As published at ABC News.
Written by Julie Gale.
Note: This story necessarily contains explicit material not suitable for children and which may offend some readers.
The call for removal of porn magazines from milkbars, corner stores and petrol stations has got porn defenders hot under the collar.
They deny that lad's mags and their more explicit counterparts are exposing children to harmful material. No surprises there. It seems nothing can come between a porn users love of the hobby, even if it means children are exposed to inappropriate content.
A cross section of the community, including 37 child development professionals, academics and child advocates, has signed the following statement to the Attorney's General censorship and enforcement working party (CEWP):
"We, the undersigned, are opposed to Restricted pornographic publications and material being sold where they can easily be seen and accessed by children. We call for the sale and display of Restricted publications to be limited to adults-only premises. Further, we support a review of the Classification of Publications Guidelines, to determine whether there should be more stringent requirements for the display of the so-called "lads'' magazines such as People, The Picture, Zoo and Ralph magazines etc.
According to Stephen Brandon, advertising manager at Australian Penthouse, the push towards restrictions has come from the religious right. This has become a common and tiresome phrase used as an attempt to undermine and discredit an opposing view. To brand the signatories as being on the religious right is inaccurate and misguided.
Scott Briggs, manager of regulatory affairs at PBL Media, the company that owns ACP, said there "was no need for restrictions on the way they were displayed because they were not pornographic and did not feature nudity on their covers".
Clearly, people immersed in the industry have become so desensitised that they have lost sight of what would be deemed 'pornographic' or at the very least inappropriate for young kids and early teens to be viewing.
An example of a recent unsealed 'lad mag' displayed within easy view and reading access for kids is The Picture.
Advertisements in this 'lad mag' incite sex with minors:
'Hear me losing my innocence - Legal at last...'
'Secret Uni Student Videos. Barely Legal. Text - Young.'
"Don't Tell My Dad - hot phone sex you can see and hear."
While 'lad mags' may not display full frontal nudity on their covers, the intent is to sexualise and objectify females and the covers, text and content reflect this.
The 37 signatories are calling for these magazines to be displayed away from kids' easy access and view. It's not rocket science.
A growing body of research links sexualised imagery with a host of harmful impacts on kids.
Evidence gathered in the recent UK Home Office report also suggests a clear link between the consumption of sexualised images, a tendency to view women as objects and the acceptance of aggressive attitudes and behaviour as the norm.
The report states that both the images we consume and the way we consume them are lending credence to the idea that women are there to be used and that men are there to use them.
The report also says that there is a significant amount of evidence linking stereotypical attitudes to women's sexuality and sexist beliefs with aggressive sexual behaviour.
Although distributors such as ACP may present their magazines to the classification board, there are a host of distributors who do not. This means that most of the sealed Category 1 magazines sold in the public arena are unclassified and therefore illegal.
Many distributors are flouting the law by sealing and labelling their imported magazines and selling direct to retailers, without getting a correct classification. This means that many porn mags sold in the public arena should only be sold in adult only venues.
Many more warrant an RC rating - refused classification - and shouldn't be available for sale anywhere in Australia.
Of great concern is the proliferation of the 'teen porn' genre. The images and text are clearly designed to incite sex with minors. These magazines are often displayed next to teen magazines, comics and daily newspapers.
Young looking females are often displayed with braces on their teeth, wearing pigtails, pink head bands and school uniforms or surrounded by soft toys.
Australian law states that a publication will be Refused Classification 'if it describes or depicts in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a person who is or appears to be, a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not.)'
Evidence suggests that adults exposed to 'barely legal' or virtual child pornography make stronger links between youth and sexuality than adults exposed to materials featuring older-looking models. They are also more likely to associate sex and sexuality with subsequent non-sexual depictions of minors according to a report from the UK Home Office.
The call for the sale and display of Restricted publications to be limited to adults-only premises is one action that can compensate for a classification system that is failing.
As a community we need to be responsible about where Restricted materials are displayed and sold.
Involuntary exposure to highly sexualised imagery is having a harmful impact on our children. It's time for the community to recognise the damaging effects and be willing to challenge the status quo.
If distributors like ACP are opposed to this, then they need to call on their own industry to - at the very least - abide by the current classification laws.
Editor's Note: For images of the sorts of magazines child advocates are calling to have limited to sale in adults only premises, please see here These images may offend some readers.
Julie Gale is the founder of Kids Free 2B Kids.
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