I’m afraid the magazines of the guys I’ve worked on have spawned a generation of TOXIC misogynists

A warm summer afternoon in the late nineties and in the office of FHM magazine in London we celebrate.

It has just been announced that the so-called boys’ magazine has reached a monthly turnover of 750,000 and that staff are pouring in from desks full of free gadgets and shiny photos – many young women posing provocatively in skimpy underwear – and trickling back from the pub to bust open the Champagne.

I also take a glass and pause before writing an interview with the hosts of The Girlie Show (with photos of them suggestively dressed in skimpy school uniforms).

This year marks 30 years since the men’s magazine revolution began with the relaunch of FHM, formerly a bland fashion quarterly magazine, in 1993. Then came the explosion of sharp wit, soft porn and stunts that was Loaded – tagline ‘Good job, dude!’ – followed by Nuts, Zoo, Front and many more exciting short-lived imitators.

This year marks 30 years since the men’s magazine revolution began with the relaunch of FHM. Flic Everett (pictured) asks if these magazines have had a much more evil influence than we ever imagined?

All good, wholesome fun – or so we thought. But could the influence of those extremely boyish magazines, where women came packaged as human ready meals and ‘talking about your feelings’ meant blatantly insulting each other, have a much more malign influence than we could have ever imagined?’

I ask myself that question more often than I would like, because between 1996 and 2001 I regularly worked for FHM as a writer. As a 25-year-old single parent with a three-year-old son, I was delighted to write for such a successful glossy.

Yet I see things differently now. In their mixture of “chitchat,” fast cars, and the objectification of women—someone once counted 73 naked women in an issue of Nuts—it seems to me that boys’ magazines, while never advocating abuse, sold a version of masculinity that wasn’t too far away. away from what is espoused today by toxic online influencers such as Andrew Tate, who is currently imprisoned in a Romanian prison on charges of rape and human trafficking.

Were those “nice” magazines the beginning of a new era of misogyny?

I was an interviewer for FHM and was sometimes called into the office as holiday cover. Assignments included questioning Playboy bunnies about their sex lives and “swapping lives with a dude” for a day where he had to get a leg wax and me lurking for girls in a pub. I interviewed cover stars and sometimes wrote “Girls on the Couch,” where ordinary (but always attractive) women debated sexual etiquette. I worked on the infamous “High Street Honeys,” an annual contest where guys submitted photos of their girlfriends — not necessarily with permission — and readers voted for the sexiest.

We were convinced it was all part of the prevailing culture of Lads and Ladettes having fun, in the pre-internet days when it was normal to wait a full month to see a photo of a celebrity you liked in her underpants.

Ladettes claimed to be happy to be “on an equal footing” with men, to drink as much as they do, and to behave just as badly. But of course we were not equal in the eyes of society.

Flic was an interviewer for FHM and was sometimes called into the office as a holiday cover.  Assignments included questioning Playboy bunnies about their sex lives and

Flic was an interviewer for FHM and was sometimes called into the office as a holiday cover. Assignments included questioning Playboy bunnies about their sex lives and “swapping lives with a dude” for a day, which involved getting a leg wax and lurking for girls in a pub

In fact, it was a deeply sexist period and these were often deeply sexist publications. Girl power meant nothing more than women wearing Wonderbras to the pub and drinking eight pints with the men. It meant TV presenter Gail Porter’s naked backside was projected onto the Houses of Parliament without her consent. Now I see a clear path leading from those attitudes and obsessions to men like Tate, 36, whose videos on YouTube and TikTok feature a much more dangerous and overt misogyny — but last year they were among the most viewed in the world.

The boom in boys’ magazines coincided with the teenage years of men like Tate and may well have influenced their evolving outlook.

Consider the division of women into two broad, dehumanized stereotypes on those pages: trophies – the willing, naked blonde – or nag – the nagging, scruffy girlfriend who doesn’t want her dude to have fun.

The cover lines from that time tell the story. Van Zoo: ‘Win your girlfriend a £4,000 boob job!’ – because her body was clearly not good enough as it was. From FHM: ​​”Sex Toys: (Keep her quiet while the football is on).”

And in a very unpleasant dig at the late respected politician Mo Mowlam: ‘The FHM Sex awards!… dear FA to Mowlam.’ Sex has always sold, but the boys’ magazines normalized the idea that women are for men’s sexual pleasure, bringing the attitude of a still first-class eye-level pornography mainstream.

But if the boys’ magazines covered their sexism with a edgy humor, men like Tate would completely jettison the fun. He was thrown off Big Brother in 2016 for offensive comments, quickly gained an online following, and began offering paid courses and memberships through his “Hustler’s University” website.

Teenage boys and young men were drawn to the depiction of his “ultra-masculine, ultra-luxurious” lifestyle and his incorrigible misogyny, in alarmingly high numbers. A poll last year by advocacy group Hope Not Hate found that eight in 10 boys ages 16 to 17 engaged with his content.

Tate suggested that rape victims “have some responsibility” for having been assaulted, said women “belong” and called them the “property” of men. Clearly, he’s going much further than any 1990s lads magazine ever did – but it’s certainly fair to conclude that they all promote the same deeply sexist culture. “It makes sense that the attitudes promoted in widely read men’s magazines have influenced readers’ opinions of women,” says renowned psychologist Catherine Hallissey.

This is supported by research, she adds. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Psychology found that “some magazines targeting young men normalize extreme sexist views by presenting those views in a mainstream 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 struggled to figure out whether the quotes were from sex offenders or magazines.

Violently misogynistic online subcultures, such as the incel (involuntary celibate) movement, often rely on the idea that attractive women are superficial and sex-obsessed, an idea perhaps unconsciously promoted by the later boys’ magazines, which competed to maintain their place on the shelves by with as many naked women as they could cram into the pages.

Now, as an older feminist, I am ashamed of my role, albeit small, in promoting this deeply male-centered view of the world.

But early on I enjoyed the work and loved my colleagues. The men in the office were witty and cultured, if a little pleased with themselves.

Many of those who worked on such magazines still claim that it was all about respectful fun. Charlotte Crisp was Loaded’s deputy Front Section editor in 2001 and says, “The vast majority of the staff were male. They were smart, funny, nerdy and treated me with the utmost respect. The magazine was naughty and disrespectful, like being in the pub with the funniest crowd you’ve ever met.’

She does admit that ‘because we had to compete with other magazines, our own models’ clothes started to fall off’.

Their shelf life was indeed limited. The rise of the Internet, coupled with the “sex sells” race to the bottom – “more birds, fewer words” as later Loaded editor Martin Daubney described an advertiser’s demands – meant that readers and the better-paying advertisers were put off.

By the end of 2015, Loaded, FHM, Nuts, Zoo, Maxim, and most others had either shut down or gone online only. I stopped writing for FHM well before that.

When the editor-in-chief asked if I’d find a lineup of “sexy nymphos” to interview, I knew the fun, funny magazine I used to enjoy was long gone.

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