Georgina Guedes

Men's mag or rapist?

2013-07-24 12:04

Georgina Guedes

Earlier this week, just as this whole FHM features editor and editorial assistant Twitter saga was about to be put to rest, a friend of mine shared a link with me. The link was to an article on women's blog Jezebel, titled "Can you tell the difference between a men's magazine and a rapist?"

The article was about a study done by the University of Surrey, in which comments lifted from men's magazines and comments made by convicted rapists were shown to a test group, and the group was unable to distinguish between them.

Some of the comments were:

"You do not want to be caught red-handed . . . go and smash her on a park bench. That used to be my trick."
This was a men's mag.

"I think if a law is passed, there should be a dress code...When girls dress in those short skirts and things like that, they're just asking for it."
This one was a rapist.

You see the difficulty?

Making light of rape

Ever since I heard about the Facebook comments made by ex-features editor Max Barashenkov, who used "corrective rape" in the same manner as "I could kill you", and ex-editorial assistant Montle Moorosi, who pointed out that rape could be fun, I've been thinking that these aren't too different from the kinds of things I have read in men's magazines.

The University of Surrey study bears this out, and then some.

Rather than just jumping into the fray with my own notion of what men's mags do and don't publish, I had a quick scan of their local site (South African versions of magazines are often tamer than their international counterparts).

The contents ranged from "Mythbusting the perfect steak", which I have bookmarked to read later, to a surprisingly sensitive first-timer's guide to S&M, to a couple of articles that have a laddish, elbow-to-the-ribs approach to sex with underage women.

To quote from the "A - Z of sex": "Jailbait: Nope, nein, nyet, no way, nooit, nuh-uh. Yes, we know, but just don't go there."

Or a link to a video featuring "That Hot Young Cousin". She was 15.

While these two stories don’t actually endorse sex with underage girls, they do make light of it and sympathise with the desire to perform the act, which is, after all, making light of rape… hang on, isn’t that exactly what those two guys got fired for?

FHM partially to blame

I'm not saying that what Barashenkov and Moorosi said was right. I believe it wasn't. But I'm also not convinced by FHM wringing its lily-white hands and dismissing the two offenders as if the environment in which they work, tallying so closely with the very characteristics for which these two were probably hired, wasn’t a contributing factor to their way of thinking.

In my mind, a more appropriate response from FHM would have been to engage with the two guys, perhaps send them on some gender awareness courses, but, more importantly, to closely examine and overhaul their own editorial values.

That would certainly make a greater contribution to ensuring that their employees and the men they influence with their content no longer think like this.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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