The first time I saw a page 3 model I must have been around 5 or 6. It was amazing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My whole world had opened up before me and all I wanted was more. The more, in question was of course the plethora of toys that the kid in the Toymaster brochure seemed to own. Lucky bastard.
Fast forward, 8 or 9 years I was still jealous of that kid probably now in his early teens like me and still getting spoiled with all the latest gear, but now it was probably more cool gadgets and portable sound playing machines. Lucky bastard. On this particular day though it was a different page 3 that I was interested in.
My friend had bought the Sun the day before and being kind of awkward nobody really spoke about what we saw on page 3 but I am pretty sure we all liked it. I know I did. So, the next day I took it upon myself to be the one purchasing the treasure chest (seriously, when I wrote that there was no pun intended; from the bottom of my heart, but I kind of like it so I’m leaving it in) that all of us were excited to prize open to find our reward.
It felt right. It felt ok to be doing this. I mean I saw lots of people over the years buy the Sun. People I knew. Men, women, lot’s of folk. It wasn’t some sort of old dirty man’s sleazy mag like the ones that we couldn’t reach and kept our heads down as we walked by in the newsagent; less some complete stranger too involved in their own browsing of and never intending to buy Guitar World, noticed my gaze lift to the forbidden fruit at the top. It’s only now that I realize that they were probably employing a useful tactic that I utilized many times myself when purchasing a Lads mag, by “reading” something a lot more upmarket to prevent anyone guessing that really I was trying to build up the courage to buy the latest copy of FHM with which ever Hollyoaks star was on the cover that month.
Add in an “mmm” or whispered “ah that’s interesting” while reading the Statesman and nobody would ever suspect what this horny, hormone filled teenager was really thinking. Although the sight of a fourteen year old reading the Statesman should have raised some alarm bells.
Of course, looking back at that time it all seemed so juvenile. I grew up a lot over the next few years. I mean, thinking about how I would build myself up to go into a store to buy a magazine with models on the cover seems almost laughable.
No, in a couple of years I had outgrown all that. Now, I had the internet!
No longer did I have to worry about being seen. This was much better.
I recall this one time “embarrassing but now not caring who reads this” story to say one thing. The reason I moved on from buying the Sun or Lads mags wasn’t anything to do with a sudden conscience tweak or by a new found admiration for women who would have been degraded by endless hours browsing the pages of the magazines in which to me they lived in. It was because now I had easy access to it.
Fast forward another 15 years since then and I have more access to porn than the khaki wearing, Kula Shaker loving me could have dreamed of.
When it seemed last week that the Sun was bringing to a close it’s 45 year old, porn training program, page 3 to a close, many rejoiced. Finally, the battle to give women a voice in newspapers above their bodies or what they were wearing at the premiere of Johnny Depp’s latest movie had paid off.
Sadly, no sooner had the party begun but it turned out to be nothing more than a joke on all of us. So what now? What is the next step for those who want to engage in this discussion and want to bring about consciousness around the issue of porn in our society?
I want to suggest two ideas for how to move forward. Two things which I have learned from people who before me, have bravely tackled these issues in ways that are unusual, but for me are the only effective ways to bring about light.
LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!
Firstly, my friend Seth says that when we talk about bringing an end to porn in the church or in society as whole we use the metaphor of battle far too often. If we are truly called to be free then why are we so consumed with battling those parts of us that are actually meant for beauty? Sexuality was never meant to be a battleground and even if we do rule victorious, that doesn’t mean we are free. As Seth says, we’re told we can control these urges to look at naked women, but will always be looking over our shoulder. Is control what we are aiming for? Is that really freedom? Is that really living?
And even if this is a battle, are we fighting the right things? Are our desires our enemy? No, they are good and healthy and you know what, breasts are good too. We’re not fighting those things, we’re “fighting” the people that degrade them. But even then, is that where our energies should be focused?
Campaigns that have highlighted that topless models should not be used as selling points for a newspaper are great and important and I support their hope and pursuit of consciousness for all people to see how weird it all is.
In a way, these campaigns don’t go far enough.
One reason for this is because there is a constant wall that is created between those on the outside of the porn industry who want to create change and hope and those inside who are often just doing a job to pay the bills. The battle rhetoric that we employ creates a chasm between the two that only furthers tension and reduces any possibility of real change.
And I don’t mean the change, where page 3 is but a forgotten memory and porn is easily avoided or even done forever. That is simply control. I mean the change where we become aware of what we use porn for in our lives. Where we are free from even wanting to use these images as simply a tool to deal with our own crap. I mean change which results in those inside the industry being offered hope and peace and love by those outside.
This is why my friend Seth is right about using battle language. When we view the people making porn as our enemy, they will see us as their enemy also. (Tweet this). Yet, when we see those in the porn business as people just like us who desire to be loved and believed in, and let’s be real, who doesn’t?, then we will create real change and hope for everyone.
Which leads me very nicely to my second suggestion.
JESUS LOVES PORN STARS
So we need to change how we view this issue and how we see the women who work in the industry. But how we think is pointless if it doesn’t create change.
If the models in Page 3 are not our enemies and heck, if the people that put them in the papers are not our enemy then how should we treat them?
We have two choices. One which will create division and one that will bring healing for everyone.
First, we can stand outside and protest and shout and all that might be good for a bit. It might get people thinking around these issues and it might even get some people to stop buying the porn. But (of course you knew there was a but coming) it also causes bitterness from those inside the industry towards us on the outside, banging on the walls.
The other option is to stop banging on the walls and go inside. To go in and get to know the names of the girls on the Page. Not just their name and age printed at the top of their head on Page 3 but their name and where they came from. Find out what they care about. Listen to them. Hear their stories. What do they dream about? Offer hope. Offer freedom. Remove judgement.
Working for xxxchurch, I can share stories of the lives of those in the industry changed because a group of people took the decision to go right into the Lions’ Den and offer Love and Grace and Hope. Ever heard the one about the Pastor who’s mates with Ron Jeremy? We don’t tell them to get out. We don’t tell them that what they are doing is ruining lives. We don’t tell them that they are going to Hell.
We just tell them they are loved.
But it’s powerful. So when they are ready to leave, they know they are not alone.
Maybe that is what we should do now. Maybe there is a new song being sung and it’s not the out of tune dissonance of protest but the melodic, beauty of Love.
So let’s stop protesting. Let’s stop trying to be heard louder and instead listen. Maybe, if we listen we will find that we are the ones in drastic need of change.
That way, we might find our message is louder than anything we could imagine.
And freedom will not just be ours, but theirs too.