Big Debate: Should men’s lifestyle magazines be covered?

The Co-operative has given publishers of 'lads mags' a deadline to cover up their front pages

The Co-operative has given publishers of 'lads mags' a deadline to cover up their front pages - Credit: Archant

The Co-op recently told men’s lifestyle magazines to cover up their front covers or they would not be sold in its tores

Kirsty Hopley from Child Eyes

Kirsty Hopley from Child Eyes - Credit: Archant

Magazines such as Loaded, Nuts and Front were given a deadline of September 9 by the retailer which said there were concerns about the images of scantily-clad women on covers.

Barry McIlheney, CEO of the PPA

Barry McIlheney, CEO of the PPA - Credit: Archant

The move has sparked a debate with some saying the images dehumanise women while others believe the magazines just reflect the diverse interests of the nation’s young men.


Kirsty Hopley from Child Eyes

“Child Eyes is a campaign run by volunteer parents aiming to protect children from sexual and inappropriate images.

“It is a widely accepted social norm that we do not subject children to adult material. For instance, we have a watershed, ratings on films, games, alcohol and cigarettes.

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“We think that there is a strange inconsistency in shops and supermarkets whereby sexual images are being displayed in children’s view.

“There are industry guidelines but they are not being adhered to consistently. Child Eyes, ( has gathered a mass of pictures demonstrating sexual images at child height and next to children’s comics.

“We also have a variety of poor responses from top retailers when parents have asked for content to be removed from their child’s view.

“We applaud the Co-op’s decision to remove lad mag’s from sale if they are not covered. They have listened to parents and campaign groups. They understand this is an important issue and that they needed to act.

“Research from the Children’s Commissioner, Government and Home Office shows the early viewing of sexual material is harmful to body image and healthy sexual attitudes.

“How does a child understand why a woman is bent over in a thong? What do they think when they see women holding their breasts with captions such as ‘Lucy Topless’ and ‘Booby Babes’.

Such representations have a lasting effect on impressionable minds. We do not believe this is censorship as publishers will still print the same material, can sell the same material, and consumers can still buy the same material.

“The only change in Co-op is that its customers can appreciate that adults who want lad mags are grown up enough to find them without unnecessarily exposing children to them.”


Barry McIlheney from the PPA

“This is a sensitive subject that has ignited heated public debate so I think it’s helpful to start by clarifying the issue at the heart of this matter and that, very simply, is how the covers of men’s lifestyle magazines – or “lads’ mags” – should be displayed within retail outlets.

“Retailers are supported in this through a set of display guidelines that have been drawn up by various industry bodies from across the magazine supply chain, the PPA included.

“Endorsed by the Home Office, these guidelines clearly set out a series of measures for men’s lifestyle magazines so they are displayed well away from children’s titles and at a height that means they are not in any child’s eye line.

“The existing guidelines go on to state that retailers can also liaise with wholesalers to source opaque plastic covers, or modesty boards, should they require them for individual stores.

“Adhered to properly, these guidelines provide for a retail environment that can accommodate legal, responsibly published titles that are targeted at adults without overtly exposing children to their front covers, which is exactly as it should be.

“In this context, the Co-op’s direct and very public demand for “modesty bags” is an unnecessary move.

“The fundamental point here has to be that we are a free society, with freedom of speech and the freedom to publish – all within specific parameters. Because we are granted these freedoms, there will then always be differences of opinion on matters of taste and decency.

“Yes, these titles contain adult imagery but they are legal, published responsibly and, as with all magazines, they are created for, targeted at, and sold to a specific readership.

“Whatever one’s personal view, what matters above all else surely is their context – and the magazine industry in this case has clear guidelines which are sufficient to safeguard that contextual environment.”