Page Three: The Naked Truth
I switched on Page Three: The Naked Truth with interest. The sex industry in all its guises is a contested space with campaigners calling to end the ‘exploitation’ and ‘objectification’ of women.
This fear of women displaying their breasts is nothing new. In the 1800s the anti-vice and puritan movements campaigned for Burlesque clubs in America to be closed down. In the UK the Windmill International club was the source of much distaste about the indecency of women’s flesh.
As I am writing in my book at the moment, there is a movement trying to ban leggings for their supposed indecency!
Page Three: The Naked Truth did not surprise me. Instead of interrogating the feminization of poverty and the lack of financially lucrative flexible options for working class women, we heard the normal spiel from MP Clare Short about the need for ‘dignified’ work for working class women.
I have written before about how women are positioned as being sexual or intelligent, but never as both.
This has a long socio-historical context with working class women having their bodies and choices policed by the middle classes. It reminded me of the rescue industry saviour missions to coerce sex workers of colour into ‘decent’ factory work in countries such as Cambodia (making clothes for minimal salary to cater to the west’s insatiable appetite for fast fashion).
Glamour modelling is an easy target for a society worried about sexualization. The exploitation of 16 year old girls being duped into having topless photographs published is an important issue of consent. It fits with broader instances of sexual violations and women being filmed, touched and contacted without their consent. Samantha Fox was sexually assaulted, let’s call it what it is.
The sneering tone towards page 3 models was evident. This lack of respect for largely working class women is replicated throughout society; working class women are deemed to be excessive, distasteful, hyper-sexual, dirty.
Society laughs and sneers when women teeter on high heels being accosted my leering men, ‘well look how she’s dressed’.
An Essex Councillor blamed the influence of The Only Way is Essex for women being sexually assaulted. The argument that women are ‘at risk’ for their dress and being drunk is a historical one.
‘Athlete A’ depicts the American abuse of gymnasts who were raped by their coach.
Roll Red Roll shows the story of the Steubenville, Ohio rape case and suicide. The victim of a filmed rape was bullied into suicide
Epstein Filthy Rich shows the layers of complicity in the abuse of hundreds of young women.
Surviving R Kelly documents the rape and abuse of women in the music industry.
The rape and abuse of women and girls exists in every country, no matter how we are dressed, how we behave. Yet our bodies are policed and weaponized against us.
Our underwear is held up in rape trials.
The appetite for ‘revenge porn’ doxxing and shaming sites represent the hatred for women who reject men sexually.
The campaign to eradicate page 3 backed by a high profile feminist campaign group Object, did not eradicate the sex industry it merely displaced it into other settings. Hardcore pornography is available at the touch of a smartphone button. Only Fans have saturated digital spaces.
The News of the World tactics of hiring undercover investigators to spy on page 3 models in an attempt to tarnish their reputations has been replicated by feminist group Not Buying It who paid ex detectives to film naked dancers without their consent.
The war against Page 3 was never just about glamour models showing their breasts. It was about a historical fight to regulate women’s bodies in public spaces. It is possible for women to have dignity, display herself sexually and have brains. Page 3 never reduced women to just her body: the campaigners and commentators did that.
I stand with all sex workers always.
I totally agree with your take on it. I’ve never liked how Page 3 is used as a scapegoat for completely different problems.
There was an issue at my daughter’s high school where a group of boys played a “prank” where they ran into the girls showers and took photos of a bunch of girls naked (including my daughter). This was bizarrely used by a couple of mothers in our town to blame the fact that the nearby shop sells The Sun. They claimed that it had influenced the boy’s behaviour. This just seemed like a maddening way of removing any responsibility from the boys, as if they couldn’t be expected to do otherwise.
The one silver lining was that some of the girls chased them down and I’m told 2 of the boys were kicked where it hurts. Which is certainly a better response than blaming The Sun 🙂
Thank you so much for reading and commenting. That is awful what happened at your daughter’s school!! I agree that much of these narratives are underpinned by a ‘boys will be boys’ discourse, that removes their responsibility.
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