Blog of Feminist Activism

The feminist activism of charliegrrl and co

Not much has changed…

Posted by charliegrrl on February 9, 2007

I started this blog in June 2006 cos I was annoyed at porn being on full display in shops.

8 months later, even after pressure from Object, a proposed Bill to display them on top shelf and shops stating they follow the NFRN guidelines to display porn out of sight of children…not much has changed…

WHSmith Liverpool Train Station Jan 07

WHSmith Liverpool Jan 07

Here, Nuts is on the bottom shelf of a promotional stand at the entrance to WHSmith

WHSmith Liverpool Jan 07

Here, WHSmith have a promotion- £1 off any magazine, including hardcore porn, when you buy The Times!

WHSmith porn promotion

And it’s not just WHSmith, it’s most supermarkets and newsagents…

After making my New Years Resolution to no longer shop in shops that sell porn, I’ve realised how few shops actually don’t sell porn. If they don’t sell lads mags, they’ll most likely sell The Daily Star or Playboy merchandise. Porn is everywhere.

Please complain to let them know we are unhappy

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33 Responses to “Not much has changed…”

  1. Richie said

    That’s some pretty transparent non-transparent plastic they’ve got there.

    Every supermarket / convenience store / newsagent / department store in my town sells porn, too. The one at the end of my street doesn’t even bother dividing the magazines up, so the hardcore porn is in between magazines about gardening and crossword tips.

    Even if not much has changed, you should still be really proud of the work you’ve done in the last eight months.

  2. Laura said

    I honestly think WH Smith are taking the piss: they have repeatedly made lads’ mags pick of the week since feminists have really taken this issue up, and they seem to display them even more erratically than before.

    I was chatting to my dad about this and happened to mention that John Menzies are the biggest distributor of porn in the UK, that they push it on smaller newsagents etc and he was really shocked (he works in retail property): maybe raising awareness about this would be a good form of attack.

    Well done on the Guardian article, btw, it’s all a bit exciting!

  3. jo22 said

    Are the covers on the hardcore porn mags supposed to conceal the front page? If so, how come I can read “Do it on my boobs”?

    I’ve been complaigning to the shops, but not to the magazine companies. Too scared of them.

    I was just about to correct my spelling up there, but “complaigning” is now a new word. Complain/campaign. 🙂

  4. jo22 said

    Sorry, can’t read after all. “Over” my boobs.

  5. jo22 said

    Sorry for the triple post, but congrats on getting into The Guardian! Great article.

  6. stormy said

    Whilst I’d really like to take the ultimate political stance of “I won’t shop in a shop that sells porn”, unfortunately, that would leave me NOWHERE to shop. I don’t have a car, so travelling further afield is not really possible. Even if JUST ONE of the local supermarkets would stop selling porn, they would get ALL of my business.

    Until then phantom stickering and covert ops such as Stormy’s photo survey (even though the blog has closed, this is still going).
    http://stormcloud.wordpress.com/activism-lms/

    Perhaps I should put a closing date on it so that people don’t think it is a forever thing?

  7. Liz said

    Ugh, I’m so sick of WHSmiths. Everytime I travel up to Edinburgh (to see my partner) from Kings Cross in London, the shop has displays of lads mags everywhere!! They have it at the front of the shop where they have ‘specials’ apparently or nuts or zoo is the mag of the week 😦

    I’ll be complaining, definitely.

  8. Rachel H-G said

    I am trying, very feebly, to make a list of shops which do not stock porn or porn-branded items. It is a very short list!
    Once I’ve developed it some more, I’d like to share it so others can use and add to it.

  9. Great Rachel, so far I’ve got Marks & Spencers- although they do sell The Sun and sometimes The Star so a bit iffy…

    For food I tend to shop in organic and independant grocers- so avoiding supermarkets. CDs and DVDs again local shops- so not big named shops.

    I think Superdrug and Boots don’t sell porn.

    Let us know of the list, then we should write to them to say we appreciate them not selling porn.

  10. stormy said

    “I think Superdrug and Boots don’t sell porn.”
    However Boots have been pissing me right off with sexist ad after sexist ad. The xmas fare was puke-worthy.

    Sadly, I don’t really have any little independent (general) stores around me. My corner shop also has LMs right next to the greeting cards, and just above TV and teengirl mags. *nice*

    All this stuff is all-pervasive. 😦

  11. Grace said

    If I was one of those people who displayed anger externally I would have been screaming when I first saw those pics (which was late last night but my internet was playing up and the comment page wouldn’t load). I want to say that the ‘real porn’ covers are disgusting, but that word doesn’t really cover it, it doesn’t even cover my true feelings about the lads mags – on the bottom shelf! For F’s sake!!

    The slogans on the front of the porn – which as Jo22 pointed out are still very readable – are the most disturbing. The fact that one of the mags is actually called Men Only just cements the fact that pornography is for MEN. Men who want to own women – because only the magazine is meant only for men and so the women in it are there only for men, and by buying the magazine they are demonstrating a feeling of ownership over the women…that’s how I feel about it anyway.

    Men Only says: “Want To Make Me Wet?”

    In reality I don’t think these men would give a shit if she was wet or not. It’s not about her sexual gratification is it? But then I suppose if it’s all for viewing pleasure then what could be hotter? (sorry, I pronounced that wrong, I believe you’re suppose to say it “hawt” now)

  12. Grace said

    p.s. Sorry about the rant. There are things that I happened in my life that are not extreme by any means, but that affected me somewhat, and I had somehow managed to block them out (but not forget them) until recently when I have started to recall things unexpectedly (and involuntarily) without obvious trigger. So knowing that this shit is just there for anyone and everyone of all ages to be exposed to really gets to me.

  13. Bea said

    Iceland don’t sell magazines or newspapers.

  14. What cut it for me in one of my local shops, was when I was literally buying some bread when all I could focus on was the caption *suzi’s drenched panties* behind his left ear.
    We had a err bit of a row about it and I have NEVER been back.

  15. Michelle said

    “Even if not much has changed, you should still be really proud of the work you’ve done in the last eight months.”

    Just picking up on what Richie said, even if the shops are still selling lad mags, Playboy stuff et al, I think every demo we’ve held, leaflet we’ve handed out, stall we’ve set up, conversation we’ve had, sticker’s we’ve put on these mags, and letter we’ve wrote, has planted a seed in someone’s (if not everyone’s) mind, about this issue. It’s all awareness-raising, its bringing this issue to people’s attention, who may agree with us, but just need that presence to know that there is a resistance to this out there, and may be inspired to complain/make a stand themselves.

    We may not be getting through to the corporations (who make too much money from porn to radically change their ways), but I believe the work we do, does have an impact on some people’s consciousness, and that’s an important thing.

  16. Lucie said

    I was interested to read the article in yesterday’s Guardian about your activities. I too have been becoming increasingly frustrated by the insidious way in which “lad’s mags” and “jazz rags” such as The Sport have found their way into mainstream consciousness, to the point where I can’t walk into my local Smiths or petrol station without seeing a thonged arse staring back at me.
    Being forced to look at this myself is bad enough, but displaying these mags at kids’ eye level is what disturbs me most about this whole issue. On a recent trip to Tesco, my 4 year old niece pointed at a prominently posted issue of Nuts and said, “Look at that lady’s boobs Auntie Lu!”.
    Obviously there is a huge and long-debated issue underpinning this about porn and the porn industry, an issue which will not be resolved overnight – if indeed ever resolved, given the financial weightiness of the sex industry. However, it is the surreptious way in which it is pervading our everyday lives, and that of our children, which grieves me – and the blind acceptance of it by the majority of the public.
    Back in September I walked into WHSmith and straight into a floor to ceiling display of Loaded magazine featuring two naked women holding each others breasts. It was that month’s featured magazine. I mentioned to the sales assistant that I thought it was inappropriately placed, to which she replied, “We put the worst ones on the top shelf”. I replied that I thought that this was one of the ‘worst ones’, and asked if she would mind mentioning my comment to the manager. “I can do but they won’t do anything about it”, she replied.
    Definitions of child sex abuse include “forcing children to look at sexually explicit material”. Although exposing them to it in so-called ‘family’ stores is not technically ‘forcing’ them to look at it, they have little option but to see it if it’s at their eye level as they walk through the door.

  17. Lucie said

    I would just like to add as an addendum to the above comment, that I am NOT advocating censorship – freedom of expression is one of the remaining great things about living in this country – and we must remember that some of the women who pose in these magazines and newspapers enjoy it (think Jordan or Jodie Marsh – vacuous, but open about the fact they love ‘glamour-modelling’). Obviously there is a far more sinister underbelly to the porn industry which I am certainly not justifying here, but ‘lad’s mags’ and their grotesque editorial features have a huge market – my point is that they should be on the top shelf out of the way, not where they are granted a mainstream audience.

  18. stormy said

    Grace: “So knowing that this shit is just there for anyone and everyone of all ages to be exposed to really gets to me.”

    Actually, that is the whole point of the ‘lack of sensitivity’ to the sale and display of these magazines—to remind former victims of their ‘place’ in the pecking order scheme of things (and also that you can get victimised again). Plus to those that haven’t yet been victimised by the rather obvious oppression that we refer to as ‘the patriarchy’, that a woman’s worth is nothing more than wank fodder.

    These retailers have a ‘voluntary code’ to sell and display this material, which they maintain they adhere to (clearly, NOT). I am completely offended walking into most shops, because most blatantly ‘thrust’ this material in your face. Do they display innocuous magazines such as gardening and knitting ‘front and centre’? NOPE. Therefore the (hidden??) agenda. Not so really, it serves the duality of reminding women of their place, and to ‘convert’ any man not yet brainwashed into porn’s ‘women are wank fodder’ view of the world.

    In order to fight it, we should be clever about it. Don’t complain to the retailers directly, be ‘devious’. Participate in my ‘survey’ of retail sale and display (which is really just a collation of evidence that they don’t give a fuck about anyone without a dick). Stickering is fine, that serves to remind the general public that ‘porn ain’t the norm’, but we also need some ammo to get some legislation in place (because as stated above, self regulation isn’t worth the paper it’s written on).

  19. Elana said

    My experience here (in small town Canada) has been that while bookstores will carry “Men’s Magazines” (FHM, Maxim, etc) and have it somewhat at eye level, the only place you can seemingly buy porn is at a convenience store/corner market, where all the porn is kept on a top shelf where only the title is barely visible. Some shops will have it wrapped in clear plastic so you can’t “try before you buy”, I guess to keep the young children in the convenience stores “safe” from whatever may be on the inside. However, the front covers are still clearly visible when you take one from off the shelf. Also, because the censorship laws are different here, you very rarely see bare breasts in a magazine like FHM. You want boobies, you have to buy “Playboy”, which is also kept hidden on a top shelf.

    I know I had a point somewhere when I started commenting here, but I seem to have lost it. Anyway, I love your blog/space and I applaud your efforts. I would love to hear from you, so feel free to drop me a line at: laner00@shaw.ca

    Take care, and I’ll be back soon.

  20. Michelle: yeah I agree every anti-porn action counts. Every sticker put on a lads mag gets attention from men who pick up the magazine, other customers and employees. Although things are still bad, we’ve come along way in our campaign, and we’ve just got to keep battling on until shops stop selling porn.

    Laura: I agree, WHSmith seem to be taking the piss- they promote lads mags, not just sell them. I understand that shops get pressure from distrubutors to stock porn- so in order to stock one mag, they may have to stock a porn mag. This is cos magazines are owned by parent companies- like Emap, so the mags come in a bulk package. I think the anti-porn newsagents owned by Hamdy, who complained was told that they didn’t have to display the porn delivered- they could just chuck it… I was unaware that John Menzies was a large distributor of porn…

    Lucie: you make a good point that it is abuse to show porn to children, and this should be pointed out to shops with porn on full display and near children’s titles. I’ve heard of mothers going into newsagents, and their child picks up the Daily Sport… Porn on full display in shops is also sexual harrassment of customers and employees. Porn is not allowed in many offices and sending someone a porn email is a gross offence as it is rightly percieved as sexual harrassment- but retail employees seem to ignore this…

    I mentioned this to Asda in a complaint, and they seemed concerned about this point of view, as they said they asked their staff how they felt, and they were alright with the porn they sell. I don’t believe they asked their staff, but I think they know an employee would have a legitimate case for sexual harrassment.

    Lucie, I don’t care if some women enjoy stipping naked for lads mags and enjoy the finanical reward- I still oppose them doing this. Making money out of being a sex object for men to gawp at shouldn’t be celebrated as something positive, just cos they get money and fame from it. Their individual ‘success’ as sex objects affects us negatively in the way men perceive us, and making out that glamour modelling is an aspirational career for women.

    Stormy- I think we can both complain directly to the retailers and be devious 😉

  21. stormy said

    Charlie,
    You know that I am fully supportive of the stickering, as you say, gets the message to the buyers, other customers and possibly staff.

    However, you are tipping your hand with direct complaints to retailers. If they clean up their act, and display/sell responsibly, there will be far less incentive for the Govt to step in and legislate, thereby remaining under self regulation. And you know what the whole porn industry is like, they keep pushing boundaries, normalising etc. That strategy wasn’t mine btw, but *S/O* (who told me NOT to make a big hooplah to the retailers so we could expose how they behaved under self-reg). When I sat back and thought about it, I fully agreed.

    How long lasting will the effects of self-reg be? Well, they’ve been in for a yearish and it’s wall-to-wall T&A. Even if they clean up, it will only be a matter of time before it is the same or worse.

    This is why a dossier cataloguing as many cases of irresponsibility as we can photograph/detail is important. I am not saying that stickering cannot be run concurrent with that, it can by all means, just not the direct complaints to retailers. After all, the retailers route, you would have to complain to each and every one across the country. Better the blanket edict from HMG!

  22. I’d rather not have legislation forcing shops to put porn on top shelf, cos I’d rather shops not sell porn in the first place. Even if porn is on the top-shelf and covered up, I’d still not be happy.

  23. Dave said

    Self regulation for porn in newsagents isnt working and quite frankly will never work.
    Its in porns interest to be as visible,invasive and accessible as possible in order to become normalised and ultimately create more sales for its products.
    The ‘modesty’ covers on the top shelf porn mags in WH SMITHS are laughable,theyre not worth having,whats the point of these?
    Most newsagents are full of porn,its all uncovered and highly visible,children are being exposed to porn on a daily basis.
    Hardcore porn mags once only sold in sex shops,are now freely available in most newsagents without any covering what so ever.
    I think it will only be a matter of time for the hardcore dvds to start appearing on the newsagents shelves from sex shops,in the same way hardcore mags have.
    My personal opinion is that top shelf porn should be moved back into sex shops out of sight of children and lads mags put on the top shelf,preferably covered.
    Lastly people like Charliegrrl are making people stop and think about porn,even a year ago i would never of thought i would comment on a site like this!
    I was a typical MRA porn consumer.

  24. stormy said

    I had not realised you were anti-legislation. In that case, the photo-dossier is pointless (from your point of view).
    Logistically, I think that the store-by-store, city-by-city approach is extremely difficult (and time consuming).

    Anyway, I shall kill off the photo-survey, as it seems pursuing the legislative route is no longer fashionable.

  25. I don’t think a photo dossier is pointless, as it can be used to shame them and show how visible porn is in shops. My preferred method is targeting brands such as WHSmith, Tesco…but I agree it would be harder to use this approach on all independent newsagents.

    If you want to go down the legislation route, then go for it- I’m not against it, I just not a ‘lobbying’ person.

  26. Liz said

    I complained and got a standard reply:

    “Dear Elizabeth

    Thank you for your email, sharing with us your concerns about the way in which we display certain magazines in our stores.

    Whilst I appreciate your views, I can confirm that the particular magazines you refer to are part of our Men’s Lifestyle range. We reviewed our policy of displaying this range last year, ensuring that all these titles are positioned above 1.2 metres and are not displayed near products aimed at children.

    We do follow strict guidelines about the displaying of these titles and work closely with our publishers. As a retailer, we aim to strike the right balance in meeting the needs of all of our customers, which sometimes inevitably means a compromise.

    I’m sorry for the continued frustration my response will undoubtedly cause you, however, we do not currently have any plans to change the way we display these titles. Please be assured that we will continue to monitor any similar feedback we receive about this particular matter and if I can help you further, please feel welcome to contact me.

    Kind regards

    Sam Laverick
    Customer Service Coordinator”

    I mean, lifestyle magazines?? What’s that about? WHSmith certainly don’t follow strict guidelines according to what I’ve seen. The person really did get something right though – I’m very very frustrated!!

  27. Displayed above 1.2 metres! Since when!?!
    It’s interesting how they refer to such magazines as ‘men’s lifestyle’ magazines- pointing out how it is part of many men’s ‘lifestyle’ to perv on women and have such an immature view of women.
    We do follow strict guidelines about the displaying of these titles and work closely with our publishers
    Yeah of course they work closely with the publishers- cos they pay for the magazines to be put on such prominent display!

  28. linda said

    Well 1.2 metres is 4 feet – in other words probably the height of the average 8 year old?

  29. Sam said

    “Yeah of course they work closely with the publishers- cos they pay for the magazines to be put on such prominent display!”

    They certainly do. I learned much working for a big box bookstore, and one of those things is that magazine positions and endcap displays are often bought by publishers. It’s big moolah, enough that they send secret shoppers into stores to make sure they’re getting the publicity they’ve paid for; bookstores are fined for not putting product where publishers pay to have it displayed.

  30. Liz said

    It’s also a joke as although I stressed the fact that children could access the magazines, I also made a very big point of talking about objectification and degradation of women and how uncomfortable and unhappy women feel walking past shelves of porn. It seems that children’s rights get more notice than women’s rights and will garner more publicity or sympathy (I’m not saying that children don’t need to be protected, but that women need to be given respect too).

  31. Amy said

    Gah!
    I went into a shop with a friend ‘cos she wanted to buy a magazine, and I turned around, and the breasts of the topless front page girl of Zoo was right in front of my eyes. Admittedly, I’m not the tallest person, but still!
    So, I couldn’t just not do or say something. Since there were three people who worked in the shop right by me, I couldn’t exactly take one of your anti-porn-activism tips such as hiding them under shelves or graffiti-ing over them with marker pen (partly ‘cos I hadn’t anticipated going in such a shop, and therefore was not prepared with a marker pen or anything), and so I felt the only option for me was to Speak Up. And so I did, I commented that I felt uncomfortable or found them offensive. And I was essentially smirked and laughed at. Gaah!
    They even made some remark that they could sell it to a two-year-old if they wanted.
    Xxx

  32. Gosh that is so insensitive of them!
    Well done for speaking up and telling them you felt uncomfortable.
    x

  33. Rachel H-G said

    Some undercover news here – the company I work for deals with lads’ mags. Unofficially, when the likes of Zoo and Nuts (the cheaper weeklies) sell their ad space, they tell potential buyers that their reader demographic is 10-30 year olds. Yes you read that correctly, 10. I won’t be able to get any written or definite evidence of this short of taping phone calls, as they know this is immoral, if not quite illegal, and only quote this verbally, but it is true and there must be other witnesses somewhere. Here’s hoping a regulatory body reads this.

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