The Top Shelf Report, commissioned by Labour MP Claire Curtis-Thomas, will next week recommend that popular men's magazines and newspapers such as the Daily Sport be given age-appropriate "16" and "18" certificates.
A nationwide investigation has revealed that newsagents across the UK are flouting current guidelines and displaying what are, in effect, adult magazines at the eye-level of children aged six to 15 – which has led to a government proposal that
they be subject to the same age classifications as films, with some titles off-limits to under-18s.
The display of lads' mags is currently governed by a voluntary code of practice drawn up by the Periodical Publishers Associations (PPA) and the Home Office, which recommends that retailers display them well above children's eye level and away
from children's titles or comics.
The report, which has cross-party support from MPs, points out that films screened or sold in the UK are classified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and that TV broadcasters must adhere to a 9pm watershed that prevents
programmes unsuitable for under-18s being shown before this, yet nothing similar exists for the mainstream press.
Ben Todd, the editor of Zoo, said: We should be treated like a cheeky seaside postcard. In our case, the most revealing aspect is topless pictures, which is no more than you see in The Sun or the Daily Star. So, if any sort of age-restrictions
are going to be introduced, I'd expect them to include those papers, too.
The report recommends that the Daily Sport be given an "18" certificate due to the numerous adverts for prostitutes which it contains.
12 activist objects and a photographer descended upon the two WH Smiths in London's Liverpool Street station on Friday to celebrate the third national Feminist Friday by covering the entire lads' mags displays with paper bags and slogans
objecting to the sexist portrayal of women as objects.
Object said: The reception we received from customers in the two shops was really supportive, with one woman telling us that seeing younger women actively engaged in feminist activism and not passively accepting the sexist
messages we see all around us had 'made her day'; a group of 14 year old girls really keen to discuss the impact of lads' mags on how girls and women are viewed and treated and wanting to get involved; and many other women and men signing our
petition against lads' mags being sold as part of the mainstream media.
It was good fun and empowering - a great opportunity to take a stand against the pornification of culture and to say - women are human, stop treating us like objects!
Outside a branch of Tesco in central London, 30 people in pyjamas, nightgowns and fluffy slippers have gathered to campaign against lads' mags. All are members of the activist group Object and they are here to take part in the monthly Porn
Versus Pyjamas campaign. They dart down the dairy aisle to the display of lads' magazines, which they mark with their own slogans. FHM is put in a paper bag emblazoned with: For Horrible Misogynists , while Maxim is hidden behind the
phrase MAXIMum Sexism .
The women start a conga-line through the supermarket, chanting Hey, ho, sexist mags have got to go , alerting security guards to their presence. Eventually they're ushered out, but not before depositing pamphlets, entitled Porn v Pyjamas:
Why Lads' Mags Are Harmful, in customers' baskets.
Their campaign began earlier this year, after Tesco ruled that customers wouldn't be allowed to shop in pyjamas because this could make other people feel uncomfortable. Object bit back by accusing some Tesco stores of ignoring the voluntary codes
of conduct that suggest lads' mags should be covered up and repositioned on the top shelf, alongside pornographic content.
The Tesco demonstration is part of its Feminist Fridays campaign – monthly events where activists protest against lads' mags and other forms of sexism. After being ejected from Tesco, the demonstrators spend three hours outside the store,
distributing 1,500 leaflets.
Lads' mags are an example of the mainstreaming of pornography, says Anna van Heeswijk of Object. The whole tone is of complete contempt [for women]. They are made up of photographs that come straight from pornography and would have been
thought of as hardcore 50 years ago. But now the boundaries have been pushed to such an extent that they are considered an appropriate part of lads' mags and soft porn.
Zoo, Nuts and Front have agreed to self censor their front covers as demanded by Tesco. The supermarket has been lobbied by anti-sex miserablists. The new censorship code will apply only to the magazines' covers.
Highly explicit front covers of lads' mags may be a thing of the past, Tesco said. Zoo, Nuts and Front have agreed to make their covers more modest , the retailer said, meaning no more nudity, with less salacious coverlines and a
more conservative feel.
Latest Issue of Nuts
In addition to demanding toned-down covers, the store said Nuts, Zoo, Front and Bizarre would now be sold only to customers over 18, to reassure parents who do not want their children to be able to purchase these titles , and the magazines
will be displayed at the back of sales racks, where their covers will be obscured by other magazines.
Of course the censorship campaigners dismissed the move as a half-measure that doesn't address the harm of these publications .
Kat Banyard, founder of UK Feminista, one of two groups behind the Lose the Lad Mags campaign , said that lobbying to have the titles removed from shelves altogether would continue, because they are deeply harmful. They fuel sexist behaviours
which underpin violence against women.
Nuts, which is published by IPC Media, said it had introduced new covers ... which have a more conservative tone several weeks ago, adding: We are delighted with our readers' response and this week's issue is our biggest selling since
February. While previous issues have shown women fully topless with their nipples covered by headlines or their hands or hair, and promising the boobiest shoot ever or big-boobed brunettes , recent editions of Nuts feature
models in less highly sexualised poses, wearing slightly more modest lingerie.
FHM has become the latest lads' mag to bow out after a history of 31 years of publishing.
The final issue of the magazine hit the shelves yesterday and features TV presenter Holly Willoughby. She first fronted the magazine in 2008. Willoughby poses in a black dress alongside the witty cover line: Ashes to Ashes, Bust to Bust .
Bauer Media, which owns FHM, said in November that it would be closing the magazine after dramatic losses in circulation.