A couple of weeks ago I posted up one of my Sunday Reads. The article, Creepshots and Revenge Porn focused on the obsession of the paparazzi to take salacious pictures of women, mostly celebrities and more worryingly the somewhat seedier practice of members of the general public taking photos of young women of their breasts and up their skirts and posting it online. Primarily to humiliate the said young woman.
As a youth worker, it is not uncommon for me, or colleagues in this space, to hear stories of young girls being pressured to take pictures of themselves in compromising positions. Some times of their breasts and other times full nude. One of the most alarming cases I came across, was of a young lady who actually paid those who had copies of her sexts not to to publish them on social media. Other workers have told me of even more extreme cases of young girls being videoed giving fellatio or receiving a pearl necklace, (not the one from a jewellers) as part of an initiation, and seeing nothing wrong with it.
To bring this full circle, today I was made aware of a major campaign to end page 3 in The Sun newspaper. My friend tweeted today about being approached to sign a petition in school to ban page 3. The woman with the petition was upset about her husband reading said paper and her kids seeing the nude pictures. My friend’s counter argument was that the lady in question should encourage her husband to read a classier paper! The campaign has really gained some support with some 50,000 people having voted to ban it as of today. This article does give some good reasons as to why it should be banned and really made me think about why is it such an issue.
What’s Wrong With Breasts?
There have been arguments for years about the decency or not of a woman’s bared breasts in public. In the main no one bats an eyelid on images or public display of the male chest. Campaigners such as women’s right activist Moira Johnston and the Go Topless have staged various attempts to ensure women have the same right as men to go topless in public. Our obsession with the bared breast (lord knows how many searches there were in Google for the Duchess of Cambridge) is an avoidance of a deeper discussion on it. So let me try to invoke one.
The hang up I think, many have around bared breasts, chests, breasticles, chesticles or whatever euphemism floats your boat, is that for women there is more of a suggestion of sexual showing off. If a man strips off a top to play football, lay a brick or just catch some sunrays there is less of a sexual suggestion. If I recall rightly some of the tabloid press tried the whole thing with bare chested men on their pages. It just didn’t seem to work for them as we tend to associate glamour modelling with women.
Given that the majority of those who appear (yes I have seen them) as glamour models on tabloids or on the cover of lads mags tend to be around the age of 18-24 there is a suggestion, by many, of exploitation. Regardless of whether or not the person consented, objectors would raise that many who step into this realm do not realise that they have consented to be exploited.
Personally I think there is something even deeper here.
The Deeper Issue
It is very easy to dismiss those who would support equal rights for women as feminists, killjoys or prudes. The Western world is full of media, whether advertising, music, film, or otherwise which persistently tells us that sex sells. Does it always, or has that agenda been pushed so much now we accept it as read? From booth babes to glamour models to performing artists the visuals are pushed. The pressure is never on men to look sexy but at best to at least look scrubbed up with some form of eye candy. As men, in the main, we are often encouraged to explore our sexuality through porn and the pursuit of a particular female archetype. We the dominant. (Please note I am talking here from a heteronormative viewpoint)
Our language has changed. We talk of MILFS and cougars. Terms lent straight from porn to describe attractive women over a certain age in terms of their sexual capabilities. Note the counter term for men is Diddo or Sugar Daddy. Again sexually promiscuous men are referred to as ballers, gallist or studs (urban dictionary look it up), whilst the alternative for women is sluts, bitches and hoes. It all seems slightly skewed in favour of men being the subjects of desire whilst women are the objects.
This skewed objectified perception of women not as equals is permissive in most of major institutions of work, leisure, faith and popular culture. Page 3 and many of the other forms of media that depict women as objects are to be honest a reflection of the wider culture. Albeit that they are more explicit the truth is that this kind of objectification is out of the bag. I wonder how many women have ever questioned why they attend nights out with next to nothing while men are in the main covered up? Why has something like rape become fair game as part of a comedian’s repertoire?
So whilst a protest to ban page 3 and calls for censorship for the front cover of lads mags may be considered by some to be admirable I fear in many ways we are straining at gnats while swallowing a camel. The issue is much wider and deeper. At what point do we as a society see woman as more than playthings? Objects to be gawked at or masturbated over? Subordinate to men? Laughed at if they don’t fit that glamour/fashion/submissive model we are constantly reminded women should aim for.
At what point do we just see women as equals? Now that is a petition I would sign.