One of the most interesting things about campaigning for an end to Page 3 is the way different areas of the argument engage different people. When out on the street or on social media you work through all of the reasons why having sexualised images of women in mainstream media is a bad idea and it's always fascinating to see which one hits home to people.
I recently had a meeting with my local Tory MP, I can't say it was an experience I enjoyed but once we had got past her initial instinct that drawing attention to Page 3 was simply going to make things worse, at which I pointed out that ignoring it for 42 years doesn't seem to have worked too well, she was generally in support. Her preferred line and one she thought many conservatives would be moved by, was that Page 3 is a tired, old fashioned embarrassment to the country, which of course it is. But what she felt very uncomfortable about was any suggestion that this image was in any way associated with violence against women and sexual violence in particular.
This is often a difficult area of the campaign, I suppose because, for a start, it's something a lot of people feel they would rather avoid discussing at all. It also often elicits a reactionary response, many immediately assuming you are suggesting that any man who looks at pictures of naked women is a potential rapist. This is clearly not the case, nor would any of us suggest it was. The issue is far more complex and to do with the way men are raised and socialised, their past experiences and many, many other factors too complex to go into here. However, it is not difficult to appreciate how the constant reinforcement of women as sex objects both reflects and reinforces that idea in the general public.
The difficulty many have with this viewpoint is in someways connected to the misapprehension a lot of people hold that Rapists are street attackers who lurk in dark alleyways, when in actual fact we know that the vast majority of women are raped by people they know and often in their own homes. Personally I have no difficulty associating the objectification of women, the dehumanisation of them from a "she" to a "that", from a thinking, feeling person to a commodity, with an increased ease in treating them as less than human and thereby making it easier to use them as such. Research by D. Ariely & G Lowenstein drew attention to this very fact showing that after looking at sexualised images of women, men are significantly more likely to answer 'yes' to the questions 'would you ever consider having sex with an underage girl?' and 'would you ever consider forcing a woman to have sex?' This evidence is worrying enough in its self but if you are still not convinced you can always, if the mood takes you, visit The Daily Star website.
....I say if the mood takes you, it is a mood that I experience about as often as the mood to gouge both eyes out with a spoon but each to their own...
I realise I may be confusing some of you here. No more Page 3 concentrates on asking for removal of The Sun's page 3 feature and that is in no small part because the Sun remains Britain's best selling newspaper with the Mail now hot on it's heels. This means its ability to infiltrate many areas of your lives is bigger that that of the other newspapers with similar content but The Sun, no longer allows visitors to its Page 3 website to leave comments. There may be good reason for this. The Daily Star's page 3 images are however, more or less identical and we can therefore assume would illicit a similar response in it's readers. Below is a sample of some comments from page 3 images on the Star's website which have not been removed (some apparently have because they were "too offensive") (Warning! Do not read if you are a delicate disposition!) -
"I'd love to spray my load over those juicy titties"
"Come on Jodie you little Teaser....we wanna see you whippin' your tits out for the Lads this week!!! We demand it you piece of Fodder! GET YOUR TITS OUT NOW!!!"
"Just wanked over this picture"
"Good set of tits on this dollop of fodder"
"Stacey is bleedin gorgeous!!!! So why has she only been given one chance to get her cracking tits out for the lads!!!????She loves unleashing that juicy rack when we demand it!!!!AND WE DEMAND IT NOW!!!! GET YER TITS OUT STACEY!!!!! XXXX"
"Now you are a babe. I bet you have a gorgeous pu**y if it's anything like your lovely tits which I would very much like to nuzzle into. I'd love to look down on you lovely lips wrapped around my ****. If your dirty, I'll give you anything you want, who wouldn't?!!!"
"Look at the wobbly knockers on that!! and todays **** slut is....emma frain with her pear shaped dark textured nipples out.
I love you, For you there is nothing I would not do. Your smile is so pretty, Not to mention your titties. They're gorgeous and cute, They make me wanna shove my **** up your chute, Because your practically perfect, Emma I love you now can we have some sex!"
"a wonderful beauty with a very shapely body just the right size tits to enjoy sucking on and have fun with would enjoy getting u as a present"
And these are the comments left on pictures they approved of. They do however seem to be quite picky...
"Not impressed by this piece of Essex Fodder...crap tits...fake sun tan and that jet black dyed hair. Nothing attractive about Geena facially either."
"These tits just aren't good enough....it's embarrassing."
"Yes you have nice boobs but your face is not the best"
"This Girl has no tits! Why for **** sake is she on Page 3!!"
"And what a saggy pair of tits this Welsh wannabe has...you could park a bus between that cleavage."
I'm sorry to share that with you but it is one of those things that once you've seen you know is important to share even if it is an uncomfortable read. These were not difficult to find incidentally, this is the common content and language used. Of particular note is the very small number of times the model is referred to by name or as a she, whilst words like "fodder", "dollop" referring to them as "that"or using words like "Slut" are frequent. The sense of privilege, of authority the commentators have that these women will whip their tits out on demand is clear, as is the overall sense of ownership.
What all of this leaves us with is a worrying picture of the attitudes of some young men after looking repetitively at these images. How do these men then interact with the women in their lives and those they encounter after forming these opinions and feeling confident enough in their views to type them onto a website. Are these the same young men who feel entitled, at the very least, to shout some sexual comment to a woman on the street or manhandle a woman on a dance floor. How can we continue to allow mainstream reinforcement of these attitudes when we still have the problems we have with violence and sexual violence against women? If nothing else this reality certainly makes a mockery of Dominic Mohan's defence of Page 3 as 'not sexualised'.
So I will not mince my words in saying that Page 3 needs to go, not just because it is a national embarrassment and a dinosaur of the 1970s but because it is anything other than a "harmless fun". It is difficult to understand how any woman, having read these comments, could not feel some sense of challenge to their safety and in the current climate where it is becoming clear that women face sexual harassment and assault as much as ever and where rape is sadly hugely under reported and rarely results in a conviction, to make an excuse for this as "fun for the lads" in inexcuseable. So for these reasons I make no apologies, even though I know it doesn't sit well with some, in connecting Page 3 images with sexual assault, domestic violence and rape. It may be a small part of a big problem but it's certainly not helping, which is why, at No More Page 3 we are proud to count Women's Aid and Rape Crisis amongst our supporters.