficulty of studying this kind of problem with an approach that purports to produce 'hard evidence'?
posted by Dysk at 4:24 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Again I'm doubtful there is nonbiased scientific evidence to support this.

Well, the images used convey messages about how men and women interact with each other. Your personal anecdotes aside, as funny as they are alongside your repeated insistence for whatever you deem "nonbiased scientific evidence", there are numerous studies a few keywords away that show that even advertising messaging is grasped by children. The objection here is not anti-sex; on the contrary, parents should talk to their children about sex, and how men and women should treat one another, from an early age. The point is the parents should be having that talk. Gender messaging of the persistent, intrusive nature that informed adults can parse for themselves is not so easily parsed by children, and keeping such messaging out of the media that children can and do access in no way infringes upon any adult's ability to look at topless women.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:27 PM on July 19, 2013 [29 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans, since the personal experiences of women aren't compelling evidence, how about this intro article?
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:29 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


ishrinkmajeans - whose name I can;t help but read in a Glaswegian accent - I don't mean to dismiss your opposing view here, or to be patronising, but I've seen you participate in discussions involving sexism here and I get the impression that you haven't spent a lot of time around feminist theory, particularly where (mostly female) posters are coming from when they describe their experiences when it comes to media messages and how these have ended up influencing how we relate to other genders and each other.

I'm tired and boiling hot and not sure how I can point you to resources without coming off as a condescending dick, so I'll allow others to do so if they see fit. But please don't write off the actual experiences of actual women when it comes to dealing with this stuff, just because they can't cite peer-reviewed studies that back up what they have dealt with in their own lives.

As a white person, I'm fully able to believe institutional/societal racism exists, not because I've asked people to cite the Macpherson Report, but because people who have experienced it have written and spoken about it, and as a white person I don't expect to be fine tuned to that stuff, so it's good to hear people discussing it and letting me be aware. I open my mind to the same process when reading about those who are transgender (despite me never having been in a position where I have to question my gender identity or attempt to pass unnoticed as one different to my birth one) or to the experiences of those who are physically disabled. I don;t know what these are like to experience on a daily basis, especially amongst a society which decides that you should get on with it and stop being so pee cee. 'Evidence' will give me the idea that they exist, but for me, people's actual experiences go much further towards me actually understanding it.

Remember this: as a man, you haven't experienced the world as sexist in quite the same way - where you see a poster, a woman - remembering being asked to 'smile love', or told that she's too fat for that skirt, or steered away from STEM subjects because she won't be taken seriously - will see a little more evidence that, in some ways, we are living in a society which is institutionally sexist. It would do you a big favour if you take their views and experiences into account, even if you still find you don't agree with them.
posted by mippy at 4:30 PM on July 19, 2013 [68 favorites]


I'm no expert on these things but if the purpose of a flavored condom is to provide protection without impairing the experience, shouldn't it be, well, dick-flavored?
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:32 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am against all forms of government censorship, but hypocrite that I am, heavily censor what my children are exposed to. Personally, violence in all forms is my number one enemy and exposure to that is harder to censor than sex - especially considering my own aggressive demeanor.
posted by three blind mice at 4:32 PM on July 19, 2013


I don't want to be indelicate here, but there;s a reason why nobody's brought out penis-flavoured crisps.
posted by mippy at 4:33 PM on July 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


Does this "imprinting" cause social or psychological problems in later adulthood? Again I'm doubtful there is nonbiased scientific evidence to support this.

How many fucking times do we have to play this game where you assert whatever half-assed contrarianism pops into your head and then insist that the only evidence that can be used to refute it is a peer-reviewed journal article?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:34 PM on July 19, 2013 [63 favorites]


I'm no expert on these things but if the purpose of a flavored condom is to provide protection without impairing the experience, shouldn't it be, well, dick-flavored?

Wait, you aren't mint flavored? I thought everyone...

Perhaps I have said too much.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:37 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If we're at assuming null hypotheses are true, can I just ask if there's any hard unbiased scientific evidence for children being unaffected by this kind of exposure? No? Well, guess that means the opposite must be true, huh?
posted by Dysk at 4:37 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you're looking for theory and research on how children learn, that is far too wide and deep a field of study to be presented as 'evidence' in a Metafilter comment.

If it's some kind of double-blind study comparing children exposed to a sexist mainstream culture with children raised outside it that you want then no, it doesn't exist to my knowledge and probably wouldn't be ethically okay in any controllable form. What is being presented by myself and others here is theory (not necessarily itself lacking an evidence base, as the adventure into learning about learning you're about to embark on will illustrate), rather than conclusion.

Theory has generally been more than sufficient impetus for action on social issues, historically, and I think if that's a problem for you personally then this issue should be far, far from the top of any list of social changes, both pre-existing and proposed, that don't meet your standard.
posted by emmtee at 4:37 PM on July 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


[ishrinkmajeans, this is that thing that we keep asking you not to do. You are doing it again. Stop. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 4:38 PM on July 19, 2013 [31 favorites]


Foci for Analysis do you have any non-biased hard evidence that exposure to pornography is harmful to prepubescent children? I grew up with internet pornography and it didn't bother me.

Heh, you ask for non-biased hard evidence but in the same sentence you support your claims with some pretty vague anecdata.

The discussion isn't really about (Internet) porn but that ideas are constantly being disseminated in public by media/marketing that are harmful to kids because it distorts their understanding of what it means to be a good/successful person. Because what does a kid think when she or he seems a women exposing her breast on page 3 in the newspaper? If that's not a clear example of shaping girls into a specific role and boys into men who encourage that role, I don't know what is.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:39 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was a volunteer on Childline for a couple of years. If a child disclosed that, say, an older sibling or uncle or whatever was watching porn in front of them, or made then watch porn, that was classed along the spectrum of sexual abuse. Personally, I feel the same about kids being exposed to sexualised images on a daily basis just so companies can sell stuff.

It has no connection to an appropriate introduction to the concept of sex, differences between bodies, self-respect and lots of things that parents should and do talk to their children about. It's because of the dismissive idea that if a kid doesn't understand it s/he won't notice it and that's not true. They can see it, be confused, upset, unsettled by it (I remember hating seeing the page 3 girl when I was about 6 because my dad read the paper and it left me feeling kind of icky but I didn't know why.) They can ignore it too, sure, but it's the fact that they are forced to confront and process these images, and the subtext (women's bodies are Things with which to Pleasure Men and/or sell Other Things) when they shouldn't have to. Hell, I'm a grown woman and I shouldn't have to.
posted by billiebee at 4:42 PM on July 19, 2013 [21 favorites]


I am against all forms of government censorship, but hypocrite that I am, heavily censor what my children are exposed to.

This is the way society is supposed to work.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:43 PM on July 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


When I was about 8 years old I thought Corvettes were made for girls, because the advertisements always had girls in them. Took me a few more years to realize that I was mistaken. Corvettes were made for men to get girls (or so the advertisement's message was designed to impart). Kids pick up on messages and often get the message wrong.
posted by Mojojojo at 4:46 PM on July 19, 2013


Check perhaps "The Harm of Lads' Mags" as presented here. One quote seemed particularly relevant so I'll re-copy it here: "The evidence gathered in the review suggests a clear link between consumption of sexualised images, a tendency to view women as objects and the acceptance of aggressive attitudes and behaviour as the norm. Both the images we consume and the way we consume them are lending credence to the idea that women are there to be used and that men are there to use them."

Also, Internet porn is a pretty different animal from a topless shot on page 3 of a normal(ish) newspaper. I suspect people in this thread actually mostly agree that sexual expression is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. I think the problem is that we need to be careful about the other messages this kind of stuff sends beyond "sex is fun" and "naked people are sexy," things like "women, but not men, are sexual objects" or "men's sexual needs are more important than women's."
posted by en forme de poire at 4:48 PM on July 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


I am fairly sympathetic to this idea, but, often enough, I've seen people consider any non-heteronormative images, however mild, to be "too sexualized for children." Which makes me nervous. Not that the tabloids in question wouldn't likely agree with that view anyway.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:53 PM on July 19, 2013


What don't flavored condoms do?
posted by Navelgazer at 4:57 PM on July 19, 2013


Look like a dinosaur.
posted by emmtee at 5:01 PM on July 19, 2013


Ugh, I'm almost forty and it wasn't until the Internet came around (NSFW) that I realized that my nipples were not deformed and my body was not abnormal.

Even intellectually understanding that advertising is photoshopped, that models are selected for certain traits, that make-up and staging and lighting make a world of difference-- I still had an underlying belief that there was something wrong with my (completely normal) body.

It would be so nice to have a generation of children who aren't bombarded with plucked, processed, digitally altered, narrowly-selected women's bodies everywhere setting the bar for an impossible normal. Jesus, that would be so nice.
posted by headspace at 5:09 PM on July 19, 2013 [23 favorites]


ishrinkmajeans: "I hear the habanero condom is extra fun."

The really sad thing is that I actually have a story from an old Assassin game that relates to that.
posted by Samizdata at 5:14 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was about 8 years old I thought Corvettes were made for girls, because the advertisements always had girls in them. Took me a few more years to realize that I was mistaken. Corvettes were made for men to get girls (or so the advertisement's message was designed to impart). Kids pick up on messages and often get the message wrong.

You weren't wrong. Corvette = Barbie's car.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:16 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Note to self: avoid the dip at klangklangston's parties.

Try the mashed potatoes.
posted by klangklangston at 5:25 PM on July 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


When I was about 8 years old I thought Corvettes were made for girls, because the advertisements always had girls in them. Took me a few more years to realize that I was mistaken. Corvettes were made for men to get girls (or so the advertisement's message was designed to impart). Kids pick up on messages and often get the message wrong.

You weren't wrong. Corvette = Barbie's car.

I was right after all? I'll be damned...(shift in worldview).

That would explain a lot of things...

1) Drinking lots of beer makes you sexy,
2) Driving a black Escalade makes you important,
3) Watching Fox News makes you an informed citizen,
4) Maybe it is Maybelline.
posted by Mojojojo at 6:02 PM on July 19, 2013


emmtee: I'm all for giving it a try the other way around for a few decades, then we can report back and see if the last couple of generations are any less fucked up about women and sexuality.
Well, that was the other way around in Western countries not so long ago, that's still the case in many cultures. That did/does not prevent people from having fucked up ideas about women and sexuality, and much worse ones, actually. We don't exactly have a golden age to look up to or alternative models to follow. If showing the female body is problematic, not showing it or seriously limiting the way it can be shown sends some terribly wrong messages too, even unintended ones (is the female body shameful, dirty, taboo?). I'm not sure what the solution is. Perhaps a more casual, widespread, natural depiction of human bodies and human sexuality?
posted by elgilito at 6:02 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


My mom was once shopping in a department store when she saw a lady shopping with an unruly child, The mother finally got so exasperated that she said, "If you don't settle down, I'll wallop you!" and the kid said, "You can't wallop me, if you do I'll tell everyone that I saw Daddy's pee-pee in your mouth!"

I heard this story from Mom when I was about 10 and it was by a long shot not my first encounter with the idea (or even image) of a blowjob.

My point? You can't really do shit about 'exposing' kids to this stuff.
posted by jonmc at 6:13 PM on July 19, 2013


> Well, that was the other way around in Western countries not so long ago, that's still the case in many cultures

There was a recent time in Western countries when the mass-marketed image of women was as just plain old people?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:13 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


My point? You can't really do shit about 'exposing' kids to this stuff.

Was that your point? Sounds more like you didn't even read the thread.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:22 PM on July 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was a volunteer on Childline for a couple of years. If a child disclosed that, say, an older sibling or uncle or whatever was watching porn in front of them, or made then watch porn, that was classed along the spectrum of sexual abuse. Personally, I feel the same about kids being exposed to sexualised images on a daily basis just so companies can sell stuff.
Absolutely nobody thinks that letting kids see porn is a great idea. You are begging the question.

This argument is always going to be a flamewar because nobody has the unchallenged authority to decree what distinguishes "sexualised images" from mere pictures of people in various states of undress. To some people, a girl in a bikini is soft-core porn. To other people, that is just a girl in a bikini, and though her appearance may be scintillating to those of a certain persuasion, there is nothing inherently pornographic about a person not wearing clothes posing on a beach. Then again, there are mores that are almost universal in our culture: e.g., most people would probably agree that depictions of intercourse are porn and shouldn't be allowed in public (though some would approve of some winking innuendo). There's a little invisible demarcation line between those two categories of things, and it should not strain anyone's imagination too greatly to picture what the world would look like with that line nudged a few notches to the left or the right. Or if you suffer from a dearth of imagination, look at the Amish.

(This is, of course, taking the issue of gender and the depiction of women in the media out of the equation.)
posted by deathpanels at 6:39 PM on July 19, 2013


This is, of course, taking the issue of gender and the depiction of women in the media out of the equation.

That's kinda what people are taking issue with.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:40 PM on July 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


There was a recent time in Western countries when the mass-marketed image of women was as just plain old people?

Hey, you can't expect Capitalism to refrain from commodifying people as efficiently as possible, can you? It's like you expect dignity or something.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:40 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


My point? You can't really do shit about 'exposing' kids to this stuff.

Hmmm, judging by the photos that the Guardian readers have posted (there is a link in the FPP above), it would still be nice not to have lad mags and bit tits positioned right next to Dora the Explorer.

Or am I being a naive prig here?
posted by KokuRyu at 6:52 PM on July 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


Well, how do other countries handle the tits and dicks mags? How horribly twisted do their citizens grow up?

My guess: it makes little difference. People are pervs or creepers everywhere.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:29 PM on July 19, 2013


ishrinkmajeans: "Foci for Analysis do you have any non-biased hard evidence that exposure to pornography is harmful to prepubescent children? I grew up with internet pornography and it didn't bother me. I know girls who did too and they seem fine. It seems like if we're going to be making society wide policy decisions like this we should have some rational scientific basis to go on. You're statement "well they're going to engage in all kinds of messed up behavior" doesn't seem supported by my life experiences at all and seems speculative."

You are talking completely out of your ass and apparently cannot google.

Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. From the summary of consequences:
"Psychology offers several theories to explain how the sexualization of girls and women could influence girls’ well-being. Ample evidence testing these theories indicates that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs."

You can read pages and pages and pages about the negative consequences early exposure to sexualized images. I don't imagine it'll change your opinions, as neither evidence nor logic has in the past, and you form these opinions without even a 30-second google to see if they have any basis in objective reality, but there you go anyway.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:30 PM on July 19, 2013 [36 favorites]


What don't flavored condoms do?

Discourage chewing.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:52 PM on July 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Well, how do other countries handle the tits and dicks mags?

Expertly. And don't call me Mags.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:54 PM on July 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


One of these days we'll get a thread about sexism that doesn't fill up with dick jokes.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:45 PM on July 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


I doubt it.

The problem is that this is literally the only way to highlight the problem with the overtly sexualised portrayal of women in media because a large portion of men are utter fucking babies about having any sort of discussion where there's a possibility they may have to modify their behaviour.

"WHY CAN'T I HAVE JAZZ MAGS ON THE TOP SHELF DAMMIT!!!"
posted by fullerine at 2:45 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


any sort of discussion where there's a possibility they may have to modify their behaviour.

So what's your concrete proposal? No handwaving, what would you change? What law would you enact?
posted by Leon at 2:55 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ban children from newsagents.
Or anywhere advertising can be found.
posted by fullerine at 3:21 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ooh, nice. We could roll back the cigarette display laws then, too.

(Look, I'm sympathetic, I really am. I see the sea we're swimming in. But here I see whining met with dick jokes, and it's... not productive.)
posted by Leon at 3:31 AM on July 20, 2013


I'm sorry, you see whining?

Interesting. I see reasonable discussion met with dick jokes. But then, we women are very whiny aren't we? Don't forget nagging and hysterical, will you?
posted by billiebee at 4:10 AM on July 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


OK, sorry about the dick jokes; they are hard to resist when you are tired, at the end of a work week, and have had a beer. Still, the thread reads at times like a late stage MeTa thread.

I generally agree that we could do with much less sexualization of women in modern media and advertising. There are obvious examples like the gratuitous (in the sense of utterly unnecessary) breasts that are on display in pretty much any HBO-like drama these days (I am looking at you, A Game of Thrones, but you may just be the most blatant), but just the sheer volume of "provocative" women in ads is bludgeoning (I have been flying Southwest a bit lately, and there is a full page ad in their magazine for some kind of CeltoHooters franchise which is so ridiculous that it startles me every time I see it -- "come to our bar; we have tits and short skirts!"). Then there is Maxim and it's ilk which are really filling the Playboy market these days -- male "lifestyle" magazines made palatable by glossy women (who don't need to be completely naked anymore; you can get that on the internet) selling a glossy thought-free image of "fun" masculinity and consumerism. And that does not even get to the "Page 3 Girl," which may be the ur-image of HBO's "expository breasts."

So, yeah, it's not great, and it needs to be dealt with somehow. (And I agree that the outputs of this environment are really hard to measure objectively. Like racism and classism and homophobia, I think, to some degree we are all walking around with a massive sexism PTSD that bubbles up in unexpected and semi-hidden ways all over the place.) However, I get nervous (as I said more briefly upthread) when people start invoking "the children." Because there are a lot of things that some people don't want their children exposed to that I think their children should be exposed to -- healthy same-sex (or interracial) couples, for example, and once you accept the "protect the children" reason, there will be people trying to "protect" everyone using a much wider range of criteria than perhaps you intended. I am thinking of the way that Feminists like Dworkin and MacKinnon who rather eagerly got into bed with the Right Wing out of (I think) right-intentioned but wrong-headed reasons, with not such great consequences. The thin veneer of "protecting women's rights in the Arab World" popular among Right Wing pundits is a similar case.

So, how can we make lucrative and heavily capitalized spaces like advertising less sexist without leaving a backdoor for social conservatives to roll back political gains?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:54 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


We could establish a Ministry of Models. It would recruit a random sample of people from the general population, rather like jury duty. Instead of hiring professional models, people who wanted to publish commercial photographs and videos would have to employ government-approved models from the Ministry of Models. The models would wear government-approved garments that would protect the sexual purity of the models and the purity of the people viewing the advertisements, films, and magazines.
posted by Human Flesh at 8:44 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thank you for the link Eyebrows Mcgee, but I'm not sure that I like your characterization of me. I retract my earlier statement, I think that sexualization of girls can be harmful as shown by the evidence that you provided. But I would like to second GenjlandProust - I'm terrified of the right wingers getting ahold of the "moral agenda". I think sex and pictures of sexy people are awesome, whether it be boys or girls. I read things like the woman who was forced to end her burlesque show (as linked to by the Op) and it makes me really mad. Sex is fun!
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 8:56 AM on July 20, 2013


once you accept the "protect the children" reason, there will be people trying to "protect" everyone using a much wider range of criteria than perhaps you intended.

Well, it's not just an issue about "protecting children", it's also a women's issue. Anyway, the best thing to do if you don't like seeing tits & ass displayed next to a children's magazine with the heroine from Brave on the cover is to complain directly to the shop.

It worked in my neighbourhood. A new, independently-owned convenience store opened up and they had a ton of porno mags displayed. I suggested that maybe this was the wrong sort of thing for a corner store in a neighbourhood full of kids, and they removed the magazines.

Fundamentally, citizens have to be engaged on a local level to discuss and affect change.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:20 AM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


affect change

It certainly looks good. But it might get you into trouble with the theatre police.
posted by Wolof at 9:28 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


dammit
posted by KokuRyu at 11:33 AM on July 20, 2013


...complain directly to the shop.

It worked in my neighbourhood. A new, independently-owned convenience store opened up and they had a ton of porno mags displayed. I suggested that maybe this was the wrong sort of thing for a corner store in a neighbourhood full of kids, and they removed the magazines.


Excellent suggestion, though how the shop handled it is a bit of overkill.

Usually what shops do around here is put the magazines on the top shelf where kids can't reach, behind an opaque panel with just the title of the magazine peeking out over the top.

I don't know if there's a law enforcing that or if it's just common sense, but I can't imagine it'd be too hard to legislate. (Think of all those porn panel manufacturing jobs!)
posted by Sys Rq at 11:58 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does sexualization have to be visual? Can we say that people who use a seductive tone have sexualised their voices? What about wit, grace, charm, wealth, power, musical ability, and athletic ability? Those are known to arouse people's mating instincts. Are those benign forms of sexualization?
posted by Human Flesh at 12:22 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just checking. You're asking if a child hearing a seductive voice is comparable to them walking into a shop to buy sweets and seeing a woman with her tits out on the cover of Zoo / Nuts / the Daily Star / any number of adverts?

No. The answer is no. Glad I could help!
posted by billiebee at 12:51 PM on July 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


No, I'm not asking that.
posted by Human Flesh at 12:58 PM on July 20, 2013


ishrinkmajeans: I think sex and pictures of sexy people are awesome, whether it be boys or girls. I read things like the woman who was forced to end her burlesque show (as linked to by the Op) and it makes me really mad. Sex is fun!

From Spinal Tap:
Ian Faith: They're not gonna release the album... because they have decided that the cover is sexist.

Nigel Tufnel: Well, so what? What's wrong with bein' sexy?
posted by Len at 1:01 PM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


(Because there is a Spinal Tap quote for every occasion.)
posted by Len at 1:02 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does sexualization have to be visual? Can we say that people who use a seductive tone have sexualised their voices? What about wit, grace, charm, wealth, power, musical ability, and athletic ability? Those are known to arouse people's mating instincts. Are those benign forms of sexualization?

Hey, if you want to buy your kids nudie mags and turn them on to YouPorn or whatever, be my guest. Let us know how it great it turns out for them.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:08 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Around here it's usually done as a one-liner in these cases (i.e. someone said "sexist"), and people can either recognize the reference or not.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:09 PM on July 20, 2013


Well, apologies for not cleaving to the MeFi style guide.
posted by Len at 1:11 PM on July 20, 2013


Well, it's not just an issue about "protecting children", it's also a women's issue. Anyway, the best thing to do if you don't like seeing tits & ass displayed next to a children's magazine with the heroine from Brave on the cover is to complain directly to the shop.

Of course it's a women's issue (and a men's issue, too, and I wish men would talk more to men about it). But a lot of people (including the authors of one of the articles above) specifically frame it as "protecting children," and a lot of ill intent gets hidden under "family values." So how can we actually raise children in a better environment and live lives less mired in sexism while not emboldening the family values crowd?
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:12 PM on July 20, 2013


If we stop kids from buying alcohol, what's to stop them from banning adults buying alcohol? Or, for that matter, what's to stop them banning kids from drinking liquids of any kind???? This slippery slope cannot be allowed to stand!
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:13 PM on July 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ooo, Matt did one, even!
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:13 PM on July 20, 2013


George_Spiggott -

I kind of feel like you missed my point, which is that ishrinkmajeans was the one who was pulling the "what's wrong with being sexy?" defense, and – going by their previous contributions to MeFi – was doing it entirely unironically. But, you know, have at it.
posted by Len at 1:17 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Len, well said... your point was a bit lost in the familiarity of the trope. In my retroactive petty self-rationalizing defense, at least I provided an opportunity for you to clarify it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:20 PM on July 20, 2013


George -

No problem. At least we're not at the point where we're pondering the efficacy of dusting for vomit.
posted by Len at 1:24 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would be more concerned with seductive tones of voice if, say, daytime radio news were regularly interrupted by breathy 1-900 ads claiming to feature 19 year old women. I don't think this is the case in the UK though.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:08 PM on July 20, 2013


If we stop kids from buying alcohol, what's to stop them from banning adults buying alcohol? Or, for that matter, what's to stop them banning kids from drinking liquids of any kind???? This slippery slope cannot be allowed to stand!

Not sure if this is pointed at my comments or not, but, if so, it's missing the point entirely. If we set out to vastly reduce the amount of sexualized material publicly available ("to protect the children" or not, I suppose, depending on rhetoric), how do we protect the "sexually non-conforming?" If, as often observed, women are always defined by their gender, GLBT people (and potentially others) are always defined by their sexuality. Because of this, they are always under threat of being "excessively sexual" merely by existing. This is not so much a slippery slope as a very short step to Section 28-style banning of discussion of sexual differences in schools and the enforcement of heteronormitivity, "standard gender roles" and so on at least until a person becomes an adult. By which time, the damage of the closet is already well-established.

So, my question remains -- how do we address the legitimate problem in these articles without leaving the door open to other kinds of oppression? It's not like this hasn't happened before in many venues....
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:54 PM on July 20, 2013


Yeah, and you can ban cheesecake porn in newspapers without banning teaching about GLBT people in schools.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:34 PM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


If we set out to vastly reduce the amount of sexualized material publicly available

I think this is misstating the goal of these projects, which appears to be to reduce the amount of sexualized material targeted at hetero men in specific public spaces, such as newspapers and news stands. In the case of the No To Lads' Mags campaign, supermarkets like Tesco's in fact already have policies against stocking other "adult" titles. Anyway, none of this affects the ability of hetero men to find and buy sexualized material targeted to them.

As for LGBT people, I totally disagree - if anything, tamping down on this material in otherwise PG-rated publications would help to send the message that hetero men's sexual predilections are not somehow more special or normal than other people's.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:32 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


showbiz Liz I think you're comparing apples to oranges. We can ban sale of alcohol to minors without infringing on the rights of adults to partake in alcohol but we can't do so with scaling back sexual content in the media. It hasn't been so long ago in the US when we had obscenity laws restricting making sending pornography through the mail illegal (including dildos) which strikes me as very anti feminist. Plus in the last three links there are three different women arguing why this is a bad idea including a burlesque performer that is having her business censored.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 5:28 PM on July 20, 2013


I guess by can't censor I mean it is very difficult to and appears to be nonstraightforward as opposed to alcohol.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 5:31 PM on July 20, 2013


It hasn't been so long ago in the US when we had obscenity laws restricting making sending pornography through the mail illegal (including dildos) which strikes me as very anti feminist.

Well, so this is actually a perfect example. Because now you CAN send porn and dildos through the mail, and you can buy them in sex stores, but you can't buy them in the drugstore. You can rent porn from video stores, but it's behind a curtain. You can buy porno mags at newsstands in the US but they have black plastic over them. It's all available, probably more available to the average American than at any point in history, but it's only available to people who are seeking it out. THE SYSTEM WORKS. And putting one kind of restriction on where you can sell certain types of media has not, in fact, lead to a complete ban on that material.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:47 PM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Because now you CAN send porn and dildos through the mail, and you can buy them in sex stores, but you can't buy them in the drugstore."

Can't send porn or dildos everywhere through the mail. Plenty of the South has restrictions on that.
posted by klangklangston at 6:04 PM on July 20, 2013


We live in the age of the internet and porno, your 13 year old can find as many pictures of scantily clad ladies as he wants
So the answer is to block the internet and also homeschool them, and wait why did the clapping stop
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:13 PM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


There seems to be some unspoken assumptions about what kind of material is acceptable. My question wasn't rhetorical. Does sexualisation need to be visual? Are people only worried about the sexualisation of photographs and videos of women?

Maybe the difference between problematic photos of people wearing bathing costumes and a benign photos of people wearing bathing costumes is obvious to KokuRyu and Billiebee, but it isn't obvious to everyone.

These kind of discussions are often unproductive because people are loth to define their terms. Once you get censors to define their terms, they risk coming to the realisation that they don't have much in common with their fellow censors.

There also seems to be some enforcement difficulties. The Daily Sport, FHM, Nuts, and Zoo don't show penises entering vaginas and they don't show labia. This isn't a matter of displaying 18+ material. The Guardian article takes issue with an underwear advert and images of women in bikinis. It seems that people have different ideas about which forms of sexualisation are acceptable.

There's also the problem that results from the loudest faction dictating community standards. The unfortunate result is that retailers and publishers err on the side of repression. Indoctrinating children with the idea that sexualised images are shameful can have negative social consequences as well.
posted by Human Flesh at 7:28 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The post itself defined the terms, I thought, in that it clearly refers to the sexualisation of the High Street. I have no problem with a photo of someone in a bikini; I have a problem with a photo of someone in a bikini being used to sell a product. I have a problem with children being totally conditioned to accept that we use photos of women in bikinis to sell products because they see that everywhere from birth. I have bigger issues with the porn industry, but that's for another thread. Adults can make their own minds up. But just because the cover of Nuts doesn't show penetration, it "only" shows basically naked breasts, doesn't mean it doesn't have an affect on kids who see it all the time. Isn't that still called soft-core porn? Two women with their naked breasts pressed against each other so you can't see the nipples is fine for public display in a place where kids can see it no problem. That sends no message at all? That leaves no impression? You're only concerned if labia is involved? Why?

I know there won't be a ban on using sexualised images on the high street. Beyonce will appear half naked to sell perfume. Local beauty queens in bikinis will appear in local billboard ads to sell double glazing. Page 3 will continue and kids will look up from the shelf selling Peppa Pig comics to see Kelly Brook bending over in a corset and suspenders. It royally pisses me off that I have to try and ignore this shit, never mind that kids have no choice about it.

But it also pisses me off that we can't have a conversation about it, about the facts of this thread as introduced, without hearing that it's a slippery slope to banning all porn and all sexual enjoyment and representation of LGBT people, for pete's sake.
posted by billiebee at 2:39 AM on July 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Billiebee I think it is, or can be, a slippery slope. The Saudis think a girl walking down the street in a skirt is obscene. Once you start banning magazines from shelves you have to start laying down rules on what can be on display or not. What are the rules you would suggest? No pictures of skirts an inch above the knee? No pictures of the curvature of the breast? How do we measure that? Once you start going down this road you get stuck in a legalistic quagmire that represses as much as it "saves the children". Long standing "if it's pink it's not in print" rules are pretty easy to enforce - no labia, no nipples, no male genitalia. But what if I want to show fully clothed models in skin tight latex? Certainly they could be covered up to the necks and still be considered "lewd" by some, so again, what are the enforceable rules that can be proposed that aren't completely asinine?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 10:35 AM on July 21, 2013




Well if its about slippery slopes then the slippery slope works both ways, no? Now its lad mags on high street. Next its strippers in family restaurants!
posted by chapps at 11:09 AM on July 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Right now we don't allow erect penises on the cover of Time Magazine, yet we haven't instituted Sharia law! It's almost as if you can allow some things and not other things!
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:09 AM on July 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


klangklangston linking to a wikipedia article on slippery slope with a snarky title heading doesn't do anything to advance the discussion. Yes, slippery slope can be an argument that can be used fallaciously. However, there is real world evidence that many repressive cultures have used a fight for progressively stricter morality to turn a once thriving cosmopolitan culture into a repressive one (Saudi Arabi for example). And I can say this without being snarky and one shot linking to a wikipedia article on the Overton Window in response.

And yes, the slippery slope argument can be used in the other direction. You can feel free not to buy magazines with penises on them or take your family to a Hooters bar if you don't want however. Laws banning things are a whole lot more repressive than freedom to choose in a marketplace (at least in this instance - I'm no anarcholibertarian). I would suggest that doesn't mean we can still have our Hooters for those who want it (but man do their wings suck).
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 11:13 AM on July 21, 2013


My point was: right now, we don't allow certain kinds of sexual content in public places. Right this very moment. For example, no naked women on daytime network TV. No walking around in public with your cock hanging out. Do you have a problem with that? Do you think there should be a right to walk around with your cock out in the grocery store? Because your entire argument is coming across like "the exact level of permissiveness we have right now is the absolute only acceptable one and any slight change will destroy our civil liberties."
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:47 AM on July 21, 2013


Sure I think there should be rules that allow people to be naked outside if they want. There've been a lot of protest walks of women who are going around bare breasted because they think it's a double standard for men to be able to be shirtless and they can't be. If people want to be naked they should be able to. I think a place of business should be able to decide if they want naked people in their store (that is, I don't think nudism should be a protected class like a person's race), but if want to trim my hedges or walk down the street in the buff why shouldn't I be able to?
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 12:16 PM on July 21, 2013


You can feel free not to buy magazines with penises on them
That's nice. But I'd like to feel free to live in a society in which women's bodies are not sexualised and used as decoration wherever I look, not for my benefit, but for the benefit of the male gaze. I'd love to feel free not to be shown what I'm supposed to look like, all day, every day.

I'd really love to feel free to do that. But I can't, because I'm not. Unless I move far away, and I don't even know where.

All of this must look pretty different when it's all done for your benefit. You may not even notice it in that case.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:59 PM on July 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Too-Ticky, I don't subscribe to the theory of "male gaze". I actually find it very offensive to think that men's natural propensity to be attracted to attractive people is othered as a "male gaze" in feminist circles. I think that if I started coming up with a "female gaze" and started saying (implicitly or explicitly) how terrible typically desired qualities in a mate from a female perspective were I would be harshly criticized and rightly so. Demonizing half the population isn't a good way to further a point on pretty much anything in my opinion.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:24 PM on July 21, 2013


I actually find it very offensive to think that men's natural propensity to be attracted to attractive people is othered as a "male gaze" in feminist circles.

Being drawn to attractive people is not what the "male gaze" means. I know you like to be upset about men being "othered" but personally I'd like it if this thread could be kept on course, rather than people having to defend against your claims of sexism towards men. Please feel free to make a post showing how men are continually opressed by "feminist circles". For now, perhaps we could continue to discuss whether or not it is appropriate for children to see sexualised images on the High Street.
posted by billiebee at 2:49 PM on July 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I actually find it very offensive to think that men's natural propensity to be attracted to attractive people is othered as a "male gaze" in feminist circles.

You may perhaps not have a firm grasp on what the male gaze is, exactly. Attraction is not the problem. Erotica is not the problem. Objectification is the problem.
posted by ambrosia at 2:51 PM on July 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Objectification is the problem.

This + 1 million.
posted by billiebee at 2:58 PM on July 21, 2013


[Reminder to everyone that ishrinkmajeans has been explicitly asked to stop making the thread all about himself. Please stop helping. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 3:04 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The post itself defined the terms, I thought, in that it clearly refers to the sexualisation of the High Street.

People throw around the terms sexualisation, pornification, and objectification as if we use those terms in the same way. If you complain about something vague like 'sexualisation of the high street,' you can get a lot of people to nod their heads. If you complain about bikinis in adverts, then you won't find much support. Ideologues take advantage of this phenomenon.

Isn't that still called soft-core porn?

Some publishers would argue that soft-core porn shows nipples and/or genitalia while hardcore shows penetration.

That sends no message at all? That leaves no impression? You're only concerned if labia is involved? Why?

It could be argued that any image 'sends a message.' I didn't bring up slippery slope arguments. I just want people to be clear about the definition of sexualisation, and be clear about which forms of sexualisation are acceptable. This might be difficult because the term sexualisation is only used in a pejorative way. People sometimes object to children wearing makeup. Could it be said that a woman who applies makeup is sexualising her face? I might sexualise my public image by publishing romantic poetry, but it would be strange to hear someone use the word sexualisation in a morally neutral way.

I mentioned labia because they can be use to classify images. The BBFC is clear about what qualifies for R18 status. Can you be clear about what forms of sexualisation you like? If I were a publisher, I wouldn't know how to cater to your demands.

I have a problem with a photo of someone in a bikini being used to sell a product.

Would you have a problem with someone wearing a one-piece? What about a skin-tight wetsuit?
posted by Human Flesh at 3:23 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another shady tactic used by people like KokuRyu is to frame the debate in a way that suggests the choice is between some community standards vs. zero community standards instead of current communinty standards vs. different community standards.
posted by Human Flesh at 3:31 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


However, there is real world evidence that many repressive cultures have used a fight for progressively stricter morality to turn a once thriving cosmopolitan culture into a repressive one (Saudi Arabi for example).

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy (and has apparently been rated the 7th most authoritarian regime in the world). Additionally, Islamic clerics play a direct and fundamental role in the government. If the UK had no Parliament and no elections and all laws were created by the Queen and ratified by a council of Anglican ministers, this might be a more relevant example. Unlike the citizens of Saudi Arabia, citizens of the UK are free to argue each position on any given slippery slope separately, based on its specific merits and pitfalls.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:27 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Many people in the UK remember Mary Whitehouse's successful campaign against Alice Cooper and many of her other censorship campaigns. The UK was a parliamentary system when it banned D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover and James Joyce's Ulysses. In 1990, 16 gay men were given prison sentences after making consensual BDSM videos.

We also remember the 39 videos that were banned after the Video Recordings Act of 1984. It was also 1984 when the BBFC changed its name from the British Board of Film Censors to the British Board of Film Classification. The UK has a long and proud history of censorship.
posted by Human Flesh at 10:51 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm against censorship when it comes to adults making a choice about what they want to watch, read, do etc. I'm in favour of a discussion about what effects there are on children being forced to view certain things.

Would you have a problem with someone wearing a one-piece? What about a skin-tight wetsuit?

Is it selling the one piece? Is it promoting a swimwear range? Is it selling surfing or diving products? Then no. Is someone wearing it just to make the non-associated product appear sexier or more appealing to men? Then yes. Do I want books to be banned? No. Do I want to consider whether my 4 year old niece is affected by seeing half naked women ALL THE TIME? Yes, I really do.
posted by billiebee at 3:40 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ooh, nice. We could roll back the cigarette display laws then, too.

Cigarette displays have been recently banned in the UK too. It's been prohibited to advertise them for about fifteen years, but now shops and supermarkets have to leave the doors closed over the packets and only open them if someone specifically asks for 20 Mayfair or whathaveyou. The smoking age was raised to 18 a couple of years ago as well. (When I was a child in the late 80s/early 90s, I could go to the shop and buy cigarettes for my dad without the shopkeeper batting an eyelid at a seven-year old asking for Senior Service.)

When I was queuing in Sainsbury's yesterday a woman was asking something about cigarettes and the cashier said 'We're not allowed to show you' - I'm not sure why or what.
posted by mippy at 4:26 AM on July 22, 2013


Is it selling surfing or diving products? Then no.

If you're okay with women wearing underwear in underwear advertisements, then you might not want to affiliate with Zoe Williams, Child Eyes, and GuardianWitness. They take issue with window displays that *gasp* show women wearing thong underwear.

Is someone wearing it just to make the non-associated product appear sexier or more appealing to men?

Perhaps this sounds like petty nit-picking, but I feel that you're unfairly polarising the debate. Advertisements that show skin can appeal to men and women.
posted by Human Flesh at 4:44 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Having just flown back from Rome about a week ago I have to say that they seem to manage without having too much of a problem. An A4 poster in a pharmacy window had a naked female breast on full display but I was certainly more surprised than anyone local walking by. Time spent in France many years ago where shampoo ads featuring half naked woman in a shower rubbing suds all over didn't cause the Earth to tremble (though my teenage knees were certainly doing so).

Despite the fact that our continental cousins have this level of acceptance, I do find myself thinking "Oh, that's a bit much" when confronted with the vast amounts of over-sexualised imagery. I'm pretty much of the opinion that rolling back social changes is next to impossible however (Cameron's ridiculous attempt to "stop the internet" being a massive failure waiting to happen imho) and as a result I think the best I can do is teach my children well enough that they understand how best to navigate the world in which they will grow up in.

I am personally more concerned about relentlessly crass consumerism than the female form. Sex sells and I will teach my kids that 90% of what they see will be designed to elicit this aroused reaction when they see a product (I am apparently a fucking boring dad. Walks around town will be such a treat!). As the father to one son and two daughters I will also be doing everything I can to teach them each about sensible body image, understanding women's issues as best as I can teach them and whatever else I can do to set them straight about the things they see when they walk out the door, or worse, when they check my search history.
posted by longbaugh at 5:44 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]






I don't see why this is necessary. If kids get hold of porn, it's via mobile phones (which tend to have content filters by default - my old smartphone was because it was on my SO's contract) or home/school computers, which parents can install blocks on (though granted, not all parents are sufficiently au fait with the net - my mum probably doesn't even know there's such a thing as internet porn). I still stand by my view that one essentially has to choose to consume porn, and that makes it distinctly different from the likes of Page 3.

Besides - and I know this because I'm one of the dirty censors HumanFlesh is cross with - R18 certs are not granted to porn films that appear to contain non-consensual sexual contact, people who appear underage, or anything else that would be illegal in real life. The number of films in total banned by the BBFC each year is these days very low - James Ferman was notorious for being overly strict, especially after the James Bulger case, and the 'video nasties' which have remained unavailable to the public are films such as Nazi Death Camp. If they're applying the same conditions to online films - and forgive me if I'm wrong - how will this make a difference?

My understanding, also, is that if one wants to find child porn online, it's not simply a case of typing 'sexy kids' into Google - they tend to be shared by incognito groups. I would wager that the vast majority of those who use online porn not only would have no remote desire to see paedophilic pornography, but would have no idea how to find it.

(As an advertising regulator (IANYAR) it isn't so much films which concern us as video games - games can be infinitely more violent and realistic than films these days, and we often have to ask trailers to tone it down, as although someone who purchases an 18 cert game knows what they're in for, someone coming across a gory ad in the middle of Crossroads is not prepared for it and possibly won't like it. In terms of point of sale, people still think that a 15 rating is an age suggestion, rather than a classification as films are classified - hence parenting boards being full of threads asking whether it's OK to buy their seven year old Call of Duty for Christmas.)
posted by mippy at 7:03 AM on July 22, 2013


Magazines are dying. Who still masturbates while looking at print media? Truckers? The elderly? The Lose The Lads Mags campaign seems like an attempt to fire a slingshot at a sinking ship in order to declare victory. What should we go after next? Sexualised daguerreotypes? Objectifying telegraphs? Maybe we should clean up the filth that's circulating on telex networks. Let's put an end to dirty fax transmissions!
posted by Human Flesh at 7:37 AM on July 22, 2013


Nobody's trying to criminalise masturbating, for chrissakes. They're objecting to what they see as demeaning images of women in public places such as supermarkets where one should be able to pop in for their sausage, toad in the hole or a pair of juicy melons without being subjected to unpleasant innuendo.

I can't really be too specific because I like having a job and stuff, but some companies advertise products that should be of equal interest to both sexes (think, I dunno, bread or electricity rather than lingerie or body spray for men) using images of scantily clad women to lure in the punter. What that says to me is that company is not interested in attracting me as a female, and so I don't allow them the discourtesy of attempting to take my money.

I'm entirely comfortable with sexy women being sexy, but what I do not appreciate is women being used as general decoration, particularly when a company doesn't believe that advertising to attract women too (or gay men, I guess) is worth the bother.
posted by mippy at 7:42 AM on July 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Sorry if I wasn't clear. Magazines will fail with or without The Lose The Lads Mags campaign. Most magazines are on the wrong side of history.
posted by Human Flesh at 7:50 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Time spent in France many years ago where shampoo ads featuring half naked woman in a shower rubbing suds all over didn't cause the Earth to tremble

That kind of thing actually doesn't really bother me as much. (Except for making me wonder why on earth someone would only be half naked while taking a shower).
It's for shampoo, so showing the product being used in a shower makes sense; being naked while taking a shower makes sense too. There is a very clear and non-awkward answer if a small child asks 'Mommy, why isn't that lady wearing any clothes?'

Of course, there is a preference for women demonstrating this sort of product. But at least there is a link between the nudity and the product. And not all nudity is sexualised.
posted by Too-Ticky at 8:30 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


They're objecting to what they see as demeaning images of women in public places such as supermarkets where one should be able to pop in for their sausage, toad in the hole or a pair of juicy melons without being subjected to unpleasant innuendo.

Will Childeyes take the advertising industry by storm? Probably not, but don't let that get you down. We have some great venues for moral grandstanding. They have a blog, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. The important thing is that we get the feeling of moral superiority.
But in all societies the common people must live to some extent against the existing order. The genuinely popular culture of England is something that goes on beneath the surface, unofficially and more or less frowned on by the authorities. One thing one notices if one looks directly at the common people, especially in the big towns, is that they are not puritanical. They are inveterate gamblers, drink as much beer as their wages will permit, are devoted to bawdy jokes, and use probably the foulest language in the world. They have to satisfy these tastes in the face of astonishing, hypocritical laws (licensing laws, lottery acts, etc. etc.) which are designed to interfere with everybody but in practice allow everything to happen. Also, the common people are without definite religious belief, and have been so for centuries. The Anglican Church never had a real hold on them, it was simply a preserve of the landed gentry, and the Nonconformist sects only influenced minorities. And yet they have retained a deep tinge of Christian feeling, while almost forgetting the name of Christ. The power-worship which is the new religion of Europe, and which has infected the English intelligentsia, has never touched the common people. They have never caught up with power politics. The ‘realism’ which is preached in Japanese and Italian newspapers would horrify them. One can learn a good deal about the spirit of England from the comic coloured postcards that you see in the windows of cheap stationers’ shops. These things are a sort of diary upon which the English people have unconsciously recorded themselves. Their old-fashioned outlook, their graded snobberies, their mixture of bawdiness and hypocrisy, their extreme gentleness, their deeply moral attitude to life, are all mirrored there.
From George Orwell's England Your England, 1945

P.S. Mippy, I like your style and I'm not trying to call you out as a hypocrite. Thank you for posting different sides of the argument. I'm saying that sincerely.
posted by Human Flesh at 8:46 AM on July 22, 2013


There's a big difference between being generally puritanical and thinking that perhaps straight men shouldn't be catered to at the expense of young women, especially when both men and women of all orientations currently have the easiest access to sexy material and pornography that has ever been enjoyed in the history of ever.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:31 AM on July 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm entirely comfortable with sexy women being sexy, but what I do not appreciate is women being used as general decoration, particularly when a company doesn't believe that advertising to attract women too (or gay men, I guess) is worth the bother.

I just wanted to highlight this sentence because I think it's interesting that while people have pointed this out over and over again in this thread, I haven't seen any responses to this issue from the standpoint of someone critical of these campaigns. It seems like images designed to arouse straight men are being treated as a proxy for sexually charged imagery in general, which elides the reality that young women specifically bear the overwhelming brunt of sexual objectification. I think we would be having a very different discussion if images of men in wet Speedos were equally likely to be used to hawk newspapers, magazines, and otherwise non-sexual products.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:44 AM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think we would be having a very different discussion if images of men in wet Speedos were equally likely to be used to hawk newspapers, magazines, and otherwise non-sexual products.

Yeah- then maybe men would understand how it feels to be constantly bombarded with the message that their bodies are playthings for others?
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:01 AM on July 22, 2013


>>I'm entirely comfortable with sexy women being sexy, but what I do not appreciate is women being used as general decoration, particularly when a company doesn't believe that advertising to attract women too (or gay men, I guess) is worth the bother.

>I just wanted to highlight this sentence because I think it's interesting that while people have pointed this out over and over again in this thread, I haven't seen any responses to this issue from the standpoint of someone critical of these campaigns. It seems like images designed to arouse straight men are being treated as a proxy for sexually charged imagery in general, which elides the reality that young women specifically bear the overwhelming brunt of sexual objectification.


Unfortunately, objectification of women doesn't just get male consumers. Using images of scantily-clad, impossibly "attractive" women is the #1 way to make women feel inadequate, which is the #1 way to target beauty products at women.

Take the obvious example of Axe/Lynx body spray. Ostensibly its ad campaign is just sending that tired old message to men (young boys, really) that smelling like a dead skunk will make models in bikinis come running, but it also sends the message to female viewers about how they need to look in order for men to find them attractive. All bullshit, but effective. Then women are bombarded with many times more ads for products to cure them of every aspect of their natural hideousness. (Incidentally, Axe/Lynx is made by Unilever, who also makes that oh-so-feminist "Real Beauty" beauty product, Dove.)
posted by Sys Rq at 10:42 AM on July 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Perhaps this sounds like petty nit-picking, but I feel that you're unfairly polarising the debate. Advertisements that show skin can appeal to men and women.

I apologise if I'm polarising the debate. But yes, I do think its a bit unfair to ask a specific question and then complain I'm polarising the debate when I give an answer in good faith. But we're debating something, it's all to the good.

Your argument seems to be "but sexy is good." I can't see anyone saying it isn't. Let me just be clear: I love all the following in no particular order - tits, bums (front and back), cocks, skin, attractive people, sexytimes of all kinds and various types of filth, written and images. (I had to substitute a word there that I'd normally use, which begins with C, just to point out that there are subtle forms of censorship we may comply with, even if its not totally our choice, because we accept that some things are offensive to a larger grouping. We recognise boundaries and don't want to cause any harm. It doesn't meant we don't get to say anything because a little censorship always leads to total censorship.) However I'm an adult and I get to choose when and where I access any or all of the above. The difference is that no matter what harm it may or may not do, children, with no say in the matter, are basically being constantly told LOOK AT THIS! We will accept any issues it gives them just so we don't have to lose out in any way. It seems kind of selfish and bordering on abusive (this is just my personal feeling.)

This is about context, which is what I'm trying to say when I'm talking about women's bodies being used to sell something rather than some kind of celebration of adult sexuality. It's the same as the women on the front of FHM etc. You can say "skin is appealing to men and women" but I think you're being disingenuous. Because as well you know, the skin on display is usually not just "skin" to appeal to all. It's skin designed to appeal to a heterosexual male. I understand that men get a bit defensive at the thought of losing any Patriarchy Priveleges, and Lord knows its hard to find naked images of women so the massive inconvenience of not having it on display at the supermarket is not to be underestimated.

So what about not banning anything, but actively pursuing the real censorship that exists. Namely, that if you're going to allow sexual images then they have to represent all gazes. Because here are a few images that can be very sexual to many that actually get censored out of sight in our society:
rolls of fat, black skin, cellulitey thighs, small boobs, leg hair on women, facial hair on women, any hair on women, saggy skin, knobbly knees, pigeon chests, beer bellies, wonky teeth, lazy eyes, asymetrical boobs, asymetrical anything, gay men kissing, gay men doing anything, Trans* people full stop... I could go on.

You are not defending a utopia where all of sexuality is expressed and we're looking to curtail some of that. You're defending a society which still thinks its ok to use a (normally white, young, thin, large breasted, toned etc) woman to decorate products and who cares if kids grow up with body image issues / ideas about women's role in society.
posted by billiebee at 10:50 AM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your argument seems to be "but sexy is good."

I think people can avoid some misunderstandings when they summarise other people's positions, so I appreciate the effort, but that wasn't my argument. Out of all the people in this thread, you made the best attempt to answer some of my questions about which forms of sexualisation are acceptable. Still, I'm not clear about which body parts you would like to see in which contexts, and how you plan to enforce those regulations.

You are not defending a utopia where all of sexuality is expressed and we're looking to curtail some of that.

I'm having trouble parsing that sentence.

You're defending a society which still thinks its ok to use a (normally white, young, thin, large breasted, toned etc) woman to decorate products and who cares if kids grow up with body image issues / ideas about women's role in society.

When did I defend a society? I don't think that the newsagents and advertisements in my neighbourhood are perfect, but I haven't found an organisation that I would trust with the power to go around fixing newspapers, magazines and adverts.
posted by Human Flesh at 11:45 AM on July 22, 2013


>You are not defending a utopia where all of sexuality is expressed and we're looking to curtail some of that.

>>I'm having trouble parsing that sentence.


She meant: people who have a problem with Page Three and similar things are not, contrary to popular opinion, merely Evil Nanny-State Anti-Pleasure Harridans who want to eliminate sexuality from the public sphere. Rather, they are concerned that the extraordinarily narrow depiction of women's bodies and sexuality in modern society serves to warp the body images of the 99.9% of women who don't look like models. And they don't think it "celebrates sexuality" to show women an image of a hot young thin blonde white submissive half-nude woman looking adoringly up at a man and say "look, see, THIS is what sexuality looks like!"
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:05 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


A number of people have said similar things, but I'm more interested in how Billiebee is going to curtail the employment of current Page Three models, and who is going to enforce the racial, hair colour, BMI, age, and hirsute index quotas.
posted by Human Flesh at 1:43 PM on July 22, 2013


Well, I'm not going to curtail anything, for sadly I am not (yet*) The Boss of everyone. And, as well you know, no Ministry of Acceptable Bodies will be established. I don't think it's that much use wandering down hypothetical blind alleys. I was making the point that arguing to save the status quo isn't necessarily a good thing in terms of fighting censorship or freedom of expression; quite the opposite.

So to try and get this away from some kind of personal back and forth, maybe it could be widened out to what practical steps could be taken? So, for example, what if reading material that was deemed to have an adult audience had a plain outer cover? (I guess this might be similar to the plain packaging stuff around cigarettes, but tbh I know nothing about that so Im not sure what the arguments for and against that are.) So any adult can lift it and open it to the "real" front cover, without any sealed packaging or anything. So it's no real disadvantage to the adult who makes the choice to read it, and it means that kids don't have to see it. Yes, kids and teenagers can also lift them if they can reach the top shelf, but it's doing something small and practical to stop the casual inflicting of this stuff on kids who can't do anything about it.

Now, I know the publishing industry wouldn't be happy about the cost, and from a marketing/merchandising pov it's not ideal. But, well, tough.

*my time will come
posted by billiebee at 1:59 PM on July 22, 2013


18+ covers already exist in the UK. Lads' magazines are not classified as adult-only material.
posted by Human Flesh at 2:05 PM on July 22, 2013


Well maybe that's the bit that needs to change? What exactly is the target age demographic for Nuts? Who decides this and what guidelines are in place?
posted by billiebee at 2:10 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nuts doesn't show nuts, labia, anuses, or penises. I'm not sure which demographic they target.

Guidelines on Displaying Adult / Top Shelf Titles
posted by Human Flesh at 2:22 PM on July 22, 2013


Thanks for the link. It shows that there are guidelines, rather than regulations, so perhaps that could be strengthened. And people should know that they can request that their local corner shop not stock particular titles. Of course, these don't apply to supermarkets.

I'm wondering why it's ok to show (practically) naked breasts? Who decides labia aren't ok but breasts are? Who decides breasts are ok, but nipples aren't? Would it be outrageous to suggest that if a magazine is deemed not to be 18+ then no underwear or swimwear on the front cover?

Again, I'm asking the question not laying down the law.
posted by billiebee at 2:31 PM on July 22, 2013


Well, there's the Obscene Publications Act of 1964, but nobody bothers to enforce it because we have a nebulous concept of community standards and voluntary regulation from within the industry. Now's your chance to dust off some old blue laws and take your newsagent to court!
posted by Human Flesh at 2:41 PM on July 22, 2013


I guess I care more about his/her employment than that of Page 3 girls.

I think it's totally possible, but totally improbable, that a review of what is acceptable, enforceable etc should take place. You can't argue that community standards are too nebulous to pin down - there are lots of collective, community standards.

I think the real problem is that the people who make the guidelines are by and large the consumers, in this case. Nobody who could feasibly do anything about this stuff is going to be the guy in the room who says "We shouldn't be seeing as many tits everywhere, guys. It's bad for women."
posted by billiebee at 2:50 PM on July 22, 2013


Just to add:
Tesco banned people wearing pyjamas.

So apparently they can make a judgement and enforce censorship on the grounds that patrons might be offended. That's an interesting contrast, don't you think? An actual, real woman can be banned from Tescos because she is wearing pyjamas (which I'm imagining cover her from head to foot.) in case she causes offence. But all the covers of all the lads mags are perfectly fine. What is that about, exactly?
posted by billiebee at 3:03 PM on July 22, 2013


Who decides labia aren't ok but breasts are?

60 years ago, people would flip-out over nipples, but now we're mostly okay with them. You can start an anti-nipple campaign, but I wouldn't recommend it.

Nobody who could feasibly do anything about this stuff is going to be the guy in the room who says "We shouldn't be seeing as many tits everywhere, guys. It's bad for women."

You're setting yourself up for failure if you use that kind of language. This is how you should run your campaign: First, tell people that you're trying to protect children. It can sound paternalistic if you're too keen on protecting the delicate womenfolk. Who's against protecting children? Bad people, that's who.

Don't be too clear about the kind of material that you're targeting. Stick to vague concepts like objectification, sexualisation and hegemony. If people ask too many questions, make counter-accusations. Claim that your opponents support misogyny, the patriarchy, fat-shaming, and the sexualisation of young girls. You can hint that your opponents support paedophilia, but it's probably best to keep the paedophile card in your holster.
posted by Human Flesh at 3:12 PM on July 22, 2013


The paedophile card? What?

I think I have not been vague. I think I have been quite clear in both general and specific detail in terms of what I believe, and suggested some practical steps towards that. I understand we won't end up convincing each other. I'm happy enough having a discussion. However I think I might stop hogging the thread for a while so I'll step out.
posted by billiebee at 3:25 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


You were being sincere, so I suppose it was a bit rude for me to turn on the snark. My tactics were meant for all readers, not just you, Billiebee. Honestly, community standards are the result of a Nash equilibrium.

My point was that people will employ 'public interest' tropes and impugn the motive of defectors if they sense that the Overton window is in their favour.
posted by Human Flesh at 3:37 PM on July 22, 2013


I think we should argue for or against (e.g.) a more discreet display policy of lads' mags on its own merits, and not based on what some other hypothetical person taking the same position might disingenuously argue.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:20 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm wondering why it's ok to show (practically) naked breasts?

I have a problem with a photo of someone in a bikini being used to sell a product.

Is it selling the one piece? Is it promoting a swimwear range? Is it selling surfing or diving products? Then no. Is someone wearing it just to make the non-associated product appear sexier or more appealing to men? Then yes.

Would it be outrageous to suggest that if a magazine is deemed not to be 18+ then no underwear or swimwear on the front cover?

So your proposal is that any material that shows women's torso skin should be quarantined to an adults-only section. In order to help publishers comply, we could make an illustration that would shade in the forbidden parts of the body. Exceptions would be made for underwear advertisements and advertisements for products associated with swimming, surfing, and diving.

Publishers would be exempt from the above restrictions if their models had one or more of the following characteristics:

"because here are a few images that can be very sexual to many that actually get censored out of sight in our society:
rolls of fat, black skin, cellulitey thighs, small boobs, leg hair on women, facial hair on women, any hair on women, saggy skin, knobbly knees, pigeon chests, beer bellies, wonky teeth, lazy eyes, asymetrical boobs, asymetrical anything, gay men kissing, gay men doing anything, Trans* people full stop... I could go on. "


Is that correct? Do these rules apply to moving images as well? So Baywatch would be adults-only material. Gidget? Adults-only.

I suppose real beaches would become adult-only places as well. This would reduce the number of children who drown.
posted by Human Flesh at 1:41 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suppose real beaches would become adult-only places as well. This would reduce the number of children who drown.

Watch your step on this slope, folks, it's pretty slippery!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:45 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


'Torso' is not a great word to use when you mean breasts. Most of my torso does not consist of breasts.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:05 AM on July 23, 2013


I don't think it's fair to say that I'm making a slippery slope argument. I'm not proposing rules. I'm just trying to interpret Billiebee's proposal. People seem reluctant to give specific heuristics to publishers.
posted by Human Flesh at 2:10 AM on July 23, 2013


'Torso' is not a great word to use when you mean breasts. Most of my torso does not consist of breasts.

So backs and shoulders are okay? What about abdomens? I believe Gilligan's Island had a no-exposed-navel policy.
posted by Human Flesh at 2:24 AM on July 23, 2013


I'm not saying anything is or isn't okay. I'm just saying that we were talking about breasts, and then all of a sudden it seems we're talking about the whole upper body.

Are you sure this is all in good faith? Or is the snark still on?
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:28 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is that correct? Do these rules apply to moving images as well? So Baywatch would be adults-only material. Gidget? Adults-only.

I suppose real beaches would become adult-only places as well. This would reduce the number of children who drown.


I'm not sure how helpful it is to move the goalposts.

I have not been talking about moving images, or about real life people. I have been talking about the original post - that is, images which children are exposed to on the High Street without choice, for example the covers of lads' mags and images in advertising. Parents can turn Baywatch off. They can choose to bring their kids to a beach, a nudist beach, or no beach at all. They can't bring their child to the supermarket and hide every copy of FHM before they start their shopping. That's the difference to me.
posted by billiebee at 2:54 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Are you sure this is all in good faith? Or is the snark still on?

If I were being disingenuous (i.e. the new rules were obvious to you and me), you could point to a place where the new rules were clearly presented. I do have a goal in mind, though. I wanted to demonstrate that even people who support Losing The Lads' Mags will have different ideas about what kinds of material are permissible. It's easy to say 'I know it when I see it.' It's hard to come up with heuristics that other people could effectively enforce on your behalf.
posted by Human Flesh at 3:04 AM on July 23, 2013


They can't bring their child to the supermarket and hide every copy of FHM before they start their shopping.

Feel free to amend what I wrote. That's why I wrote it. If I removed everything from this post after 'Is this correct?', Would you agree with it?
posted by Human Flesh at 3:10 AM on July 23, 2013


So your proposal is that any material that shows women's torso skin should be quarantined to an adults-only section.

It's interesting you say 'women's torso skin' and not 'all torso skin'. I guess its because, you're right, it is normally women's skin on display. However, I would extend the debate to 'Men's Health', as I'm not sure what effect it has on young boys to be conditioned to believe that the acquiring of a six-pack is the ultimate goal of manhood.

In order to help publishers comply, we could make an illustration that would shade in the forbidden parts of the body.

I'll chalk this one up to snark.

Exceptions would be made for underwear advertisements and advertisements for products associated with swimming, surfing, and diving.

Ok, then, that seems reasonable.

It's hard to come up with heuristics that other people could effectively enforce on your behalf.

Actually, it's easy to come up with practical ideas. It's hard to debate them in any useful sense when the rebuttal appears to be 'I suppose real beaches would become adult-only places as well.'
posted by billiebee at 3:13 AM on July 23, 2013


I'll chalk this one up to snark.

That's not snark. Too-Ticky objected to the torso rule. An illustration would help. Are midriff baring clothes acceptable?
posted by Human Flesh at 3:20 AM on July 23, 2013


So backs and shoulders are okay? What about abdomens? I believe Gilligan's Island had a no-exposed-navel policy.

So your proposal is that any material that shows women's torso skin should be quarantined to an adults-only section.

I suppose real beaches would become adult-only places as well.

Are midriff baring clothes acceptable?


The language you're using here strongly suggests heavy sarcasm and mockery, so I think people wondering if you're being disingenuous can be forgiven. The suggestion to just put magazines like FHM and such on a higher shelf behind one of those obscuring barriers that has the title poke out the top is perfectly reasonable, and restricts no one's freedom.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:26 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's not snark. Too-Ticky objected to the torso rule.

That's not my reading of Too-Ticky's comment. I didn't see anyone making a 'torso rule' except you. I believe the distinction between torso and breasts was being made. And your proposal was snarky. Unless you're seriously proposing some kind of illustration to publishers?

I'm wondering if you have any specific proposals, or are you happy just to keep everything as it is? If that's the case that's no problem, that's your position. It's just you keep saying no one is putting any definite proposals forward, yet you're arguing with those that are put forward, while not contributing any of your own.
posted by billiebee at 3:28 AM on July 23, 2013


I didn't see anyone making a 'torso rule' except you.

I don't think we're on the same page. I thought you just agreed that my interpretation of your rules was correct until I got to the moving image clause. Try to bridge the inferential distance between us. It's rude to assume that I know what your ideal newsagent looks like.

It's just you keep saying no one is putting any definite proposals forward, yet you're arguing with those that are put forward, while not contributing any of your own.

Actually, it's easy to come up with practical ideas.

Could you please point to a protocol and state how that protocol would be enforced? Please don't say 'move the lad's magazines to the top shelf.' Plenty of magazines that are not classified as 'lads' magazines' show women in bathing costumes.

I'd also like to know if I understand the objectives of the campaign. Are we trying to stop people from comparing themselves to models on the covers of magazines?
posted by Human Flesh at 3:51 AM on July 23, 2013


I believe the distinction between torso and breasts was being made.
Exactly. I did not talk about any rules. I just wanted those goal posts to stay put.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:01 AM on July 23, 2013


Okay, Too-Ticky objected to the torso clause in my summary of Billiebee's rules. Is that correct?
posted by Human Flesh at 4:03 AM on July 23, 2013


I thought you just agreed that my interpretation of your rules was correct

Reeeally don't want to get into 'I said/you said'. Honestly, I'm not making any 'rules'. I've only offered some ideas for debate.

For example: lads' mags be reclassified as 18+?
Regulations, rather than guidelines, to exist with regards to display of material?
No underwear or swimwear on the front cover of publications deemed not to have an 18+ audience?
18+ magazines to have plain front covers?
A broader use of models in advertising?
A review of the policies around displays of material in places which children access?

I'm putting question marks after all these, as I am not saying 'this is what we should do'. I'm saying 'what do you think of doing this?' It's a subject close to my heart, so I really would like to have a genuine conversation about these things.
posted by billiebee at 4:04 AM on July 23, 2013


Mind you, my summary was provisional. That's why I suggested an illustration where we could shade in the forbidden parts of the body.
posted by Human Flesh at 4:07 AM on July 23, 2013


I told you what I said. I also told you what I didn't say.
I'm not going to keep telling you. It's not in the best interest of the discussion.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:21 AM on July 23, 2013


lads' mags be reclassified as 18+?

Wouldn't this provide an incentive for lads' mags to simply change their titles so that they're no longer considered lads' mags? I'm guessing that the objectionable content within lads' mags can be found in other places.

Regulations, rather than guidelines, to exist with regards to display of material?

That's going to require a coalition. Do you think your regulations will be popular? I don't think most people are as bothered by swimsuit models as you seem to be. That's why it's more politically useful to speak out against objectification and sexualisation instead of bikini photos. Yes, I understand the that those are different things; it's still politically useful to emphasise the motive over the means.

No underwear or swimwear on the front cover of publications deemed not to have an 18+ audience?

You understand that strip clubs and the film industry have a long history of skirting blue laws by using things like body paint, pasties, c-strings, and catsuits, right? Would propose regulations on how form fitting a garment would be?

18+ magazines to have plain front covers?

Doesn't the current opaque top shelf suffice?

A broader use of models in advertising?

Didn't you declare this unenforceable earlier in the thread?

A review of the policies around displays of material in places which children access?

That's happening right now.
posted by Human Flesh at 4:54 AM on July 23, 2013


Unless you're seriously proposing some kind of illustration to publishers?

I certainly would produce an illustration if changing photo policies were a priority of mine. Wouldn't you? Surely you wouldn't just trust the intuition of the magazine staff, the distributors, and the censors. How would expect them to accurately follow your orders without an illustration?
posted by Human Flesh at 5:27 AM on July 23, 2013


Would propose regulations on how form fitting a garment would be?

How would expect them to accurately follow your orders without an illustration?


Sorry, I should have written:

Would you propose regulations on how form-fitting a garment would be?

How would you expect them to accurately follow your orders without an illustration?
posted by Human Flesh at 7:14 AM on July 23, 2013


Wouldn't this provide an incentive for lads' mags to simply change their titles so that they're no longer considered lads' mags?

I'm not sure what you mean by this. I think there would be a definition of what 'lads' mags' constituted, rather than singling out specific titles. It would be judged on content. Yes, this content is available in other places. Not all of it directly exposed to children.

That's going to require a coalition. Do you think your regulations will be popular? I don't think most people are as bothered by swimsuit models as you seem to be. That's why it's more politically useful to speak out against objectification and sexualisation instead of bikini photos.

I don't think they'd be popular with straight men, no. I think you seem to be hung up on the swimwuit thing a little more than me, what with referencing Baywatch, actual beaches etc. I was using the idea of 'woman in bikini' (which you brought up first - Maybe the difference between problematic photos of people wearing bathing costumes and a benign photos of people wearing bathing costumes is obvious to KokuRyu and Billiebee, but it isn't obvious to everyone.) in adverts to highlight the difference between a semi-naked body in and of itself, as opposed to one used to sell something. So that's me, speaking out about objectification and sexualisation. Which is kind of what this thread is about, I thought. It's surely useful to have practical action alongside political discussion?

You understand that strip clubs and the film industry have a long history of skirting blue laws by using things like body paint, pasties, c-strings, and catsuits, right?

You know that children aren't normally consumers of strip clubs and films which are sanctioned by blue laws? So, I guess, naked tits with nipple pasties wouldn't make the cut on a cover which will be displayed in a child-friendly shop, no.

Doesn't the current opaque top shelf suffice?

It's definitely part of the solution, yes. But I guess this post is showing that it doesn't go far enough.

Didn't you declare this unenforceable earlier in the thread?

No, I didn't say it wasn't enforceable. I said that it was unlikely to happen. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on why it would be unlikely to happen? For example, would it be generally unpopular if some government decree said 'ok, sexualised bodies in ads are fine, but we'll make it illegal to use thin, white women in more than 50% of them.' Wildly hypothetical, obviously, but I'm just wondering why this would be unpopular. My own belief is because men like to look at thin white women (because they've been conditioned to, btw, for under patriarchy men suffer too) and so male policy makers are in no hurry to enforce such a law. That doesn't mean they technically couldn't.

That's happening right now.

I was referring to a government-led review of the policies around displays of materials in places which children access. I can't find any reference to a current on-going review. However this might be because I can't find it, rather than the fact it doesn't exist, so if I'm missing something I'd be grateful for a link.
posted by billiebee at 7:28 AM on July 23, 2013


Would you propose regulations on how form-fitting a garment would be?

We could just leave it as 'no underwear and no swimwear'? I think most people know what those mean without illustrations. (Again, this is just a suggestion, not actual legislation.)
posted by billiebee at 7:29 AM on July 23, 2013


Say I'm in a band. Our videos and performances are sexualised, but they don't show nudity. We toil away until one day our band has a hit. We pay for our own fliers, fan magazines, t-shirts, posters, CDs, records, and advertisements. Now that our band has a hit, every teen wants our poster. Newsagents are asking to stock our merchandise. Under your regime, would we have to add members in order to meet quotas? Would some of our members have to gain weight?
posted by Human Flesh at 7:49 AM on July 23, 2013


Say we stick to the actual discussion that's happening here.
posted by billiebee at 7:52 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Human Flesh, we could just as easily take this the other way and say "well if they allow lady torsos on the cover of magazines then who's to stop the government from painting a giant mural of bare tits on every public school" but that would be a moronic overreaction and have nothing to do with the ACTUAL REAL WORLD so
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:58 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


In other words your imaginary sexy band has so little to do with page three girls that I'm not sure why you even made it up in the first place. Why not think about how to solve problems that actually exist before inventing new ones?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:00 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Billiebee is the one that's proposing unworkable solutions, not me.
posted by Human Flesh at 8:04 AM on July 23, 2013


But I'd like to hear why you think they're unworkable, not just have you make up random worst-case scenarios and extrapolations.
posted by billiebee at 8:06 AM on July 23, 2013


In other words your imaginary sexy band has so little to do with page three girls that I'm not sure why you even made it up in the first place.

Creating quotas would hurt small publishers and independent artists more than it would hurt big publishers.
posted by Human Flesh at 8:07 AM on July 23, 2013


Creating quotas would hurt small publishers and independent artists more than it would hurt big publishers.

How so?
posted by billiebee at 8:08 AM on July 23, 2013


Is she the Prime Minister? Maybe she's allowed to make suggestions of possible ideas for fixing this problem. The reason you don't want to entertain any solutions is because you don't think there IS a problem.

Look, I don't think any sort of quota could really work either, but it's one possible suggestion for creating a world that she and I both think would be better than the one we have now. If you think the world's just fine the way it is, I guess you have no need to consider solutions, however out-there they might be. You can just shut them down without proposing anything better, because for you 'better' equals 'the status quo.'
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:10 AM on July 23, 2013


I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on why it would be unlikely to happen? For example, would it be generally unpopular if some government decree said 'ok, sexualised bodies in ads are fine, but we'll make it illegal to use thin, white women in more than 50% of them.' Wildly hypothetical, obviously, but I'm just wondering why this would be unpopular. My own belief is because men like to look at thin white women (because they've been conditioned to, btw, for under patriarchy men suffer too) and so male policy makers are in no hurry to enforce such a law. That doesn't mean they technically couldn't.

There is no legal precedent for this. In all of the communities and all of the nation-states in the entire world, none of them have established newsagent body police. To the best of my knowledge, no members of parliament have ever seriously suggested, proposed, or debated the idea. Never in the history of humanity. Doesn't that tell us something about the feasibility of the plan.

If you think the world's just fine the way it is, I guess you have no need to consider solutions, however out-there they might be.

The effect that such a policy would have on my band is a rational way of considering the proposal. Don't you think it's important to consider the problems that would arise as a result of a policy?
posted by Human Flesh at 8:20 AM on July 23, 2013


The FPP isn't about this hypothetical 'policy'. It's about the prevalence of sexualized images in the media. Which is, like, an actual thing in the world.

Also of COURSE there are 'newsagent body police,' don't you understand they we DO have laws regarding nudity and obscenity in the media?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:23 AM on July 23, 2013


To the best of my knowledge, no members of parliament have ever seriously suggested, proposed, or debated the idea. Never in the history of humanity. Doesn't that tell us something about the feasibility of the plan.

Nope. It tells us something about the will.

Also, the ideas of quotas was only one suggestion put out there in the interests of having a debate. Band posters are not currently the focus of the debate. What ideas do you have for change?

Also of COURSE there are 'newsagent body police,' don't you understand they we DO have laws regarding nudity and obscenity in the media?

This. We're talking about amendments, or strengthening of existing laws, or reviewing them, or just talking about them. Rather than having made-up conversations about made-up bands, we're talking about the images that are in the shop I'm about to go to right now.
posted by billiebee at 8:26 AM on July 23, 2013


I assumed that your understood that I was talking about the phenotype quotas.
posted by Human Flesh at 8:26 AM on July 23, 2013


Our videos and performances are sexualised, but they don't show nudity. We toil away until one day our band has a hit. We pay for our own fliers, fan magazines, t-shirts, posters, CDs, records, and advertisements. Now that our band has a hit, every teen wants our poster. Newsagents are asking to stock our merchandise. Under your regime, would we have to add members in order to meet quotas? Would some of our members have to gain weight?

There is literally no way you are arguing in good faith at this point. You're moving goalposts and using this condescending, mocking language to misrepresent the points made by others, falling short of using such timeless phrases as "nanny state". If you insist on maintaining your wide-eyed "honest I'm being sincere" position, you could stand to try a little harder to make it seem like you're not just being smarmy.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:28 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I assumed that your understood that I was talking about the phenotype quotas.

Try to bridge the inferential distance between us.
posted by billiebee at 8:29 AM on July 23, 2013


How so?

Economies of scale. A big publisher would have a big roster of talent. Small independent publishers and fledgling artists (especially when the operation consists of one or two people) would have a harder time adjusting staff to meet the quotas.
posted by Human Flesh at 8:32 AM on July 23, 2013


FORGET THE STUPID QUOTAS! THERE ARE NO QUOTAS! Do you want to engage with reality or not?
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:38 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Marisa, do you honestly not see any problems that would arise from attempting to implement BillieBee's ideas?
posted by Human Flesh at 8:39 AM on July 23, 2013


Models are normally hired on a freelance basis rather than being staff members of publishing houses. Hiring them from an agency, who would enforce the quotas, would not be any more expensive. Again, though, I don't want to get stuck on the completely hypothetical quota issue as it seems easier to attack a point you see as unfeasible, rather than addressing the other issues which might be more workable, but unpalatable.

On preview, what showbiz_liz said.
posted by billiebee at 8:41 AM on July 23, 2013


Marisa, do you honestly not see any problems that would arise from attempting to implement BillieBee's ideas?

What does this have to do with what you're doing here? Do billybee's ideas compel in you some necessity to mock, exaggerate and push the goalposts around like they're on wheels? Engage sincerely or not at all. I don't get what's so difficult about that.

What I don't see a problem with is the notion of putting magazines for adults on higher shelves behind little boards. Stores and distributors already classify different types of magazines based on their intended audience. It would hurt no one to put FHM or Maxim on the top shelf. And beaches would be safe for children once more.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:45 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


What I don't see a problem with is the notion of putting magazines for adults on higher shelves behind little boards.

At the moment, FHM and Maxim are not classified as adult-only magazines. If we're going to change the criteria that we use to classify adult-only material, don't you think we should be explicit about the new proposed criteria? Calling something a Lads' mag doesn't cut it. Problems arise because people have various ideas about the social consequences of publishing photos of people in bathing costumes. The social consequences of publishing a photo might be clear to you, but they are not clear to everyone.

Please don't assume that your criteria for judging objectionable content is the same criteria that Billiebee, Showbiz_liz, and I use.

Billiebee made the following proposal:

No underwear or swimwear on the front cover of publications deemed not to have an 18+ audience?

Do you think it's a good idea? It is at least an attempt to deal with the issue of why Heat would be allowed to show more skin than FHM. Of course it doesn't answer the question of what non-swimsiut attire would be permissible.
posted by Human Flesh at 9:16 AM on July 23, 2013


Please read my suggestion again. I'm not actually talking about changing criteria. I'm talking about placing magazines - whether or porn or woohoo check out this babe with huge tits - on the top shelf, behind a little barrier with the title poking out. That's it. There's already a fairly unambiguous understanding from publishers, distributors and store owners what kinds of magazines are geared towards adult men with the objectification of women as a strong selling point, so I doubt some special committee or trilateral commission would need to be established.

Of course it doesn't answer the question of what non-swimsiut attire would be permissible.

Now here's a great example of missing the forest for the trees, which you've been doing a lot of in this thread, sincerely or jokingly. If you scroll waaaay up to the top of this thread, you'll see people taking issue with the objectification of women for the male gaze being fully present at eye-level for kids. No one is discussing length of hemlines or exposed mid-drifts and such, which is what makes this kind of needling really tedious.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:13 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


This thread is annoying me now. No wonder I spent the day off Metafilter and on YouTube watching videos of people's makeup collections.
posted by mippy at 1:00 PM on July 23, 2013


I'm not actually talking about changing criteria. I'm talking about placing magazines

We use criteria to decide where to place magazines. A magazine's location is the product of evaluation criteria. It's current location reflects the current evaluation criteria. If the evaluation criteria don't change, then the magazines will stay where they are.
posted by Human Flesh at 3:26 PM on July 23, 2013


Now here's a great example of missing the forest for the trees, which you've been doing a lot of in this thread

We won't be able to direct lumberjacks until we tell them how to identify trees and how to identify forests.

What criteria should we use to classify magazines if the current criteria don't suit us? I understand that you want to move the magazines that objectify. My question is about how we plan to do that. You're conflating the motive with the means. Are you doing that on purpose?

If you move FHM on the grounds that it objectifies people, then we're going to wonder why other magazines that objectify get to stay in the same place. This isn't a slippery slope argument. I'm just pointing out the problems that will arise if we tell newsagents to censor magazines that objectify.

When we say that a photo objectifies people, we're making judgements about its creator, potential viewers, and the social consequences of viewing the photo. If I gave an identical stack of 20 photos to 100 people and told them to hand me the photos that objectify people, do you think they would all hand me the same photos? We would encounter similar problems if we told people to put the edifying magazines on shelf 2 and put the ugly magazines on shelf 3.

There's already a fairly unambiguous understanding from publishers, distributors and store owners what kinds of magazines are geared towards adult men with the objectification of women as a strong selling point

If the question of where to place magazines wasn't controversial, then this FPP wouldn't exist.

In his essay Taboo Your Words, Eliezer Yudkowsky tells us how we can sometime dissolve disagreements if we agree to temporarily avoid certain confounding words. I'll quote some of the relevant points below.
In the game Taboo (by Hasbro), the objective is for a player to have their partner guess a word written on a card, without using that word or five additional words listed on the card. For example, you might have to get your partner to say "baseball" without using the words "sport", "bat", "hit", "pitch", "base" or of course "baseball".

The existence of this game surprised me, when I discovered it. Why wouldn't you just say "An artificial group conflict in which you use a long wooden cylinder to whack a thrown spheroid, and then run between four safe positions"?

But then, by the time I discovered the game, I'd already been practicing it for years—albeit with a different purpose.

..

The illusion of unity across religions can be dispelled by making the term "God" taboo, and asking them to say what it is they believe in; or making the word "faith" taboo, and asking them why they believe it. Though mostly they won't be able to answer at all, because it is mostly profession in the first place, and you cannot cognitively zoom in on an audio recording.

When you find yourself in philosophical difficulties, the first line of defense is not to define your problematic terms, but to see whether you can think without using those terms at all. Or any of their short synonyms. And be careful not to let yourself invent a new word to use instead. Describe outward observables and interior mechanisms; don't use a single handle, whatever that handle may be.

Albert says that people have "free will". Barry says that people don't have "free will". Well, that will certainly generate an apparent conflict. Most philosophers would advise Albert and Barry to try to define exactly what they mean by "free will", on which topic they will certainly be able to discourse at great length. I would advise Albert and Barry to describe what it is that they think people do, or do not have, without using the phrase "free will" at all. (If you want to try this at home, you should also avoid the words "choose", "act", "decide", "determined", "responsible", or any of their synonyms.)

This is one of the nonstandard tools in my toolbox, and in my humble opinion, it works way way better than the standard one.
posted by Human Flesh at 2:06 AM on July 24, 2013


We won't be able to direct lumberjacks until we tell them how to identify trees and how to identify forests.

Lumberjacks know what trees and forests look like.

If we leave 'objectify' out of it, how do we decide what is a 'sexual' image? What about moving magazines with sexual images to the top shelf? Are you at least in agreement that young children shouldn't be forced to see sexual images when in doing grocery shopping? Because while there may be some debate about what is sexual to some and sexual to others, there are some images which are clearly so. I'm thinking of this for example. Is there really any ambiguity about that? So why shouldn't that be on the top shelf, or obscured behind an opaque shelf? I was in Tescos this morning and there are only 3 magazine shelves and the 'top' one is at my eye level, a grand 3 feet above the kids comics. So 'top shelf' alone doesn't necessarily do much good. I'm wondering if there might be too much pushback from adevrtisers. Again, I'd like to know the reasons why there is opposition to change.
posted by billiebee at 2:54 AM on July 24, 2013


why don't we just ban children
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:50 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lumberjacks know what trees and forests look like.

At one point in their lives, they didn't. They had to learn. If we want them to do a good job, we need to be clear.

What about moving magazines with sexual images to the top shelf?

We'll need to taboo the words 'sexual, 'sexualised,' and 'sexualising' as well. Just as Deathpanels predicted earlier:
This argument is always going to be a flamewar because nobody has the unchallenged authority to decree what distinguishes "sexualised images" from mere pictures of people in various states of undress. To some people, a girl in a bikini is soft-core porn. To other people, that is just a girl in a bikini, and though her appearance may be scintillating to those of a certain persuasion, there is nothing inherently pornographic about a person not wearing clothes posing on a beach.
Earlier on in the thread when I asked for clarification of the term and asked about which forms of sexualisation are benign, you responded with snark.

Again, I'd like to know the reasons why there is opposition to change.

Lots of groups want to change things. The problem is that we don’t all want to change the same thing, so we eventually end up in a kind of détente that’s the result of a nash equilibrium. Consciously or subconsciously, people who want to change censorship rules often have the intuition that being too specific can cause the members of their coalition to squabble when they realise that they want different things. Notice how Marisa is reluctant to say what she or he thinks of your rules. Notice how Liz and Marisa respond with hostility when I ask you about the details of your proposal. Specificity can curtail a censor’s power. If I’m a censor, I have the most power when I’m allowed to selectively enforce vague (or highly subjective) rules.

I'm not claiming that Liz and Marisa are conspiring, none of this needs to happen on a conscious level. You probably didn't consciously try to imply anything about my motives when you asked about what 'young children shouldn't be forced to see.' When you're in argument mode, that just intuitively feels like a good question.

My opinion? I just don’t trust a group that says: ‘don’t worry, we’ll only hide the bad stuff. What? Are you saying you want children to see bad stuff?’
posted by Human Flesh at 11:18 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I posted an article with actual evidence that these images are damaging to children earlier in the thread. I know you'd love to believe that I have a secret, insidious goal to destroy society, but I don't.

I am comfortable saying that I think showing some skin is ok, but a big honking cock on a billboard is not ok, that a woman in a bathing suit advertising a bathing suit is ok but a woman in a bathing suit advertising a car is problematic- not necessarily worthy of bring banned by law, but problematic- and then talking about what everyone else thinks is and is not ok and trying to hammer out a consensus from there. But that's not what you want to do. You are not interested in a discussion. You want to imply that, because we did not come into this internet comment thread with a thousand page manifest detailing every possible outlandish scenario we can imagine and exactly what we think we'd do in those scenarios, that we are malicious idiots out to ban cleavage for no good reason.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:59 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think I gave you lots and lots of time and space to have a good faith discussion. You appear to be more interested in proving your intelligence with lots of theoretical links (although not with links to studies which, say, prove that children under X age are not harmed by seeing sexual images which would be a genuine rebuttal.)

I'm interested by the debate around this. As a woman, the aunt of 2 girls, and a person who visits supermarkets, I was interested in whether people thought there should be change, and if not why not? I threw out some suggestions - obviously the quota thing was just a pure extreme, but I said it was just for the purposes of starting a debate - but you've only replied with exaggeration and debates about semantics.

So I guess we can just agree to disagree. And don't worry, because you win anyway. Nothing is changing as far as I can see, precisely because it seems its hard to even have a sensible conversation about this stuff.
posted by billiebee at 12:01 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I know you'd love to believe that I have a secret, insidious goal to destroy society, but I don't.

Maybe your judgement is good; maybe your judgement is poor. You certainly won’t gain my trust by mischaracterising my argument.

You are not interested in a discussion.

If I’m not interested in a discussion, then why am I discussing the topic?

You can propose whatever you want. Are you confident that the magazines that you want obscured are the same magazines that Billliebee, Mippy, En Forme, Marisa, and I want obscured? Would you trust me to put magazines in the right place?
posted by Human Flesh at 2:44 PM on July 24, 2013


Are you confident that the magazines that you want obscured are the same magazines that Billliebee, Mippy, En Forme, Marisa, and I want obscured? Would you trust me to put magazines in the right place?

Do you believe that it is possible for a society to place any restrictions whatsoever on what content can be displayed where? How do you think those arrangements are reached? I don't trust you, or them, or myself to draw those conclusions as individuals, because that isn't how society works. You're not in charge, and we're not in charge, but we can say "hey, we feel that these images are damaging and here's why," and other people can either read the links we provide and choose to agree or disagree that there's a problem, and if they agree there's a problem, then we can discuss whether it's a fixable problem, and if so, how.

I can't even tell whether or not you think there IS a problem. If not, what do you think of the arguments that people have put forth saying that there's evidence of that? Do you agree or disagree? Why? Because if there is a problem, then clearly something should be done and we only disagree about what, and if you think there's no problem then I guess we should talk about why you think that and why we disagree?

What do you actually believe about how these images affect people?
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:55 PM on July 24, 2013


Do you believe that it is possible for a society to place any restrictions whatsoever on what content can be displayed where?

I think we can agree that restrictions exist.

How do you think those arrangements are reached?

Various ways. The MPAA came up with their own rating system in order to avoid the yoke of government regulation. Generally, retailers try to avoid offending a large portion of their customers. Different newsagents serve different communities, so we should expect them to employ a variety of strategies to reconcile the interests of the publishers with the interest of customers. For example, if a newsagent that caters to Muslim or LDS customers refuses to display magazines that contain adverts for alcoholic beverages, I won’t feel any great loss of liberty. However, I think it’s naïve to assume that independent newsagents would be good at distinguishing magazines that objectify from magazines that edify.

If not, what do you think of the arguments that people have put forth saying that there's evidence of that? Do you agree or disagree? Why?

I believe that information hazards exist (PDF). Because of partisanship, cognitive biases, fallible perceptions, and the difficulty of running controlled, large-scale experiments, we’re generally ill-equipped to accurately identify and mitigate the risks presented by information hazards and other forms of harmful information. In the case of misinformation, it might be more cost-effective to present correct information instead of attempting to stamp out misinformation. This also helps to prevent abuse.

The history of censorship, prohibition, pedagogy, propaganda, taboo, and cryptography provides us with plenty of examples of solutions that are worse than the problems that they ostensibly attempt to solve. As the saying goes, for every problem there’s a solution that’s simple, obvious, and wrong.

Childeys and GuardianWatch seem long on moralising and short on SMART solutions. Perhaps I’m being self-centered, pessimistic, or short-sighted. One could claim that that I’m setting the epistimilogical bar too high. My scepticism remains.

In ten years time, Nuts, and Zoo won’t exist in their current form, but it won’t be Childeyes or Lose The Lads Mags that brings them down—it’s the internet that makes those magazines obsolete. Page 3 cheesecake photos are in the process of being obviated by technology as well. I would be annoyed if activists took credit for something that they didn’t accomplish.

I’m not looking to make enemies out of the people who submit photos to Childeyes and GuardianWatch. Most of them probably have good intentions. My main enemy is the illusion of transparency.

I feel we should be miserly with the trust that we grant to people who claim to be working for the common good. Large scale reforms and and plans need to be well justified. I ask questions before I lend my support to a cause or movement. I’d like people to be sceptical of campaigns that are broad in scope and lack measurable outcomes. It bothers me when people choose their beliefs the same way they choose their favourite football team. I would prefer my beliefs to be accurate models of the world instead of symbols of tribal affiliation.
posted by Human Flesh at 5:21 AM on July 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


'Lads' mags' given cover-up deadline by Co-operative

Another reason to love the Co-Op. Nice to know it can be done.
posted by billiebee at 4:09 AM on July 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


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