A while ago I wrote to my MP voicing my objections to Page 3 and he forwarded it to the Sun newspaper, promising to inform me of the response. Eventually a three-page reply came from Richard Caseby, the Managing Editor. I was very much looking forward to hearing the Sun's counter-arguments to my objections, such as this:
'These are sexualised, post-watershed, top-shelf images, available in an unrestricted daily newspaper'.
You didn't mention that though Richard. In fact you didn't really respond to any other specific points either. You did start off well:
'In a free and open democracy everyone is entitled to an opinion about Page 3'.
I wrote: 'Existing legislation prohibits topless calendars from the workplace as they are recognised to be humiliating and degrading to women, and therefore constitute a form of sexual harassment.'
You replied: 'The first Page 3 was published in the Sun 43 years ago. It was a statement of youthfulness and freshness and it is as innocent today as it was in 1970. While social mores have changed over the years, Page 3 has not'.
Yup. That legislation was passed in the mid-eighties. Catch up! It's seen as a bit pervy these days to represent 'youthfulness and freshness' with a photograph of a teenager or woman in her early twenties displaying her naked breasts in a sexually provocative manner. We've heard how Jimmy Savile used to leer over them now, so we don't like the image of old men doing that anymore. Not in this day and age.
I wrote: 'Research has shown 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?'
You countered with a Germaine Greer quote: 'If I ask my odd-job man what he gets out of Page 3, he tells me simply 'it cheers me up'.
Oh ok. The research might not have included him. Great to see that you listen to feminists by the way. I'm a feminist.
I said that body confidence is not the main reason I object to Page 3, but you thought to say this anyway:
'In a culture that encourages plastic surgery such as breast implants, Page 3 girls are an advertisement for natural beauty. The Page 3 candidates are healthy girls in stark contrast to many of the stick-thin models who grace the pages of high fashion magazines in varying states of nudity and, sometimes, anorexia'.
Oh dear. Funny you should mention breast implants. The models you choose for Page 3 are overwhelmingly a statistically-improbable small frame supporting large breasts. So a girl has to both starve herself and get breast implants to achieve that! Catwalk models are not presented as a 'sexual ideal' as Page 3 girls are, and we really do know the difference. And then of course, seeing Page 3 can make young girls not want to become women, and one symptom of that is self-starvation. It's a much more complex area than you think Richard, I wish you'd asked first.
You said: 'Page 3 has become an innocuous British institution, regarded with affection and tolerance by millions. It is neither harmful nor offensive'.
Love how you state that as a fact!
'The Page 3 girls can be role models and a force for good. For example, five Page 3 girls went on a morale-boosting assignment to visit British troops in Afghanistan in November 2008.'
I wasn't complaining about that. But since you bring it up, page3.com is blocked as inappropriate material in the barracks. So is it really ok to send models who do this 'adult' work to 'cheer up' the troops? We've heard a bit recently about a culture of sexual harassment in the forces, did you realise that women serve in the forces too? Is it not a tad disrespectful to them, not to mention the wives and girlfriends back home?
I think this is the bit that really got to you: 'Young women's susceptibility to the flattery, sexual attention and approval of men should not be exploited in a way which effectively bars them from every other worthwhile career (including lingerie and fashion modelling). The only career that Page 3 modelling provides a real gateway to is the sex industry.'
You replied: 'Finally, I should say that I disagree with many of the bold and unsubstantiated assertions and astonishing leaps of imagination in your enclosure from Ms Stephanie Davies-Arai, particularly her repellent suggestion: 'The only career that Page 3 provides a real gateway to is the sex industry'.
Hmmm. I heard that from the mouths of ex-Page 3 girls themselves, warning a teenager of the dangers, in a 2008 BBC3 documentary entitled 'Page 3 Teens'. (I know! Sounds like a porn movie doesn't it?!) Katie Price and Keeley Hazell it was, do you remember them? Incidentally, in 42 years there have been over 4,500 'Page 3 girls'. How many have become successful and famous? Wikipedia lists 16. What happened to the rest? I presume you have facts and figures. I wish you'd shared. Then the word 'unsubstantiated' wouldn't keep springing to mind.
I wrote: 'Page 3 exploits one group: young, white British women, and presents them as sexually available 'tarts''.
You said: 'It puts me in mind of how the Guardian recently described Page 3 girls as 'downmarket scrubbers' in a column that masqueraded as a defence of women'.
Ok that's funny because I put 'tarts' in 'inverted commas' to show it wasn't my opinion, just like you did with 'downmarket scrubbers'! See how that works? And I've heard the Guardian were doing the same 'inverted commas' thing in that article, but I wouldn't know, I've never read it. It doesn't get left lying around on trains like the Sun does.
You ask: 'On what basis does your constituent make her assertion?'
Just said. Prove me wrong.
'None, I suggest, other than sneering class prejudice and incontinent emotion'.
Ooooh! The class card! I come from a good solid Northern working-class family. My mum was brought up on a council estate. I like that you know the phrase 'incontinent emotion'.
You said: 'The campaign to have Page 3 banned is fuelled primarily by a contempt for the concerns and interests of ordinary people'.
Wow. I'm just trying to work out how many 'ordinary' women I know who have a concern and interest that their partners look at the naked breasts of young women every day? Oh sorry! You meant 'ordinary men'! I get it. In my little ordinary world I know a few men who would feel offended by that assumption, men who feel that looking at Page 3 would be disrespectful and disloyal to their wives and partners. Not David Cameron obviously, but then he's not 'ordinary'.
You said: 'These days, though, it is just not politically correct to sneer at working-class culture. So critics body swerve the masses, and attack the tabloids because they dare to offer people what they want'.
People! You mean 'men' again there I think.
'I defend anyone's right to an honest objection to Page 3 - but I take especial issue with those like your constituent who extrapolate into the absurd and personally offensive'.
Hi Richard, I'm 'anyone'! I voiced honest objections! Really sorry you feel personally offended. 'Absurd' though - really wish you'd specified there. Then I could show you my documented research and we could have a lively debate!
You said: 'Ms Davies-Arai might revise her opinion if she ever met a Page 3 girl or perhaps gave up her Christmas Day to visit Headley Court to serve dinner to the injured troops alongside a Page 3 girl'.
Wow! Yes please - will you contact me or should I contact you?
'But I guess it is much easier to sit back, sign up to an online poll and feel a warm rush of self-righteousness'.
Oh. Guess you didn't really mean it.