The publishers of ‘lads’ mags’ have been given six weeks to cover up their front pages or risk been taken off sale by the Co-operative retailer.
It follows concern from Co-op members, colleagues and customers including parents who object to their children being able to see overt sexual images in its stores.
The Co-operative has told titles such as Loaded, Nuts and Zoo they have until 9 September to either put their magazines in a ‘modesty sleeve’ or be taken off the shelves.
The retailer has already introduced opaque screens for the magazines, but says more needs to be done.
Steve Murrells, retail chief executive for the Co-operative Group, said: “Whilst we have tried to mitigate the likelihood of young children seeing the images with a number of measures in store, the most effective way of doing this is for these magazines to be put in individual, sealed modesty bags.”
And Cathryn Higgs, a policy manager at the Co-op, told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme that she has “every hope” the publishers will take the “responsible approach and put them in a bag”.
Women and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson welcomed the Co-op’s stance.
She said: “Many parents aren’t comfortable with the way sexualised imagery has become like wallpaper – everywhere from the bus stop to the corner shop”.
She added: “Adults should be left to make their own decisions about what legal sexual images they look at, but the place for these is not next to the sweets at children’s eye-level. I hope other retailers will follow the Co-operative’s lead.”
But campaign group Lose the Lads’ Mags said the publications should be removed from sale altogether.
Spokeswoman Sophie Bennett said: “The so-called ‘modesty bags’ they are demanding from publishers are designed to allow the Co-operative to continue profiting from sexist, harmful lads’ mags – but just a bit more discreetly”.
Lose the Lads’ Mags was launched earlier this year by lobby groups UK Feminista and Object, and campaigns for retailers to stop selling the titles.
A group of eleven lawyers added their support to the campaign in a letter published in the Guardian in May.
They warned that mainstream retailers were left “vulnerable to legal action” under sexual discrimination law.
Author Toby Young has criticised the campaign, saying the next step will be banning the Beano comic from shops because Dennis the Menace is a “negative role model”.
Writing in The Telegraph, he described Lose the Lads’ Mags campaigners as “puritanical fanatics” who will soon be patrolling the streets like the Taliban.