The Sun hit a new low today by including a snap of a newborn baby as part of its daily dose of soft porn titillation on Page 3.
The newspaper last included children in the feature back in the Eighties when it ran a series of images of topless models dressed in school uniform alongside photographs from the past of the models as little girls. You would be forgiven for thinking that this particular feature came from a seedy little paedophile handbook, but no, it was in a national daily, Britain's largest circulation newspaper.
Picture editors know what they are doing. Their business is images and they, along with advertisers, understand more than anyone the power of the underlying message that an image sends, and how exactly to manipulate that image to get the message across with the greatest clarity and impact.
The purpose of the Page 3 image is sexual titillation for men, but not all images of titillation are the same. In the case of Page 3 the choice of very young, unthreatening, girl-next-door type models and the way they are posed to look both sexy and innocent, pure but sexually inviting, passive but available, sends a very particular message. The message behind the Page 3 image is the fantasy that this beautiful young woman is sexually willing and available to the (supposedly) male viewer.
To be invited in to this particular sexually-charged fantasy world when it includes another very strong image, that of a child, is to confuse two areas which should remain separate. While the focus of the eyes will be on the Page 3 model, the image of the child is in peripheral vision, intruding unconsciously into the particular pleasurable feelings aroused by the fantasy.
It is an editor's responsibility to know this.
The individual Page 3 model in this case may have made the choice to include a photograph of her newborn niece under the caption 'Instaglam,' a variation of the 'Meet the Girls' feature which the Sun has recently introduced, apparently as an attempt to humanise the models they have been dehumanising for 44 years. But we cannot blame the model for editorial decisions. The issue of Page 3 has never been about the models themselves, or the choices made by young women, but about the choices made by old men, the newspaper editors.
Many people will look at today's Page 3 - described by the Official Page 3 on Twitter as 'seriously sexy' - and feel uncomfortable about the inclusion of a picture of an innocent baby. It is the Sun newspaper which needs to be held to account for being the first to include a picture of a newborn in a sexualised soft porn image. A new line has been crossed and it represents a disturbing new low for the British press.