Sensationalist reporting of 'sex crimes' - it's time we held the tabloids to account
Last week, The Sun was accused by campaigners of reporting a particularly horrific sex-trafficking case in a sensationalist and titillating manner - not least because the article appeared side-by-side with their daily 'Page Three' feature.
Here Mumsnet blogger and member of the No More Page Three campaign Stephanie Davies-Arai argues that the tabloids must stop using women as sexual commodities - and that society must have a means of holding the media to account.
Communicating with Kids
Posted on: Tue 14-Jan-14 13:32:29
(87 comments )
The Sun newspaper's front page splash on January 7th proclaimed: ‘I was sex slave in Fred West's old house’.
This was the titillating headline with which the newspaper chose to introduce the horrific story of a young woman who was trafficked into forced prostitution, enduring gang-rape by many men over an extended period of time. The sensationalist, salacious tone continued over a two page spread on pages 4 and 5, with a second headline: ‘Slave gang forced me to have sex with 5 men at a time’. The words were accompanied by a large, staged photograph of a woman dressed as a sex worker.
Sandwiched in the middle of this report of horrendous sexual abuse - and by necessity reinforcing its sexualised tone - was the Sun's habitual soft porn Page 3 image - a topless woman of around the same age as the victim in the story.
In blurring the boundary between sexual entertainment and violent sexual abuse through its language and images, the Sun's reporting trivialises, to an almost laughable degree, VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) - in direct contravention of all published guidelines.
Such salacious reporting can obviously be deeply distressing for survivors of sexual abuse; but it's also acknowledged to have a broader impact on society's views of VAWG. In other words, it affects us all.
The UN Commission on the Elimination and Prevention of all Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls, signed by our government on March 15th 2013, was unequivocal in its findings that the media plays a vital role in forming attitudes towards women, and should refrain from ‘presenting them as inferior beings and exploiting them as sexual objects and commodities.’
In blurring the boundary between sexual entertainment and violent sexual abuse through its language and images, the Sun's reporting trivialises, to an almost laughable degree, Violence Against Women and Girls - in direct contravention of all published guidelines.
A report into how well the UK was implementing that resolution said “the media provides a conducive context in which VAWG flourishes, by reinforcing myths and stereotypes ... violence in some newspapers is eroticised by juxtaposing stories of VAWG with semi-naked or scantily clad women’. In the same report, Alison Saunders, Chief Crown Prosecutor for London, concluded that the treatment of women in the media has an impact on the justice system and jurors’ attitudes.
Last year's Leveson Report found that the tabloid press had ‘a tendency to sexualise and demean women’ and concluded that ‘there is credible evidence that it has a broader impact on the perception and role of women in society.’
Leveson's final recommendation was very clear: that any future media regulator should be able to accept submissions from groups representing women - and that consideration should be given to amending the Press Code, in order to reflect equalities legislation.
Yet the coalition's Draft Royal Charter last year included no reference whatsoever to the fact that media representation of women had even been on the agenda of the Leveson Report - and the subject seems to have been excluded from the current debate about media regulation.
So, after all this, there is still no means of holding a newspaper to account for its reporting of violence against women - either through the courts, or through the Press Complaints Commission. No More Page 3 has written a letter of complaint to David Dinsmore, Editor of the Sun, but this issue is far, far too important to be left to a small, unfunded campaign.
The latest figures show that in the U.K. 470,000 women are sexually assaulted and 85,000 raped each year and one in three schoolgirls have experienced unwanted sexual touching. As we now understand the link between media reporting and societal attitudes which are harmful to women and girls, how long are we going to allow the press to flout both National and International guidelines with impunity? The U.K. Government signed the UN Resolution last March, how long do we have to wait for them to act to ensure that it is implemented?
By Stephanie Davies-Arai
It's so out of order how they report these crimes. Another thing that annoys me is when they say Sacha 36GG cuddles up to David...drapes her curves over David...or David's new 36GG beauty. Why do they never describe men in the same manner?? David rocking a 5 inch stiffy bags 36GG beauty!!!
I thought they had got rid of page 3 after the News of the World scandal. I'm shocked it still exists. Get rid of it now!
What have celeb clothing choices got to do with crimes of sexual violence?
Would you like to expand on your theory, Characterful ?
Although I am heartily in agreement, what chance is there for women when it's common to 'dress up' with skirts split to the crutch, boobs totally exposed and bottoms boosted to a point where they cant be ignored? This is how some celebrities CHOOSE to be 'at their best' on a very public occasion, such as award ceremonies. That is not men's fault.
Where is the new discussion please?
We'll start the thread this pm and link to it when it's up.
Also, Justine, it should be pointed out that one of the more vocal posters supporting page 3 on those two threads is a repeat-offender banned poster who has had at least 3 known identities on here, and posts on other sites about how much he loathes MN, and MN feminists in particular. I would hardly say his views were, therefore, representative of the spirit of MN and its community.
I couldn't put it any better than all the previous posters have. I'm in full agreement and wish things had changed over the years. I have never bought the sun or any of their ilk but this was all going on when I was in my 20's - now verging on 50 it's so sad that we are still having to be exposed to this vile crap.
"The media plays a vital role in forming attitudes towards women, and should refrain from ‘presenting them as inferior beings and exploiting them as sexual objects and commodities.’"
Agree completely, it really is time for change, would be great to see Mumsnet backing Nomorepage3.
It's quite hard too to find a logical argument that isn't covered by the campaigns FAQs too www.nomorepage3.org/FAQs
Mind you have just read the links you gave, it seems to me that by far the majority of comments are anti page three, one or two people arguing for it but without clear signs of having read the blog post or arguments given. Slightly mystified that such a response counts as 'mixed' really, you are unlikely to get a 100% yes to anything are you? I think its important to remember that unfortunately the drip drip drip normalisation of viewing young women or girls as objects doesn't just affect men, women can be brainwashed too!
Message withdrawn as duplicate posting
The reason we haven't officially backed this campaign thus far is that when it's been discussed in the passed opinion on whether we should has been more mixed. See here and here
We've featured blogs and re-tweeted petitions etc and it's possible that sentiment on Mumsnet has hardened in favour. We'll start a discussion in the campaigns topic to gauge current opinion and see where we get to. Would be very happy to support if the majority want us to.
I thought this was a good comment on one blog...
Rape doesn't occur in a vaccum that's separate from society. A contributory factor is men seeing women as things, as objects, who's bodies they have the right to use for their own pleasure.
Putting naked women in a hugely popular daily newspaper is normalising the idea that women are for men's entertainment. And no, I'm not against porn per se, or naked women in art, but in a newspaper it's so much more everyday; it makes objectification routine. Here's the weather. Here's the star signs. Here's a naked woman for you to gawp at.
I also think given that rape is a form of violence and more British women were killed by male violence last year than British troops in Afghanistan in the last three we do not look anywhere near enough at the whole issue.
I'm so grateful I did not grow up in Britain exposed to this stuff. I have loved living here for 10 years but I blame tabloids for the very ingrained sexist attitudes in society here. Tabloids report rape like it's almost a joke, very titillating a voyeuristic. They enjoy providing sexual details, or even making some up, to arouse their male readers and sensationalise the story. How can society here even begin to view rape as something serious when the biggest selling paper in the country, and it's influence, doesn't. Do you really need to tell tabloids not to put rape stories next to the page 3 girl???. They have editors who know what they're doing, it's obviously intentional. They pull the page 3 girl FROM THE ENTIRE PAPER when covering stories like a soldier's murder but puts stories of rape ON and NEXT to page 3? It's a level of vile that I cannot begin to comprehend. I'm happy to be part of the fight even though my children will not be raised here. Those of you who are trying to raise children in the UK definitely need to help get the papers under control. Shouldn't they be making society a better place? Does any woman actually think that The Sun has made the UK a safer more equal place for women? I don't.
IMO they should not be reported as sex crimes but as 'violent' crimes. Labelling it as a 'sex' crime is deeply offensive.
Has anyone been in touch with Zero Tolerance? They've been reaching out to journalists, running workshops and preparing information packs for the press for a good while on the issue of coverage of male violence against women.
I've reported the original post asking them about NMP3 support, hopefully they'll get around to it soon if there's not too much troll action today.
Yes I know I watch most of it
The ongoing lack of variation in the type of person being horribly murdered is a bit dull though. And of course when a man is horribly murdered he is often neither young nor attractive, and even when he is we don't get the sexy shower shots while they're waiting for their autopsy.
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