No ray of hope for The Sun: “page three” continues

On the 20th, The Times ran an article declaring that its sister paper, The Sun, had ‘quietly’ decided to end its 44-year tradition of topless models on Page 3. Media outlets widely discussed the news and mostly considered it a progressive, important step in ending the over-sexualisation of women in the media. Celebrants included Caroline Lucas, Nicky Morgan, and Jo Swinson, and the No More Page 3 campaign was naturally delighted. But on the 22nd the feature returned. Sardonically titled ‘Clarifications and Corrections’, with ‘Nicole, 22’ winking, its caption stated the paper wanted to ‘apologise’ for ‘journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us’. Clearly acknowledging the prank, The Sun’s website also, unusually, granted the general public access to the photos, without requiring the premium ‘Sun Plus’.

There can be little doubt that this was a deliberate reversal. Whilst Dylan Sharpe, head of the paper’s PR, dubbed reports on the end of the feature ‘speculation’, The Times was the first outlet to break the story and is another member of the overarching corporation News UK. He further mocked a request for comment on the ‘return’, responding, ‘I don’t recall telling you it had gone?’ So if this was planned – a hoax, even – the question remains: what was the point?

The most obvious answer is that this was a bid for publicity, and if so, it worked, sparking great discussion of the implications. The U-turn has made less of an impact so far, but one definite beneficiary was The Sun’s website, which reportedly saw a surge in traffic. It was advertised that topless photographs would still be available online, for premium payers, so this seems a deliberate push for ‘Sun Plus’ membership. This may also be intended as a response to critics, in an attempt to prove the public still want Page 3 to continue.

However, they are not the only ones reaping rewards. No More Page 3 also reported an increase in interest, and the mocking reversal will only strengthen backlash. More importantly, Rupert Murdoch has proved once again that he has no understanding of the arguments behind the campaign.

There was speculation that the paper would instead extend its weekend format of celebrities, minus the partial nudity, or that the feature would continue but the models would wear bras. Accordingly, debate raged over whether this was an improvement, or a false concession within the same issue. Ultimately, even with clothes, a picture of a sexualised woman in what claims to be a newspaper is a damaging normalisation of the idea that women’s bodies are for public consumption. Packaged with restrictive beauty standards, a troubling lack of diversity, and a demeaning presentation of the twenty-something ‘girls’, Page 3 is both symptomatic and symbolic of these wider problems. What is most frustrating about the fake cessation is that supporters glimpsed the beginning of a positive outcome, before it was laughed away, and further damning proof that The Sun cares nothing for progress.

40 comments

  1. 27 Jan ’15 at 11:20 pm

    Nicolas Bourbaki

    Who gets to decide what is a ‘demeaning’ presentation of a woman, if not the woman herself?

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    • 29 Jan ’15 at 12:22 pm

      Susan Maria Gavaghan

      In his article entitled ‘The Lads Mag I Edited Turned A Whole Generation Onto Porn, Now I’m A Father I Bitterly Regret It’ Martin Daubney described topless modelling as ‘shameful’, ‘immoral’ and he and his fellow editors regarded it as a ‘necessary evil’ in order to sell Loaded. He went on to say that he would often get asked if he would want his own daughter to be a topless model and he would ‘squirm and feel ashamed but obliged to say yes. Not on my life would I want any daughter of mine to be a topless model. Some of them had kids and I would think ‘what’s your kid going to think of you when its old enough to realise mummy got her boobs out for a living’. Alex Sim Wise and another topless model described being called names such as ‘you slut, you whore, you only got where you are because you got your boobs out.’ When Lucy Holmes (founder of No More Page 3) did a survey on what Sun readers thought of Page 3, they said things such as ‘if some dumb slut wants to get topless because her uncle touched her up when she was a child, why should we care?’ or ‘If some low self esteem woman wants to degrade herself for money, why should the Sun worry about that.’ On the Women Of The World debate a teacher asked schoolboys what they thought of the Page 3 models and they said they regarded them as ‘slags’ and ‘sluts’. If the Page 3 model doesn’t regard this as a demeaning presentation of herself, that is not the issue here. The opinion of men is that it is a demeaning image and they have no respect for these women. Would you be happy for your mother to have been a Page 3 model? Or the thought that your future daughter might be one? Would you be happy to think that one day your daughter may be a 14 year old schoolgirl seated on a bus and a much older man will be looking at Page 3 and turn to her and comment on the breasts of the model in the picture? Because that is what has been happening for the last 44 years. Whatever the model in the picture thinks of what she is doing for a living, the fact is that Page 3 comes under the definition of soft porn, and soft porn should not have been normalised and has no place in a so called family newspaper which is indoctrinating children. If The Sun featured a completely naked man on Page 3 every day, with his penis exposed, there would be an outcry. So why has this image been accepted as normal for 44 years?

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      • I’m sure if there was a penis of page three of the sun, not a single man would give a sh*t, and it would be women, not men with the problem, again.

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        • Apathy does not make something okay

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        • 6 Feb ’15 at 10:14 am

          Susan Maria Gavaghan

          Well, that has never been put to the test. Could you really envisage a situation where the image of a completely naked man, with his penis on show, is a normal image? Where men have to sit next to women on a train or bus, or on work cafes who are viewing this image and commenting on the size of the mans penis ‘look at the dick on that’ as though this is completely normal? Could you really imagine a 13 or 14 year old schoolboy on a train or bus, seated next to a much older, gay man, who is viewing this image and then turns round to the young boy and says ‘hasn’t he got a lovely cock?’ Could you really say that this would be acceptable? Because this is what young women and schoolgirls have had to live with for the last 45 years.

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          • That is such a ridiculous comment. That’s wrong but not because of the content of the newspaper. That’s like saying why don’t we ban cars because sometimes bad people run others over.

            Additionally, What you’re implying is that most lesbian women show girls page three and say ‘ain’t she got a lovely pair?’ – What is wrong with you?

            This is the issue, whether it’s a cock or tits on page three, you’re saying the man is in the wrong on both counts! That is the definition of being sexist.

            Hypocrite.

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            • 8 Feb ’15 at 2:25 pm

              Susan Maria Gavaghan

              The purpose of giving the older gay man scenario was tl show an example of how this would embarrass and intimidate a schoolboy in the way this has happened to schoolgirls who are shown page 3 by older men. i am not in any way homophobic and have 2 friends who are gay. if lesbian women were to behave in this way it would be equally wrong. We are not saying that soft porn images should be banned – only that a family newspaper is not the appropriate place for it. it is also wrong that the largest image of a woman is of her stripped practically naked and presented in a watch men have no respect for while men are shown fully clothed active and achieving in society and afforded respect. the recent Saville revelations and the associated trials have shown the results of 45 years of women being objectified and sexualized. page 3 created the cultural climate which allowed it to happen.

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              • 8 Feb ’15 at 2:41 pm

                Susan Maria Gavaghan

                furthermore Page 3 and those responsible for it should be on trial along with the Saville brigade.

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              • 9 Feb ’15 at 10:12 am

                Susan Maria Gavaghan

                Slight amendment to the above post, I meant to say in a way in which men have no respect for

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                • 10 Feb ’15 at 10:10 am

                  Susan Maria Gavaghan

                  I wish to point out that I have had personal experience of this situation – as a young girl I had nowhere to stay and as a result I was staying in a house owned by an older man. This man bought The Sun and used to open the paper, look at page 3 then began discussing the model’s breasts and the shape and size of them. This was offensive and embarrassing to me. However, because this image is in a family newspaper (along with the rest of the sexualisation and objectification of women) the message is that it is a normal image, like any other image in the newspaper. Therefore, following this logic through, there is nothing wrong with the man discussing the models body like he would discuss any other image in the newspaper. What we are saying is that it is not a normal image, it is soft porn, and men should not feel free to open the paper, look at Page 3 then discuss the model’s body and comment on it, then comment on the body of other women.

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          • 18 Feb ’15 at 5:13 pm

            Hooters McGee

            You seem to have a thing for 14 year olds, just because you look at page 3 does not make you a paedo and a perv. Woman every day are saying breasts are just breasts they are not sexual they should be celebrated. Well here we are celebrating them. The models get paid about £500 a shoot so who are the real victims being taken advantage of. At the end of the day they are just breasts and if they can make £500 while at university for potentially creating a back up career then go for it.

            Feminists telling everyone what to think again, if you don’t like it then don’t look at it. The models are hardly forced at gunpoint to pose are they. Focus on hard porn if you have to moan about something.

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            • 19 Feb ’15 at 10:57 am

              Susan Maria Gavaghan

              You obviously do not have an answer to my point about how 14 year old girls are being affected by Page 3 (just one of the examples of this from the Everyday Sexism Project). Are you not aware that virtually all the universities, the unions, the girls guides, the teachers association, the midwives association and the Rape Crisis Organisation are all in support of Page 3? Are all these just a ‘bunch of feminist moaners?’ A statement from the Rape Crisis Centre in support of No More Page 3 is as follows: The message of Page 3 is that womens bodies are for the use and consumption of men. This is the backdrop in which 80,000 women are raped and 150,000 women are sexually assaulted in the UK each year. We have to deal with the results of this. The time for this to go is long overdue.’ No-one is saying women cannot pose for soft porn pictures; no-one is saying people are not allowed to view them. All we are saying is that it is not appropriate that soft porn has become normalised and in a family newspaper which can be viewed by anyone including children. There is also the entire way in which women have been sexualised and objectified in these publications. The points you have raised are somewhat passe. It appears that you have made this post to be annoying rather than making any valid contribution.

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        • 6 Feb ’15 at 11:58 am

          Susan Maria Gavaghan

          Furthermore, if a young schoolboy were seated next to an older gay man on a bus or train, and the man turned to him and said ‘hasn’t he got a lovely cock’ and the boy went home to his father and told him he felt intimidated and threatened by this, I think that the father would certainly give a sh*t. Imagine a situation where schoolboys had to pass schoolgirls looking at page 3 and saying ‘I wonder if his cock is as big as that’. That is what has happened to schoolgirls as they pass schoolboys and see them looking at page 3 and comparing the models breasts with their breasts. Imagine a father with his 4 year old son seated next to a man looking at page 3 with a naked man on the page and the son says to his father ‘why is that man naked?’ I am certain that man would give a sh*t about having to answer that question. Would ‘Total BS’ give a sh*t if he or his future son were in this situation? Slight amendment to my last post – I meant to say that is what all women have had to endure for the last 45 years.

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        • 15 Feb ’15 at 9:15 pm

          Kate Marshall

          Yeah, it’s called the patriarchy. Men aren’t treated the same way as women are in society, so doing the overused ‘what if it was a man’ flip actually has no comparative weight because you’re not feeding into all the other factors that contribute to this being problematic. Also, way to go, assuming no men at all have an issue with this. I think you’ll find that’s incorrect.

          Also I would have a problem with gratuitous penises in a newspaper. Porn is not news. (Penis =/= man, too, but we can leave that for another time.)

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          • 17 Feb ’15 at 2:08 pm

            Susan Maria Gavaghan

            The purpose of creating various scenarios in which men would feel threatened, embarrassed and intimidated by a page 3 which featured a naked man showing his penis and reiterating this point numerous times was an attempt to ask men to envisate a situation where they would be in the same position as the schoolgirls who have had older men turn to them whilst looking at page 3 and discuss the body of the model, or the schoolgirls who have to listen to schoolboys discussing the shape and size of their breasts, or other situations where this is causing harm to women and girls. Various men who support No More Page 3 have said that it is an issue they haven’t really thought about until they have had daughters; men have had to answer to their 3 year old daughters ‘why is that woman naked?’. The comedian Doc Brown, who supports the campaign, has said this. Martin Daubney, former editor of Loaded, won various debates in support of pornography and won a debate at Oxford University in 2008 in which the motion ‘Page 3 Has No Place in the 21st Century’. Since he had a child he is now concerned about the dangers of online pornography, and expressed shame at the fact that Loaded pushed the boundaries and became porn which was available to children. Yet, despite his admission of how he feels about Page 3 this man is still supporting the publication of Page 3 pictures. Apparently, his partner, Diana James, is the editor of page3.com. Mr Daubney was a panelist on the Women Of The World debate on this subject. He stated in an article that someone ‘callously brought his 4 month old daughter in the debate.’ He didn’t say in what context this was but I can only imagine that someone must have asked him how he would feel if his daughter were in the same position as the schoolgirls on the train having to sit next to men showing them Page 3, or in school and having to listen to boys commenting on their breasts and comparing them to Page 3. Mr Daubney thought it was ‘callous’ to suggest his daughter may one day have to endure what has been inflicted on the daughters of other men for the last 45 years.

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            • 18 Feb ’15 at 10:12 am

              Susan Maria Gavaghan

              Slight amendment to the above; Martin Daubney debated at the Oxford University debate in April 2008 opposing the motion ‘Page 3 has no place in the 21st Century’. The motion was opposed by a majority of 2 – 1. However, Oxford University have since come out in support of the No More Page 3 campaign and have stated ‘Page 3 started in the 1970’s – a period which did not value equality. We are no longer down with the values of the 1970’s’.

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    • 2 Feb ’15 at 12:00 am

      Kate Marshall

      If you reread I think you’ll notice that at no point do I condemn the model for her decision. Nudity can be empowering and promote body positivity. This doesn’t. My problem is with The Sun itself, their treatment of their models and the connotations for women in general, and the context in which Page 3 claims to be appropriate.

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      • That makes no sense. The women are free to model or not model topless- no-one is forcing them; the readers of the newspaper are happy to view them. For you to only condemn the newspaper is ridiculous.

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        • 3 Feb ’15 at 12:32 pm

          Susan Maria Gavaghan

          I don’t condemn the Page 3 models for what they are doing – its just that it is a soft porn image and has no place in a so-called family newspaper, along with the sexualisation and objectification of women. Men are continually portrayed wearing clothes, active and achieving in society, while the largest image of a women is of her naked apart from a pair of pants and achieving nothing. Just as an image of a completely naked man would be unnaceptable in a newspaper, this image is innapropriate for a newspaper.

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        • 3 Feb ’15 at 11:10 pm

          Kate Marshall

          I’ve agreed the women have their choice, and I’ve made no comment on the readers, so yeah, I am only condemning the newspaper. That was the topic of the article. I don’t see how you’re contradicting my point?

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      • 5 Feb ’15 at 12:11 pm

        Susan Maria Gavaghan

        I do not condemn the models – I am merely pointing out the general opinion men have of them. They have the right to choose this if that is what they want; I am merely pointing out that it this image comes under the definition of soft porn and is therefore not appropriate that it is in a newspaper.

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        • 18 Feb ’15 at 5:23 pm

          Hooters McGee

          I am a man, I see a woman I like and want to do things to them that includes sex. Look at this lion over here, lioness bows down with bum in air…. Omg lioness you whore dont objectify yourself and sexualise yourself for the pleasure of the lion. Oh no wait a second you are flaunting yourself thanks to the natural instinct you have to mate and reproduce so your species doesn’t die out. See the similarities, lady wants to flaunt herself in the hope of gaining a mate to reproduce, and make some dolla while she’s at it?

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          • 19 Feb ’15 at 2:13 pm

            Susan Maria Gavaghan

            I just need to point out that women do not bow down in public places with their naked bottom in the air to invite men to have sex with them. In the same way men don’t walk around with their naked penises erect. If this were to happen they would be arrested. Your point has no relevance to this subject.

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            • 21 Feb ’15 at 10:01 am

              Susan Maria Gavaghan

              Just want to add a other point here – if the young women on page 3 are hoping to attract a man by doing this then judging from the comments taken from men they are going about it the wrong way. Men will look at these women but have no respect for them and wouldn’t want one as their girlfriend wife or their own daughter. Out of interest can I ask you if you would be happy for your girlfriend/wife/mother/sister /daughter to pose topless on page 3?

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          • Holy cow you did not just pull evo-psych bull on this argument. Get back to your MRA rat hole.

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            • 24 Feb ’15 at 10:14 am

              Susan Maria Gavaghan

              I notice you did not answer my question.

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            • 24 Feb ’15 at 11:53 am

              Susan Maria Gavaghan

              The fact of the matter is that men who support the continuation of Page 3 do so as long as it doesn’t affect them personally; when they have children themselves and mature they are all going to say what Martin Daubney – the top Page 3 supporter of all time – said. This man not only made his money from the bodies of these women (whom he admitted he regarded with contempt) but got off on ‘defending the indefencible’ as he put it. For many years there was the ‘news in briefs’ feature, in which a bubble with a comment about current issues of news was incorporated in the Page 3 photo, supposedly the opinion of the model. This was clearly a sneering little ‘in joke’ for Sun readers, which reads ‘aren’t we clever, we can talk out of our arses defending this at universities, even convincing Oxford University it is a matter of freedom of expression, yet this is our admission that we regard these women as a bunch of dumb sluts who are not capable of writing this’. This was removed when David Dinsmore took over as editor from Dominic Mohan, and clearly a result of the No More Page 3 campaign.

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  2. 29 Jan ’15 at 10:25 am

    Susan Maria Gavaghan

    Well said. I personally believe that they want to drop it because all the arguments against it have been won. They just don’t want the No More Page 3 campaign to get the credit.

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  3. 3 Feb ’15 at 3:10 pm

    Susan Maria Gavaghan

    Furthermore, it makes no sense that such images are deemed to be unnaceptable, sexist and discriminatory in the workplace, yet for the last 45 years have been normalised in a so called family newspaper. Children have been brought up with women continually being portrayed achieving almost naked, sexualised and objectified whilst men are continually portrayed the opposite – wearing clothes, taken seriously, active and achieving in society. This is part of a backward, unhealthy, sleazy 1970’s culture and it is undeniable that it is causing harm to society. Virtually the whole of British Society including the unions, teachers, rape crisis and universities are all calling for an end to this appalling sexism.

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  4. 4 Feb ’15 at 2:12 pm

    Susan Maria Gavaghan

    Slight amendment to my post above, I meant to say women are portrayed in these publications achieving nothing but posing almost naked wearing nothing but a pair of pants.

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    • 18 Feb ’15 at 5:19 pm

      Hooters McGee

      Susan, you seem to be a feminist, do you have hairy armpits and pubes? I bet you do, I also bet you are just jealous that these girls are hot and guys want to look at them more than you? Am I touching the right areas yet? What you have to remember is we live in a world of free speech where I can say things like that, and also women can do this if they want. You bra burners are going round effectively destroying what you have fought so hard for over the last 100 years, freedom to do what you want. If they want to get their baps out for the lads, let them, its their choice and a wonderful choice for them to do it. When vogue, hello and hot news weekly print their glossy celeb information magazines you don’t see men moaning that there are full articles focusing on who looks corr and who has a great six pack, its entertainment for the ladies.

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      • 20 Feb ’15 at 10:25 am

        Susan Maria Gavaghan

        You have clearly resorted to ‘talking out of your arse’ because you don’t have an argument. The content of women’s magazines is not classed as ‘soft porn’ – the content of the papers The Sun, The Star and The Sport is classed as soft porn. We are not saying women are not allowed to pose for soft porn, nor are we saying people are not allowed to view it. What we are saying is that soft porn is not suitable for a family newspaper and viewed by children who are brought up with it as normal. Resorting to personal attacks is what The Sun did to Clare Short – my appearance is of no relevance to this debate. It would be akin to me saying that you must be an unnatractive perve who can’t get a girlfriend because you are defending the continuation of Page 3 – a sexist relic from the 1970’s.

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        • 20 Feb ’15 at 12:08 pm

          Susan Maria Gavaghan

          Just another little point – the Page 3 models are heavily made up and have their hair styled prior to the shoot; they are then photographed by an expert photographer and the photograph is airbrushed to get rid of any flaws. So the Page 3 model may look a lot different in reality than the Page 3 image you see in the newspaper.

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          • 21 Feb ’15 at 9:25 am

            Susan Maria Gavaghan

            I wish to further point out that my personal style is gothic/pagan so I do not fit your somewhat dated stereotype of a feminist. The definition of a feminism is the concept and belief that men and women are equals – it is this which defines feminism not personal style.

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            • 22 Feb ’15 at 1:43 pm

              Susan Maria Gavaghan

              You clearly believe that the image of a sexualized objectified almost naked woman is an acceptable image for children to be brought up with – where do you draw the line? What if they started publishing photos of completely naked women on page 3 with their pubic area visible? Or completely naked men with their penises on view? Or what if they started featuring naked women with their legs apart exposing their genitalia? Would you be ok with children growing up with this as normal? Or they could feature gay soft porn where young men are continually sexualized objectified with constant reference made to their bodies.

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      • 23 Feb ’15 at 12:08 pm

        Susan Maria Gavaghan

        You seem to have gone all quiet on me Hooters.

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      • 23 Feb ’15 at 2:01 pm

        Susan Maria Gavaghan

        Was it something I said?

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  5. Why have you used an image of Van der Sar from 2007?

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