My story is an everyday common one, I’ve felt embarrassed about sharing it for fear that it is not as important or relevant but I now realise that it is important and should be shared precisely because it is so everyday and common.
Growing up my dad bought the Sun most days. I was always aware of what was just under the cover even as a tiny child. A naked woman. I was a curious child and loved to read, I ate up anything I could get my hands on but for some reason I always avoided my dads copy of the Sun because I got a sickly and dark feeling from it. The picture inside it made me feel uncomfortable and dirty. It made me feel uncomfortable talking to my dad whilst he was reading the paper and almost resentful of him for bringing it in to the house even though at that age I could not really explain to myself why. I think I picked up on the unconscious messages that the suns page 3 give off, it felt like I was being degraded or humiliated even though I was only a small girl and not a full grown woman yet.
As I got slightly older and more self aware, my feelings towards the suns page 3 became more personal. I compared myself to this picture and having no other pictures of what naked women are supposed to look like to refer to I judged myself in light of it. I grew to hate my body, I grew to hate myself. I was not what a woman was supposed to look like. This was what women are supposed to look like. Even my dad has sanctioned this opinion by buying this paper and bringing it home. Being mixed raced and ‘normal’ sized with relatively average breast size I was unattractive and worthless. My mum for being black was worthless. I was not white, I was not a size 10, I was not a d cup. I hated myself. I hated my dad for making me feel like this. Worst of all I was embarrassed of my self loathing. I told no one.
One would hope that growing older I grew wiser, but actually I have found that the images of female beauty have become more and more narrow and the slimy unexplainable feeling of degradation and humiliation I feel when faced with images like page 3 is constant, on every music channel in every tv show on every movie billboard and website. And its still there just under the cover of the sun, so that society can condone it, publicly endorse it just like my dad has done my whole life by bringing it home, and keeps me embarrassed to feel like this, keeps me silent and hating every inch of me.
The place I encounter page 3 most of all is in my workplace. I am a nurse and when my patients come in for treatment they may be sitting for up to 3 or 4 hours so they often bring the newspaper to read.
Some Sun readers make a concerted effort to miss out that page, I assume they find it embarrassing to be seen looking at it, but others seem oblivious to it and sit with page 3 open. Sometimes even if patients are trying to cover page 3 the front page image can be equally as sexualised. There have been occasions where I am changing fluid bottles or checking cannulas and have the image right in my face. On one occasion the patient I was trying to canulate looked visibly uncomfortable because the man sitting next to him was holding page 3 open in both of your eye line. He seemed so embarrassed either for me, himself or both. I don’t think that is fair.
For a long time I used to laugh off the image when I saw it. Patients sometimes left the paper for us and I would open it on that page as if to confront it and laugh at it or laugh at news in briefs, I think to try and disarm the image. But now I have been given the space and ammunition from the No more Page 3 campaign I can see these experiences for what they were and still are – completely inappropriate sexual harassment in my work place. Not from the patients who have bought the paper in necessarily but from the paper itself and the editorial team who have chosen to incorporate sexualised and belittling images of women in something as mainstream as a newspaper. Ensuring that pictures that would not be allowed on the walls of any work place, hospital or café can still reach us there, can reach us wherever we go. So that wherever we are, no matter how professional we might be expected to be, we are still reduced instantly to exposed sexual objects for consumption.
When I see it I feel a little disarmed, a little less like a knowledgeable professional, a little sullied and exposed but most of all I feel reminded that this society in which I live and work wants to keep me and all women in our place. This society is quite happy to make me feel like this any time it likes. This society is sexist.
I was at a Christian festival over the summer and while I was there I attended a seminar on porn. As part of the seminar, a man who had been formerly addicted to porn told us his story. His story began with a description of how as a nine year old boy he had, along with his friends, spent his free time collecting The Sun out of park bins and compiling the Page 3 pictures. He said that he didn’t know what he was doing at the time but this was where he believed his porn addiction started. Over the coming years he watched porn on TV and on the internet compulsively. He eventually sought help and is now porn free but his addiction caused enormous hurt to his wife and he still struggles with his view of women.
I was born in 1993, and growing up as a little girl my Grandfather used to read the sun. He would just leave it lying around and of course I would come to see page 3. It’s one of my earliest memories and I believe that extremely early introduction to sexualisation had a huge influence in my relaxed and submissive ideas of sex. I lost my virginity at 13, thinking that was what I was meant to do to keep my first ever boyfriend happy. By the time I was 17 I fell pregnant I was planning to go to university so I had to have an abortion. It ruined my mental and physical health and I tried to commit suicide a number of times. I’m now a lot better and although I fully accept accountability for my own actions, as a grown woman I now realise that taking in the submissive behaviour of the page 3 girls inadvertently caused me such early sexualisation and a miserable childhood.
I was born in 1974. I don’t remember how old I was when I first noticed the naked women in the paper, it felt like they had always been around. Sam Fox was the most popular around the time I started puberty but my Dad’s favourite but Linda Lusardi and he had a poster of her on his wall.
I don’t really remember thinking much about it at the time but I remember asking my Mum if it would be ok for me to be a “page 3 girl” and (when they reluctantly answered that maybe it would be if I really wanted to do it) if it would be ok to be a stripper. With my now adult perspective I assume this was me trying to weigh up the fact that I felt this probably wasn’t all ok with the fact that everybody seemed ok with it.
My Mum had huge body hang ups and had really little boobs. I’m sure she really appreciated the woman with massive tits staring at her in bed night and morning. Years later when she and my dad divorced she used some of the settlement to have breast augmentation. She still hates her body and has been on a diet her whole life.
I grew up with the same small boobs inherited from my Mum. I was embarrassed by them and wore wonderbras constantly and later gel bra’s. I married young and breastfed both of my children, loving my big, rounded breastfeeding boobs. After that my previously small but perfectly formed boobs were very sad looking. The “spaniels ears ” that I would hear my husbands friends joke about. Let me be clear, I was in every other respect really, really confident about myself, my abilities, my body (I exercised and used the gym a lot). I grew so ashamed of my boobs that I would keep my bra on during sex with my then husband, as I felt so unattractive with it off. After a couple of years of this I saved and eventually had augmentation surgery. A decision I can’t say I regret as I do love my breasts now and they feel like part of me. I know some people think that is wrong and shocking and I am alarmed now that I thought so little of risking a large operation for the sake of vanity, but I felt so very certain about it and had thought long and hard.
It is only since getting involved in the No more Page 3 campaign that I have put together how much the images I saw growing up ate into my very understanding of who I was. How they infiltrated my confidence, how they made me feel inadequate. They made me feel like my sexuality was something to be presented to and for the pleasure of men rather than something that existed to make me feel good and feel close to somebody. I spent years “being sexy” because I thought that is what I was supposed to be and I could turn it on and off like a tap. Having the surgery I realise was all part of maintaining that I suppose. But it was never really for me it was all a performance. Only now do I really know myself and see it all for what it is, yet I still feel its effects and see them every day in the mirror. I may love my breasts but I realise now that its such a shame that I felt I needed to have them just to feel “normal”.