David Dinsmore, new Editor of the Sun newspaper, has stated that Page 3 will stay and has given this reason for continuing the feature: 'It's a good way of selling newspapers'. On BBC Radio Wales on Thursday he also tellingly revealed the dishonesty of the Sun's usual defence of Page 3 as representing 'youthfulness and freshness' when the presenter, Oliver Hides, put this statement and question to him:
'it's presented for titillation in a newspaper, whereas it's not, is it, on the catwalk or in Art?'
Rather than a denial of the statement, David Dinsmore's reply: 'But I think exactly, absolutely it is' is very revealing.
Page 3 is for titillation, but so what, so are those other things but nobody complains about them. Somebody might want to explain to Dinsmore the actual purpose of catwalk models and Art, but for now we finally have an indirect admission from the top that Page 3's purpose is titillation and not 'a celebration of natural beauty' as was attested by Dominic Mohan at the Leveson inquiry.
Dinsmore also boasted proudly that it was the Sun who started and 'led the way' in the great British institution of sexually objectifying the young women of this country in a mass circulation daily newspaper. Although those weren't his exact words. So let's see where the Sun has led us.
Forty-three years after they made the daring decision to include porn in a daily newspaper, we live in a country where sexually objectified images of young women are a staple visual presence in daily public life for men, women and children alike. Great British High St chains like W. H. Smith, and supermarkets like Tesco casually display lad's mags on full show, and place tabloid newspapers with these images on the front page at child's eye-level. The children of Sun readers are of course able to view Page 3 daily within the comfort of their own family homes.
The impact and effect of viewing these images is well-documented and it's not good news for women and girls. Michael Flood at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society summed up a few studies as early as 2009:
'Turning to mainstream media, experimental studies among young adults find that males and females exposed to sexualised or objectifying content are more accepting of rape myths, violence-supportive and adversarial beliefs (Kalof, 1999; Lanis and Covell, 1995; Milburn et al., 2000; Ward, 2002), while correlational studies among adolescents also show such associations (Cowan and Campbell, 1995; Kaestle et al., 2007).'
We know that objectifying images are dehumanising and we know the link between dehumanisation and abuse, as Nathan A. Heflick wrote in an article called 'Sexual Objectification Increases Perceptions of Women as Animals' in Psychology Today in 2010:
'it is likely much easier to harm a woman when she is perceived as more animalistic and less human'.
And we also know that this perception is not confined to just the woman in the image being viewed, but extends to all women, as Heflick wrote in a later article, 'Sexual Images of Women Impact Perceptions of Other Women', published in 2011:
'These studies are important because every time someone sees a sexualized image of a woman (which studies show are far more frequent than those of sexualized men), this likely is detrimental to how women are perceived.'
The impact of viewing these images on young women is also no longer in doubt as the Report from the American Psychological Association on the Effects of the Sexualisation of Girls states:
'Research also links exposure to sexualized female ideals with lower self-esteem, negative mood and depressive symptoms among adolescent girls and women. In addition to mental health consequences of sexualization, research suggests that girls' and women's physical health may also be negatively affected, albeit indirectly.'
The UN Commission on the Status of Women Report in March 15th 2013 made this specific resolution in its recommendations for the prevention of violence against women and girls:
'Recognize the important role the media can play in the elimination of gender stereotypes, [...] strengthen self-regulatory mechanisms to promote balanced and non-stereotypical portrayals of women with a view to eliminating discrimination against and the exploitation of women and girls and refraining from presenting them as inferior beings and exploiting them as sexual objects and commodities'.
(The U.K. has signed this UN Resolution, a fact of which I am sure David Cameron is aware. Maybe he had just forgotten when last week he responded with a patronising smirk to Caroline Lucas' proposal for an Early Day Motion asking the parliamentary authorities to stop stocking the Sun until the Page 3 feature is removed).
So there you have it. A wealth of research documenting the harmful effects of Page 3 images on women and girls versus the right to the use and display of young women's bodies for the daily titillation of men for profit.
Over to you David Cameron.