Do I Support ‘Ban Page Three’? Well, I’m Just Not Sure…

Before I begin, let me just say that I hate The Sun newspaper for far greater reasons than a few pairs of boobs. The Sun’s involvement in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, it’s lies and disgustingly misreported version of events, has caused pain to many people for almost 30 years and members of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign have waited far too long for the truth to be exposed.

Obviously, The Sun caused more waves last week by pulling a pathetic switcheroo whereby they claimed to have ditched topless images on their page three, only to make a joke of it the next day and put the tits right back where they’ve always been. My antipathy toward the whole affair is almost enough to stop me from writing this post, because let’s face it, it’s all just a boring PR stunt, but I have some really conflicting feelings about it all. See, on the one hand, I back the Ban Page Three campaign wholeheartedly. But on the other, I have huge reservations about it.

I completely agree that putting female breasts in the first few pages of a newspaper seems incongruous and unnecessary, but  think we can all agree that what The Sun reports barely passes for news on any given day. This isn’t a broadsheet, or serious paper containing hard-hitting journalism. The paper is full of overblown, sensationalist bullshit and really shouldn’t be given shelf space alongside other papers. However, I saw a Facebook post this week, in which the poster said something along the lines of “Oh, what’s next, banning FHM?”. Well, no, because FHM is a men’s magazine largely aimed at young, heterosexual males who want to look at boobs, and whether you like it or not, it seems a wholly more appropriate place to put pictures of scantily-clad women, so I feel this misses the point spectacularly.

As a mother of girls, I don’t like the idea that seeing topless models might give them the idea that it’s okay to objectify women, but they also see women in almost as scanty a state of undress in music videos and even fashion magazines, so where do we stop the censorship? Also, I err on the side of caution when it comes to the potential for passing the message on to them that the female body is something to be ashamed of, or hidden from view. We think nothing of seeing men on billboards, dressed only in a pair of Calvins and no-one campaigns against that, or complains about objectification. The women on these pages are there because they want to be – is it not hugely patronising to assume that they’re hapless rubes who’ve been railroaded into taking their bras off for the camera?

Just recently, a whole bunch of new legislation was put in place regarding what’s allowed to be shown in porn, and much to my dismay it seems that anything which shows females enjoying themselves too much has been cut from the agenda. (SEE HERE FOR A LIST OF WHAT’S BEEN BANNED). Now, while I’m not saying that hardcore pornography showing people weeing on each other or leather-clad dominatrixes sitting on faces is everyone’s cup of tea, surely if this is what people want to see and it’s done in a safe environment with consenting participants, why should anyone have the right to say they cannot? It seems to be an attack on female sexuality and it scares me to think that females who exert power and preference through their sexuality (or choice of job) will start to be marginalised in ever more serious ways, especially if we ban things like Page 3, which you could argue goes some way to normalising nudity.

I hear the “what about naked men?” argument quite frequently, women who feel that there should be an equal and opposite for Page Three to re-dress the balance, but I’m really not sure it would work. Anthropologically speaking, men are far more visually driven, sexually, than women so although plenty of women like the odd perve at a nice looking bloke, sales of newspapers would not be driven up by a ‘Page 7 Fella’, otherwise someone would be making money off of it already. Same goes for magazines – publications like FHM sell because they contain stuff that men want to look at. If women wanted to regularly look at images of naked men, Cosmo would be doing it already and MORE! wouldn’t have gone out of business.

I’m not against nudity or toplessness in principle, I hate The Sun, I’m not a fan of censorship and I really don’t think having scantily clad men in papers would add any sort of balance (or value) to the debate…and yet, I still don’t feel 100% comfortable with the idea of Page 3. See what I mean when I said I felt conflicted?! I’m aware that this post is ALL over the place, but this is basically just a snapshot of the inside of my brain at the moment, when thinking about this topic.

Where do you stand on this? Am I spectacularly missing some sort of point? Please leave me a comment below.