Page 3 on a Train

I got a lot of flack last week for taking a photo of a man reading Page 3 on a train, and then posting the photo on social media. Even though the Sun reader himself wasn’t in the photo: it was just the newspaper splayed across his knees open at Page 3, a few people took exception to the ‘invasion of a stranger’s privacy’ and accused me of public harassment and of spying on a member of the public. The state of my mental health has also come under question several times. Personally, I was pleased with the photo: I thought it captured that moment very well where a man *gets on a train, sits next to a random woman and displays a soft porn image right in front of her face*. I thought I might call the photo ”If You Don’t Like It Don’t Buy It”, in a kind of ironic way, because OF COURSE it proves the point that Page 3 can be, and is, seen by people who have not chosen to view it. Actually I was quite lucky that this experience, which many of us have had so many times, happened to me at a time when a) I had my camera phone with me, and b) I was feeling confident and bolshy enough to use it. The Sun reader didn’t even notice. Too busy looking at tits I expect.

Page 3 on a train

Anyway, the usual arguments ensued – is it porn, isn’t it porn, why does it matter etc etc, and that pejorative word ‘offended’ kept being used, as in: ‘Just because you’re OFFENDED by the sight of a pair of tits, it doesn’t give you the right to blah blah blah..’ Hot on the heels of the ‘offended’ word often comes the advice to JUST look the other way, ignore it, grow up, get a grip… and if you’re really lucky the trusty old Diet-Coke-Man and David-Beckham-in-his-pants examples are trotted out to show that men get it too but they’re just better at dealing with it than us. More mature. Less insecure. Less easily ‘offended’. What really IS the problem with catching sight of Page 3 on a train? How IS that offensive?

Well I agree that all else being equal, and, say, the history of misogyny not being what it is, and gender relations not being a bit one-sided, then it would be a bit of an over-reaction to get all hot and ¬†bothered about one picture of a topless woman accidentally glimpsed in a public place. But however much you try to invoke the image of a kind of delicate Victorian sensibility, blushing and fanning and reaching for the smelling salts at the sight of a nipple, the fact is that there is a historical context to female sexual objectification which gives it a meaning, and there are valid reasons why a woman might find it genuinely threatening to come across soft porn in a public place. A lot of men understand this and would not wish to be the source of a strange woman’s discomfort or embarrassment, but there are some that persist in minimising the problem, based on the fact that they were once unsettled by a picture of a hunk on the front of Men’s Health magazine, and GOT OVER IT.

These men remind me of the worst kind of white tourist, who feels entitled to say, after a two week safari holiday in Kenya, that they REALLY UNDERSTAND racism now, and how it feels to be in a minority ethnic group, and what THEY’D do when faced with a racist slur, would be to just ignore it, work at feeling good about yourself, nobody can MAKE you feel bad unless you let them…

Or the kind of government minister who, for a gimmick, spends a week living on benefits, and comes out feeling able to give advice on how to choose cheap fresh ingredients (it’s not that difficult!) and cook from scratch, in order to make the budget go further…

Or the girl in Pulp’s ‘Common People’ who fancies a bit of rough for a while, but never has to ‘watch her life slide out of view’ because at the end of the day Daddy’s there to bail her out…

So, that’s what I think of you, you men who think women are overreacting, making it up, being over sensitive or insecure – I think for a start that you’d have to experience a lifetime of being underrepresented except as a sexual object, frequently marginalised in other roles; as well as an awareness of your physical weakness compared to the opposite sex, and a whole load of rape and violence statistics that weren’t in your favour. And because breasts are the sexual feature that women are judged on by size, you’d have to see MASSIVE COCKS ¬†every day in the newspaper, and frequently encounter women rating you on the size of yours and making it the butt of their jokes.

And if you don’t experience that, or you don’t possess enough empathy to be able to imagine it, then you are just a tourist in the world of sexual objectification, and at the end of the day you know you can always go home. Why not take the train?

 

If you don’t want to see Page 3 on a train you can sign the petition here

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