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Myth: Lads’ Mags Don’t Count as Porn

Last Updated: August 3, 2020

Matt Fradd

Matt Fradd is the author of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Woman Who Turned from Porn to Purity. After experiencing a profound conversion at World Youth Day in Rome in 2000, Matt has worked through full-time lay ministry in Australia, Ireland, Canada, and Texas. He has served as an apologist for Catholic Answers and has traveled all over the world, speaking to tens of thousands of teens and young adults. He and his wife Cameron have four children and live in North Georgia.

In the UK they are called “lads’ mags.” In the United States, they are called men’s “lifestyle magazines.” I’m not talking about your typical fitness magazine, but the one’s that routinely showcase women in erotic poses on the front. Many people argue magazines like this aren’t really “porn.”

I completely disagree.

The word “pornography” comes from the Greek words porne, meaning “prostituted woman” or “prostitution,” and the word graphos, meaning “writings” or “engravings.” Pornography is therefore not the graphic portrayal of sex or sexuality, broadly speaking, but commercial sex. Pornography is about an economic exchange: it is explicit material paid for and consumed by viewers or readers, produced with the intention to sexually arouse.

Under this definition, lads’ mags or swimsuit magazines are certainly pornographic. Compare the first issues of Playboy from the 1950s with the material in many of these magazines today, and one can see the obvious intentions of the editors are the same.

Regardless of what we call it, the question underneath the correct label is whether these kinds of magazines are good for men to consume. To answer this we need to look at the messaging of these magazines.

Psychologists from the University of Surrey and Middlesex University did an experiment where they took quotes about women from convicted rapists and then took quotes from men’s lifestyle magazines. They asked participants to label which ones came from sex offenders and which ones came from the men’s magazines.

What’s interesting is most people could not distinguish the sources of the quotes. At best they were just guessing. The objectifying, sexist comments from both sources were indistinguishable, and this is because the messaging of these magazines is clear: women are objects to be used for the pleasure of men.

Is this is the kind of material we consume as men, will this make us better men, men who serve and sacrifice for the women we love? I think the answer to that is really clear.