Porn creep in the corner shop

by Rachel Bell on March 29, 2006

Published in The First Post on 29 March 2006
View the published article here

MP Claire Curtis-Thomas calls for media regulation to end the normalisation of porn in our newsagents.

Last November, every MP in the House of Commons got some pornography in their postbag. Shots up women’s skirt’s, women bending over, ads for hardcore sex videos, hot teens and free xxx filth to your mobile – little wonder many were shocked. More shocking is that this noticeboard for the sex industry calls itself a  ‘newspaper’ and is sold on the lowest shelf in our newsagents. This was the beginning of pressure group Object’s campaign to get  ‘unrecognized’ porn, such as The Daily Sport and lad mags such as Nuts, Zoo, Front, FHM and Loaded onto the top shelf and to trigger debate around the media’s wholescale sexual objectification of women, its social harms and the need for regulation. Object, who have been in meetings with MPs since, say, “This portrayal of women is set against a backdrop of an institutionally sexist society where one in three women experience male violence. Anything that perpetuates this inequality and contempt has to be questioned.”

Now close to 100 MPs and peers are backing Labour MP Claire Curtis-Thomas who will present her Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons on 26 April. In the same month that Loaded celebrates twelve years of reducing womankind to one conformist sex object and slaps itself on the back for being the first ‘lad mag’ to say that being a juvenile misogynist is cool, the MP for Crosby, Merseyside, will propose: The Regulation of pornography to ensure The Sport, ”lads mags” and similar are seen as pornographic and treated accordingly (e.g. sexually explicit material to be sold on the top shelf); an independent Commission into the now normal objectification of women, it”s impact and suggestions for appropriate regulatory mechanisms; and widespread awareness-raising around the normalising of the pornography and media sexual objectification of women, it”s social impact and it”s acceptability.

Claire Curtis-Thomas says, “I feel passionately about Object’s objectives. It is quite right and proper that we seek to remove publications such as The Sport because they portray women in such a way that is grossly offensive and undermines the valuable contribution that women make in society, and further, encourages the exploitation of women. There is significant support from all political parties, men and women alike, for this Bill and determination to address the role that The Sport and similar publications plays in undermining a healthy and respectful society.”

Dianne Abbot, Helen Goodman, Stephen Hammond, Nick Harvey and Lord Dubs are just some of the MPs backing her. Lord Dubs told me, “This material should be in plastic covers on the top shelf. It wouldn’t go against free speech and censorship. It’s like the 9pm watershed in television. It is better that young people aren’t exposed to it – it can have a corrupting influence. And why should women have to look at this? For young people it can be harmful and affect their attitudes to women.” 

It’s not just women who are sick of being bombarded by the sexual degradation of their gender when they want to buy a paper or a pint of milk. It is not just mothers, who have to steer their toddlers past the crotch shots when they want some sweets. It is not just young girls who routinely get harassed and called slags on the streets. When Claire Curtis-Thomas spoke on a BBC Radio Merseyside phone-in, 91% of callers agreed with her proposals. Men and women are asking what an upskirt shot of a woman’s barely covered vagina as front page news say about women’s place in society.

Ten-Minute Rule Bill
A Ten-Minute Rule Bill offers an MP the chance to construct an argument and have it heard in Parliament – for 10 minutes only. It rarely becomes law. Claire Curtis-Thomas says: “You hope it will attract press attention and ministers will look at the bill, then consider whetehr the sentiment in the bill would stimulate policy.”

Object Mission Statement
Object challenges the objectification of women by the media, porn and sex industries. We are not anti-sex, anti nudity or linked to a religious, political or moralistic stance. We challenge this because of the denigrating and contemptuous manner in which these industries portray women and the widespread social harm that this perpetuates and endorses as to women’s status and function. In particular we want to see ‘unrecognised’ porn such as lads mags and the sport classified as pornography and sold accordingly. We want to see lap dancing venues licensed as sex establishments, not pubs. We want to see wide ranging discussion and ultimately regulation of the now normalised sexual objectification of women. We have 350 supporters, are advisers to Amnesty International UK, and provide educational material to groups such as NSPCC and WOMANKIND worldwide. Our campaign to see lads mags and the sport properly regulated as pornography is supported by a wide range of groups from Kidscape to the European Women’s Lobby. Join us! http://www.object.org.uk

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