20 Jan 2015

The Sun: from naked breasts to barely-there bikinis

Today is a “truly historic” day. Really? News that the Sun has dropped its page 3 topless photos managed to eclipse the latest Islamic State hostage-taking on the morning bulletins. And at least two ministers took time out of their busy mornings to pen a statement applauding the decision.

It’s a little depressing that this is such a huge story. After all, page 3 should have been dumped decades ago. That really would have been headline news. Instead, the Sun has waited until the idea of displaying women’s breasts in a family newspaper is so laughable it can’t claim any credit whatsoever for moving with the times. No wonder there’s been no public statement from the paper.

There’s another reason, though, why this isn’t such a ground-breaking development. Because in place of the naked breasts and bums “It’s Gem & Jen…in Babewatch” sprinting across the beach in barely-there bikinis. Yesterday it was a woman in her underwear. When the Sun stops objectifying women in this way, that’ll be a splash worth making a fuss about.

Of course, model Rhian Sugden will no doubt call me a “comfy shoe wearing no bra wearing man hater” as she has other page 3 critics this morning. For the record, I’m as partial to a skyscraper heel as the next woman, and I have no problem with either bras or men. Ditching page 3 isn’t about making women ugly. It’s about stopping the pernicious practice of appreciating us only for our bodies.

You could always turn the page, but by existing at all, page 3 tainted society, contributing to the sexualisation and pornification of women. Sending the message that women’s bodies matter more than their brains does long-lasting damage. The way women are portrayed is one reason why girls at school are more likely to do “softer” subjects and less likely to become engineers. That has an impact far beyond the centrefold.

And I’m sorry but I don’t get the notion, propounded by the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins, that scrapping page 3 is “censorship”. This isn’t about reinstating a Victorian notion of nudity, covering up piano legs and making women wear crinoline. It’s about equality, pure and simple. You don’t see naked men perched provocatively for the delectation of women.

So perhaps when we have equal representation in politics, business, the media, not to mention equal pay in all those professions, and when the Sun goes the whole hog and stops showing quite so many women in their undies, will history have been made.

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11 reader comments

  1. Peter Every says:

    Well said.Plain and simple.

  2. richard says:

    I really cannot see why men should not be allowed to look at beautiful women scantily clad in newspapers. If kids see the pics, well they always did, and I certainly did not come to any harm, and I am not alone. Murdoch stopped publishing P3 nudes because it does not help sell the Sun. Men have the internet if they want to see porn, so it’s not as a result of any feminist outcry

  3. PaulM says:

    “You don’t see naked men perched provocatively for the delectation of women”. What about this…

    Of course the Sun didn’t display naked people, it displayed topless people. Only men have the right to go topless in the Sun now – is that what equality means?

    I would also like to add that, as a man, seeing naked women normalises it, and I am less likely to see women as sex objects.

  4. DRH says:

    “The way women are portrayed is one reason why girls at school are more likely to do “softer” subjects and less likely to become engineers. That has an impact far beyond the centrefold.”

    … much in the way black cats, broken mirrors and walking under ladders cause bad luck.

  5. Philip Edwards says:


    You’re on tricky ground here.

    Of course legislation to prevent page 3 type exploitation would be censorship. Which none of us want.

    Far better to depict Murdoch and his gang as the cultural poison they are, always have been and always will be. Sooner or later that type of mentality inevitably end up in chokey (hacking scandal) or exposed for the corrupt chauvinist detritus they are (Mackenzie and Hillsborough).

    Far better to follow the example of the good people of Liverpool and Merseyside who boycotted the Sun in the wake of its Hillsborough lies and then took twenty five years of their lives to expose that neocon rag for what it is. They never gave up, hence the current inquest – virtually ignored by print and broadcast outlets.

    But in the case of mainstream media there is an even a bigger question: Why did so many of your occupation go along with the poison? Why did so many of you ACTUALLY PROMOTE IT? There have been glorious exceptions (Alex Thomson’s door stepping of Mackenzie was absolutely brilliant) but not enough of them.

    Murdoch and his employees have virtually destroyed any trace of decency and honesty in both broadcast and print news. And that is why they are rightly held in the deepest contempt by all free thinking democrats.

    Just don’t buy it. Destroy them economically. Murdoch and his poisoners will understand nothing else. Do you recall some News of the

  6. Philip Edwards says:

    ……sorry, pressed the wrong key there……

    Final sentences should read: Do you recall some “executive” of the News of the World after Murdoch closed it in the wake of the Milly Dowling scandal? He appeared to a background of weeping redundant posioners and blamed a women’s organisation for its demise. Me, I remember thinking it couldn’t happen to a better gang of hypocritical profiteers (even in the full knowledge it would soon reappear under a different title).

  7. Alan says:

    Regarding page 3 – Why is this such a big issue for feminists but it’s okay when ladies from the WI or local village want to pose naked for a calendar to raise money for charity, is this not exploiting their bodies for other means?
    It’s a case of ‘if the shoe fits’ bending rules to suit what is flavour of the week, let’s see if they go up in arms the next time a group of ladies want to make a calendar for a bit of fun to raise money?
    Or blokes for that matter – should start a campaigne to protect us vunerable chaps!!

  8. James Alton says:

    I might have commented here but because I was given no explanation of why my comment on 7th January was censored, it’s probably not worth saying anything that may be controversial. Je suis censored – vive free speech.

  9. PETER says:

    “””`You don’t see naked men perched provocatively for the delectation of women.”””” ONE WORD “HOLLISTER”

  10. James Alton says:

    That my comment here of 20th Jan has been displayed shows a moral bankruptcy that the decision makers here have. In a false attempt to disprove that my comments about free speech are wrong the comment was displayed; yet in doing that so eagerly the decision makers have breached the guidelines of the comments policy – the guideline of relevancy.
    I don’t know if the decision makers here are wishy-washy liberals or hard-line left-leaning politicos, both of whom have for decades led this country to a present and future that most of us (the hoi polloi) do not want, but whatever you are I know the calibre of you – you have the audacity to assume yours is the right way, so let’s silence dissenters.

    1. Philip says:

      I realise that we all come from different political standpoints. But I’d challenge you to find a government since possibly Attlee’s which consisted of “hard-line left-leaning politicos”. I accept we’ve had a fair number of wishy-washy liberals – but the most influential government in recent times, the one which changed the course of the British economy & society was that of Mrs Thatcher, which was neither. I would agree that the direction set by her government probably was not what “most of us” want (though I accept that when I say “most of us”, that’s as well-founded in evidence as your “most of us”). How much of it we could have escaped depends on whether you believe that we could have adopted a European (Swedish or German) model, rather than trailing along in the wake of the US, which has a society growing more unequal by the day.
      And for the sake of relevance – naked women are merely one part of a media which prefers titillation, tittle-tattle and tall stories as a substitute for informing the public about what is really going on – to which they might (a) have a legitimate view and (b) possibly object.

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