Dan Sabbagh: Lads mags <i>should not</i> be singled out for attention

Linda Papadopoulos is no stranger to the "hyper-sexualisation" of British society of which she complains. She once appeared as an expert pundit on My Big Breasts and Me, and has her own beauty range, which you can buy via the home shopping channel QVC. So quite why all this makes her want to make "lads' mags" harder to buy is a mystery.

Nuts and Zoo, with their unashamed men-only content, are clearly not high-minded magazines. But racy though they are, nothing published in either title is illegal. Surely a fundamental premise of any democratic society ought to be that it tolerates a broad range of speech – and this must include non-pornographic pictures of scantily clad women.

It is not clear why lads' mags should be singled out. If the Home Office believes pictures of topless women should be restricted, then will it slap a 15 rating on the The Sun? That seems unlikely given its political power, but The Sun sells over three million copies a day, and page three is clearly more influential than anything produced in either Nuts or Zoo.

Ask too what a topshelf-only rule would achieve. It might stop a spotty 13-year-old from buying Zoo. But, presumably, our young man could look at far more explicit pictures on the internet.

When in doubt, people should be in favour of sex, and, more to the point, in favour of free speech. That may mean defending the lowbrow, offensive, or just plain stupid. But that is what a democracy is all about.

Dan Sabbagh blogs about the media industry at www.beehivecity.com