As of the time of writing this at 257pm EST, Monday January 19th 2015, Twitter is rife with tweets and links to articles like this one over at Huffington Post claiming that the Sun have decided to end their 45 year tradition of publishing pictures of topless women every day on page 3.
If you are of the belief that the publishing of topless pictures in a National “Newspaper” in which anyone regardless of age can buy, is adding to the belief that women’s main purpose is for sexual gratification and exploitation then this will be a huge victory.
But, if you on the other hand are someone who enjoys looking at naked women and is aroused by it then this will be viewed as a slight inconvenience.
That’s only if you used page 3 as your go to for pictures of naked women. Page 3 is indeed old fashioned but not simply because it depicts women as a tool for men to get off to, but because it’s behind the times as far as how it is possible to access naked pictures.
The ending of page 3 will be a drop in the ocean.
If indeed it is truly the end. There are four questions that need to be answered before anyone can truly rejoice.
1. Remember when the NOTW closed it’s doors after decades operating? It returned almost immediately under the guise of the not even subtly titled “The Sun on Sunday”. Only days will tell if page 3 will truly end or will be moved to a new page. Perhaps bringing it in through the back door to the last few pages or knowing the Sun’s ‘talent’ and love of puns, page 6?
2. Will they end all publications of topless women or will they simply move their images online where if we are honest, is where everyone is getting their porn/soft porn/training porn from anyway?
3. Will the absence of topless women everyday in one of only a few Daily Newspapers that print similar pictures everyday, bring about an end to unhealthy sexist views of women just like the closing of Zoo magazine shut down the entire porn industry? (Clue: It didn’t)
4. Or if some reports are to be believed and topless images will be replaced with images of models in underwear isn’t this a little bit like the Louie CK joke about saying “the F-word”? I mean actually uttering the words “the F word” as a replacement for saying Fuck and forcing us to think the words in our head. It’s slightly better but we all know what you mean.
It’s not that the ending of Page 3 would not be a progressive and positive step. It most certainly would be. But by getting caught up in celebrating it we can lose sight of other important issues in regarding to an end of using images of women as objects of sex.
Namely, that if this was 40 years ago then yes this would be a huge victory yet, we no longer live in the days when it was difficult or even shameful to look at pictures of women. It’s considered normal and even healthy by some. You don’t have to go to certain parts of town and sneak through streamers into the back room of a sex store to find porn.
We all have access to it everyday.
It’s on our phones, it’s on our laptops.
The questions we need to be asking must revolve not just around how to remove these images so they aren’t in everyone’s faces but why do we need images like those found on page 3 in the first place? Whether it’s a quick glance on page 3 every morning or whether it’s an uncontrollable desire or addiction for porn online, until we address the why, the what will always be there.
In economics terms, until we address why there is demand, there will always be supply. I don’t think that simply a curb in supply will effect the demand. The internet is too large and too deep for that. Sexist views of women too engrained in society.
This may sounds like a very hopeless position but it is actually the most hopeful one. It’s the one that will bring about real change.
We need to ask questions like,
How do we engage young men in discussions around sexuality and guide them to understanding why men and women’s bodies should be respected? How do we teach everyone to express their sexuality in a healthy way that respects themselves and those around them? And at a more extreme level how do we address the deep pain that we are carrying around, often unconsciously that leads us to bury it through the false connection of porn?
It’s not an easy job and it won’t change things overnight but it’s still our best chance at changing norms around bodies and our views of sex.
So goodbye page 3. You’re time is hopefully up.
Although, I know you’re not really gone.
At least not yet.