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Ponnada: Reinforcing the rape culture

BY SRI PONNADA | NOVEMBER 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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I have always felt like men’s magazines were dirty. They seem to objectify women far more than I can handle. A new study on “lad mags” — as they are fondly called in England — seems to justify my feelings about these awful forms of literature.

According to the study, conducted by psychologists from Middlesex University and the University of Surrey (in England), when presented with descriptions of women taken from popular British men’s magazines and comments about women made by convicted rapists, most participants in the study could not distinguish the source of the quote.

How is it possible that an individual could possibly confuse something they read in a magazine with something that a rapist would say? It seems ridiculous.

But the researchers also showed both sets of quotes to a separate group of men. The men were more likely to identify with statements made by rapists than those pulled from magazines. Disturbing.

The ray of sunshine, however, is that when researchers randomly (and not always accurately) labeled the quotes as ones from rapists or magazines, the men were more likely to identify with the ones supposedly from magazines.

So men are evidently thinking a little bit like rapists, but at least they don’t want to. I guess that’s what we are supposed to find some sort of (clearly misplaced) comfort in.

Out of curiosity, I read some of the quotes used in the study myself to see if I could make the distinction. Here are a few of my favorites.

“There’s a certain way you can tell that a girl wants to have sex … The way they dress, they flaunt themselves.”

“Mascara running down the cheeks means they’ve just been crying, and it was probably your fault … but you can cheer up the miserable beauty with a bit of the old in and out.”

“You know girls in general are all right. But some of them are bitches … The bitches are the type that … need to have it stuffed to them hard and heavy.”

“Girls love being tied up … it gives them the chance to be the helpless victim.”

I thought, “Obviously, these are all things said by a rapist.” To my surprise, however, only No. 1 and No. 3 are quotes from rapists. The other two quotes were pulled from a men’s magazine.

The results of the study are downright disturbing. We now live in a society where even off-the-rack magazines are perpetuating a culture that normalizes sexual violence, which affects the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and men around the world, through content that is supposed to be entertaining and perhaps educational.

Forget objectification of women — men’s magazines have risen to represent much more. The quotes used in the study were graphic and sadistic, and (what I found to be enraging) unabashedly equated sex and violence — just as rapists do and so much of our society is wont to do as well.

With young men growing up reading this kind of misogynistic literature, and being exposed to all the other misogyny permeating mass media, how can we ever expect our rape culture to change? It is quite unfortunate that instead of problematizing it, we, as a society, have come to normalize sexual violence.


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