Resisting the Culture of Violence & Exploitation
that Surrounds Us

Mr. Edward Kofner
3000 Ocean Park Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA90405-3020

February 19,1997

Dear Mr. Kofner:

As an organization dedicated to educating the public and the business community on the harm of violent and exploitative media and advertising, we are deeply troubled by the latest cover of your magazine featuring a photo of the 15-year-old star of the movie, "Lolita." It is incomprehensible to us that Esquire would go so far as to show this girl with her finger up to her mouth - depicting her as vulnerable as possible.
     Presenting young girls as sex objects on the cover of a mainstream men's magazine is socially irresponsible. You would think publishers and editors would know better, expecially considering the recent publicity surrounding the JonBenet Ramsey murder case. Responsible, caring adults would have never made the novel, Lolita, into a film in the first place - a film which promotes the lie of a young girl as a temptress - inviting and enjoying her own sexual abuse.
     From the public's point of view, Esquire appears to be promoting pedophilia to its readers and everyone else who sees the magazine at the store or library. It also appears that Esquire is doing its part to desensitize society at large to the real prlblem of child sexual abuse.

Here are just a few of the staggering statistics:

    The majority of forcible rape cases occur during childhood and adolescence. 61% of all rapes occurred when the victim was 17 or younger; 29% were 11 or younger.

    The typical child sex offender molests an average of 117 children, most of whom do not report the offense.

    Some of the long-lasting scars child sexual abuse can leave are: low self-esteem, abundant psychosomatic illnesses, chemical dependency, sexual problems, marital/relationship problems, depression, anorexia/bulimia, and suicidal tendencies.

    Rape victims are nine times more likely than nonvictims to have attempted suicide.

If you still think using this image to sell magazines is harmless, think of how a young girl might perceive it, perhaps your own daughter. Consider the distorted messages this cover sends her. Our children and youth deserve more thoughtfulness and respect.
     Frankly, sexualizing women and girls and displaying our bodies to sell magazines is a harmful and irresponsible practice. Hundreds of studies have shown that media messages and images help shape attitudes and behavior. Magazines like Esquire perpetuate negative attitudes towards women by reducing us to sex objects and body parts. This practice ultimately contributes to a culture which condones and accepts rape, battering, and sexual harassment as inevitable. It's much easier to hurt a "thing" or an "object" than a real living, breathing human being.
     It's difficult for men to understand how much objectification hurts women. Men have no idea what it's like living in a culture where their half-naked bodies are plastered everywhere and the threat of sexual violence is all too real. Men have no idea what it's like to have their personhood erased day after day by the images surrounding them.
     Esquire magazine doesn't have to buy into the pornographic mind-set that reduces women and girls to objects. Esquire can make the decision not to jump on the bandwagon of the "Lolita" media blitz. Isn't it about time to move into the 21st century and play an important role in helping stem the tide of violence and abuse that unfortunately impacts so many lives? Isn't it time to put human beings before profits?
     As an organization, we are working towards the day when women can experience the full integrity of their bodies as men do...when women can feel safe on the streets, at home and in the dorm...when women's bodies are no longer objects for sale or targets for abuse. But we need the help and support of publications like Esquire that can lead the way. You can make a difference.
     Thank you for your attention. We would appreciate a response.

Media Action Alliance

PO BOX 391
CIRCLE PINES, MN 55014-0391
PHONE: (612) 434-4343