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I’m afraid the boys’ magazines I worked on spawned a generation of TOXIC misogynists.

It’s a hot summer afternoon in the late ’90s and we’re celebrating at the London office of FHM magazine.

It’s just been announced that the so-called boys’ magazine has achieved monthly sales of 750,000 and staff are pouring out of desks littered with free gadgets and glossy photos, many of young women posing provocatively in skimpy underwear, and returning from the pub to open up. the champagne

I also have a glass and stop myself from writing an interview with the hosts of The Girlie Show (to accompany photos of them dressed suggestively in skimpy school uniforms).

This year marks 30 years since the men’s magazine revolution, which began with the relaunch of FHM, previously a dull fashion quarterly, in 1993. Then came the explosion of edgy wit, soft-porn and stunts that was Loaded, with the catchphrase “Good job, buddy.” !’ – followed by Nuts, Zoo, Front and many more exciting and short-lived imitators.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the men’s magazine revolution, which began with the relaunch of FHM. Flic Everett (pictured) asks if these magazines have had a much more malign influence than we imagine.

All good, wholesome fun, or so we thought. But could the influence of those extremely youthful magazines, where women came packaged like human ready meals and ‘talking about your feelings’ meant brutally insulting one another, have had a much more malign influence than we ever imagined?

I ask myself that question more often than I’d like, because between 1996 and 2001 I worked regularly for FHM as a writer. As a 25-year-old single mother of three, I was delighted to be writing for such a successful magazine.

However, now I see things differently. In their mix of ‘jokes’, fast cars and the objectification of women (someone once counted 73 naked women in an issue of Nuts) it seems to me that the boys’ magazines, while never advocating abuse, were selling a version of masculinity not far away. removed from what was advocated today by toxic online influencers like Andrew Tate, currently being held in a Romanian jail for alleged rape and human trafficking offences.

Were those ‘fun’ magazines the start of a new era of misogyny?

I was an interviewer for FHM and was sometimes recruited into the office as a vacation cover. Assignments included quizzing Playboy Bunnies about his sex life and “swapping lives with a guy” for a day, which involved him shaving his legs and me leering at girls in a pub. I interviewed cover actresses and sometimes wrote ‘Girls on the Couch,’ where ordinary (but always attractive) women debate sexual etiquette. I worked on the notorious ‘High Street Honeys’, an annual competition in which guys submitted photos of their girlfriends, not necessarily with permission, and readers voted for the sexiest.

We convinced ourselves it was all part of the prevailing culture of Lads and Ladettes having a good time, back in the days before the internet, when it was normal to wait a full month to see a photo of a celebrity you liked in their panties.

The ladettes declared themselves happy to be “on an equal footing” with the men, drinking as much as they did and behaving just as badly. But, of course, we were not equal in the eyes of society.

Flic was an interviewer for FHM and was sometimes recruited into the office as a vacation cover.  Tasks included quizzing Playboy bunnies about his sex life and

Flic was an interviewer for FHM and was sometimes recruited into the office as a vacation cover. Tasks included quizzing Playboy Bunnies about his sex life and “swapping lives with a guy” for a day, which involved him waxing his legs and looking at girls in a pub.

In fact, it was a deeply sexist period, and it often involved deeply sexist posts. Girl power meant nothing more than women wearing Wonderbras in the pub and drinking eight pints alongside the men. It meant television presenter Gail Porter’s bare bottom was shown in the Houses of Parliament without her permission. Now, I can see a clear path leading from those attitudes and obsessions to men like Tate, 36, whose videos on YouTube and TikTok contain far more dangerous and overt misogyny, but last year ranked among the most viewed in the world. .

The rise of boys’ magazines coincided with the adolescence of men like Tate and may well have influenced their developing outlook.

Consider the division of women into two broad, dehumanizing stereotypes on those pages: trophies (the willing, naked blonde) or scolds (the scruffy, whiny girlfriend who doesn’t want her guy to have fun).

The covers of the time tell the story. From Zoo: ‘Win your girlfriend a £4,000 boob job!’ — Because clearly her body wasn’t good enough as it was. From FHM: ​​’Sex Toys: (Keep her quiet while the football is on.)’

And in a deeply unpleasant dig at the late respected politician Mo Mowlam: ‘The FHM Sex Awards!…sweet FA to Mowlam.’ Sex has always sold, but boys’ magazines normalized the idea that women are for men’s sexual pleasure, bringing still-premium porn attitudes to the mainstream.

But if the boys’ magazines covered their sexism with edgy wit, men like Tate ditch the fun altogether. Kicked out of Big Brother for offensive comments in 2016, he quickly gained a following online and began offering paid courses and memberships through his Hustler’s University website.

Teenagers and young men were drawn to the depiction of its “ultra-masculine, ultra-luxurious” lifestyle and its unrepentant misogyny, in disturbingly high numbers. A survey last year by advocacy group Hope Not Hate found that eight in ten 16- to 17-year-olds had engaged with its content.

Tate suggested that rape victims “take some responsibility” for being attacked, said women “belong in the home” and referred to them as the “property” of men. It clearly goes far beyond any boys’ magazine from the 1990s, but it’s surely fair to conclude that they all promote the same deeply sexist culture. “It makes sense that the attitudes promoted in the most widely read men’s magazines would have an impact on readers’ views of women,” says registered psychologist Catherine Hallissey.

This is backed by research, he adds. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Psychology found that “some magazines geared toward young men are normalizing extreme sexist views by presenting those views in a general context.” The authors shared quotes with male readers and found that “young men identified more with derogatory quotes about women from recent boys’ magazines and from interviews with convicted rapists when those quotes were attributed to boys’ magazines than when they were attributed to rapists.” “. ‘.

They also found that both men and women had difficulty determining whether the quotes were from sex offenders or from magazines.

Violently misogynistic online subcultures, such as the incel (involuntary celibate) movement, are often based on the notion that attractive women are superficial and obsessed with sex, an idea perhaps unknowingly promoted by later guys’ magazines. , which fought to keep their place on the shelves by featuring as many naked women as they could fit onto the pages.

Now, as an older feminist, I feel ashamed of my role, however small, in promoting this deeply male-centric worldview.

However, at first I enjoyed the job and liked my colleagues. The men in the office were witty and polite, if a little pleased with themselves.

Many of those who worked on such magazines still insist that it was respectful fun. Charlotte Crisp was deputy editor of Loaded’s ‘Front Section’ in 2001, saying: ‘The vast majority of the staff were men. They were smart, funny, nerdy, and treated me with the utmost respect. The revue was mischievous and irreverent, like being in the pub with the funniest crowd you’ve ever met.

She admits, however, that “because we had to compete with other magazines, the clothes began to fall off our own models.”

In fact, its lifespan was limited. The rise of the Internet, coupled with the race to the bottom of ‘sex sells’ (‘more birds, less words’, as late-era Loaded editor Martin Daubney described one advertiser’s demands) meant that Readers and higher-paying advertisers were scared.

By the end of 2015, Loaded, FHM, Nuts, Zoo, Maxim, and most of the others had closed or gone online-only. I stopped writing for FHM long before that.

When the features editor asked me to find a list of ‘sexy nymphos’ to interview, I knew the fun, teasing magazine I used to enjoy was gone.

Sadly, 30 years later, it’s that misogynistic porn element that has endured. Good job, friends.