When I was a teenager Page 3 had a very detrimental effect on me.It was the constant availability of it that gave it such power I think – the message that whatever you did with your life it would always come back to this. I saw these pictures of young, large breasts on many occasions : blowing down the street, soggy with rain in the gutter, wrapped round a portion of chips…It seemed to me that this was an unwinnable game for women, that the very thing you would be feted and desired for was also so disposable and undervalued. The message, quite apart from the narrowness of the beauty ideal, was that you could always be replaced, and indeed that men required a new model on a frequent basis, and had a right to this. I admit I had low confidence to start with, but Page 3 certainly didn’t help.
My Story (2)
By the time I was 8 yrs old, I knew the word “ugly” and knew resolutely that it applied to me. At least that was what I was told by the girls (before age 10, I had a lot of male friends who didn’t really seem to know or care what the fuss was about – only the girls were cruel to me).
As we hit puberty in secondary school, I suddenly realised that my predicament could actually get worse. By then it wasn’t just the girls, it was the boys as well. Page 3 was an ideal they already knew of, mentioned and practiced boasting how much they liked, trying to sound like the grown-up men and older boys who made demands and got what they wanted (these were evidently “the people to be”).
Of course, we’d all seen things like washed-out, torn and discarded pictures from lads mags on the street and such. Picked them up and looked at them. Sex ed was a real eye opener to what they were about… and it was a little haunting remembering those images in new light – I didn’t like the message I seemed to be getting, not least because I already knew I didn’t fit what other people thought was “pretty”.
For many years I’d also spent a lot of time in my dad’s workshop with genuinely lovely lads who worked there. I realise now that by the time I was 12 I’d already been trying to work on the mental model of men I should be interested in when I would reach my adult years. But I remember how when I noticed the topless women calendars and posters they had up in the work space (some of which sported The Sun logo) I felt hurt and like I could never be that, so I would never find someone who would love me, because that was what even these really nice people who spent time with me, showed me how to use drills and such, wanted.
But… by the time I was in highschool, amidst the endless taunts and bullying, I was *frequently* told how I couldn’t measure up to being “female”. So by that point, all of this accumulated experience – see My Story (1) for the my early childhood – pulled together and I honestly started to believe I couldn’t pass as female.
If you’d have offered me by the time I was 14, the chance to undergo treatment and surgery to change gender, I would have leapt at it. So I had gotten used to being ugly, but I’d also gotten used to the freedom it afforded me: so I would never find love but nobody got in my way when I was interested in science with words like “you could work in TV or be an actress or a model or something when you grow up” – so I got to do anything I wanted. But come age 14, my body started to change. Of course it didn’t give me attributes worthy of a Page 3 model though, did it? I used to pound at my chest and abdomen until they bruised, wishfully thinking I could literally just hate them into going away. I was also suicidal.
I couldn’t pass for female. But with periods and the beginnings of a very modest chest, people stopped treating me with the same respect and casual attitude they would a boy. This was worst of all for all people who were male. I was being asked to take care of myself by male relatives and be extra careful of grown-up men, and best of all? *Other* men started taking an interest in me sexually – and I wasn’t even 15.
But let me tell you one thing clearly I do remember about the busdrivers, the workmen and the park ranger (the latter offered me oral sex *after* telling me about himself and his 2 yr old daughter when I stopped by to check on a wounded animal I’d brought to him the week before):
On *every* *single* *occasion* where a man approached me inappropriately at that age, The Sun newspaper was within view somewhere in the place I was being approached – propped up against a window, cast open on a table, or folded up under a mug of coffee. I had to learn to say no, but also to say it more than once to the same person. But I also recall that on *every* *single* *occasion* where I was spoken to with decency, respect and restraint by a grown man… nowhere was The Sun or anything like it to be seen.
When I was in the first year of secondary school some building work was being done on the school and there was a group of builders who would talk to me and my friends as we came in to school each morning. They always read the Sun, and they started showing Page 3 to us and asking what we thought. Everyone seemed to be cool about it so I pretended to be too, but I felt embarrassed and humiliated because I was a late developer and the images made me feel totally inadequate. I realise now that probably everyone else felt bad too and we were all putting on an act to impress the older men. I also realise in retrospect that it was a turn on for these men to present a sexualised image to schoolgirls and watch their reaction. One of the reasons I felt unable to complain was that the pictures were in a newspaper and therefore condoned (or so it seemed) by society. I couldn’t risk being the only one to object.
My story is from the Autumn of 1971,when I was a 16 year old student, travelling home from college by train. A group of lads, probably of a similar age to me, got on the train, and one fo them was carrying a cope of The Sun. I remember them looking at Page 3, then looking at my breasts and loudly commentating. I should mention here that the train was almost full of commuters, who ignored the comments and buried their heads in their newspapers.
The comments got louder and more crude, until they got off the train two stops further down the line, and grabbed my breasts as they got off the train, laughing loudly.
I was a shy 16 year old, in tears, and totally ignored by every passenger on that carriage. I came to believe the incident was my fault for some reason, as NOBODY on the train even looked to see whether I was OK. I never told my family (I was too embarrassed) I am now 57, and still haunted by that incident.
When I was 14, I got my first job, working in my small local newsagents. I was quite a shy girl and was nervous about my first proper job..it was only for 2 hours in the evenings and sunday mornings..all started well,my new boss was very nice and friendly,he was around the same age as my dad,and I thought he seemed very helpful and friendly,so I felt happy working there.
One day I came into the back of the shop on my tea break,to find my boss sitting reading The Sun, .he then turned to me and said ‘ take a look at her” holding the page 3 picture aloft to show me the picture ..’ Have you ever considered doing topless modelling? You have got a lovely pair ,I’m sure you would do very well doing glamour modelling?”…..now this is a 40 year old man saying this to a teenage girl….I was absouloutly mortified ,and felt totally humiliated…I left that afternoon and never went back..I never told my family why I left but I can still feel the embarrassment of that day nearly 25 years later….that’s why I feel so strongly about the no more page 3 campaign..it’s awful to think that nothing has changed since then and our daughters are still being affected by this sexist harmful paper.
In the 1980s I worked in a government office in an open plan large room. I was in a team of about eight people, a mixture of males and females. My team was led by a man. This man was blatantly sexist and was always moaning about “bloody women” etc. He thought it would be a good idea to put up a Page 3 calendar by his desk – on the wall – clearly showing to the entire office. If we complained, he said it was his “right” to have what he liked by his desk. I found it offensive and intimidating. It felt like he was trying to put us women in our place – by showing us as naked and available. At the turning of the page at the start of the month he would comment loudly and openly on the woman’s breasts and often say that us ladies could aspire to that. He also put up a calendar in the store room downstairs. I never had the courage then to remove the calendar in the office (I would now) but I was only 19/20 then, but every time I went to the store room I would take the calendar down and hide it.
When I was in my teens, my sister and I would often get the bus into Brighton – a thirty minute journey, sometimes alone, sometimes together. We lived opposite a man who was a neighbourly acquaintance of my dad and mum. Occasionally if my sister or I were travelling on the bus by ourselves, he would sit next to us and talk. The bus used to pass by a ladies underwear shop and he would make comments to us, such as “do you wear a bra yet?” or “do you like those knickers?”. Of course we would just ignore him, but it was creepy and we would always try to avoid him. The final straw for me came one day when I was alone on the bus sitting upstairs – he sat next to me and opened out the Sun to Page 3. He asked me what I thought of her. Did I want to be a model like that? I was 14 at the time. I was so upset and disgusted I couldn’t speak. I told my parents about it and they were shocked, but of course, in those days (the mid seventies) people didn’t report stuff like that. A few months later when my sister and I were in the car with my mum about to leave from outside our house – he came over to say hello. He seemed surprised when we blanked him.