Youth Workers slam “Puffta”

May 3, 2008

As a result of last years GayMafiaWatch expose and a backlash to it’s badly-handled outreach into the community, Youth Workers from around the country have slammed Millivres Prowler’s “Puffta” website. Numerous professionals who run services and groups for LGBT young people have decided to remove links on their websites of the tabloid-style magazine aimed at young gay men which sells discounted poppers and explicit DVDs, advocates steroid use and promotes ‘the body beautiful’ stereotype which has been blamed as being the source of spiralling rates of poor mental wellbeing and high-risk behaviour.

Schools Out! The Lesbian and Gay Teachers group, known more recently for it’s launch of LGBT History Month and tackling homophobic bullying in schools has removed the link from it’s interactive Student Toolkit which was recently launched at a high profile event at the House of Commons. Posting in the National Youth Workers News Group, “Huw” – a youth worker in Peterborough and a member of Schools out said the link to Puffta was removed because it distracted from the good work being done by other, genuine, credible organisations. Positive Nation Magazine also featured Puffta last year and was faced with a barrage of letters from readers complaining about Puffta’s graphic imagery.

The lead youth worker at Gay and Lesbian Youth In Calderdale said “I only recently came upon Puffta because it was included in a link on Schools Out and had a look at it. I certainly would not put a link to it on any of the websites I am involved in (and have told Schools Out). There are many excellent websites for LGBT young people set up by LGBT youth groups around the country.”

Jean Wright who has set up a number of LGBT Youth projects across London over a period of 20 years and now works as a sexual health nurse in Lewisham also came across our article and had this to say “I am outraged at the style Puffta has chosen to imitate in it’s attempts to produce a resource aimed at young gay men”. “I have written to Millivres Prowler Group explaining the damage they are doing by targeting young gay men with these types of messages and the consequences individual face as a result”. “Marketing Puffta to an impressionable audience alongside mail-order sites that sell poppers and material that seems to promote steroids, bareback sex and reckless behaviour is extremely irresponsible”.

GayMafiaWatch view this response from the community as a positive result. The next step is one for the Millivres Prowler Group to take. It seems the way forward is for Millivres Prowler to divert it’s immense resources back into the community as opposed to it’s current tactic of simply stomping all over the existing support and groups out there that it could instead be publicising and working in partnership with.

In it’s own words (“Our Values” – on their website)  the comapny says it aimes to “behave ethically by being professional, honest and fair and to act with integrity at all times in building close, secure and lasting relationships.”

As it stands right now this is simply not true.

* Millivres Prowler Group (MPG) is the largest gay and lesbian business own Puffta along with the Pink Paper, AXM, the Gay Times, DIVA, a national chain of adult stores and a worlwide distribution network of various porn publications, magazines and books.

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Equality For Sale!

April 14, 2008

Thank you to an annonymous  GayMafiaWatch reader for providing us with more detailed information on the dirty dealings going between some of Britain’s Biggest Companies and corrupt gay and lesbian rights group Stonewall.

Considering the immense level of human resources available to the majority of the companies listed as “Britains Top Gay-friendly” employers it’s not surprising they have met the “Strict Criteria” required to become “Diversity Champions”. Once they’ve downloaded and signed the online application the only other requirement is a small payment to Stonewall of £1,500+VAT (£2,000+VAT for the Private Sector).

As we suspected, if you’ve got the money and the nerve, you can now BUY yourself an equality badge courtesy of Stonewall…. and if you’ve not got the money but you’re dedicated to equality in your workplace as an employer then you better get those profits up so you can give them all to Stonewall. Considering their (very much needing an update) Education for All website that was set up to save all the poor little gay child victims of homophobic bullying costs them over £500 a month just to keep online (let’s see those tears-a-rolling!) you have no excuse!

If you’re looking to recruit some fresh blood to your corporate empire, willing to work for peanuts and eager to work for an employer that “embraces diversity” at any cost then you might be interested in having a stall at the forthcoming ‘Stonewall Gay Youth Conference”. If you’re not keen on being there yourself incase one of the nasty gays pounces on your during a toilet break then you might like to be a sponsor instead. Just £10,000 a month can ensure there will be enough perier available to ensure Stonewall keep fighting homophobic bullying in our schools for a whole half-term.

 


Who’s the Bully?… Stonewall

April 12, 2008

Since GayMafiaWatch came out on to the scene nearly a year ago we have been appealing to the community to share their concerns in regards to the way the pink pound changes hands. We were astounded by the number of emails regarding the conduct of Stonewall – the gay rights lobby group on a number of issues, this expose on the organisation’s ‘Bullying Tactics’ is the first of several articles focusing on Stonewall.

It makes sense to begin with the argument from one of Stonewall’s most vocal and famous critics, gay rights activist and founder of OutRage! Peter Tatchell  who has attempted to decode Stonewall’s tactics. “Stonewall styles itself as “the” lesbian and gay lobbying group – not “a” lesbian and gay lobbying group but “the” lesbian and gay lobbying group. That smacks of arrogance and empire building. It has more than a whiff of an attempt to monopolise the whole agenda and every gain for themselves.”

“Although we have different tactics and aims to Stonewall, OutRage! has always tried to work with them and sought to acknowledge their role and contribution. That generosity has often not been reciprocated. Stonewall frequently comes across as attempting to claim the credit for everything that’s ever been achieved by the gay community. They tend not to acknowledge other groups. It is not just OutRage! that gets ignored. The contribution of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, GALOP, Lesbian & Gay Employment Rights and many other organisations are never acknowledged.”

This stern accusation is echoed by members of the Education for All Coalition, a network of organisations formed in 2004 to develop and implement a Great Britain-wide action plan to address Homophobic Bullying. You can see a full list of apparent members on the Education for All website . But don’t expect to find much more than that. You’d expect to after noticing on the donations page a very far out estimation that the website costs them £500 just to keep running for a MONTH. Since it was launched (as a sub domain of Stonewall’s main site, it hasn’t even got a dedicated web address) there is yet to be any information regarding the next coalition meeting – the only direct way anyone outside the Stonewall office can play an active part in the decision making process. Tatchell puts this down to Stonewall being “a self-selected organisation that no ordinary lesbian or gay person can join”. Attempts to gain any details by listed coalition members have been falling on deaf ears, yet Stonewall continues to plead for funds in the public arena and boast in their press releases about the figure raised.

One thing you do notice on the Education for All website is the prominence of the ‘Donate’ button on every page. A quick tap of the mouse whisks you to an external site, where you are told “Thank you for choosing to make a donation to Stonewall Ltd.” Hold on a moment…

Surely this vast ‘coalition’ of many diverse groups must have mutually agreed that Stonewall will be the sole benefactor in fundraising for Homophobic Bullying in their name. Not true. Infact many of these groups and organisations have not received a single penny from Stonewall, despite a suggestion the begging bowl is for a greater cause than the same old one Stonewall have been stumbling about collecting small change with since 1989. Some of these organisations have since folded entirely, despite being at the forefront of delivering groundbreaking work to beat Homophobic Bullying. The Young People’s Peer Support Project in Manchester was one such project. Rachel, a former volunteer at the Peer Support Project for over 7 years emailed GayMafiaWatch after our recent appeal for information. “I took part in a Stonewall Equality Walk to raise money for Education for All, I was proud to support the campaigning work of Stonewall and had collected many sponsors which I thought at the time would go to support Homophobic Bullying initiatives like the one I was part of back home in Manchester. I was utterly sickened when I found out a few months later that the project had closed down as it could not get basic core funding to survive, I thought we joined Education for All so we wouldn’t have to watch our work go down the pan and other people come in and take the credit”.

One former board member of the Consortium of LGBT Organisations spoke to GayMafiaWatch but did not want to be named. “This kind of domination by groups like Stonewall is part of the reason the Consortium was established” There are many small projects going on all over the country that are working on eradicating bullying but don’t have the same big budget  to work with that Stonewall has, to make things worse Stonewall is now claiming to be the champion in this field and it’s not on.” He continued, “Stonewall  is acting parasitically, a leech on the face of the gay community and the unsung, and often unfunded groups of people who work just as hard as Stonewall but receive considerably less recognition.”

As a result of Stonewall’s 2008 Equality Dinner at the luxurious Dorchester Hotel in Central London (where the cheapest single room costs £395 per night!) sponsored by international financial giant UBS for the third year running, 500 exclusive guests gathered including former Prime Mister Tony Blair, Gandalf – Sir Ian McKellen, Brian Paddick and Jamie Oliver, and over £300,000 was raised. A Statement from Stonewall followed; “All funds raised will go towards Stonewall campaigns such as Education for All, tackling homophobic bullying from Britain’s schools.”. Something Stonewall has repeatibly claimed since 2004, and something which is not much more than a lie. This money does not filter down to work going on in schools, or at the least Stonewall continue to provide vague snippets of information on how this money is spent.

Even if Stonewall miraculously succeeds in convincing the gay community that the money it continues to raise on behalf of leading a united front against homophobic bullying in schools it cannot deny the sheer waste of investment by companies such as UBS by sponsoring it’s lavish events that it insists on holding. Imagine how many more small groups and organisations could continue their work all over the country, not just in London and actually based in schools with real young people on a daily basis if those funds were diverted to them instead.

Now who’s the bully in the classroom?


Puffta – Cashing in on Coming Out

May 12, 2007

Puffta, the self-styled online magazine aimed at young gay men has been designed solely to make money out of gay young people, who are sold a lifestyle to aspire to through it’s clever marketing campaigns. The site bills itself as “the UK’s leading site for gay teens” which is “often imitated”. Google doesn’t seem to think so, in fact there are dozens of ‘gay youth’ sites out there that rant dozens of pages high which have been about for as long as Puffta if not longer and who aren’t now fuelled by an unlimited PR machine. No doubt they are just as popular, but then who can say as Puffta is the only site to make this bold claim.

Not so long ago this little known website set up by 17 year old Simon Johnson in his bedroom was originally up and running as a lifestyle and support site for young gay men. It has recently been transformed into by the Millivres Prowler Group (in it’s own words) a” premier brand for gay youth”. Which is precisely what now Puffta is, it’s a product, a resource in which to sell and make a profit out of by it’s owners and advertisers. The site is a medium by which teenage gays are trained as future customers.

So what’s so wrong about that I hear you ask? Women’s magazines target lonely housewives with celebrity gossip whilst and make money by peddling cleaning products and make up, teenage girls magazines have done the same for years, and straight ‘lads mags’ have controversially exploited macho masculinity to sell cars and soft porn so what’s the big deal with the owners of Puffta making a few quid out of young gay guys?

Firstly, Puffta has attempted to establish the darker and damaging aspects of the so called ‘gay lifestyle’. Many of which you could argue are responsible for many of the social problems younger gay men face today. Young gay lads notoriously aspire to look buff, pretty, sexy, thin – because they are told to by the media. Puffta reinforces these often unrealistic aspirations, leading to even more lads who simply ‘do not fit in’ to feel excluded, suffer low-self-esteem, self-harm and attempt suicide.

As well as their original titles of the Gay Times, and Diva, the Millivres Prowler Group recently acquired struggling original gay news rag “The Pink Paper” and gay tabloid mag “AXM”. Millivres Prowler are now the most influential powerhouse in the gay media. It now appears Puffta is under their control.

Pop, Porn and Potions

Sexy black pop divas, photo galleries of pumped up steroid muscle-mary’s and reviews of pricey high street labels, crikey Puffta has pulled out all the stops to pull in an audience, “It’s what every gay boy ever wanted!” claims one reader. At least it’s what Puffta thinks they want, or what it wants them to want. It’s a narrow, vulgar and offensive generalisation of what it means to be a junior queer in Britain today. The cliché’s are blinding, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a parody.

What about other types of music other than commercial pop and dance? There’s nothing wrong with porn but then most guys I know that purchase dirty videos and magazines are in a position to – they earn good money and have no problem walking into clone zone or even HMV to buy it up front, or they have good networks of gay friends they can borrow and copy it from. When you’re living at home with your folks and are shit-scarred of walking into a shop to buy a mucky DVD and you don’t yet know many other gay guys to borrow from – except those you’ve chatted to online. I’ve done it myself. Younger gay men hunt the net for whatever they can find for free, or download pirate copies. There’s no money in that and that’s what Puffta is concerned about.

Cashing in on Coming Out

“Puffta priorities:
1. Going out (clubs/bars)
2. Drinking
3. Fashion & toiletries
4. Mobile phones
5. CDs & DVDs
6. Computer games
7. Holidays”

The Puffta “media pack” says it all. It makes an attractive pitch to potential advertisers;

“Teens don’t just spend their
own money, they spend
their parents cash, too!”

“Less work – more play! – Target not the limit”

This doesn’t help send out a responsible message to young gay people at all, combined with corporate gay charities such as Stonewall who are proud
to fund their anti-bullying initiatives in schools though an insane number of sponsorship deals with credit card companies like American Express, or the disproportionate number of queer students who drop out of university deep in debt (according to the National Union of Students).

“SPENDING POWER… Gay youth are consumers like everyone else.
Commercially aware, they know their brands but can be
particularly fickle. They have disposable income and
punch above their weight with their spending power.
They are male, aged 13-21, and are UK-resident.”
“The student market is worth £15 billion”

Puffta sponsored LGBT Student Pride in 2006.

The press pack does attempt to hold the horses and claim that’s not what Puffta’s solely about.

“What is important to stress is that Puffta is responding
to a genuine consumer need for something different,
rather than in any sense being supply-led to generate
ad sales revenue.”

This argument falls flat on it’s face when they then compares Puffta’s “something different” appeal to that of proper magazines. As far as I’m aware there are no
magazines on sale in the UK that publicly target 13-21 year old gay men in this way. Puffta is a website, it came runner up in the Boyz Magazine reader awards second only to Gaydar, and as we’ve already mentioned, there are dozens of quality internet resources out there that it duplicates. What makes Puffta different is that it’s full of targeted advertising and without that it would not exist. So what does Puffta think it is? Is it a community website, a dating service, a ‘lads mag’, a support group? It’s glossy packaging for all of those.

Sign up as a member to Puffta and you’ll be lucky to”see the SEX edition. We’re hot.” “We talk sex, sex, sex” – “hot xxx gallery” “naked men – how to see them” We’ve turned the members area into a special sealed SEX edition”. You’re also invited to enter a competition sponsored by condom giant Durex (owned by multinational corporation SSL International which has an annual turnover of £608.9 million). Puffta and Durex neglect to mention that as an ‘at-risk group’ most young gay men can get unlimited condoms and lubricant free on the NHS – or from gay youth groups and clinics such as Brook, nor do they visibly mention the need to use lube for anal sex. What an excellent foothold in the market for SSL thanks to Puffta… and you get to see some dirty photos in return.

Puffta does young gay men no favours. It is dangerous.

There are some very good articles on Puffta, and the site’s editors do try make a responsible effort to be a little objective, but that’s often contradicted by catchy cover stories which home in on people’s insecurities such as:

“Spotty Boys – ‘Scrub-up!” – a review of anti-acne lotions that Puffta recommends, with a gratuitous advert on the right hand side of the page for one such product. The title of the article is almost like an order. We all know that if getting rid of acne were as simple as investing in face wash then. Nearly everyone gets spots in their teenage years, it’s part of growing up and always has been. Our hormonal juices give us no choice. But when there’s so much pressure to look the part and bed that hunk, this type of article fuelled by product placement by big pharmaceutical companies should expect to be questioned.

“Smoking – Makes you Fat!” – If you’re not fat then you don’t worry about it do you? The article assumes the reader is thin. If you’re overweight then that kind of headline is going to grab you attention – and it can cause distress. The article is a cleverly disguised seemingly sensible article promoting anti-smoking. It’s basically saying being young, gay and overweight is bad, and Puffta does not approve! Besides, the evidence to base such a ludicrous claim like “smoking make you fat” is dubious and vague.

“Muscle Please!” – We popped down to Soho Gym Camden to have a look at the muscles on offer. We asked the beach ready beauties what muscle they like the best. Accompanied by vain articles entitled “Steroids – Bottled Muscle”. The article glamorises steroid use and links it to an exciting gay lifestyle of partying and sex with hunks. It neglects to mention the specific and horrific side effects Steroids can have on your health and your wealth. Puffta wants you to look good, and you want to look as
good as the blimp breasted model boys on nearly every page of the site. You’ll be able to show them off on the beach. Not surprisingly there’s been a steady boom in the gay travel industry with resorts like Gran Canaria, Sitges and Myknos – gay travel firms are big advertisers in Puffta’s sister publications, they bring in the big bucks. The popularity of such hedonistic sex holidays amongst gay men is not without a downside.

Recent surveillance by the Health Protection agency shows an alarming peak in the number of younger gay men acquiring HIV, syphilis and several other sexually transmitted infections that were at one point in decline, as well as new ones such as LVG. It blames the increase on increased travel from the UK by men who have frequent, casual sex with men to locations like Gran Canaria. The press pack tells us that holidays are Puffta’s priority #7. Back home the link between unprotected sex and use of drugs and alcohol causing a decrease in of inhibitions and an increase in risk taking is stronger than ever before according to the Terrance Higgins Trust. The gay scene has a lot to answer for. Going out/Clubbing – Puffta Priority #1, Drinking – Puffta Priority #2.

One Last Puff

Friends tell me “that’s what gay life is all about”. I say Puffta provides a good window on to many parts of gay life but it’s all to easy to feel they are pushing a way of life. It feels uncomfortably contrived. Puffta isn’t solely to blame for damaging the image of young gay men, nor do I believe it isn’t more than capable of realising it’s mistakes and evolving into something slightly more helpful to the gay cause but the devastating longer-term consequences of which we can see today in the older generations of gay men, who luckily were not the targets of this kind of mass-gay-junk-shop commercialism springing up all over the place are worrying at the least.

Just as well Puffta is only a website and not a magazine, because it’s just about Sold Out.

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