Seven Steps to Combat Grocery Checkout Lane Smut

shopping-cart-woman-grocery-featured-w740x493I was unloading a mound of groceries onto the conveyor belt during a recent trip to a major superstore when my 7-year old said, “Mom, the baby is looking at something inappropriate.”

Since I was calculating the cost of an astronomical food bill for a family of eight, I only half-listened to my child’s cautionary words. When I turned my eyes to the checkout stand, however, I saw what she was talking about: the pornographic cover of the swimsuit edition of the new Sports Illustrated. All six of my kids were steadily gazing upon the three women scantily clad in G-string bathing suits, their derrieres hanging out in full view.

I gasped and said, “Are you kidding me?“

I grabbed a copy of the magazine and waved it in front of the cashier’s face.

“Do you think this is appropriate?” I said.

“Even if I did not, there’s nothing I can do about it, ma’am. I don’t put the magazines there, an outside distributor does.”

“Is a manager available? I’d like to speak to someone in charge,” I responded.

While we waited, I caught the eye of my ten-year-old son, Patrick, who with embarrassment looked away from me.

Patrick is at a delicate age and my husband and I are trying to protect him from the sex-saturated culture in which we live. It made me angry that his senses were visually accosted at the grocery store checkout of all places, especially since we are so careful about exposing him to certain types of movies and television shows, songs, online websites, and magazines.

It made me angry that my young daughters, who are innocent and pure, caught a glimpse of the centerfold models–women complicit in their own exploitation and degradation.

It made me angry that all my children, in the short amount of time we stood waiting to buy groceries, were fed a lie in that corrupted the message we teach in our home—that all humans have intrinsic worth and value because we are created in the image of God.

It made me angry that while I educate and exhort and encourage my own children to think about their bodies as gifts and their purity as something to be guarded, the example set in society is one of licentiousness and sexual depravity.

Once I paid for my groceries, I carried the copy of the Sports Illustrated over to where the manager stood.

“Are you a mother?” I asked, when I was positioned in front of her.

I held the magazine against my chest. She smiled wide.

“Yes, I have a two-year-old,” she said. The joy she experienced at the mere thought of her daughter was palpable.

“You probably want to protect her from all the evil in the world, right?” I asked her.

“Yes, of course.”

“Do you see that cart full of kids over there? Those are my children and I’m trying to protect them from evil, too. Unfortunately, my ten-year-old boy, who I especially want to protect, just came eye to eye with the cover of this magazine.”

I flipped the cover over and produced the pornographic image.

“Picture your child looking at this magazine cover in ten years. Would it be ok?” I asked.

The manager sighed. It was obvious she’d had this kind of conversation before.

“Look, I can’t get rid of them. All I can do is have them moved up on the rack,” she responded

“That’s it?”

“We are not responsible for the magazines. It’s an outside distributor who sets up the stands. There’s not much I can do,” she answered.

This time it was my turn to sigh. Her answer wasn’t good enough.

“I know you personally didn’t order these types of magazines, but the store you work for is selling them and they’re inappropriate. Please, do what you can to get rid of them. You don’t want to lose a customer like me. I’m a good one,” I said, as I pointed to my overflowing cart of groceries.

She promised she would place the magazines higher up on the racks and we parted ways.

The whole conversation bothered me.

I’m tired of the message, “There is nothing I can do. My hands are tied.” This flippant shrug of the shoulders and the insistence we must accept the unacceptable status quo is ludicrous. We must do something to combat the sea of smut to which all of us are exposed, especially if we want our children’s senses to be oriented towards the good, the true, and the beautiful. We don’t have to be victims of our sexually licentious culture.

So what can we, as consumers, do to fight this uphill battle?

Luke Gilkerson, Internet Community Manager for Covenant Eyes, suggests seven tips consumers can use to combat the promotion of offensive imagery:

  1. Turn The Cover Around: While in the checkout aisle, pick up the magazine and turn it around so the cover no longer shows, making sure your kids see you do it. When the children ask why you did this, use it as an opportunity to share with them about the dignity of the human person and the importance of guarding our eyes.
  2. Get A Manager: Talk to person in charge about your concern to protect against future exposure to illicit images. Communicate your willingness to take your business elsewhere.
  3. Write A Letter: Don’t overlook the power of writing a letter to CEO’s or to business owners expressing concern about the provocative and pornographic photos at the checkout counter. Be sure to include in your letter specific information about the graphic images displayed, how this display will affect your choice to shop at a particular store, and how you would like the images/magazines removed.
  4. Be Choosy: Carefully select the forms of entertainment you purchase, support, and expose your family to. Select morally uplifting and life-affirming music, literature, and art that affirm and promote the common good.
  5. Pray And Fast: Ask God to give business owners and corporations the courage to engage in morally sound business practices that do not exploit others and damage the inherent human dignity of people. Deny yourself something you like—your favorite beverage, show, and/or website—for this specific intention.
  6. Boycott: If possible, avoid stores that blatantly showcase pornographic images. Tell your friends and family about your experiences and encourage them to do the same.
  7. Refuse To Surrender: Follow St. Paul’s example and persevere in the pursuit of truth while charitably protesting the evil around you. Live so that you can echo St. Paul’s words at the end of your life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).

Note: Covenant Eyes is the maker and distributor of Internet accountability software founded by Ron DeHaas. The program is designed to equip people to protect themselves and their family members from online dangers. If you or someone you know is struggling with the temptation to click on inappropriate or pornographic links online, please consider the services provided by Covenant Eyes.


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About the Author

Colleen Duggan

Colleen Duggan is a popular writer for Catholic media and her work has appeared in both Catholic Digest and RTJ’s Creative Catechist magazine. For almost two years, she was a bi-monthly blogger for CatholicDigest.com and her articles have also appeared online at CatholicMom, Faith and Family Live, RTJ’s Creative Catechist, GeniusMom, and the K4J Family Blog.

Colleen holds a Master in Education from the University of Notre Dame and has spent the last 12 years teaching religious education classes, running Bible studies, and giving talks on Catholic spirituality at the parish level.

Despite any professional and educational accomplishments, Colleen believes her most important job is as a wife and mom to 6 kids. Check out her website (link below) where she pontificates about potty training and the art of messy housekeeping.

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7 Comments

  1. I take several of the stores large paper bags , fold them and place them in front of the offensive magazines; the checkout person does nothing while I am in line

  2. We do most of our shopping at Aldi, they don’t have magazines in checkout. I think Sams and Costco are the same way.

  3. I approached a manger @ HEB in Texas and he personally removed all the offensive material ~ he thanked me for my request!

  4. we have to put requests in writing and then patron stores that respect women enough to not expose us and our children to these offensive materials. sometimes you have to put your money where your heart is – and money talks.
    bellow is a letter i have recently sent my congressman:

    I was an Active Duty Service member, and my spouse continues to serve on Active Duty in the US Navy. In order to use the benefit of the Commissaries in all San Diego locations you must stand in line at checkout surrounded by magazines; sporst illustrated, mens health, maxim, gossip tabloids. This is not everyone’s taste, and the scantily clad women are so offensive to me I have repeatedly asked in writing to the various managers if there could be one isle free of magazines. I am raising young children, and as so many other young military parents are forced to do, our children are with us as we grocery shop. Deployed spouses doing the duty of both parents. And the commissary managers are unable to help us out by moving this offensive material even from one check out lane? How about moving to an isle that people can choose to walk down or not? Trader Joes and Costco are examples of stores that respect women so much that there are no magazines at the check out counters – how about our commissaries respect women that much? Enough of the lip service about sexual harassment and walk the talk – give me as a mother the opportunity to walk through the check out line without the visual insults.
    Bellow is taken from the commissaries.com site:

    “The Defense Commissary Agency, which is headquartered at Fort Lee, VA., operates a worldwide chain of commissaries providing groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families in a safe and secure shopping environment. Authorized patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5-percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. Shoppers save an average of more than 30 percent on their purchases compared to commercial prices – savings that amount to thousands of dollars annually when shopping regularly at a commissary. A core military family support element, and a valued part of military pay and benefits, commissaries contribute to family readiness, enhance the quality of life for America’s military and their families, and help recruit and retain the best and brightest men and women to serve their country.”

    Can we do it without the overt sexual innuendos?

  5. I went into walmart and saw the same books you are talking about. I could not believe they were right there by the book isle at ground level for all kids to see. I came home and wrote Walmart a long email and here is what I said…… Yesterday me and my husband were shopping and came across this magazine on a stand in front of the magazine isle. The women are naked minus their bathing suit bottoms which are up their butts showing their butts. I find this distasteful and degrading to women that you would have that setting out like that, much less even in your store. I am a woman who has morals and if you remember what Sam Walton said “Personal and moral integrity is one of our basic fundamentals and it has to start with each of us”. There are little boys and men that will see that cover and as little boys (11 and up) that’s all they need to see to start with a porn addiction. There are over 70% of men that struggle with porn and are married. Porn is why the majority of marriages fail in America. You may think I am going over board with what I am saying, but if we as women dont rise up to protect our godly husbands and children, who will. It has to start with us. We live in a fallen world, please dont contribute to it. Let christian families walk through Walmart without seeing inappropriate stuff in the isles or outside of them, give us and our children a safe place to shop. I went through and covered them and i will each time i go in if not removed. I would buy them all an trash them, but I am not supporting porn and that’s what is on the cover. Again please show you still have morals and integrity an remove them from your stores. After going in and me turning them and covering them along with other people, they were removed almost a week later. Made me wonder how many other emailed about them.

  6. I also was shocked upon seeing that same magazine issue at the checkout in my local Walmart – right at child’s eye level. I called for a manager, who told me that they had a flip-up cover over them but that people or kids kept removing them and there was nothing else she could do. We’ll see about that.

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