In the wake of Donald Trump’s obscene comments regarding his own treatment of women, a new study finds that sexist remarks are being normalized in the minds of many young males by men’s magazines – also known as “lads’ mags”. Among the more alarming findings of this research is that participants were unable to distinguish between sexist jokes published in these magazines and statements made by actual convicted rapists.
Lead researcher Peter Hegarty explained in a statement that these findings “demonstrate how a concrete source of social influence (lads’ mags) can shape the expression of a prejudice that is generally considered unacceptable in an egalitarian society.”
Appearing in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinities, the paper outlines the results of three separate studies designed to measure the impact of lads’ mags on the mentality of men. The first of these found that of 423 young men in the UK, those that were deemed to display “ambivalent sexism” were also considerably more likely to buy and read these magazines – though they were not more predisposed to “other forms of direct sexual consumption” such as paying for sex.
The second study, involving 81 male participants, discovered that sexist jokes are generally seen as less hostile when published in lads’ mags as opposed to when they appear elsewhere.
Finally, the biggest bombshell of all came when 275 male American students were asked to distinguish between sexist jokes printed in British magazines such as Nuts, Zoo, Loaded, FHM and Unilad, and remarks made by convicted rapists. The fact that participants were only able to do so with a 50 percent success rate – which is the same as just guessing – reveals just how bigoted these magazines can be.
Below are a couple of the quotes that actually turned out to be from the magazines:
"If the girl you’ve taken for a drink won’t spread for your head, think about this mathematical statistic: 85 percent of rape cases go unreported."
"The possibility of murder does bring a certain frisson to the bedroom."
Viewed collectively, these three studies suggest that not only are some publications printing highly prejudiced and derogatory content, but that much of this material gains legitimacy in the minds of many male readers by virtue of its appearance in these magazines.
However, participants did go on to say that they viewed lads’ mags as less legitimate once they realized that their “jokes” were indistinguishable from the comments of rapists.
“Sales of lads’ mags have declined significantly in recent years, with several ceasing publication, but ‘lad culture’ and the normalization of sexism is still a major concern, particularly on university campuses and online,” concludes Hegarty.