Wednesday, 21 January 2015

So Long Page 3, I'll Miss You

I've never read The Sun so I've never been a regular admirer of Page 3. At the same time, I've never deliberately not read The Sun. Nor have I ever thought long and hard about what Page 3 represents. Was it really everything that the anti-Page 3 protesters claimed it to be? Did it really embody systemic violence towards women? Did it objectify women? The first I doubt but the second I'm certain about. It objectified women in the same way that any human objectifies another when they look at them in an admiring way. That's neither a good nor a bad thing. It's just human (and possibly mammalian) nature. We're programmed to reproduce and part of that involves seeking out mates we find physically attractive. It's simply not in our programming to think 'I won't find her body attractive until I know that she has a personality to match'. It simply doesn't work that way.

What's more telling is that the end of Page 3 isn't really a victory for feminists. It's a hard-nosed business decision taken in a climate in which Page 3 was become a tame parody of what's really happening in the world. Personally, I can't understand why anybody could get angry about Page 3 when the likes of David Beckham and Kim Kardashian can barely keep their clothes on. The whole of our culture has become sexualised and one mitigation in favour of Page 3 was that at least there was an aesthetic motivation behind it. It might have objectified women but it also idealised them in the very same way that Greek sculptors idealised the human form millennia ago and painters through the ages have idealised the female figure in oils and watercolours. A Page 3 photographer might lack their skill but there was something more to Page 3 than a pair of tits and a cheeky smile.

Yet I really fear that Page 3 is disappearing because it no longer plays at the edge of a taboo. The victory isn't one for feminists but for the pornographers who simply aren't satisfied with a slightly oblique view of the side of a breast. Campaigners might argue that the end of Page 3 shows what we're a more enlightened civilization but, dare I suggest, it shows quite the opposite. Page 3 was remarkable not for what it showed but what it didn't show. Page 3 was as much about restraint as it was about being explicit. It now becomes a thing of the past because the future will be about things that are much worse.


[Addendum: I just wrote a comment over at The Guardian and I thought it nicely fitted into what I was saying here. I'll repost it here because I want to remember how confused I'm feeling on this whole issue. The comment is in response to a video they've posted about a women who had naked pictures of her stolen and posted on a porn site. She responded by publishing naked photographs of her which The Guardian has now published. I'm not quite sure how there's a difference between that and Page 3, given that the subjects of both sets of pictures are giving their permission for them to be made public. Anyway: my comment...]

The Sun ditches Page 3 and The Guardian post a semi-naked woman on the front page to make a point about not objectifying her body, whilst very clearly objectifying her body.

Sorry. I know there's so much to admire about what Emma has done but I'm not clever enough to know what I can or can't look at. Should I have even clicked on this article? What does that say about me? Why aren't I commenting on the adjacent article about hobbits? Am I allowed to objectify a hobbit body? Sorry. That was glib but I'm just confused about what my brain is supposed to tell my body to feel in these situations.

The simple fact is: people rightly celebrate the end of Page 3 but we live in a deeply sexualised culture where we're never more than one or two clicks away from something not simply explicit but disturbingly explicit.

Though I know, typing this, that nobody will agree with me. Porn culture seems to be the only culture it's fashionable to follow these days...

[Postscript: The above comment was deleted by the Guardian moderators, for reasons I can't see nor understand. The only thing it seems right to say is that the woman did a great thing. Anything beyond that is apparently banned.]


  1. You are right, Mr Spine / Waywell / whatever name you might be going under at the mo. The arguments against Page 3 (which is still there, by the way, it’s just that a significant part of it is different from what was there before) do sound hollow; why do so many of the “feminists” (a term I loathe) who condemn it look like munters? They say the partly-clad ladies are being “exploited”… erm, who is exploiting whom? A young lass voluntarily using her natural assets to deprive men of some of their money is being exploited? Sorry, but to my jaundiced view, it looks as though she is doing the exploiting. Certainly, if I were to be so well-proportioned, with such silky-smooth surfaces, I might be inclined to use that fact to make a bit of money that way, too. As it is, I am not, so have to work hard to employ what little talent I might have to earn a crust. I suspect many of these “feminists” are in a similar position, are too childish to accept it, but are happy to display themselves as envious bitches.

  2. Spine is just the name of the blog. David is my real name, though I've been a Chip, a Stan, and a Dick in my time on the web. I answer to any but I think David is the most honest. ;)

    Never a supporter of Page 3 but never much against it either. I didn't mind catching a glimpse of it when I could but I'm also that kind of repressed Englishman who would be embarrassed to be caught looking at it. The attack on it, however, just feels like another kick at masculine culture. I notice The Guardian today have a picture of a naked woman on their front webpage, though I don't suppose they'd say they used it to encourage men to click. The whole thing is wrapped up in hypocrisy and shallow niche 'isms' whilst the same people promote things which are far worse than whatever Page 3 ever was in its heyday. Maybe I'm just getting old but I'm just confused. These days it's wrong to look at a naked women in your newspaper but people protest for the right for somebody to sit on your face until you suffocate. I'm just baffled (and I'm not even sure that still legal).