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
I wholeheartedly agree with this blog post/thread. Going to come back later and read the links too.
The sexualisation of women in the media has to stop, for the sake of the mental health of our children. We are creating a culture that is unrealistic and highly pressurised with false expectations of sexual relationships. Not only does this undermine our young peoples confidence but creates barriers to true intimacy later in life.
Page 3 is outdated and offensive, but we are all killjoys if we want rid of it according to some.
What, MN isn't already behind NMP3?? I thought they were. Why on earth not?! Come on, MNHQ.
Thank you Mumsnet and No More Page 3 campaign for waking people up to this stupidity that has existed since the 1970's. How ever did Murdoch get away with allowing a newspaper to report on serious issues like sex crime, sexual exploitation and child abuse alongside soft porn / titty pics / glamour shoots. It is truly bizarre that the UK accepted this nonsense.
If having soft porn in a newspaper is perfectly ok then why don't they stick the image on the front page? Don't answer, even Murdoch wouldn't dare do it.
I don't want my dear daughter growing up in a society that thinks showing a 17 year old in pants is 'a bit of fun'. Just as all those old men used to think touching young girls was harmless fun. It wasn't and it's not.Page 3 must go and I'd love to see Mumsnetters telling the Sun to shut its sordid page down. The time is right for them to show some mettle and stop dismissing these concerns as ugly middle class women who can't take a joke. That joke's not funny.
Page 3 should be consigned to the bin, for all of the good reasons given above, and many more on the NMP3 campaign website.
I would love MN to get fully behind this campaign.
i can't believe there are only 131k signatures. When did the campaign start?
I'm appalled by the article in question. It is absolutely unacceptable that a victim of such horrific abuse should be depicted in that sexualised context and for the purpose of entertainment of the basest kind. This is like another rape, this time one in which we are all invited to participate by virtue of our assumed consent. If you don't think that is something you approve of, do make a point here and do boycott the Sun for commissioning and printing this inappropriate ill judged material.
Our media have a very strange and exploitative attitude towards women, even very young women, even teenage girls and children. A woman very rarely is portrayed without being objectified. A woman it seems, can never be a person in her own right and separate from her gender attributes. Even when she is a victim of abuse and rape there is no respect to be seen. For shame !
We respect the rights of free expression for campaigners to make whatever points they choose.
"However, we must not lose sight of the original story here. It was a well-researched report by a (female) campaigning journalist, seeking to expose the horror of sexual slavery in modern Britain. It was given exposure by the biggest-selling newspaper in Britain for the purpose of highlighting the terrible plight of some women, simply in order that action could be taken. This is an example of journalism clearly in the public interest.
"The fact that NoMorePage3 - due to the zealotry of its dislike for the Sun - should offer criticism rather than support says more about its moral and intellectual values than it does about ours.
I can't see this linked but this is the suns response
The objectification of women has no place in society. Please get behind this campaign, mumsnet! There's so many places to find bare boobies that are age appropriate, daily in a family newspaper is not necessary. To all those who say I don't buy it, why should I worry - you should worry because it contributes to the neverending 'wallpaper' of sexism that our children are subjected to - its open on trains, buses, pavements, cafes and newsagents. It's there and maybe the fact that you don't notice kinda proves it needs to go...
The response from the Sun says it all really - they are more interested in trying to discredit the No More Page 3 campaign than to address the issues of journalistic ethics that were highlighted. It is obviously in the public's interest to be made aware of these dreadful crimes, but the manner in which it is done is equally important. The Sun's juxtaposition of sex crime with soft porn is at best insensitive and at worst cruelly exploitative. Please support the No More Page 3 campaign Mumsnet!
There are too many adjectives that are applicable to the way this story was reported, I can't choose.
It is such a clear example of the misogyny that is rife in that paper, and when it is pointed out to them all they can do is use a strawman. As I said in another thread, using words like "sex slave" is describing rape with euphemisms and contributes in a big way, in my opinion, why these crimes are not taken as seriously as they should. It's rape apologist language and a change is absolutely needed.
The smiling naked lady reinforces the idea that a sex slave is not the same as a serial rape victim. Because women apparently like to be sexually available to strangers, preferably over breakfast, yes?
No more Page 3!
Page 3 must end. Full stop. Come on Mumsnet please support such an excellent campaign.
Absolutely IndigoWoman2 - I am also baffled as to why Mumsnet hasn't got behind No More Page 3. It really is a no-brainer!
Perhaps because it would give the site negative attention?
I haven't noticed any negative comments on here at all - it's all lovely
Perhaps because it would give the site negative attention?
I believe the answer to that is "no, I will not be quiet"
YTK1, Mumsnet do not support the No More Page 3 campaign.
The Sun covers the French President's alleged affair today with a pic of the alleged mistress with her tits out.
This is how the Sun views women. Simple.
With 2 out of 3 girls in UK schools reporting they have been abused using sexist language such as bitch and whore and 1 in 3 experiencing sexist assault, how much more proof do we need between the link between sexist violence and sexist media promoting violence as the fault of the victim. The Sun describes the woman's experience as 'sex' which is consensual ... this woman was raped by men who paid to do so. the headline suggests that this is the girl's own description of her situation which it isn't, thereby suggesting that she saw her experience of rape as consensual sex. The Sun is once again promoting violence against women and children by pretending that rape is sex by calling it that - its not and the Sun knows this goes totally against human rights legislation. How come human rights for women in the media has dropped off the agenda? Why are our MPs not representing the human rights of most of their voters?
I agree. "Sex slave" has raunchy, subdom, 50 shades type connotations. It should not be used to headline an article about gang rape, FFS.
Please Mumsnet support No More Page 3 - it completely fits with what Mumsnet stands for surely!! I can't imagine any members having a problem with supporting the campaign to get t*ts out of mainstream media!!!
No more page 3. In fact no more sodding Sun. What a bunch of sexist tossers - all cut from the same cloth as the pervy slebs who went on trial yesterday. Even if they are found not guilty the stories of casual endemic sexist behaviour, including assaults, are believable because they are so typical of that generation of misogynistic old gits. Time to call time on them and their sleazy rag.
All I could say has been said in the thread but want to add my voice. Enough is enough!
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