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Lads’ mags are starting to drop the scantily-clad cover stars – sexism is over now, right?

Loaded magazine has relaunched without topless cover stars, while gadget mag Stuff has dropped the scantily-clad girls, too. Is the “buy a magazine, get some misogyny for free” idea finally dead?

Stuff magazine is dropping the scantily-clad cover stars. Photo:  Joe Loong on Flickr, via CC
Stuff magazine is dropping the scantily-clad cover stars. Photo: Joe Loong on Flickr, via CC

Sexism is dead. I don’t want anyone to get ahead of themselves but the UK has definitely sorted gender equality out and it’ll soon spread to the rest of the world. Probably by around lunch time tomorrow.

The country’s biggest-selling gadget magazine, Stuff, has officially dropped cover girls from its front pages. Loaded, meanwhile, has relaunched without its traditional topless women. That’s right. A magazine about technology has managed to feature technology without draping naked women around it and the picture editor of Loaded has discovered there are images other than boobs. It’s a really big day for everyone involved and I’m just glad we can all be a part of it.

“We’re going to be far more discerning and sophisticated from now on,” confirmed a spokesman at Simian Publishing, which took over Loaded last year.

The new issue will feature actress Olympia Valance who, apparently, will in fact not be naked.

“She’s beautiful but she’s fully clothed and it’s a Q&A,” said the spokesman, establishing both that women can simultaneously be attractive to men and keep their clothes on, and that you can ask them questions and their brains will sometimes give you answers.

Like all progress, there’ll be some people who are upset about it, strangely attached to a bygone era where everything’s a bit more gross. Like before inside toilets. But the thing many miss when we talk about getting rid of the idea men can’t buy a lifestyle magazine without a naked woman on it is that it benefits men as well as women. (Even sexist men – aka the only type of men who would object to half the population being able to walk into a shop and buy a Twix without also seeing their sex stripped and commodified, like a human blow-up doll.)

We’ve unknowingly convinced ourselves we’ve entered a bizarre barter system where men can’t complete an economic transaction without some part of a human woman attached to it.  

“Okay Sir, here’s your new washing machine.”

“What sort of breasts does that come with?”

“Sorry?”

“It comes with some breasts, right?”

“Um. Well no, it’s just a washing machine.”

“What?”

“It’s a washing machine.”

“How about a nipple? I’ll take a nipple.”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying to me.”

“Boob.”

In “lad culture”, women get to be degraded pieces of flesh who are only useful for creating hard ons, sure. But men get to be complete morons.  

Sexuality is a positive, bloody brilliant thing. Sexualisation – where women are the arousing illustration to men’s interaction with every part of the world – isn’t.  

This isn’t just symbolism (and in a society where women are still deemed not important enough to get paid the same as men or be in a relationship without the risk of dying, symbolism alone is pretty powerful). It’s the literal spread of ideas – in image and words – that say women exist to be always up for it (it being whatever you want to do to them). Words that research says people can’t differentiate from the ones uttered by convicted rapists.

The relatively innocent days of a few scantily-clad women devolved into a hundred decapitated, naked bits of meat. The market was once the excuse for lads’ mags to enter a race to the bottom (or, as the case may be, breasts) but it’s now the impetus to stop it. The sales of lads’ mags have been plummeting for years. Editors at Stuff magazine had aimed to attract readers by getting the magazine positioned alongside them but focus groups and cover trials showed sales actually increase when there isn’t a naked woman involved. The “buy a magazine, get some misogyny for free” idea isn’t working anymore. No one’s buying it. Funnily enough, some of us never were.