The Booby Prize

Boobs are getting a lot of press at the moment, between the new movement to ban The Sun’s Page 3 almost-nude photo, and the furore over Kate Middleton’s topless sunbathing. Both stories show how far we have not travelled.

The Sun began featuring an image of a topless model on Page 3 of its daily newspaper in 1970. Over the years, several attempts to ban this practice have failed. In August, author and actor Lucy-Anne Holmes began her ‘No More Page 3’ campaign. Her petition on Change.org is gathering signatures fast. Holmes is hoping that the tide of social opinion is ready to turn.

The problem with Page 3 is that it sexualises women generally. A naked woman is not a news story. It simply panders to a male reader’s sexual desires. How it makes the women feel, sitting on either side of him on a packed commuter train, is often different. Objectifying women in a newspaper reinforces the notion that all women are sexually available at all times and are ultimately “sluts”. It’s perhaps not the right media in which to address sexual desire.

I don’t think Page 3 should be banned – that’s yet another form of censorship – but it is outdated. If Britain is an equal society, and The Sun insists on printing semi-naked women each day, then where are the semi-naked men? Does only 50 percent of the population deserve to be titillated?

At least The Sun’s models are choosing to pose (and are getting paid) for appearing topless. Kate most certainly is not. But a naked celebrity is, it seems, newsworthy. And the higher up the social scale a woman is regarded, the greater the scandal when topless images (or worse) appear. This takes us back to the old dichotomy of women being either “whores” or “madonnas”, when in fact we are somewhere in between and our personalities are multi-faceted.

I think it is great that Kate enjoys sunbathing semi nude. I do too and sunbathe in my birthday suit whenever I can. I like to feel the warm rays all over my body and never mind about pesky strap marks! I took my kit off once for a Marie Claire story on female body confidence, but I would be very pissed off if images of me sunbathing naked in my garden were taken surreptitiously and plastered all over the tabloids and the Internet. I value my privacy and want to be in control of what I share with the world.

The Palace seemed to react faster to, and with greater condemnation of, publication of images of Kate topless, than to images of Prince Harry naked (and apparently having sex on cam) that appeared just a few weeks earlier. Perhaps the scandal was all the greater because Harry is just “one of the lads, letting off steam” (one of the prerogatives of men are in our society), whereas Kate’s reputation was unblemished and as a female expectations of “decency” are so much higher. Now she too has been sexualised.

I don’t envy Kate – A clotheshorse for British fashion houses, and one of the most photographed women in the world, must she always be judged for her looks rather than her brain? Kate did nothing wrong. Her privacy was violated. Now everyone knows that she is human, like the rest of us.

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