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Pricking the Balloon of Cheap Sexploitation

31/07/2013 23:04 BST | Updated 01/03/2014 12:59 GMT

Every morning I wake up and pull back the curtains in my bedroom to the sight of a giant blow-up sex doll in the backyard.

She lies there with her legs splayed, her gigantic round breasts pert and inflated, and a handy hole in a place where one can only assume a manufacturer believed a vagina should be.

I never thought something like this would get to me, but after repeated views of said doll for the past two months I'm currently considering my options.

Do I march round to my neighbours - whom I don't know, this being 2013 London-living - and demand they take her indoors?

She's currently sharing their posh-shed-with-windows with their hot tub, so I can only assume they prefer to play with her poolside.

Stereotyping someone who would own such a doll - and not just discard her at the end of a stag night - led me to believe they wouldn't appreciate a woman, a feminist even, calling for her binning.

This somewhat minor dilemma I'm currently experiencing in my backyard is similar in some ways to what thousands of other women and men experience every time they walk into their local newsagent for a paper.

Above their desired product are rows of pert inflated boobs jutting out alongside the likes of the Angling Times and Computing Weekly with tag lines like 'Lucy Reveals Her Dirty Secret'.

I'm sure many people who feel as strongly as me have put aside their fear of looking pushy, prudish or pedantic and told the shop owners how repugnant they find those lads' mags covers.

But, judging by the enduring proliferation of such tomes, for years those voices, like the voices of anti-binge drinking campaigners, have also been ignored.

Until this week, when Co-Op announced the covers of Nuts, Zoo and Big Boobs Weekly will now have to be wrapped up like dirty little secrets if they want to be sold in their supermarkets.

"Hurray," campaigners cry. "We no longer have to see their crass sexualisation and misogynistic headlines every time we pick up a paper."

The truth is Co-op is just the latest shop to take a stand. Sainsbury's has provided a form of modesty cover - boards placed over titles, not individual packets - for titles including Zoo, Loaded and Bizarre since 2006. And Asda has reportedly been using modesty covers "for years".

But the well-publicised move has angered Paul Baxendale-Walker, the publisher behind Loaded and a number of top-shelf titles, so much so that he's claimed supermarkets should concentrate on concealing harmful foods from the view of children rather than pictures of "a pretty girl in a bikini". It's an interesting proposal but is basically deflecting the problem being put to him.

Just like the crass blow-up doll that implies women are just a toy for sex has begun to grate on me, the lads' mags seem to have finally got too much for a lot of other people.

Some critics of the Co-Op move are worried this is a sign we're becoming a more conservative or 'Sharia Law' society. I don't think that's the case. Seriously, when before have women been able to talk so openly about orgasms?

To me this is just another sign of people rejecting the blatant sexism that's been chucked in their faces for decades by way of demeaning headlines, in the hope of moving towards a more equal portrayal of men and women in the media.

As much as I hate the sight of that sex doll, I've got my priorities in order. Any voice I have in this argument I would put towards the far more widespread everyday (often accidental) consumption of the Sun's page three.

As, in the words of Laurie Penny in the New Statesman this week, "I have an interest, as a journalist, in working in an industry that does not rely on the ritual objectification of women to sell news content."

But with David Cameron more concerned about pornography than regulating the topless tat in Britain's most-read newspaper - for fear of upsetting Rupert Murdoch, I guess - it might just be easier, in the meantime, for me to acquire a sharp-pointed pin.