First published in The Independent 1st February 2014
I can’t say I’ll be shedding any tears about the prospect of Nuts folding. It was the first lads mag I was really aware of. I would walk into newsagents as a teenager and my eyes would be immediately drawn to the top shelf, with all the girls proffering their breasts and bums, and I would dissect my own body and find it wanting.
Nuts Magazine was launched in January 2004 and had an average weekly circulation of over 300,000 when it was most popular. However, times have been hard for lads mags. Not only have they been targeted by UK Feminista and Object’s Lose the Lads Mags campaign, but they’ve also suffered because they are competing with internet pornography, which is much naughtier and can be accessed for free. In the second half of 2013, Nuts’ circulation had declined to just over 53,000 in print and 9,000 digital editions. Part of this decline has been attributed to the publisher’s decision to pull them from Co-Op stores rather than have them equipped with ‘modesty bags’ so that their covers would not be visible.Lots of media affected the way I viewed my adolescent body, including fashion publications, catwalk models, pornography, advertisements for cologne, beer and clothes. The sexualized bodies of women seemed to be everywhere. Look like this, push up your tits, pout, and get the boys interested. I responded in two ways. I stopped eating and when I was poor and at university, I gave up my bar job and started modelling. You get paid more if you take your top off. I don’t want to judge anyone’s decision to pose sans garments, but I never felt less like a person and more a sum of my body parts. I stopped because I wanted to say and do things rather than be looked at.
Lads mags like Nuts and Zoo contribute to a culture where women are seen as objects (to be acted upon) while men are the subjects who do the acting and enjoying of passive female bodies, displayed for their enjoyment. It’s simplistic and untrue to say that lads mags are ‘to blame’, but they must be read as part of a wider cultural context, where women are under constant scrutiny in terms of their appearance and sex appeal. If women are presented as sexualized objects ‘for the taking’, this strips them of complex personalities, desires, and the ability to live their lives free from harassment and unwanted sexual attention.
Women are still deemed to be ‘asking for it’ if they go out drinking, wearing short dresses. My 16-year-old sister and I are unable to walk outside without being assailed with catcalls, whether I’m popping out for fags and milk, or she is on her way to school.
Even the name of Nuts conjures up a sense of reductive gender stereotyping. If you look at Bedroom Babe Lauren or Real Amateur Babes, you must have the erstwhile ‘nuts’ it takes to be a ‘real man’. Got nuts? Look at Nuts. In the real world, this is, of course, not the case. Just like women, men should not be reduced to the ‘titties, film and football’ approach favoured by lads mags.
Let’s stop presenting young men and women with a homogenous image of the unclothed female, available to fulfil male desires without (conveniently) displaying any of her own. As far as I’m concerned, Nuts can be consigned to the scrapheap without sadness.