Thursday, 7 February 2008

Dead Catalogues Society

Picture this: It’s 1992 and you’re in a boy’s dormitory at an unnamed English public school. The 13-year-old occupants are all at their classes so the room is empty except for the movie one-sheets on the walls, ten badly made beds and their matching bedside lockers made from cheap, varnished pine. Now look closer at the various cabinets and you’ll find a magazine common to about half of the rooms occupants. Check through the rest of the boarding house and you’ll find a similar story.

Without actually seeing the cover of the magazine you might assume that it’s a Playboy, Penthouse or possibly a Fiesta (which, I feel I should point out, is not a Ford enthusiasts magazine like a classmate tried to claim when he was caught with one on a camping trip) and you’d be half right but simply by the size you can tell it’s natural habitat isn’t the top-shelf of a newsagent’s. It looks like a decent sized phone book but with a glossy cover.

It’s an Argos catalogue and it seems perfectly innocuous as you glance through it. Toys, DIY tools, low-price jewellery, clothes. Then, as you’re thumbing through the woman's clothing section you find a certain part of the catalogue that’s a little worn down at the page edge: the lingerie section. Four pages of tiled pictures that consists mostly of close-ups of the female bust area. It's more Queen Victoria than Victoria’s Secret but for 13 year-old boys, it was the option that wasn’t going to get you a talking to from the teachers (it’s hard to label a document X-rated when it could be found on the coffee table of most of the school’s staff members).

On Monday, I found out that Argos has pretty much become an internet based store with most of it’s efforts focused on their web based catalogue rather than the paper-based behemoth I grew up with and the first thing that went through my head was, “But where will the young boys of Britain find their porn?” Then I realised, with modern scholastic interconnectivity and the ubiquitous nature of wi-fi, they’ll get their jollies from the same place they get their Argos catalogue.

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