Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Should access to pornography be restricted?

In carrying out research for this blog, I was forced to type the words “David Cameron porn” into Google. That’s something I hoped I would never have to do! Fortunately, the results it drudged up related to the latest government ruling on pornography that will force internet users to opt in if they wish to view X-rated material.

The law, which will take effect in 18 months’ time has met with some controversy, with many criticising the ‘nanny state’ mentality at play. Others feel that the lawmakers are na├»ve and that the ruling won’t prevent those who want to access adult-only sites from doing so. I guess my feeling is that any step towards restricting access to porn is a good one, but that more can certainly be done.

Google search figures show that more people in the UK visit adult-only sites than Facebook and Twitter put together. The data shows that 8.5% of searches were for online pornography, while just 7.3% sought access to social networking websites. Perhaps most worryingly, the study did not include hits from mobile phones or searches for child pornography, which tend to occur on secret networks that are often referred to as the ‘dark internet’.

Meanwhile, another campaign is underway to criminalise porn that appears to simulate rape. While some argue that consumers of pornography are discerning enough to recognise the difference between entertainment and real-life crime, others (like me) feel that rape does not make for suitable entertainment content in any shape or form.

Fiona Elvines, operations co-ordinator at Rape Crisis South London, says: “We see the harm of rape pornography in the ways the material assists in normalising offending for perpetrators, helping them legitimise and strategise their crimes, as well as overcome internal resistance. 

“Evidence shows rapists use rape pornography as part of their deliberate pre-offence preparation. The amended law will make this in itself a crime; a significant step towards primary rape prevention through giving legal grounds for intervening before a sexual offence is committed.”

Now I’m not suggesting that everyone who watches this kind of material is about to go out and re-enact what they have seen, but why watch it at all? I think it’s sad that this legislation is necessary, but it certainly is necessary.

On a lighter note, some good news came in this week on the lads’ mag front with The Co-operative forcing publishers to cover up indecent images using modesty covers. Introduced in response to customer feedback, it hopes the screens will prevent children from being confronted by pictures of scantily clad women during the weekly shop. We hope other stores will follow suit.

Child Eyes, a project that aims to restrict children’s exposure to sexual and violent images, welcomes this decision. However, it recognises that “there is still a lot of work to be done”. A statement from the organisation says: “We need to keep the pressure up to rid the streets of sexual imagery. There is no automatic filter in shops and supermarkets! We are still working hard to make Britain more family-friendly and we need you.”

You can click here to sign a petition making it illegal to display pornography around children, and follow @ChildEyesUK on Twitter for regular updates.

Finally, you can support Sorted magazine. Designed to reach out to men without using sexual imagery, we are thrilled that anti-pornography measures are hitting the headlines and that the general public is eager for protective measures to be introduced.

We know that pornography isn’t going to go away, but we believe that children should be shielded from it. We also believe women should be respected and cherished rather than gawked at and objectified. Finally, we believe men should be offered a better alternative; a magazine that is entertaining but that deals with the real issues of life in an engaging and practical way, for example.

We printed a whopping 40,000 copies of our July-August issue and were able to give away a large proportion of these to many who might not have picked it up otherwise. It would be great if you could support us by buying a one-off copy for a friend, subscribing to the magazine yourself, advertising your business within its pages or by making a donation.

Our September-October edition is about to go to print and are excited about the impact it is going to have! Thanks for all your support.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Domestic violence against men

The issue of domestic violence has really been on my mind in the last week, particularly after seeing a horrendous cartoon featured on Genius Football’s Twitter feed. I’ll spell it out in words as we don’t want to republish the image:

(Man and woman in clinch) Woman: “Hey love. I have arranged our honeymoon on August 17th.
(Man hits woman in the face, causing a large flow of blood) Man: “Dafuq? I aint missing the start of Premier League. Go alone.”

Making a joke of a man beating a woman for any reason is enough to make anybody’s stomach turn. The picture has since been taken down from the social media site and I hope the person who posted it is well and truly ashamed.

But it’s actually domestic violence against men I want to talk about. This is partly because our Smart Talk (problem page) panel recently received a letter from a guy who was being hit by his wife, and partly because there is so little focus on this type of violence in the media. Domestic violence against women is certainly a taboo, but we could be forgiven for thinking that violence against men simply doesn’t happen.

Did you know that one-third of domestic violence victims are men? I have to say I was shocked at that statistic, and I actually looked it up to verify it (with the National Centre for Domestic Violence). Because when those two ugly words are spoken, I invariably think of a man standing threatening over a terrified and defenceless woman.

I admit this is ignorance on my part, but I also think that male victims are repeatedly, and wrongly, ignored. According to the same site, one in six men will experience domestic violence during their lifetime and a 999 call is made every three minutes by a male victim.

Perhaps this issue doesn’t get as much ‘air time’ because men find it more difficult to talk about abuse and to ask for help. After all, men are supposed to strong and protective aren’t they? Surely admitting to being hit – not least by a woman – is to admit weakness and defeat? Of course, this isn’t our opinion at Sorted; it’s just the way some men see themselves. Then when violence occurs they blame themselves for not upholding the media-fuelled ‘standard of manhood’. Regardless of gender, any human being can be abusive to another, whether verbally or physically, and this has no bearing on the victim’s physical or emotional strength.

It is important to talk about domestic violence, because silence perpetuates the problem and gives the abuser power. Some find it helpful to speak to a close friend, while others prefer to talk to a stranger, such as a counsellor or a church leader. Doing so helps to release pent-up emotions and can enable victims to see solutions where before there was only hopelessness. Admitting that abuse is taking place isn’t a sign of weakness; it takes immense courage to do this.

Others feel that speaking about domestic abuse is a betrayal of the partner carrying out the abuse. Many blame themselves and feel they deserve to be hit, while others love their partners deeply and want to fix things without stirring the waters. Each case is different and there is no right or wrong way to act, but it’s important to accept that the violence is wrong and that, one way or another, it has to stop.

There are several groups out there to help men experiencing domestic violence, including Men's Advice Line and ManKind Initiative. Men’s Advice Line offers the following advice for male victims:

·         Keep a record of the dates and times of any incidents. If you have been injured, seek medical attention and the doctor will make a note of your injuries
·         Keep your phone charged and on your person at all times in case you need to make an emergency call
·         Tell a trusted friend or family member what's been happening
·         Make sure your passport and important documents are kept in a safe place (preferably with a trusted friend)
·         Report violence or criminal damage to the police
·         Don’t retaliate, it's not safe

If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence of any kind, get in touch with Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327 or via the website.

Read more on this issue in the upcoming edition of Sorted magazine, out August 19.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A shift away from boobs, babes and bums

A couple of weeks ago, the news broke that Blue Publishing, the company that publishes Loaded magazine, has been forced into administration. While the lads’ mag will still be available through new firm Loaded Media Limited, it seems Blue Publishing’s mass expansion plans for the title have been put on hold.

Now we’re not mentioning this because we delight in other people’s misfortunes, but we are interested in the anti-nudity shift that seems to be emerging in the media, and particularly in the lads’ mag domain. The ‘No More Page 3’ debate has been well publicised – it has even been addressed in parliament – and a more recent campaign entitled ‘Tesco: Lose the Lads’ Mags’ is also gathering speed.

Derided by some as ‘feminist claptrap’, it’s clear that this recent trend goes far deeper; many of these campaigns are supported by and even led by men. It seems that men want more than just boobs and bums these days, and some even consider this type of female objectification to be an insult to the ‘fairer sex’. 

Even those that have been embroiled in the lads’ mag industry appear to be changing their minds about what makes for appropriate content and what doesn’t. A Daily Mail interview with former Loaded editor Martin Daubney is particularly revealing.

“To me, it was harmless fun, dictated by market forces,” he told the tabloid paper. “What’s more, I was paid more money than I’d ever earned in my life to do it. I’d always dreamed of editing Loaded and vowed to do whatever it took to stay there. 
I never stopped to consider issues like the crass sexualisation of women. Moral naysayers were party-poopers, and if they attacked me, I’d attack them back –  harder.”

Looking back, he sees things a little differently: “We were normalising soft porn, and in so doing we must have made it more acceptable for young men to dive into the murky waters of harder stuff on the internet. And, for that, I have a haunting sense of regret.”

However, Martin is realistic about the future. “Let’s be clear: you can’t ever ban pornography,” he says. “Like tax and Tory U-turns, it is painfully unavoidable and lots of consenting adults consume it of their own free will. But we must tighten up the current laws to make it unavailable to children, as it can be so damaging. It sells boys the debasing view of women as one-dimensional fakes: fake boobs, fake hair, fake nails, fake orgasms and fake hope.”

Moreover, it seems Tesco is taking these concerns seriously. The supermarket chain’s chairman, Sir Richard Broadbent said he was considering the campaign targeted at Tesco and that he had been ‘startled’ by some of the content featured in the lads’ mags featured on the stores shelves.

When Sorted launched in 2007, it was specifically aimed at guys who were looking for an alternative to the nudity-rich, content-poor men’s magazines on the market. By including a wide range of features from celebrity interviews to gadgets, cars, music and even sex, Sorted is all about providing a high-quality magazine that men can read openly and with a clear conscience.

In response to the shift in demand away from these semi-pornographic magazines, Sorted has increased its print run to 40,000 copies per issue. The magazine is also distributing free copies across London in bars and restaurants, tube and railway stations, airport departure gates, universities and gyms – and also via a dedicated Sorted Taxi that will roam the streets of the capital for the next year giving out thousands of copies and discussing the issues the magazine raises.

Show the retailers your support for a magazine that doesn’t objectify women and is more entertaining than the soft-porn shelf-huggers that are available to adults and children alike. 

Click here to buy your copy of Sorted today or help us to give more copies away by clicking here and donating.