Aren’t breasts great? As a clumsy, socially awkward male my encounters have been limited over the years but the few boobs I’ve been allowed to view up close were very nice indeed. As I have grown up from a sniggering schoolboy desperate to know what girls were hiding under their blouses, the novelty has worn off though. I get to see my wife’s breasts (if I am lucky) about twice a day and friends who had kept their boobs hidden for years are suddenly slapping them out in public to feed babies without fear or shame. I have even managed to cultivate a decent sized pair of my own through years of overindulgence, although their practical uses are minimal and I am assured they are not attractive.
Yes, boobs are indeed one of God’s greatest creations. What they are not though is news. Somehow, the use of bare breasts as a marketing tool for a newspaper is a “National Institution” and the forty years or so Page Three has been around is something to celebrate. Each day, the leading female image in Britain’s most popular newspaper is accompanied by exposed breasts (normally young, pert and large) scoffing in the face of feminism. Any woman who questions the validity of Page Three is generally discredited, ridiculed and bullied as if objections are born from jealousy at the attractive female form rather than rational argument.
But in other areas, sexual content is a bad thing and restricted. We have a 9pm watershed for television channels showing adult content and the BBFC website states “There may be nudity in 12A films but sexual nudity should only be brief and discreet.” Porn magazines in newsagents are put high up on the top shelf, out of reach and eye line of children yet a ‘family’ newspaper can freely print naked images in prominent positions around supermarkets. Internet providers offer parental controls to limit the on-line content children may find in the home but in shops, cafes and on public transport they can be exposed to images of topless women all in the name of ‘fun’. If I were to walk down the street naked, I would firstly find myself ridiculed but then face indecent exposure charges. If David Cameron has his way we will have to ask permission to view porn on the internet but funnily enough he sees no problem with Rupert Murdoch publishing nude photos in a family newspaper.
People argue that it is just a bit of fun, that kids can see nudity anywhere, it’s been around for a very long time and we all have the choice not to buy The Sun. These arguments though ignore the problems that the gratuitous displaying of bare breasts as a marketing tool have on society. The ‘fun’ that men get (and it is solely men whom Page 3 is aimed at) is outweighed by the pressure young girls are put under to develop their own bodies in a specific way. Every day the prominent female image in The Sun is naked specifically for the delectation of male readers, as if women in history have never invented, created, won or organised anything without the use of their bodies. There are many things that were around in the 1970s that we no longer consider acceptable (racism, violence against women, Jim Davidson) and Page Three is the only outdated relic left standing.
And the “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it” argument really isn’t enough anymore. I don’t buy The Sun yet I am still subjected to its sexism in newsagents, through other people’s copies and in how it permeates into society. Page Three not only tells girls how a perfect body should look, it says that showing off breasts is the only way for a girl to gain attention. Boys are not just titillated, they are presented with females as sex objects to be rated and treated as masturbation fodder. Observing how women are treated in the street, pubs and the workplace, the link between Page Three and general attitudes to women is stark. Regardless of whether I buy the newspaper or not, I remain offended.
I am not saying that sex and nudity should be considered taboo, far from it. If we were less repressed about sexuality we may find a happier, less violent society. But Page Three isn’t about education and when it presents the female body in such a vulgar manner it belittles women and patronises men. Sex is the most natural of human instincts but that doesn’t give a newspaper the right to trivialise it in the name of free speech. Anyone would find a naked penis an inappropriate image to see every morning so why do we accept the bare breasts of Page Three?
We can’t ban The Sun from publishing what it wants, we can however highlight the hypocrisy and misogyny that Page Three breeds. Of course it is sexist, crass and childish but above all, using tits to sell a newspaper is downright pathetic. If you want sexual excitement, knock yourself out! Pornography is widely available on-line, on DVDs, in magazines and in any number of clubs that offer the chance to view naked flesh in an entertaining environment, all with appropriate age restrictions. Freedom of the press is wonderful but it doesn’t give the newspapers the right to peddle inappropriate imagery. The female body is a beautiful thing and if you want to view nude pictures then go for it. Just don’t pretend that its news.
You can support the campaign asking to “Take the bare boobs out of The Sun” by visiting http://nomorepage3.org/