A new study found people were unable to distinguish between descriptions of women used in lads’ mags and comments made by convicted rapists.
The research, due to be published in the British Journal of Psychology, also revealed most men who took part in the study ‘identified themselves more with the language expressed by the convicted rapists”.
Psychologists presented the men, aged between 18 and 46, with a range of statements taken from leading lads’ mags FHM, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo, and quotes from convicted rapists from verbatim interview transcripts in the in the book: The Rapist Files: Interviews With Convicted Rapist.
Sometimes they were told the comments came from lads’ mags and other times were told the comments came from rapists.
The study, by psychologists from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey, found that “when presented with 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”.
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 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.
Dr Peter Hegarty, from 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?
Anna van Heeswijk, campaigns manager for Object, a human rights group which campaigns against the objectification of women, described the research as ‘crucial and chilling’– and called for the issue to be included in the Leveson Inquiry.
If we are serious about wanting an end to discrimination and violence against women and girls, we must tackle the associated attitudes and behaviours. This means tackling the publications which peddle them.
The Leveson Inquiry is currently looking into the culture and ethics of the press. These disturbing findings unequivocally demonstrate the need for the portrayal of women to be included in the remit of this inquiry.
Now is the time for action.