The Top Shelf Report, commissioned by Labour MP Claire Curtis-Thomas, will next week recommend that popular men's magazines and newspapers such as the Daily Sport be given age-appropriate "16" and "18" certificates.
A nationwide investigation has revealed that newsagents across the UK are flouting current guidelines and displaying what are, in effect, adult magazines at the eye-level of children aged six to 15 – which has led to a government proposal that
they be subject to the same age classifications as films, with some titles off-limits to under-18s.
The display of lads' mags is currently governed by a voluntary code of practice drawn up by the Periodical Publishers Associations (PPA) and the Home Office, which recommends that retailers display them well above children's eye level and away
from children's titles or comics.
The report, which has cross-party support from MPs, points out that films screened or sold in the UK are classified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and that TV broadcasters must adhere to a 9pm watershed that prevents
programmes unsuitable for under-18s being shown before this, yet nothing similar exists for the mainstream press.
Ben Todd, the editor of Zoo, said: We should be treated like a cheeky seaside postcard. In our case, the most revealing aspect is topless pictures, which is no more than you see in The Sun or the Daily Star. So, if any sort of age-restrictions
are going to be introduced, I'd expect them to include those papers, too.
The report recommends that the Daily Sport be given an "18" certificate due to the numerous adverts for prostitutes which it contains.
The Front Page Campaign based in Fife calls for newspapers and magazines which show nudity to be placed on the top shelf.
Amy King started the campaign after writing to a number of supermarkets when she saw naked photographs on the front of newspapers displayed next to children's magazines.
She told The Press: We are just looking for a bit of respect in a public place. Some people might not accept it's harmful but they need to respect a person's right to decide whether it is what many of us consider offensive.
The campaign focuses on freedom of choice for those who would rather go shopping without being bombarded with sexually provocative images, and promises that it is not about censorship or feminism.
King continued: We are taking action because we believe that pornography is harmful to men and women, and I personally have particular concern about the effect of, for example, The Sport on teenage boys. It's sometimes assumed that men have no
problem with sexually explicit pictures of women, but we think there are men who are uncomfortable with it.
Commenting on the issue, an Asda spokesman said as a family orientated supermarket they ensure all magazines that may be offensive are placed in a suitable area and level.
A spokesman from Tesco said: We know these magazines are popular with some customers and are widely available in newsagents and other retailers. We're aware, however, that some people have concerns and this is why we have moved this type of
publication beyond the eyeline of children and making it more difficult for youngsters to pick them up.
12 activist objects and a photographer descended upon the two WH Smiths in London's Liverpool Street station on Friday to celebrate the third national Feminist Friday by covering the entire lads' mags displays with paper bags and slogans
objecting to the sexist portrayal of women as objects.
Object said: The reception we received from customers in the two shops was really supportive, with one woman telling us that seeing younger women actively engaged in feminist activism and not passively accepting the sexist
messages we see all around us had 'made her day'; a group of 14 year old girls really keen to discuss the impact of lads' mags on how girls and women are viewed and treated and wanting to get involved; and many other women and men signing our
petition against lads' mags being sold as part of the mainstream media.
It was good fun and empowering - a great opportunity to take a stand against the pornification of culture and to say - women are human, stop treating us like objects!
Nutter MPs have demanded tighter rules on how so-called lads mags' are displayed in shops. The front pages of sexually explicit titles such as Loaded , Nuts and Zoo should be concealed by plastic bags and placed
on the top shelf of newsagents, they said. They also suggested cinema-style age ratings should be put on the front cover.
The cross-party group of MPs called for urgent action to supposedly protect children and young people from the magazines and downmarket tabloids such as the Daily Sport . And they said if publishers and retailers failed to act, the
Government should introduce tough laws.
The display of lads' mags is governed by a voluntary code of practice drawn up by the Home Office, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents and the Periodical Publishers Association. This recommends retailers display them well above
children's eye level and away from children's titles or comics.
Labour MP Lindsay Roy and ten of his colleagues - including former Tory minister Ann Widdecombe and ex-not-so-Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell - believe the rules are being flouted.
Roy, who represents Glenrothes in Scotland, has tabled a Commons motion to put pressure on ministers to act. He said a review of the guidelines must consider the availability of sexually graphic publications to children and young people, the
positioning of them on the shelves of retailers, the potential for concealing them in bags and consider the question of age-rating them . His motion said young people were not emotionally equipped to deal with seeing, and reading
about, sexual images.
Sir Menzies said his natural inclination was against censorship ...BUT... it is unacceptable such material could be displayed at the eye level of a six-year-old: The photographs and headlines on the front cover are pretty
lurid. The present code does not seem to be working and so it needs to be tightened up considerably.
Outside a branch of Tesco in central London, 30 people in pyjamas, nightgowns and fluffy slippers have gathered to campaign against lads' mags. All are members of the activist group Object and they are here to take part in the monthly Porn
Versus Pyjamas campaign. They dart down the dairy aisle to the display of lads' magazines, which they mark with their own slogans. FHM is put in a paper bag emblazoned with: For Horrible Misogynists , while Maxim is hidden behind the
phrase MAXIMum Sexism .
The women start a conga-line through the supermarket, chanting Hey, ho, sexist mags have got to go , alerting security guards to their presence. Eventually they're ushered out, but not before depositing pamphlets, entitled Porn v Pyjamas:
Why Lads' Mags Are Harmful, in customers' baskets.
Their campaign began earlier this year, after Tesco ruled that customers wouldn't be allowed to shop in pyjamas because this could make other people feel uncomfortable. Object bit back by accusing some Tesco stores of ignoring the voluntary codes
of conduct that suggest lads' mags should be covered up and repositioned on the top shelf, alongside pornographic content.
The Tesco demonstration is part of its Feminist Fridays campaign – monthly events where activists protest against lads' mags and other forms of sexism. After being ejected from Tesco, the demonstrators spend three hours outside the store,
distributing 1,500 leaflets.
Lads' mags are an example of the mainstreaming of pornography, says Anna van Heeswijk of Object. The whole tone is of complete contempt [for women]. They are made up of photographs that come straight from pornography and would have been
thought of as hardcore 50 years ago. But now the boundaries have been pushed to such an extent that they are considered an appropriate part of lads' mags and soft porn.
Australian Labor MP Graham Perrett has called for a ban on offensive billboard advertising, saying it's time to reclaim public spaces and protect common decency.
The man once cheekily dubbed the Member for Porn after penning racy scenes in his debut novel, The Twelfth Fish, said he planned to lobby Attorney-General Robert McClelland about whether advertising laws can be tightened and would
support a Parliamentary inquiry into the issue.
The Member for Moreton said the billboard, for an erectile dysfunction treatment, was on a busy road and likely to be seen by children: I've been called the 'Member for Porn', so I'm not a prude ...BUT... I find it troublesome and I
think we do need to take a closer look at it .
We have lots of weeks here, we have Liver Week, Mental Health Week, I think we need to have a 'Back to Middle-Class Values Week' where we reclaim public spaces, he said. He also noted the offending billboard was close to a nondescript
brothel that was less offensive to the eye than the advertisement and unlikely to upset any parents on school runs.
Perrett also suggested an advertising watershed for billboards. He said electronic advertising meant it was possible to promote adult content after 8.30pm and ensure more family friendly themes were present during school hours.
Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Morrisons, the Co-op group and BP petrol stations have agreed to put the magazines behind plain covers or on the top shelf following nutter pressure.
But WHSmith said the measures went too far. The National Federation of Retail Newsagents has also refused, saying it is not in a position to tell independent corner shops how to operate.
The moves come after on going campaigning, most recently by Mumsnet, which found 'enormous' unease in a survey of mothers about the publications and their images of scantily-clad women.
But WHSmith said its existing restrictions were sufficient to protect children. We have a strict display policy in place that requires men's lifestyle magazine titles be displayed at minimum height of 1.2 metres, equivalent to the average
adult chest/shoulder height, a spokesman said.
The policy requires men's lifestyle magazines to be displayed away from children's or women's magazines, and away from other product ranges which children may be shopping for, e.g. toys and stationery.
Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, which is running the Let Girls Be Girls campaign against the sexualisation of children through advertising, clothing and music, said the store's stance was frustrating . It's great that so many
retailers are supporting Mumsnet's campaign. But it's frustrating that WHSmith are arguing that shelf height of 1.2m, that of an eight-year-old child, is a sufficient barrier.
Asda has ordered compulsory modesty boards for the magazines and changed its policy so publishers can no longer pay to have magazines displayed at the front of stores. Tesco is rolling out nationwide a trial in which the titles are put at
the back of the top shelf.
A new Scottish Parliament report has criticised newsagents and other shops that place lad's mags for sale at a child's eye view.
Research commissioned by the Public Petitions Committee found that many shops were in breach of their own guidelines, which say that such titles should be not displayed at children's eye level or below, to ensure that they are not in the
direct sight and reach of children .
However, the report by George Street Research, found 59% of 'lads' mags' observed during the fieldwork displayed at a height of 1.5m or less are being displayed with no obvious attempt to hide the front covers.
Psychologists from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey claim that, far from being harmless or ironic fun, lads' mags could be legitimising hostile sexist attitudes.
The researchers claim that when presented with [out of context, carefully selected, and nebulous] descriptions of women taken from lads' mags, and comments about women made by convicted rapists, most people who took part in the study could not
distinguish the source of the quotes.
The research due to be published in the British Journal of Psychology also revealed that most men who took part in the study identified themselves more with the language expressed by the convicted rapists.
Psychologists presented men between the ages of 18 and 46 with a range of statements taken from magazines and from convicted rapists in the study, and gave the men different information about the source of the quotes. Men identified more with the
comments made by rapists more than the quotes made in lads' mags, but men identified more with quotes said to have been drawn from lads' mags more than those said to have been comments by convicted rapists.
The researchers also asked a separate group of women and men aged between 19 and 30 to rank the quotes on how derogatory they were, and to try to identify the source of the quotes. Men and women rated the quotes from lads' mags as somewhat more
derogatory, and could categorize the quotes by source little better than chance.
Dr Miranda Horvath and Dr Peter Hegarty argue that the findings are consistent with the possibility that lads' mags normalise hostile sexism, by making it seem more acceptable when its source is a popular magazine.
Horvath, lead researcher from Middlesex University, said: We were surprised that participants identified more with the rapists' quotes, and we are concerned that the legitimisation strategies that rapists deploy when they talk about women are
more familiar to these young men than we had anticipated.
Horvath, is concerned that lads' magazine editors are not working hard enough to moderate the content of their magazines: A lot of debate around the regulation of lads' mags has been to do with how they affect children but less has been said
about the influence they have on their intended audience of young men and the women with whom those men socialise.
These magazines support the legitimisation of sexist attitudes and behaviours and need to be more responsible about their portrayal of women, both in words and images. They give the appearance that sexism is acceptable and normal - when really
it should be rejected and challenged. Rapists try to justify their actions, suggesting that women lead men on, or want sex even when they say no, and there is clearly something wrong when people feel the sort of language used in a lads' mag could
have come from a convicted rapist.
Hegarty, of the University of Surrey's Psychology Department, added: There is a fundamental concern that the content of such magazines normalises the treatment of women as sexual objects. We are not killjoys or prudes who think that there
should be no sexual information and media for young people. But are teenage boys and young men best prepared for fulfilling love and sex when they normalise views about women that are disturbingly close to those mirrored in the language of sexual
offenders? He added that young men should be given credible sex education and not have to rely on lads' mags as a source of information as they grow up.
Are you offended by pornographic images on magazine and newspaper shelves in supermarkets and service stations? Have you spotted sexualised imagery you consider offensive on T-shirts or other goods on the high street? Does
it make you angry that you and perhaps your kids too are inadvertently exposed to this kind of material by retailers as they go out and about?
The Guardian would like you to help document the story by looking for specific examples that you come across. If you care about the issue and would like to get involved, help us report the story by sharing photos of any
problematic imagery you've seen in public.
Comment: Whipping up outrage over sexual imagery on the high street…
The chairman of Tesco said Britain's biggest supermarket chain will consider taking lads' mags off its shelves, after revealing that reading one had left him startled . Richard Broadbent said:
I bought one of these lads mags recently. I was startled at what I saw. But I think we should be thoughtful in our response. I don't immediately know what the answer should be. But I am willing to look at changes.
The chairman of the country's largest retailer was responding to a female shareholder at its annual meeting. She asked for the titles to be removed from stores because they were offensive to women.
The annual general meeting saw a small demonstration from organisations wanting to ban lads' mags. UK Feminsta and Object are coordinating the miserable campaign under the banner: Lose the Lad's Mags.
I am tweeting this message because I strongly disagree with UK Feminista's campaign to ban Nuts - and other popular men's magazines - from being on sale in supermarkets.
These magazines are entirely legal and bring entertainment and enjoyment to many thousands of men - and women - across the UK, and I see no reason why they should be banned to appease the views of a minority protest group.
This proposed move is a blatant act of censorship with UK Feminista seeking to ban something just because it doesn't happen to like it.
Magazines like Nuts feature a broad range of content, are stocked out of the reach of children, and are enjoyed by a large number of supermarket customers whose voices also deserve to be heard.
Therefore I am politely asking the members of UK Feminists to...
Zoo, Nuts and Front have agreed to self censor their front covers as demanded by Tesco. The supermarket has been lobbied by anti-sex miserablists. The new censorship code will apply only to the magazines' covers.
Highly explicit front covers of lads' mags may be a thing of the past, Tesco said. Zoo, Nuts and Front have agreed to make their covers more modest , the retailer said, meaning no more nudity, with less salacious coverlines and a
more conservative feel.
Latest Issue of Nuts
In addition to demanding toned-down covers, the store said Nuts, Zoo, Front and Bizarre would now be sold only to customers over 18, to reassure parents who do not want their children to be able to purchase these titles , and the magazines
will be displayed at the back of sales racks, where their covers will be obscured by other magazines.
Of course the censorship campaigners dismissed the move as a half-measure that doesn't address the harm of these publications .
Kat Banyard, founder of UK Feminista, one of two groups behind the Lose the Lad Mags campaign , said that lobbying to have the titles removed from shelves altogether would continue, because they are deeply harmful. They fuel sexist behaviours
which underpin violence against women.
Nuts, which is published by IPC Media, said it had introduced new covers ... which have a more conservative tone several weeks ago, adding: We are delighted with our readers' response and this week's issue is our biggest selling since
February. While previous issues have shown women fully topless with their nipples covered by headlines or their hands or hair, and promising the boobiest shoot ever or big-boobed brunettes , recent editions of Nuts feature
models in less highly sexualised poses, wearing slightly more modest lingerie.
The Co-operative store chain has given lads' mags six weeks to cover-up their front pages with sealed modesty bags or be taken off sale in its stores.
The 4,000-outlet retailer said it was responding to 'concerns' by some members, customers and colleagues about images of scantily clad women on covers. Titles such as Front, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo have been given a deadline of 9
September to act by the Co-op.
Steve Murrells, retail chief executive for the Co-operative Group, said:
As a community-based retailer, we have listened to the concerns of our customers and members, many of whom say they object to their children being able to see overt sexual images in our stores. 'Welcome move'
Whilst we have tried to mitigate the likelihood of young children seeing the images with a number of measures in store, the most effective way of doing this is for these magazines to be put in individual, sealed modesty bags. As an interim
measure, we have introduced our own opaque screens on shelf to reinforce our existing policy limiting the display of such material.
Women and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson said the Co-op's move was very welcome :
Many parents aren't comfortable with the way that sexualised imagery has become like wallpaper - everywhere from the bus stop to the corner shop. Adults should be left to make their own decisions about what legal sexual images they look at,
but the place for these is not next to the sweets at children's eye-level. I hope other retailers will follow the Co-operative's lead.
But of course the gender extremists of the Lose the Lads' Mags campaign said the Co-op was not going far enough and are calling for a complete ban:
The Co-operative are attempting to sell their customers short. The so-called 'modesty bags' they are demanding from publishers are designed to allow the Co-operative to continue profiting from sexist, harmful lads' mags - but just a bit more
The publisher of Nuts men's magazine is refusing to place modesty bags over its magazines, and says it is willing to risk a drop in readership.
The miserable management of the Co-op supermarket had demanded the magazine be delivered in plastic bags that would conceal provocative images of women on the front cover. The chain threatened that it would stop stocking the magazine from 9
September if that did not happen.
Nuts called it an astonishing ultimatum . Editor Dominic Smith told Newsbeat he had been shocked when he heard about it in the media. He said if Co-op now removed Nuts from its shelves, it would encourage its readers to shop
I think Co-op will be surprised that we're not putting it in the bag. I think they were probably hoping for a nice easy PR win. If we do sell a few less issues, then so be it.
The Co-op has re-iterated that it will ban Nuts and Zoo for not taking up the option of modesty bags:
Our position has not changed. If Nuts and Zoo, or any of the other publications, Loaded and Front, do not put their titles into modesty bags by the date we've given of September 9, we will no longer sell the magazines.
Kate Jones, the Co-operative's head of product development, admitted that the store would lose money over the move. Speaking on ITV's Daybreak, she said:
We will be losing money but we are responding to our customers' concerns.
These are the publications that our customers are telling us they're concerned about. We do everything we can to ensure they are out of sight of children shopping in our shops.
But sometimes during the trading day displays get disrupted. We think a modesty cover would be a fail-safe solution.
Nuts, the weekly lad's mag that along with arch-rival Zoo shook up the men's magazine market a decade ago is to close.
IPC Media announced a 30-day consultation with the 25 staff who work on the Nuts magazine and Nuts.co.uk website about the closure. Paul Williams, managing director of IPC's Inspire division, said:
After 10 years at the top of its market, we have taken the difficult decision to propose the closure of Nuts and exit the young men's lifestyle sector.
Nuts launched in January 2004, and at the height of its popularity had an average weekly circulation of more than 300,000. By the end of 2013 this was down to 62,000 including digital subscriptions.
Covers were toned down in 2013 in response to genderist pressure and the Coop ended sales completely, but the magazine was already in decline, probably to do with vast amounts of porny treats available on the internet.
Lucy Pinder, a favourite of Nuts magazine, has helped bring the publication to a close by crying on the cover of its final issue.
Nuts launched in January 2004, with Nell McAndrew as its illustrious cover star. The final issue -- its 526th edition - went on sale yesterday.
The final editorial of Nuts suggested that readers should now support rival magazine, Zoo :
Our esteemed rival Zoo launched a week after us. It has been an interesting sparring partner over the last ten years, and we were actually quite fond of coming up against the old bastard. Dear reader, much as it pains us to say, may we suggest
go and see what they're up to, because they could use the sales!
Feminist comments on the final issue seem somewhat contradictory. Kate Maltby in the Telegraph celebrates that Nuts has withdrawn its rather public depiction of male lust and that the inevitable recourse to more private and more porny internet
delights is a good thing:
The relaunched cover of Loaded reveals a distinct lack of cover girls. A spokesman at Simian Publishing, which took over Loaded late last year said:
Yes --- we're going to be far more discerning and sophisticated from now on,
There's one woman in the issue, actress Olympia Valance. The spokesman explained:
She's beautiful but she's fully clothed and it's a Q&A. We're going for substance. We've hired the feminist writer Julie Burchill as a columnist. We're thinking of having a gay column too.
Loaded changed hands after sales figures declined. In 2011 its circulation was less than a 10th of the 350,000 a decade earlier. The spokesman continued:
When the magazine launched in 1994 it was very much of its time but it had got to the point where it was just lowering the tone. We're not going to have any more lewd content. Mostly the change in content has come from our readers saying we'd
lost touch with them.
Stuff magazine will also be moving away from traditional cover girl exteriors.
Stuff's editor-in-chief Will Findlater said:
Stuff was launched in 1996 at the peak of the lad mag era. The covers used to help our position on the newsstand but our research tells us this is no longer the case.
FHM and Zoo are to close by the end of the year, marking the end of lads' mags in Britain
Publisher Bauer Media described the closures, which are still subject to a consultation on the future of 20 jobs across the two titles, as a suspension, but the plan is to close both the print and digital versions of the magazines by 2016.
The closures reflect an overall decline in magazine sales, generally attributed to porn being widely available for free on the internet. Both titles have seen steep declines from their heyday. FHM's circulation fell to less than 67,000 for the
first six months of this year, while Zoo was selling just over 24,000 copies per issue.
FHM has become the latest lads' mag to bow out after a history of 31 years of publishing.
The final issue of the magazine hit the shelves yesterday and features TV presenter Holly Willoughby. She first fronted the magazine in 2008. Willoughby poses in a black dress alongside the witty cover line: Ashes to Ashes, Bust to Bust .
Bauer Media, which owns FHM, said in November that it would be closing the magazine after dramatic losses in circulation.