It looks like Nuts may be about to close, ten years after the lad’s mag was launched with great fanfare. Although it came to epitomise in some people’s minds the objectification of women, Nuts aimed at first to be a magazine that young men wouldn’t feel embarrassed to have around the house. No nipples were allowed, and the aim was to celebrate women, not denigrate them – or at least that was the official line. It was repeated so often it had to be true.
Then after about six weeks or so, with disappointing sales, a marketing expert was called in to ask focus groups for input. His conclusion, which presumably he was paid a great deal of money for, was that young men like looking at breasts, as well as occasional pictures of machine guns.
Rather more depressing for me, being a writer there, was his claim that a quarter of British men were functionally illiterate and therefore we should reduce the typical word count from 400 to 150.
As it was, the marketing man was right and the change in policy set off a boobs arms race with our rival, Zoo, reaching its pinnacle (well, nadir) with one issue featuring over 200 bare breasts.
Most of the people who worked there weren’t especially happy about this; they were nice liberal-lefties who mainly wanted to write for the Guardian or Observer. My immediate boss, a dynamic and incredibly young features editor who was clearly going on to big things, had studied women’s literature at university but saw no contradiction between what she was doing and her feminist principles.
But the whole lad’s mag thing which began 20 years ago this month with the launch of Loaded came during a period of confusion in that area. People wanted sexual equality and sexual freedom, and tried to celebrate both, even though these two ideals obviously clash.