Hit & Run: Seen but not hard - the big penis debate

Click to follow
The Independent Online

While naked breasts, bottoms and spread-eagled legs are splashed across men's magazines with impunity, it seems that Britons are more reserved when it comes to seeing the male form in all its, ahem, glory. This shocking discrepancy has been highlighted by women's magazine Filament, which is campaigning to break what supporters are calling "the final taboo" in British publishing: printing pictures of erect penises. But who, or what, is stopping them?

A foray into the subject reveals that the answer is as well hidden from the public as the aforementioned throbbing members. Before women start brandishing placards, railing against government censorship and fighting for their right to see erect members whenever they damn well please, it seems that this is nothing to do with Whitehall. According to the Home Office, the only legislation magazine publishers are bound by is the Obscene Publications Act of 1959, which forbids them from including anything which may "deprave or corrupt" the reader, and which makes no mention of penises, erect or otherwise.

Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom says there is no ban on showing erections on TV. "There's no outright prohibition of it," says Ofcom's Ed Taylor "But if it was shown it would have to be justified by the context".

Meanwhile, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is even more laissez-faire. Rumours that censors sit around clutching an atlas – lest any penis shown in a British film fail the legendary "Mull of Kintyre" test, under which the penis should not exceed the angle equal to that made by the Mull of Kintyre on maps of Scotland – are not true. "It never existed, it was an urban myth," said Sue Clarke of the BBFC "There are no rules against showing erections in '18' films."

So, if there is nothing legally stopping erect phalluses being blown up across double page spreads in magazines; why are sightings of them so rare? It seems that it is printers and newsagents who are acting as our moral guardians, with their refusal to stock magazines featuring the images. "Normally censorship would be exercised by the WHSmith and retailers refusing to sell them," says Rowan Pelling, former editor of The Erotic Review. "But of course you should be able to show erections. What is so terrifying about them?"

Rachel Shields

All work and no play – yeah right

Recording albums is such a hassle. You'd do anything to avoid it. Empty the bins. Tackle the washing up. Alphabeticise your biscuit collection. That's the thinking of Radiohead front man Thom Yorke, anyway, who announced earlier this week that he's had it with all that long-play album business. "None of us want to go through the creative hoo-ha," he says. So it looks like Radiohead's 2007 In Rainbows, first released as a digital download, will be their last traditional-format album. Yorke isn't the only musician perennially cooking up tea instead of GETTING BACK TO WORK. Amy Winehouse is yet to follow up 2006's Back to Black, because she's too busy getting back to St Lucia; but if you thought that's work-shy, what about Guns N' Roses, whose anticlimactic 2008 record Chinese Democracy was released after a 15-year hiatus. What were they doing? Trying to find a lost amp in Slash's hair?

Next time your boss asks you to do something, mention the "hoo-ha" it'll create. You'll be as popular as an Axl Rose record.

Rob Sharp

Slap on your war paint

The barbecue summer is sullenly sodden, the euro is holiday-crushingly high – how's a girl supposed to get a sun-kissed glow when the fates are conspiring against her? Weep not, my pasty-faced friends. The boffins at L'Oréal have come up with a new cosmetic that will not only make the most pallid complexion zing but will give you an arts and crafts project to take your mind of the weather.

Inspired, perhaps, by the phrases "war paint" and "slapping it on", the cosmetics giant has created "Roll'on Foundation", a gloriously thick base coat that comes with its very own dinky roller. Never has painting and decorating been more fun – and there's no need for dust sheets. Simply dip your applicator in – Hit & Run recommends the Vanilla Rosé shade, mainly for the joy of yet more gratuitous punctuation – and roll your summer blues (as well as your ghostly hue) away. Forget upstarts like the vibrating mascara, this is 2009's cosmetic masterpiece.

Rebecca Armstrong