Keeping the boobs at bay

‘What’s the hottest part of the Sun?’ runs the age-old joke about Page 3, where every day beautiful, slim and bare-breasted women pose for the ogling masses. It normalises the objectification of women in a paper selling over seven million copies every day. This may have been fine in 1970, but now?

The women on Page 3 have had everything removed from them, except their appearance and a pair of frilly knickers. When we see this picture we aren’t asking ‘what films does she like?’, or ‘I wonder where she grew up’, we are purely and simply interested in the size and shape of her knockers.

Perhaps I am being a little harsh, for the editors at The Sun are kind enough to give the model the chance to voice an opinion on an aspect of the day’s news. But they quite clearly don’t write this little tid-bit. Oh how we chortle at the thought of a dim-witted blond reeling off a bit of Nietzsche to explain the psychology of the political mind. And what do their employers say? “They’re as daft as they look!” So not only does the occasional bigot who buys the paper think they’re just a pair of tits, but their employer does as well.

But they’ve got a great job. They don’t care, so surely there’s no issue? Well actually no. Of course I respect anyone’s decision to go and bare themselves in public. The issue is that these women affect people’s judgment of all women. “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it”, one friend helpfully told me. But this doesn’t apply to The Sun, because people buy it as a ‘news’paper, and, even women who don’t happen to spy today’s serving of meat have to be on the receiving end of opinions of people who do.

Women who protest are “jealous”, as Clare Short found out in 2007. By voicing her opposition she showed herself to be ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ (according to Nicola, 21 – read the article it’s quite shocking). And to prove it a brigade of stunning models in bikinis was sent round to the MP’s house. Since when has this been acceptable behaviour? But really how could Short not be jealous – reaching the height of beauty, being wanted by men and appearing in The Sun is the epitome of female success. Isn’t it?

Clearly seeing a slim and successful woman (they are) in a prime position in a national paper has an impact on young girls. Breasts and waistlines are undoubtedly important aspects of a woman’s sexuality, I imagine in much the same way as a man’s penis. I’m sure it would make me uncomfortable if I saw my girlfriend or wife gawping at a naked picture of a man sporting weaponry equally large and malformed as Page 3 ‘beauties’ breasts. Imagine if we were told that this was all that women wanted. It was the ‘ideal’. Now tell me ‘don’t like it, don’t buy it.’

Page 3 is of course not the only place where one can look to see women objectified. Top-shelf magazines such as Nuts and Zoo, as well as internet pornography, are obvious examples of where you might go. I, however, have no problem with them.

If you look at page 2 in The Sun you will find some of our most talented and intelligent women, perhaps debating at the UN, or at the Despatch Box in the Commons. On page 4? Well it’s not unusual for the Sun to be uncovering a horrific story about domestic abuse. Or perhaps it’s double-page spread about paedophilia. And this is where the problem lies. Turn the page over in Nuts and all you’ll find is more boobs. You buy Nuts, you know what you’re getting. The Sun is plonked down daily on the kitchen tables of families all over the country, purporting itself as ‘news’. I can only imagine what my mother would have said if I’d been flicking through Zoo aged six. But apparently it’s fine if it’s The Sun.

You still don’t think Page 3 culture dominates our view of women in society? Then why was Jessica Ennis, one of our most respected female role models, dressed up in tight leathers for a GQ shoot? Why, last year, did Cameron tell Angela Eagle to ‘calm down, dear’ in a debate in the Commons? If we see our most talented women as the sum of their parts and treat our most successful female politicians like the dim blonds in the paper then what hope do average women on the street have?

If you want breasts then that’s fine – delve into the darkest depths of the Internet. Just please don’t let them near the rice krispies.

Disagree? Check out ‘In defense of Page 3’.

31 comments

  1. There’s nothing wrong with being gay Tom, don’t worry; just don’t make hateful campaigns against straight people by taking away boobies.

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  2. Also if you actively read The Sun then it’s likely your children will grow up broken anyway

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  3. I very interesting article. I for one was not bothered by this ongoing debate. I feel that the masses will be in favour of the Sun keeping it’s page 3 girl as a lot of people that read the sun are also those who buy the Daily Star, or Nuts etc.
    But this article has changed my mind, or at least pushed me off the fence. If anything you have made an impact on someone today.

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  4. 24 Sep ’12 at 2:08 pm

    George Leidig

    Brave article Tom!

    In all seriousness though, I don’t think its fair to compare a woman’s breasts to a man’s penis. Tits are so ubiquitous nowadays that I think its fairer to compare them to a mans chest and arms. And there’s nothing unreasonable about a girlfriend blushing at Channing Tatum’s chest.

    Also, I think its unfair suggest that The Sun is ‘news’ and that somehow people are surprised to find a pair of tits on page 3. The Sun is full of tits. If you go on the website now the entire homepage is filled with tits. I’d go as far as to say that lot’s of people buy The Sun – not for the high quality news coverage – but just for the tits. Its a little bit of socially acceptable pornography – and that’s why I dont think this campaign will make any impact on a paper whose sales probably rely on the odd dirty old man.

    And I really can’t imagine anyone basing their ‘judgement of all women’ on a pair of tits on page 3. And as for people who think they’re just a daft bird with a great set of tits – so what? Most of them are. That’s where their talents lie… giving guys a hard on. We could just as easily call scientists or whatever an ugly bird with a great set of brains. Nothing wrong with that either.

    Lastly, is there really anything wrong with just being interested in the size and shape of a woman’s knockers? Most guys interested in girls appreciate a nice pair of tits. Much like a fine wine or a good cheese. What’s wrong with that?

    Sorry for the overly long comment. Good read though.

    Have I been trolled?

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  5. The comments from women about Clare Short are shocking. Ironic too, as it shows that they have been conditioned/brainwashed by the objectifying of women, as page 3 does, to have those views – that what a woman looks like is the main criteria and the only feelings they have are of ‘jealousy’!

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  6. Thank you, Tom, for your keen analysis of this important debate.

    Key to the issue is that it is not only a daily fix for men ‘in white vans’, as flippantly mentioned today in the media – the offending Page 3 has been flung around offices I work in!! Not conducive to work equality.

    Please keep plugging away and all you men out there who are realising, yeah, actually I do see the point these women are making – I shake my hand to you and wish for better days ahead, for all of us.

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  7. I’m sad that “being a thoughtless idiot who thinks homophobia is hilarious” and “being a 30 Rock fan” aren’t mutually exclusive. Great piece though.

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  8. Good article and good points I’m convinced.

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  9. George, I think you’re missing quite a few points here (assuming you were actually being serious).

    “Tits are so ubiquitous nowadays that I think its fairer to compare them to a mans chest and arms.” This being the case, why are women not allowed to walk around the streets topless, like men? Why do men’s mags, which are essentially soft porn, cover up the nipples of their cover girls? Why is it such a big scandal if a female celebrity’s dress comes down to show her breast/bra, but not if a male shirt is open? Why is there such hostility towards women who breastfeed in public (and not for topless men)? http://www.breastadvice.co.uk/breastfeeding-public-places.html The fact that semi-pornographic images are widely available doesn’t mean that showing them ubiquitously doesn’t have damaging consequences, totally unlike that of the male chest and arms. Breasts are sexualised, the topless man is not necessarily – the better equivalent would be the penis.

    “The Sun – not for the high quality news coverage – but just for the tits. Its a little bit of socially acceptable pornography”. Exactly!! That’s the point of this article – that The Sun masquerades as being a newspaper and is therefore on family tables, available for children to look at, and of course spreading the message that women are there for objectification, and that the photoshopped, surgery-enhanced ‘bimbo’ look is not only normal, but something that should be aimed for.

    “And I really can’t imagine anyone basing their ‘judgement of all women’ on a pair of tits on page 3.” If you do your research, you’ll actually find that actually, it’s true. Aside from the fact that Page 3 is just a part of the larger issues, there are countless examples of how such images affect men. For example, even watching erotic scenes in an ordinary film can make men sympathise less with women who have been raped http://www.taasa.org/library/pdfs/TAASALibrary167.pdf

    “Lastly, is there really anything wrong with just being interested in the size and shape of a woman’s knockers? Most guys interested in girls appreciate a nice pair of tits.” The article never said there was something wrong with this. It said that if you want this kind of thing, you can find it in lad’s mags which are designed for boobs, or use the internet. The place for these images is not in a ‘newspaper’.

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  10. Good article. The fact that Page 3 survives in this day and age shows that in many ways we’re still stuck in the 1950s.

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  11. 24 Sep ’12 at 4:53 pm

    Annastasia Minty

    “If you want breasts then that’s fine – delve into the darkest depths of the Internet. Just please don’t let them near the breakfast table.”

    Tom you’ve never ever had the Sun on your breakfast table and secondly what’s wrong with having it off on the breakfast table? Get the Toffs off our Tits.

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  12. The Sun is a terrible newspaper anyway, but I agree that newspapers, which should be marketed for everyone, shouldn’t contain such material.

    I enjoyed the article as a rational, level-headed piece, tackling the subject of objectification of women without the usual “all of this should be banned” tosh falling far short of any representative viewpoint. That is, until the penultimate paragraph.

    There is a market for objectifying any sex, and if Jessica Ennis was up for donning tight leather for GQ (which is not likely to be found on many family breakfast tables) then so be it – note your fourth, sixth and seventh paragraphs in particular.

    And although I am a socialist, and do not care much for the majority of David Cameron’s policies, that fuss about the ‘calm down, dear’ quote is a prime example of PC-gone-mad. It’s a TV catchphrase, and he used it as a condescending retort – not a sexist jibe to belittle her as a woman.

    Unfortunately, such silly points at the end threaten to undo the good work the rest of the article possesses. Luckily, it just hangs on.

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  13. Tom, I understand what you’re getting at, but has there ever been a person who has bought The Sun not knowing what they’re paying for? It’s not a news source in any way whatsoever, so unless I’m completely mistaken, people don’t buy it to stay informed. They buy it because it’s about as trashy as you can get while still feigning literacy. If they wanted a newspaper, there’s a whole spectrum of online and physical sources that cover a whole spectrum of political stances. Why would you want to be caught dead with The Sun unless it’s specifically for the easy reading and boobs (I’ve been informed that they’re decent at covering sport, but I honestly don’t know anything about that and I’m sure there are better sources out there)?

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  14. You’re right, but mistake that staying informed means being up to date with politics. Many of us read (all sorts of things) in order to keep up with the latest talking points with our peers. Celeb gossip, the latest scoop, crime news (even sensationalised), and yes sport, all come under this bracket for Sun readers. This is news. Those who buy the paper don’t buy it for page 3, the role page 3 plays in the business model is (I think) image-related. It installs the fact it is a paper of the people, and not in any way for the ‘snooty lefty literati’ (those signing the petition – us), Also it’s not about those who buy the Sun – with such a large circulation you can’t get away from seeing it (as part of the body image debate), and (in the case of the sexism debate) with the views of those who do buy it affect all women, not just those who buy/see it.

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  15. The Sun might cover all those topics, but they have not monopolized any of them. If you want to stay up to date with the latest celebrity gossip, crime news, etc., there are far easier, cheaper, and less degrading ways of doing that. Why read The Sun in the first place? “Page 3” and “The Sun” are more or less synonymous with each other, so anyone reading the paper is knowingly supporting it and its brands, which includes exploitative nudity. There is no excuse not to find other sources of whatever interests you. That’s especially true now with the Internet, blogging, free news sources, and so on.

    As far as your second point is concerned, I agree that the problem is more to do with the paper being ubiquitous in the UK. But in that case, The Sun isn’t the root cause of the problem. Let’s say you do get Page 3 banned. Then what? Nudity, pornography, and over idealized versions of both men and women will still be present in the media, advertising, and so forth. Banning Page 3 is a drop in the ocean of the body image problem. You mentioned in your article that you don’t have a problem with Zoo or Nuts because they’re specifically catering for those interested in pornography. However, how is their circulation any different to The Sun’s? With such a large circulation of Nuts, for example, you can’t get away from seeing it (every single cornershop and magazine rack) and the views of those who buy it will affect women as well.

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  16. Nuts circulation is less than 100,000 per week… the Sun sells around 51 million copies in the same period. That is the difference.

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  17. I agree that the wide circulation of softcore porn has an effect on the whole body image issue, but even without The Sun it would be everywhere. I think my concern with this campaign is that while the issue is definitely admirable, it paints the average Sun reader as stupidly naive. Most of the points on the Facebook page are about how there is what is effectively softcore porn in a “family” newspaper. But I doubt anybody who buys The Sun is unaware of what they are buying (emphasis on buying- it’s not readily available for people to stumble across by accident; they have to invest in it). Everybody knows that when they’re picking up a copy, they’re buying a non-family friendly newspaper which always features nudity. And if parents make it readily available for their children, that’s not the newspaper’s fault; it’s just shoddy parenting. I feel dirty defending The Sun and something as exploitative as Page 3, but, honestly, this is the consumers’ fault, not the providers’. I could see a problem if a newspaper such as The Guardian or The Times (a free newspaper such as Metro, which is available for free for everybody on public transport) were to suddenly start publishing random acts of porn out of the blue, but since Page 3 has been a feature in The Sun for who knows how long, the readers are fully responsible for its consumption. Sure, there are other features in the paper, but all Sun readers will know what to expect by buying it.

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  18. I dislike it when these articles demonize porn, I’m a big fan of porn. It has it’s rightful place and hasn’t destroyed my opinion of women. “The darkest depths of the Internet,” are not where you should go if you want breasts. I don’t think anyone should try to go there!

    However, surely page 3 messes with a teenage daughter’s paternal feelings when she sees him ogle a girl closer to her age than his? It hardly teaches a son to treat women well either.

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  19. There is objectification of men also, a massive theme in the world of advertisement. The wide circulation of pornography featuring men with as you call it “large weaponry” has led to image issues among males. The problem is that an ideal world, where one is not forced mercilessly to conform to a particular form of your gender, is so far off that we just have to bear in mind when we see things like Sun’s Page 3 that the world is changing for the better

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  20. Here’s an interesting and slightly more nuanced take on the Page 3 issue:

    http://www.xojane.co.uk/issues/get-your-debates-out-for-the-lads#disqus_thread

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  21. At least you can solace from the fact that people who buy The Sun for page 3 are lowlives. As painful as it seems — you’ll have to get used to it, the world is full of them.

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  22. I buy the Times because I buy a newspaper for news, but you seriously take issue with page 3?! It’s just a bit of harmless fun. Men are also objectified in a similar way a lot of the time too. I feel we should learn to enjoy the human form more. It’s ridiculous how in this day and age how much nudity in public or in a newspaper causes concern, yet horrific, nightmarish pictures of war, violence or David Guest cause no concern. I’m for full frontal nudity being on page 3, I also think they should do two copies. One with a naked women, one with a man. Cater for everyone :) … Peace and love.

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  23. To Blah, who commented above my last comment. My father occasionally reads the Sun. He is a builder and a member of the working class. He never got much opportunity in life, mainly down to his father (who was a lowlife by every sense of the word), but has worked incredibly hard through much adversity to raise his two children in the best way he can. I’m now here at York studying law which is pretty respectable not matter what your background is. It’s because of this ‘lowlife’ I am anywhere today. Even now I am on an internship in India. He paid for most of it because I could only find a part time job over the summer so I had little to no money spare. I also know he worked about a week or more to fund me to the extent he did because he didn’t want me to miss an opportunity. If he’s a lowlife then I aspire to be a lowlife too.

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  24. It seems to me as if this petition is designed to be flawed.

    Anybody who is disgruntled enough to sign a petition to get page 3 out of The Sun is not going to be buying it in the first place!

    If people wish to make this change, this certainly isn’t the way to go about it.

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  25. Rick: I apologise for my comment. I should have qualified it better. I hope you did not take much offense.

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  26. Oh my god shut up

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  27. 5 Oct ’12 at 2:37 am

    Anonymous. Obviously.

    This entire debate seems propagated on the idea that The Sun is somehow a “news”paper and that those reading it are approaching it as such. Are they f*ck. It is a comic book. The amount of “news” is negligible. It is soft porn. What, then, makes it any different from, say, Zoo? Or Nuts? To ban page three is to drive a precedent for banning a wider societal consumption of soft porn, and that carries with it all sorts of problems. It’s illiberal, at the core. Ridden with problems. I challenge anybody to draw a difference between The Sun and other forms of soft porn: or to say that it should all be banned.

    The other point to make, better than me, and in fairness not related to this (otherwise well done) article, is that the campaign at the heart has problems: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/media/2012/10/sinister-campaign-against-page-3 a Martin Robbins piece.

    For anybody who enjoys upsetting themselves, Brendan O Neill has trolled out a piece as well that, in defiance of his usual style, remains resolutely reasonable: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100181517/the-censorious-campaign-against-page-3-is-driven-by-the-oldest-and-most-foul-form-of-snobbery/ the point being that sort porn is widely and voraciously consumed: the ban and criticism is based upon a condescending expectation of how the audience will apparently be conditioned into behaving in a certain manner.

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  28. 5 Oct ’12 at 2:41 am

    Anonymous. Obviously.

    Although as a side note, if and when I’m bollock*d or supported, I don’t remotely think that men are objectified in the same manner. Don’t be obscene. There are huge hurdles to be overcome in terms of gender equality, and in terms of propagating change through society. This is not the right way to do it though.

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  29. The Sun has a readership of 7 million individuals who are more than happy with the paper the way it is, including a near 3 million female audience. To attack the individuals who do buy the paper as “men in white vans” and to approach the subject with such flippancy smacks of arrogance and snobbery. You might do well to climb down out of your ivory tower once in a while.

    The Sun used to have the page 5 fella which was a semi naked man.

    People claim it is warping the minds of young children. How exactly is a child seeing someone naked going to warp them? As if we haven’t evolved without clothing. The constant attitude that people should be ashamed of their bodies and cover them up at every opportunity is far more damaging to children than seeing people naked. Just look at how abnormal breast feeding in public is viewed.

    I do love how Harriet Harman jumped on this issue in a desperate bid to distract people with emotional issues. It isn’t as though we don’t have bigger things to worry about right now.

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  30. 9 Oct ’12 at 3:25 pm

    Blatantly Anonymous

    The Sun does not harm? it was Sunday afternoon fair to go to my grandmothers house and read the previous week’s offering from the Sun, she exchanged her weeks output of something more worthy with the bloke across the road. If at age 10 I had picked up a copy of Nuts or Zoo then maybe my parents or grandmother would have taken much more decisive action, some parents would not react. Now I rush around in a fury willing to lay whatever I can for her beauty and perceived reproductive qualities.

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  31. 10 Oct ’12 at 1:07 pm

    Philip Drinksallthebeers

    Personally, I love boobs

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