For two weeks, the staff and readers of lads mags have been under siege. Ever since the Co Op decided that, under pressure from customers and the UK Feminista organisation, magazines like Nuts, Zoo and Loaded would only be stocked if they were sheathed in something called a modesty bag.
This was reinforced with a major media campaign by UK Feminista and its allies, under the "Lose The Lads Mags" heading and its zingy, up-to-the-minute hashtag. They didn't want these publications just to tone down covers or be hidden behind boards, but removed from shops altogether.
You could easily label this furore as another battle between the sexes, but it's about something far more British than that. It's about class.
UK Feminista display the typical prejudices of the interfering, "liberal" - though I use the term advisedly - middle class. Never more happy than when they're telling working people people how to live their lives, their apparent disdain for "objectification" doesn't include the anonymous, size-zero models used to sell clothes in fashion mags or the barely-clothed male hunks on the front of gay magazines (they could, gasp, be accused of homophobia). This is selective puritanism based on narrow, predictable prejudices.
The accusation that lads' mags treat women as objects is bizarre. The under-contract, and very well paid, models in Zoo and Nuts are always interviewed in the magazines, and often appear in the titles' multimedia output. They're big personalities who are celebrated in the titles' pages - something in stark contrast to how women are portrayed in celebrity glossies. They, however, won't be getting banned - yet.
Perhaps the most depressing element of this campaign has been UK Feminista's refusal to listen to the women who make their career as models in the lads' mags sector. Wakefield model Chanelle Hayes has spoken with passion and eloquence about how much she loves her work, especially as her size 12 figure would rule her out of appearing in publications aimed at females.
Last week, she and Nuts cover girl Holly Hagan, tried to engage UK Feminista with an open letter outlining their point of view, but media-savvy types that they are, the group ignored them. That would mean acknowledging their own double standards.
There's old morals at play in the world of the interfering liberal. So burlesque is empowering, but stripping isn't; nudity in lads mags is
In a free society there's lots we can get offended by. A certain, selectively puritanical arm of the UK feminist movement is offended by lads' mags, and back up their distaste by spouting unproven theories on their supposed effects, dressed up as facts. The sort of "facts" dismissed by the Bailey Review of 2011, which showed there was absolutely no evidence that the covers of these magazines had a detrimental effect on young people.
If UK Feminista succeeds in forcing lads' mag off the shelves, then it opens up a can of worms. For example, some conservatives might say that the displaying of contraceptives encourages sex before marriage or teenage pregnancies. WIll they now be listened to by the likes of Boot's if they lobby hard enough? What about booze? Chocolate? Sausages? In a society where things are banished because they offend the tastes of others, nothing will be off-limits. And that's something that will damage us all.Suggest a correction