"We were surprised that participants identified more with the rapists' quotes, and we are concerned that the legitimisation strategies that rapists deploy when they talk about women are more familiar to these young men than we had anticipated."—Dr. Miranda Horvath of Middlesex University, lead researcher on a study to be published in the British Journal of Psychology, which found that "when presented with descriptions of women taken from lads' mags, and comments about women made by convicted rapists, most people who took part in the study could not distinguish the source of the quotes."
[Horvath also noted:] "These magazines support the legitimisation of sexist attitudes and behaviours and need to be more responsible about their portrayal of women, both in words and images. They give the appearance that sexism is acceptable and normal - when really it should be rejected and challenged. Rapists try to justify their actions, suggesting that women lead men on, or want sex even when they say no, and there is clearly something wrong when people feel the sort of language used in a lads’ mag could have come from a convicted rapist."This is a perfect, horrible example of how the rape culture works: Mainstream straight men's magazines normalize the narratives of the rape culture using language indistinguishable from that of actual rapists, which not only communicates to sexual predators that their predation is normal (functioning the same way as rape jokes), but inures the rest of the male population to the horror of sexual violence and encourages sympathy with predators rather than victims, thus creating a culture disinclined to believe victims and hold predators accountable.
Dr. Peter Hegarty, of the University of Surrey's Psychology Department, added: "There is a fundamental concern that the content of such magazines normalises the treatment of women as sexual objects. We are not killjoys or prudes who think that there should be no sexual information and media for young people. But are teenage boys and young men best prepared for fulfilling love and sex when they normalise views about women that are disturbingly close to those mirrored in the language of sexual offenders?"
He added that young men should be given credible sex education and not have to rely on lads' mags as a source of information as they grow up.
Anna van Heeswijk, Campaigns Manager for OBJECT, a human rights campaign group which campaigns against the objectification of women, said: "This crucial and chilling piece of research lays bare the hateful messages which seep out of lads' mags and indoctrinate young men's attitudes towards women and girls. When the content of magazines aimed at teenage boys mirrors the attitudes of convicted rapists, alarm bells must ring."
Frequently, people who object to the notion of the rape culture misunderstand that critics of the pieces of the rape culture, like objectifying lads' mags which undermine the concept of consent, are arguing: "Lads' mags cause men to rape."
That is not what I am saying.
What I am saying is that the misogynist content of straight lads' mags normalizes the attitudes and narratives that rapists use to justify raping women—and that as long as men who aren't rapists share those attitudes, they are much less likely to convict rapists, because to do so feels like indicting themselves.
[H/T to @scatx.]