Reasons Why Page 3 Needs to Die
Last week, we saw Rupert Murdoch turn on an iconic part of British culture that he'd created himself. The archetypal iconoclast essentially threatened to kill Page 3, The Sun's long-running inner sheet for fans of breasts and simplistic, reactionary opinions.
The nation has spent the last few weeks locked in a tense debate about the pros and cons of massive tits, with the biggest name columnists all wading in, but the first real breakthrough was provided by a woman on Twitter who has 134 followers, loves talking about dogs and uses the handle @Kazipooh. Kazipooh – real name Karen Morgan – used Twitter to inform Murdoch that Page 3 was "so last century". In response, Rupert announced that he was "considering" scrapping the feature (he also added Kazipooh to his "Followed" list, where she nestles very inconspicuously alongside Ryan Seacrest, Mitt Romney, Louise Mensch and 50 other assorted world leaders).
By very publicly acknowledging Kazipooh, maybe Rupert is sending us a sign – maybe he feels like the average British person no longer needs Page 3. While I can't help but feel bad for the young women from Bromley (seriously, Bromley is to Page 3 girls what the West Ham youth academy is to football) who'll be forced back to their Hair and Beauty GNVQs, I've got to say, I don't really understand the point of Page 3. In fact, I'm not sure I ever did.
IT'S NEVER TURNED ME ON
Even as the kind of grubby adolescent who stayed in on Friday nights to watch Eurotrash and Shannon Tweed in "erotic thrillers" on Channel 5, I always found Page 3 and its stars unarousing. I don't think I was the only one, either – it seemed like something even our fathers weren't really into.
I got the impression that, for most guys my age, lusting over Page 3 was a bit like when your nan makes you agree with her about your mum looking nice today: our hearts just weren't in it.
There is something about dead-eyed women who are always clutching the backs of their heads as if they've just been whiplashed in a car accident that just doesn't do it for me. It just feels kind of banal. The whole thing manages to occupy a strange hinterland of sexuality between being too brazen and too safe – the tabloid equivalent of spicing it up in the bedroom by purchasing a comedy penis pouch and dancing to Hot Chocolate.
THE PRESENTATION IS REALLY, REALLY CREEPY
For the people behind the No More Page 3 campaign, it's the breasts themselves that seem to cause most offence. But for me, the most disturbing part was always the presentation. There's something strangely avuncular about the way the girls are offered to us; it's all a bit jaunty, a bit Darling Buds Of May. It makes me think of middle-aged blokes awkwardly trying to chirpse young barmaids without overstepping the line and getting kicked out of the pub.
It's all very weird; like watching porn with your uncle.
THE ODDLY POLITICAL EDITORIAL SURROUNDING IT
The "News in Briefs" boxouts hovering in the top right-hand corner house the stunnaz' opinions on the day's events; from squeals of delight at news of a royal baby to oddly old-fashioned tutting at the madness of liberals, politicians and Europeans. I mean, I say "their opinions" but obviously "News in Briefs" is simply the opinions of a Sun night-staffer trying to imagine what a big titted dream girl might actually have to say about anything, putting on a squeaky voice and filling in the box himself (turns out big titted dream girls are all a bit twee and socially conservative, BTW).
Hey, here's a thought: If you want to know what a pretty girl's thinking, why not just ask one? Or, if that feels like too much effort, go on Twitter? It's free, just an idea.
IT HUMILIATES YOU IN PUBLIC
Opening up a tattered copy of The Sun on the train and being confronted by one of these portraits feels like receiving a P45 you knew was coming, or the results of a test you know you've failed: horribly predictable, but still a hugely embarrassing thing to face up to in public. You don't have to have been raised a Presbyterian to feel ashamed when someone fixes you with a glare, silently accusing you of gawping at Georgia Salpa (or whoever it may be), when in fact you're just trying to read about John Travolta/John Prescott's latest blunder on the other side of the page. It's just such a terrible look, like falling asleep in the club or trying to punch someone and missing.
IT'S SO OUT OF STEP WITH BRITISH SEXUALITY IT MAKES THE DAILY MAIL SEEM ZEITGEIST
Page 3 aside, I quite enjoy The Sun. I don't think you can really understand Britain today if you don't understand it, but I'd guess that the majority of its 7.3 million readers long ago moved on from Page 3. The number one source for SFW soft porn these days is the virtual pillar of titillation that is the Mail Online's "sidebar of shame". The girls next door with their massive jugs out have been left in the dust by the hyper-sexualised American reality stars, the women who seem to consider the SEO potential of every outfit they put together for a night out (and Lizzie Cundy, who The Mail loves, for some unknown reason).
It seems to me that it's not just the British media that has moved on, but British sexuality, too. For years we suffered from that peculiar British prude/pervy dichotomy that was perfectly epitomised in our tabloids (raging against Sarah Ferguson getting her toes sucked, celebrating Kylie's bum), but now checking out Kardashian bikini bods and soap star weight gains has become commonplace in every home and office in the country.
Perhaps the old "nudge, nudge, wink, wink" cliche that the rest of Europe mocks us for is giving way to a new kind of sexual appreciation, one based on envy and voyeurism. The Mail's sex is something glimpsed from behind the same net curtains that twitch when an immigrant walks past.
THE NOSTALGIA ARGUMENT
There are people who say that to get rid of Page 3 would be to deny Britain the part of its character that also brought us Carry On, Benny Hill and films like The Amorous Milkman, but Carry On fucking sucks, Benny Hill is dead and no one gets their milk delivered any more.
Yeah, it probably is a British institution, but so were The Generation Game and the slave trade once upon a time. It might at least provide a brief respite from the relentlessly knowing art-house smut of Sasha Grey and James Deen, but who needs a respite from porn, really? Just close your laptop and stop wanking.
I'M BORED OF PEOPLE POLITICISING IT
While I respect the efforts of the anti-Page 3 campaigners, I'm not really sure if it's an issue that needs politicising. You don't need to be halfway through a dissertation called "All Sex Is a Hate Crime" to know that Page 3 is a dated, demeaning and embarrassing staple of the British media. An issue of the left, this is not.
Perhaps Page 3 tells us something about ourselves as a nation, but if so it's a personality flaw we should be looking to get over rather than embrace. It's not about a pair of tits making me furious; it just doesn't do anything for me – and perhaps it's that kind of response, if it's perceived more broadly by the men in charge of such decisions, that will finally convince The Sun to drop Page 3.
Speaking from personal experience, life doesn't get much more disappointing than when you take your clothes off and are met with nothing but lustless indifference.
Follow Clive on Twitter: @thugclive