Lad's Mags and the Song of Songs

I am not sure I have ever read a Lad's Mag. I bought Stuff once, in the days before the internet provided tech news. Bizarre magazine used to float around the alternative scene - in those days it had a sealed section with naughty bits in, and had far less focus on just female bodies - that has been a shift in more recent years.

To be honest, I am not sure I know anyone who does buy Lad's Mags. And I can't really understand why anyone would. If people want to look at half dressed women I am sure there are less public ways to do so. So perhaps the articles are scintillating? Yet as other writers have noted this all places me in a privileged position. Some of the backlash against those campaigning against Lad's Mags has come from women. Imagine your partner reads a Lad's Mag. Reading the Lose The Lad's Mags website could suggest that your husband as a reader:

  • Is significantly more accepting of gender stereotyping, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, and rape myths. 
  • Is more likely to treat women as sex objects and their behaviour towards women is more sexualised
  • Has an idea of male sexuality as based on power and aggression.

No the logic of this isn't sound, and I suspect that their is truth in the research - especially when you read the sexist abuse some supporters have received on Twitter. But I can understand why some folks are so defensive.

Outside of any questions of Christian morality it makes sense to me that human nudity and erotica should either be as tastefully natural as possible or clearly artistically stylised.  I support the campaign, because Lad's Mags readers are being sold a lie. Especially the photo-shopped caricatures of the female body and of human sexuality they present.

Which is one answer to the suggestion that some women object to Lad's Mags because they are jealous. No-one could be jealous of photo shopped caricatures of beauty or sexuality. Equally it shoots down the whole 'No different to Bikinis on a Beach' argument. Not only that, but on the beach there is usually a pair of speedo's for every itsy-bitsy. If Lad's Mags were required to contain an equal number of photographs of men as of women, with a range of body shapes, ages and conditions, with no photo-shopping, like the average beach, their appeal might wane.

There are however wider issues. Within feminism there is something of a divide between anti-pornography and sex-positive thinkers. The latter, whilst certainly not mirroring traditional Christian views of sexuality, have sought to engage with sexuality in a more proactive manner, whilst having an active concern for women in the sex industry. Sex Positive feminists have in general sought to promote erotica which they perceive as healthier and more ethical than mainstream pornography.

Without embracing all that sex-positive feminists support, it strikes me that for Christians the approach of changing views of sexuality in a positive way will be more effective that the appearance of puritanism. Conservative Christians have tended to maintain a view of sexual awakening and fulfilment that comes with marriage, which still makes perfect sense if people marry when they are biologically awakening sexually. Liberal Christians have perhaps tended to simply capitulate to to the surrounding culture. I am not sure either approach is entirely healthy or practical.

Recently I was reading of another Christian leader who had strayed from (and then returned to) their life partner. What irked me was that they were from a tradition of the church which can be almost paranoid about opposite sex contact. My immediate thought was what if such churches were as passionate and public about encouraging exciting, dynamic, diverse and interesting sex amongst their committed couples as they are about discouraging members of the opposite sex being alone together the outcome might be more positive.

As Christians we need to find a sex-positive response to the lie of popular news-stand erotica. After all, Christianity has its own erotica within the pages of scripture, the Song of Solomon describing exciting dynamic, diverse and interesting sex in thinly veiled symbolic language that if stated explicitly would certainly not be suitable for supermarket shelves.

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