In the past few months, I have noticed a difference in my favourite isle across most supermarkets: the magazines are still there, from gossip glossies with the latest earth-shattering life crisis affecting Kim Kardashian to lads mags with the latest reality celebrity covering her modesty sitting next to Good Housekeeping, Gardener’s World and Vogue. All the Men’s magazines stand next to them, but there seems to be a gap: Gay Men’s publications appear to have stopped altogether.
I first realised it in Tesco, when the three stores around me did not have Attitude or Gay Times. When I asked a Tesco team member she said they stopped stocking it a few months ago. The same happened when I went to two Sainsbury’s, but for some reason it had not really clicked until yesterday, when I was waiting at the line for the tills at Waitrose next to the magazines, and even though I could see every publication under the sun (including Motor Boats Monthly), I could not spot Gay Times or Attitude.
Why did it click then and why is it important for gay magazines to be stocked in supermarkets? Well, I feel that the answers to these two questions are connected.
Today is the international AIDS day, and frankly every year it gets less and less coverage. I have not seen it discussed in any men’s magazines (I read Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness and did not spot any articles on it), and from a quick scan on women’s magazines, I could not find a feature on it either. Yes, it is a downer to flip from the most effective abs exercise or the best spring dress to a feature on the effects of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, but maybe it is a necessary kick in the ass kind of downer.
Now, both Gay Times and Attitude talk about AIDS quite frequently. And this is why it is important that they are there. A lot of gay people are looking for ways to figure things out, and without a general lifestyle magazine, this is a bit harder. When I read Men’s Health it will teach me everything I want to know about making her a sex addict (true article), but it will not warn me against the rise of recreational drugs in the gay culture. When these things are not seen, they are not discussed, they are not addressed and they are not processed. Then when it comes to learning about sex, most people rely to online venues nowadays, and with the rise of bareback porn, condomless (thus unsafe) sex is at an all time high. Most personal homemade sex videos uploaded are now bareback, and if they are not they are riddled with comments ranging from ‘would be so much better if there was no condom‘ to ‘I hate condom queens‘. Magazines that talk about the necessity of condoms are vital, and their absence can do more harm than good. Yes, they all have iPad and Android versions, but that does not mean they do not have to be on the shelves, as in the end, for whatever reason their absence has a slightly discriminating quality.
I get my copies from Gay’s the Word, and I know that WHSmith stock them nationwide still, but I would like to see them return to the super market isles, next to the other, ‘normal’ magazines where they belong.
I would also like to see the rest of the magazines acknowledge their gay demographics, and the real issues that affect their readers regardless of their gender. Company could have a feature on how to respect yourself enough to tell a guy that does not want to put on a condom to go fuck himself, and Men’s Health can have an article on how not to be said guy.
Stay safe, read what you want, and if the words are not there, say them.