I’m lucky that my Dad is a feminist; he would never have allowed the Sun in our house, let alone considered buying it.

But I still saw copies while I was growing up. At friend’s houses, at school (in art classes on the tables, for example, and in an English Language class where the recently qualified male teacher made us do ‘nipple counts’ of various papers. Turns out tabloids have more nipples in – who’d have guessed), in cafes, on trains and buses.

In fact, Page3 was the only porn I saw as a teenager, it was my introduction to the objectification of women. It was instrumental in me hating my body. I’m recovered from bulimia and anorexia now, but my teenage years were horrible.

I still get exposed to Page3 despite never buying it; every time I feel like I’m sinking. So many women and girls have shared stories about how Page3 has hurt them, and had their stories dismissed – if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. It bites to realise that ogling a pair of boobs every morning is more important to some people than listening to and respecting women’s voices.

Every morning my local newsagents is bustling with schoolchildren who are heading for the station or the bus stops. On numerous occasions the boys deliberately leave the Sun open at Page 3 to embarrass and harass the girls. I often see this and have to close the paper. It is shameful and humiliating.

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.

I found it very hard to breastfeed my daughter and had to stop after 3 weeks. I was so upset. I was so conscious of showing my breasts that my daughter didn’t latch on properly and feeding her was agony.

A few weeks after I stopped breastfeeding I went with a friend to my local community funded, breastfeeding friendly cafe. I could not believe that they provided The Sun.

I wanted to cry and I realised that the existence of this kind of soft porn in everyday life was the reason I felt so awkward about breast feeding.

I asked an assistant to remove it and she did. Five minutes later, a large man came out with an angry face. He had the paper in his hand and raised it high, then threw it back on the table with the other papers. I was quite scared but I waited till he was gone and threw it away.

I wrote to the cafe. Their board (of males) decided that as I was the only person to have ever complained, they would continue to keep providing soft porn.

The Sun is also provided in a soft play area close to my house. Soft play and soft porn for kids aged 0-11.

I ended up in hospital with severe post natal depression. During my stay, one of the nurses opened up page 3 in the kitchen. I was so upset and could not believe that there is no place I could go to get away from this ridiculous sexism and quite frankly I find it harassment. It hit me very hard.

I am happy to say that I am much better now but I will never ever stop supporting No More Page 3.

Page 3 was the first of the media influences to expose me to nudity. I was about 6 or 7. It was something the boys knew about at school and their free talk of breasts that seemed to be something funny conflicted with the teachers opinion that it was something rude and wrong. I didnt understand. But the boys were obsessed, and once, boys had been my friends, but what interested them most about girls now, was their breasts.
I saw The Sun posted at my Grandparents house and used to look at page 3. Jordan was a page 3 girl I knew somehow. We all knew who Jordan was at school. When I am 18 I thought, I want to be on page 3. I will be famous and people will think I am beautiful and sexy and all the boys will want to go out with me.

I wonder how different my life would have been if i had not seen or heard of page 3 existing. I wonder if my formative years would still have been spent crying about not having breasts that would fit a bra. Weighing down on my personality to become shy and ashamed of my body, cowering in the shadows at high school so that I wouldnt be in the direct line for verbal abuse about not having breasts. Interpreting this understanding as not being good enough or worthy of respect. I wonder if then I wouldnt have developed eating disorders to compliment my figure in my pursuit of male approval. I wonder then if I had not been so desperate to seek this approval, I would have been more wary of the grooming I was subjected to – rather than feeling so complimented and flattered. I wonder then if I had not been subjected to the direct and indirect influence of page 3, I would have valued myself enough to use my voice, enough to say NO, enough to not get raped. Maybe I would have valued myself and fought harder against the normalisation of sexual objectification to not get raped by 6 different men in the past 7years.

Last month (i.e. mid 2013) I was shopping my local Marks & Spencer food hall, and I noticed an old man standing absolutely still in the middle of an aisle, staring fixedly at a big photograph of a topless woman.  My first instinct was shock at how brazen he was being, looking at porn in the middle of a family supermarket, and thought he must be deranged and therefore a possible danger to the public.  I looked around for a security guard to raise the alarm.  I then realised that the old man was looking at page 3 of the Sun, next to the newspaper stand where the Sun was on sale.  He was looking at a product that Marks & Spencer had chosen to put on sale alongside everything else in the food hall.  So I didn’t bother complaining – I didn’t think that the store would have done anything about it.  If I saw it again I think I’ll complain, but it takes more courage, spontaneity and energy than I normally have on a Saturday morning supermarket run so I’ll have to work my way up to it.  And until then I’ll just carry on feeling slightly nervous and ashamed every time I go past the newspaper stand in Marks & Spencer.

Mary Ann, Kent