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Guest Blog: Time to listen to young women - Page 3 is not 'innocuous'

(110 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 30-Apr-13 11:11:51

In today's guest blog Stephanie Arai-Davies, who blogs over at Communicating With Kids, argues that The Sun's Page 3 primes girls to accept being sexually objectified.

What do you think? Is its influence innocuous in comparison to that of internet porn? Or are the two intrinsically linked, as Stephanie suggests? Let us have your thoughts on the thread - and if you blog on this issue don't forget to post your URL.

"Last week, the Girl Guides made an eloquently simple statement about why they support the No More Page 3 campaign. I think it's time we gave these young women our serious attention.

The objection I still hear from some parents is this: 'Why are you so bothered about Page 3? It's very innocent compared to online porn - why don't you campaign about that?'

But Page 3 is far from innocuous. Yes, our 'raunch culture' already contains endless images of sexualised women - but Page 3 is unique in its purpose of providing sexual titillation as an end in itself. The model's 'object-status' is reinforced by the juxtaposition with images of clothed men doing newsworthy things.

It's not 'female sexuality' which is being celebrated here, but a male fantasy version of a passive sexual commodity within a very narrow beauty 'ideal'.

Publicly available everyday images like Page 3 reinforce that fantasy - if you see this image every day you unconsciously internalise it. It's impossible not to do so without a conscious effort, because the resistance of the message takes up a lot more energy. That's why advertising works.

Girls are socialised in this way to understand two things about themselves: how they should look, and how they should behave sexually.

The main area of concern with the ubiquity of porn is that it will cause real harm to girls, who grow up believing that they must perform like, and resemble porn stars - and to boys, who believe that this is the normal way to treat women.

But for this 'internalisation' of porn-style sexuality to take hold, there needs to be some groundwork laid. For a girl to be influenced by porn, she needs already to have established herself as an object. Without that initial conditioning, porn would have far less effect on young women's sexual behaviour, and girls would be more able to view it objectively. Young men would also be more able to see it as 'fantasy' rather than reality.

Page 3 images lay that groundwork. Being in a national newspaper lends these images public presence and, more harmfully for young people, the perception of mainstream cultural approval. Our society, through Page 3, tells both girls and boys 'that's what women are'. Our culture confirms the message of pornography. Pornography simply extends the message of our culture further.

A girl looks to porn to find out what it means to be a sexual woman, and she finds that she must be forever sexually available and willing; she has no sexual needs of her own, but exists primarily to serve those of men. She looks back to her culture to check her perception, and finds that her society is in agreement with that message - reinforces it daily, in fact. Page 3 establishes the basic premise which today's, increasingly extreme, pornography carries to its logical conclusion: dehumanise, then abuse.

She doesn't have to actually see Page 3 every day for its message to be loud and clear. She knows that its presence is accepted, and she knows what happens to women who complain about it. She knows that society sees it as 'innocuous' - if she objects she must be over-sensitive, or a prude. She may legitimately shout about abusive porn, but Page 3 silences her: and it is this disempowerment which makes her more susceptible to the damaging influence of porn.

Of course we must think about the accessibility of online porn, and what we can do to help our teenagers deconstruct its messages. But if we are serious about protecting them, it's also time our society stopped providing the fertile soil necessary for its influence to grow. Our mainstream media needs to stop reflecting back to young people the basic values on which pornography is built.

The Girl Guides have just told us that Page 3 is not innocuous for them. We really should listen.

Stephanie Davies-Arai is a parenting consultant who specialises in communicating with children. She blogs over here.

gedhession Sat 23-Nov-13 16:46:07

Abi Clancy is a popular model, no doubt thanks to the fact that she's the partner of the popular footballer Peter Crouch. I'm sure the Sun has subjected many popular celebrities , such as popular actresses and sportswomen, to inuendous headlines and I'm sure it's not the only tabloid to do it. I recall it being no big secret that Samantha Fox was popular amongst youngsters and the media treated as such. I was 15 when I kept pictures of her. She appeared on childrens' TV quite a few times and had a column in Smash Hits. My favourite story was in an interview given by Lads' Mag star Keeley Hazell who claimed that Nuts got an email from a mother protesting that she'd bought Keeley's calendar for her 14 year old son only to be dismayed that the pictures were topless. She only allowed her son to post non-topless pictures of Keeley oh his bedroom wall. In haste Nuts released the Keeley Hazell bikini calendar.

gritts1 Sat 23-Nov-13 14:12:44

I never understood why Mumsnet has not supported No More Page 3 with its history of the Lads Mags campaign. The Sun had this headline recently on it's front page with a picture of Abigail Clancy in her bikini, it read: 'Have you seen Abby's pussy?' What is the difference between that and a Lads Mag cover, knowing that on page 3 is soft porn imagery?

David Dinsmore the editor states it is a family newspaper. As a bloke, I have issues with titty pics in so called family publications.

So lets move the paper to the top shelf, stop advertising at children (Lego / The Sun adverts on kids TV and/or simply ask the Sun editor nicely to end page 3 and the general sexism. NMP3 do not want a ban.

gedhession Sun 10-Nov-13 16:17:51

Did anybody see the Daily Politics today? Did you see that feature on Page 3 where they went to Bedford (where Lacey Banghard, the CBB contestant, happens to come from) to ask for peoples opinions. Most people seem to be marginally in favour and even the women had a broad range of opinions. Andrew Neil then spoke to Harriet Harman but I was too bored to take any notice.

gedhession Sat 21-Sep-13 11:30:25

TheLondonMum As far as I've been concerned glamour modelling is a job, a job with the purpose of selling newspapers and magazines. I actually recall a Page 3 girl back in the 80s who took up modelling to pay for her studies to be a barrister and another Page 3 girl who was a schoolteacher! I find it interesting that a third of lap dancers have degrees and us it to finance their studies. As for a daughter wanting to be a Page 3 girl? I could tell her about Samantha Fox or Maria Whittaker, who despite enjoying great success and fame on Page 3 ended up with immense personal and financial hardships. On the other hand, we have Melinda Messenger, Gail McKenna and Linda Lusardi who have enjoyed some media success.

TheLondonMum Tue 10-Sep-13 12:59:52

As an ex glamour model (and I hate using that term because people pre judge your abilities and intelligence) and now giving it all up as I'm about to become a mother, I do find it funny that people have an opinion on this kind of work when they've never worked in it themselves.

I made a fortune working as a topless model. I never once felt exploited. If anything all the girls I worked with felt the same in the fact we are actually using men's visual needs to exploit men from their cash. It sounds horrible but it's a job. Our job was to make our money.

The world itself is a visual place, women go on diets, get hair done, wear push up bras. Why bother if you don't care about appearance. Working as a model doesn't stereotype you into what men want to see. Men will look at anything that's semi clad if it's in front of them. (Again not being harsh but men are visual creatures and are genetically programmed to look).

I don't agree with girls at school aspiring to become page3 girls. And I'd hope if I had a daughter she wouldn't want to become a page3 girl. I never sought out the job but actually it sought out me. I was unhappy with having such large breasts and wanted a breast reduction at 17 (I was refused treatment as I hadn't fully developed), and going down the topless route after graduating at university did actually provide me with reassurance that perhaps I was perceiving myself too harshly.

As for the debate over breast feeding, I have never once considered anything other then breast feeding my child (if I'm able to). So no I don't objectify my breasts as an income revenue.

Breasts are breasts they really aren't a big deal. Every woman has them in varying sizes. I remember my dad buying The Sun when I was a little girl and I'd draw bras on the page3 women. It only becomes an issue when it's targeted like this.

Ps don't all scream at me at once! This is just an opinion of someone who has worked on the other side. An opinion of the girls.

gedhession Sun 18-Aug-13 14:46:07

I recall well the time Samantha Fox was immensely popular. In fact I do recall many Page 3 girls, Linda Lusardi, Maria Whittaker, Jo Guest, Katie Price, Melinda Messenger and Keeley Hazell being very popular as Page 3 girls and go on to become popular media personalities. I find it interesting that Clare Short tried to ban Page 3 at the time Samantha Fox was at the height of her popularity. Of course, just because something is popular is not a defense to some...

newfashionedmum Thu 09-May-13 14:10:38

PLEASE get behind this campaign mumsnet, you could make such a difference...

chocoluvva Fri 03-May-13 16:08:17

Arguing in favour of page 3 on the grounds that images of topless women are everywhere, so it's pointless to take pictures of women out of newspapers doesn't work. It's all the more reason to stop having Page 3 girls. There are so many sexualised images of women (and girls) that taking them out of a newspaper would be a small step towards correcting the excesses of our oversexualised culture.

Page 3 is not necessary, no-one is being harmed by not having it, many people think that Page 3 is harmful therefore just stop having it.

emcwill74 Fri 03-May-13 14:03:33

'Normal boobs'? On page 3??!! Oh sure because they regularly feature women with, say, A-cup boobs don't they? Or boobs that aren't generally big and bouncy? Or boobs that are obviously bigger one side than the other. Or the saggy low-hangers that most of us get left with after BFing babies! Oh yes page 3 shows the whole darn range. Not.

fcknits I'm totally with you on being concerned about BFing women being asked to cover up. When I was BFing my DD 10 yrs ago my uncle told me he thought seeing women BF in public was 'disgusting'. I wonder if he thought men staring at page 3 in public was disgusting. That same summer a woman visiting Hampton Court Palace (just near where I lived at the time) was asked by an employee to stop BFing because 'it might offend'. Would he have asked someone to put the Sun away because page 3 might offend? I don't believe for one single moment that page 3 encourages BFing. In fact I think it does completely the opposite. I've had friends of mine who had babies later than me tell me when pg they weren't sure whether they should BF in case it left their boobs not looking nice. See the post above where a father made it clear his partner's boobs were there to look nice for him, not feed a baby! Yes it is terrible to give out a message that BFing is unnatural, completely agree, but as far as I can see all page 3 does is reinforce the message that our boobs are all about looking nice, and looking nice for men. If BFing is going to compromise that, well...

And as for the beaches thing! Again, it's all about context. Of course women should be free to sunbathe topless, but the majority are not doing so because they want strange men staring at them, wanking over them, scoring them out of 10 etc. They are just sunbathing. Nothing wrong with that. But not remotely the same thing as a model posed and lit to show her breasts to advantage, stuck in a 'news'paper next to a patronising comment she didn't make, for the the gratuitous pleasure of male readers.

Creeping Fri 03-May-13 13:53:57

Calling these gross, sexist, misogynistic, aggressive comments "childish", shows how ignorant you really are.

fcknits Fri 03-May-13 13:50:04

Btw, regarding emcwill74's Huffington Post article, you cannot compare The Daily Star's readership to that of The Sun.

The Sun is the nation's best selling newspaper i.e. the majority of newspaper-reading Brits actually buy it (and, presumably, read it).

The Daily Star is a junk tabloid. I personally don't know anyone who reads it or believes that it contains anything approaching good journalism.

fcknits Fri 03-May-13 13:42:35

Tbh, I'm on libertarianj's side.

Quoting from The Sun article: "Researchers compared the BMI of fashion models, celebrities and Page 3 girls and found that The Sun’s beauties have an average BMI of 20.04 — putting them in the normal category. But the average BMI of fashion models was a dangerously low 16.3, according to the US National Eating Disorders Association."

The models look normal and healthy and don't show any more than you'd see on some beaches. They aren't doing anything bad. They allow girls to see what normal* bodies look like (increasingly difficult during this modern obesity epidemic) and what normal boobs look like (which helps people to realise that all boobs and nipples are different but equally functional). [*If look at the photos of Lucy Collett, you'll see that she actually has a healthy defined waist despite being a size 14!! That is a positive message that should be put out in the public.]

I'm far more concerned by stories about breastfeeding moms being asked to "cover up" or feed their babies and toddlers in toilets. Or being told that full-term breastfeeding is somehow "unnatural".

If there were no more Page3 girls... Would Facebook stop banning photos of breast cancer scars or breastfeeding moms? Would we suddenly stop thinking of boobs as an embarrassing body part? Would people stop being interested in porn? Would naturism be banned? What exactly would it do... and where would it stop?

emcwill74 Fri 03-May-13 13:31:54

Oh yes, of course they were written by the ant-page 3 lobby! That MUST be it! Are the comments I've had directed at me when I've posted about page 3 on the internet telling me I'm a prude minger whose body [that they haven't seen] was turned down for page 3 and how they have a right to melons, written by those pesky anti-page-3ers too? Of course they show page 3 is sexual/sexist! I don't see what youtube has to do with it. So there are objectified women on YT too. What of it? Of course there are. This is how women are treated. This is why you don't think there's anything wrong with it, because it's the norm.

What is page 3 for exactly? (Assuming you don't think it's for men, as I am certain they are, like those above to judge as to whether they want to shag the models or not and get a semi.) Your comparison with seeing an actress topless in a film doesn't really make sense. A film has a narrative and plot, people are [usually] naked when having sex, and in the course of a standard film (I'm not talking porn) there is a context for characters being undressed. There is no context at all for page 3, and that is what is so obviously wrong with it: here's some news, here's some weather, here's some more news, and here's a naked lady. WHY??!!

I simply don't believe most (straight) women want to look at other topless women. I'm not saying we necessarily hate seeing other women's bodies, just that for most part it's all a bit, so what? I have a body, I see that naked (I actually really like my body), but I'm not particularly interested in seeing other women's. In the same way I doubt many men want to study other men's naked bodies. Do you feel it would improve a daily paper you chose to read if you got to see more naked men? So I can only conclude that page 3 is for men, who do like seeing women's bodies, as evidenced by those comments. And by extension it frames our bodies as public property, something to be judged and commented on by strangers.

You can say those comments don't prove the image is sexual or sexist (or <pauses to clutch aching sides> were written by anti-page 3 campaigners) all you like, but you must know full well how hollow that sounds! We all know what page 3 is for and there is no longer any reason for it to be there.

Do you like UKIP by the way? Just wondering.

libertarianj Fri 03-May-13 12:49:52

Some childish comments which unfortunately we get everywhere on the net (like youtube for example) are hardly conclusive proof that page 3 is sexual or sexist.

There is no knowing who wrote them or their gender/ sexuality. They could could have even been written by the anti page 3 lobby for all we know.

emcwill74 Fri 03-May-13 10:16:06

Was there any debate/consultation with the public when a tabloid editor decided it was time to depict women as decorative objects to look at, surrounded by pages of clothed men doing stuff? Or when they decided, that's not enough, let's make up some words she didn't say, put them in a caption box next to her and pretend she did, in which we take the piss out of her for being thick?

If the pictures are not sexual, then why do very similar on the Daily Star page 3 web page elicit comments like this (The Sun disabled the ability to leave comments, the Star has since followed suit, wonder why) [taken from]:

"I'd love to spray my load over those juicy titties"

"Come on Jodie you little Teaser....we wanna see you whippin' your tits out for the Lads this week!!! We demand it you piece of Fodder! GET YOUR TITS OUT NOW!!!"

"Just wanked over this picture"

"Good set of tits on this dollop of fodder"

"Stacey is bleedin gorgeous!!!! So why has she only been given one chance to get her cracking tits out for the lads!!!????She loves unleashing that juicy rack when we demand it!!!!AND WE DEMAND IT NOW!!!! GET YER TITS OUT STACEY!!!!! XXXX"

"Now you are a babe. I bet you have a gorgeous pu**y if it's anything like your lovely tits which I would very much like to nuzzle into. I'd love to look down on you lovely lips wrapped around my **. If your dirty, I'll give you anything you want, who wouldn't?!!!"

"Look at the wobbly knockers on that!! and todays slut is....emma frain with her pear shaped dark textured nipples out.

I love you, For you there is nothing I would not do. Your smile is so pretty, Not to mention your titties. They're gorgeous and cute, They make me wanna shove my up your chute, Because your practically perfect, Emma I love you now can we have some sex!"

"a wonderful beauty with a very shapely body just the right size tits to enjoy sucking on and have fun with would enjoy getting u as a present"

Here are some comments by those who didn't like that day's 'girl', they are lovely, really show how aspirational and glamourous the job is:

"Not impressed by this piece of Essex Fodder...crap tits...fake sun tan and that jet black dyed hair. Nothing attractive about Geena facially either."

"These tits just aren't good's embarrassing."

"Yes you have nice boobs but your face is not the best"

"This Girl has no tits! Why for sake is she on Page 3!!"

"And what a saggy pair of tits this Welsh wannabe could park a bus between that cleavage."

chocoluvva Fri 03-May-13 09:35:34

No more page 3 girls is such a small thing to ask for.

libertarianj Fri 03-May-13 01:57:52

There is this general consensus when it comes to television. I can't remember a debate about the watershed, with people arguing that the watershed restricted their choice to watch what they want. or freedom of the press/speech, or that people who don't like it just need to switch the channel.

Ok but if say a group of activists were to come along with a campaign 'No more 9pm watershed' and they created a petition with 99k signatures to kindly ask the TV regulators to drop the watershed. Would you expect it to be passed through without some kind of debate/ consultation with the general public?

Also topless nudity is allowed before the watershed, like the Kate Winslet scene in Titanic for example which i would put on par with Page 3. If you take a look at those photos on the link i posted of Lucy Collett for example i really struggle to see how they could be described as sexual? and i certainly wouldn't call them 'harmful' to children. However that is my opinion and as i said before if society were to come to a general consensus that they were unacceptable then i would have to accept that.

Creeping Thu 02-May-13 23:20:08

There is this general consensus when it comes to television. I can't remember a debate about the watershed, with people arguing that the watershed restricted their choice to watch what they want. or freedom of the press/speech, or that people who don't like it just need to switch the channel.

It really is not dangerous/restricting to say as a society that the objectification and sexualisation of women should not be in mainstream culture where children will consume it and internalise the messages as supporters of Page 3 make it out to be. Those who have a need to see bare breasts still have plenty of options, but it would protect children growing up receiving harmful sexist messages about what women are supposed to be.

libertarianj Thu 02-May-13 17:58:04


Ok that is a fair point. So what you are asking for is the reduction of involuntary exposure to page 3, by removing it from the printed media format? I guess that viewing it on a hand held device is more discrete than having it on a big full page spread and less 'in yer face', such as in situations where people read it on public transport. With filtering and putting blocks on certain sites, parents will also have greater control on their kids seeing it too (although some techsavvy kids will probably get around it!)

However there would have to be a general consensus by the population that topless nudity is not acceptable for non-age restricted printed media and would have to be consistent across the board. (Maybe something similar to the facebook nudity rules?)

I personally would prefer to keep the status quo but if society as a whole want more controls/restrictions or if it is voluntarily removed by the Sun’s editor then I would accept that.

chocoluvva Thu 02-May-13 14:14:35

The existence of on-line "stand-alone" sites is all the more reason to take the Page 3 girls out of the paper. Some people are offended and/or feel that page 3 is harmful. The readers who would miss it have access to plenty of similar material so take it out. It's not asking for much.

libertarianj Thu 02-May-13 13:32:11

well he ain't me. Sorry I'll try again with those links:

at least the women on page 3 look healthy, have curvy figures and don't have silicone enhancements or plastic surgery. Like Lucy Collett for example: (link contains nudity obviously!)

I'd be more concerned with the images in the fashion pages of the Guardian which feature anorexic looking catwalk models and then there's the Daily Mail side bar of shame, which features copious amounts of celeb nudity. I mean just look at these, which are featured today for example:

emcwill74 Thu 02-May-13 13:17:55

Really. So just a huge coincidence that someone who shares your moniker of 'libertarianj' also posts on This is Cornwall, This is Bristol, and the Conventry Telegraph all about lap dancing clubs, saying very similar things to that which John Ridgely posts all over the internet on lap dancing clubs, and who has admitted was Daddancer (a libertarian) here on MN. The same John Ridgely who seems to have a bit of a MN obsession and posted about this thread on a lap dancing blog last night? Right.

If you want people to read your links may I politely suggest you learn how to link properly? this is why they don't work. It explains how to under 'Links' below.

libertarianj Thu 02-May-13 12:58:44

emcwill74. Sorry but i ain't this John Ridgely geezer or dancing dad.

The petition is not asking for a ban - it's asking for the owners of The Sun to stop doing the Page 3 'girl'.

so may i ask when they plan on kindly asking the editor of the sun to remove page 3? As this petition has been going on for ages.

I also still believe that this campaign would gain more credibility if it was consistent across the board, including all media not just the Sun. Also if they did remove it from the physical paper, I'd imagine it would still be on-line as a stand alone site and people would still be viewing it on smart phones, tablets etc?

I'd be interested to know if anyone with adult content filtering on their internet can confirm if that sun link i posted above containing topless nudity is still viewable? This is regarding the issue of persons who are concerned about their children viewing it?

chocoluvva Thu 02-May-13 11:00:57

The petition is not asking for a ban - it's asking for the owners of The Sun to stop doing the Page 3 'girl'.

emcwill74 Thu 02-May-13 10:54:03

By the way creeping, I wouldn't expect any support regarding the Mail from libertarianj. He's well known to MN in another guise. As a Dad, who likes dancing. But only when the dancers are naked ladies. He's been banned for trolling and resurfaced.

He posted this last night on the lapdancing blog he was forever linking to regarding another MN blog thread on lap dancing:

John RidgelyMay 1, 2013 at 10:49 PM
yeah at least the mumsnetters have remained civilized this time around. Although they haven't had any blokes on their admitting they go to strip clubs. That's when they really lose the plot and the man hating and insults ensue!(hehe)

I notice there's another guest blog on there regarding that 'no more page 3 campaign' if you fancy a laugh?:

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