This morning on the BBC — modesty bags for lads' mags! Brilliant. The Co op is asking the people who publish Loaded, Nuts and the other boys' peep show titles to put bags over their product, to protect the innocence of children coming into the shops.
Feminista wants to go further, campaigning for an outright ban on these magazines. Their argument is that the Co op is still aiming to make money out of lads' mag culture — the fig leaf of a plastic bag is just a way to get around the profit hit it would otherwise take.
What's the real problem, of which lads' mags are the pathetic symptom? Girls are sent the message, "sex is dirty and you are dirty if you do it — aren't you?", while boys are sent the message, "sex is dirty and girls are dirty if they do it — here, have a little look". Queen Victoria would have been proud.
Seems to me that putting a doggy bag over a soft porn mag is a bit like men telling women they have to wear burkhas to protect their modesty, because men are just unable to control their own desires.
So what's the solution? To me, this is an area that needs action from two ends (as it were).
On the one hand, parents and teachers have a fantastic opportunity to help children cope with their own sexual development in a healthy way, avoiding shame, and showing children what love looks like. Sex is an extraordinary means of understanding how mysterious and delicate other people are. You don't want to get rid of sex.
On the other, the State (us) has a powerful role to play in gradually ousting porn from the public arena until, like smoking, it is something you don't want to do any more because you have to stand outside in the cold to do it. Seen in that light, no, the Co op doesn't go far enough, but it is a step in the right direction, because it might encourage other retailers to follow suit, which might lead the State to step up.
In the meantime we could focus on the other problem with newsagents: why do they display loads of sweets at children's eye level?