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

39 thoughts on “Page 3 on a Train

  1. weareunfinished February 24, 2014 / 10:47 pm

    I’m glad you took that picture Helen, it’s a public space. There is no parallel for male sexualisation / objectification in mainstream media. I definitely don’t want to see Page 3 porn on the train, bus and tube – casually opened on laps, morning, noon and night – shared thoughtlessly with me as I prepare for my business day or come home in the evening from work. This is not my choice. The images don’t offend me, it’s the thoughtless assumption which is made every time someone opens the Sun newspaper to Page 3 in a public space.

    • LeaveTheSunAlone February 26, 2014 / 6:31 pm

      Firstly, try not to sit next to someone with a Sun newspaper (women buy it too you know)
      Secondly, mind your own business and read your own boring book/kindle all about growing veg in clay laden soil.
      This is prudish. The model on page three is happy to do it, and is I’ve no doubt paid handsomely to do it (never did Linda Lusardi or Sam Fox’s careers any harm) so why are you so offended ? If the model was being forced to show her breasts then I believe you’d have a point.
      Page 3 has been in The Sun since something like the sixties, why is it all of a sudden you want it stopped ?
      This country is in a shit state for various reasons, worrying about Tits on a train should be well down the list of things to campaign about. How about killing soldiers in broad daylight in the name of Islam……….give that a go why don’t ya !!!

      • Not The News in Briefs February 26, 2014 / 7:51 pm

        Thank you. This is exactly the kind of criticism I was writing the blog about, so you’ve helped by providing a handy illustration of what I mean. To do this AFTER reading the blog is difficult to understand though, it’s kind of like you haven’t really understood it?

      • weareunfinished February 26, 2014 / 11:10 pm

        Dear ‘Leave the Sun Alone’

        You’ve completely missed the point.

        This isn’t about whether the models are happy to do Page 3. Nor is this about the models getting paid well (which, by the way, most don’t).

        People should not have to adapt their behaviour on public transport (eg change seats) to allow for those who choose to view soft porn in a public space. It should be the other way round! If it really can’t wait until they get home, then trains have marvellous toilets where porn can be viewed in private.

        And it is possible to think / care / campaign about more than one issue at a time – I could say to you that there are far better uses of your time than naming yourself ‘Leave the Sun Alone’ and campaigning on behalf of Rupert Murdoch, but then you’re also campaigning for soldiers, aren’t you? You are actually doing something about that, aren’t you???

        PS Linda Lusardi is on record with CNN as saying Page 3 should go.

      • nicola February 27, 2014 / 11:27 am

        After seeing the effect of media on people, mostly women and ‘how’ they should look – the endless cosmetic surgery and eating disorders, etc. So these types of images, whilst I do not have any problem with soft porn, are not really for the unwitting general public. What kind of message is it sending to my 4 year old twin girls – not one that I endorse and that’s for sure. So while yes there are many fights to fight, this is a worthy one too!

        This country may be in a ‘shit state’ but its been the lack of ‘speaking out’ which I think has caused its decline. You should embrace the fighting spirit in all people as they be fighting for you and your causes one day.

      • Leave LeaveTheSunAlone Alone February 27, 2014 / 1:59 pm

        1. If you believe that something is wrong in general, then it’s not really a case of sitting somewhere else is it. Imagine you’re choosing a seat on a train and someone is sat racially abusing the person in front of them. Is the solution that you should sit somewhere else or that the person should stop doing what they’re doing. I’m not saying the page 3 is on a par with racial abuse, obviously, it’s merely to illustrate the example. I could make an even simpler argument instead… What if the person with the Sun sat down AFTER you, should you have to move? What if they sat down and there was also a woman with some young children within view of the paper. The children surely shouldn’t be able to look at Page 3 should they, so in that case would they ALL have to move? I just don’t get how moving is the solution to anything.

        2. Regarding minding your own business. The people against Page 3 aren’t really saying you shouldn’t be able to do what you want as long as it only effects you. Page 3 is so pervasive though that it’s impossible to just ignore it for the rest of your life. If it were like online porn, then you could ignore it. When it’s in every newsagents, and open on trains, cafes, places of work etc, it’s pretty much made everyone’s business.

        3. The model being happy to do it – Sure she is, and no one is stopping the models from getting naked for a living if that’s what they want to do. If the Sun stopped running Page 3 there’d just be one less place for them to get their photo in, but I believe there’s still quite a few magazines that pretty much just sell pictures of tits. So I don’t think they’ll starve.
        Also, you’re kind of thinking inside the box. Is it appropriate in the first place to have this kind of image in a newspaper, whether the model is happy to do it or not. In a more general sense as well, is it right that so many women pursue this type of career? The fact that it’s so mainstream is a bit weird when you consider that most (all?) fathers wouldn’t want that career for their daughters. Does it not represent something being a bit wrong in western culture? Music videos have always aimed to be sexy and appeal to lusty blokes, but honestly it’s just getting ridiculous now. That Miley Cyrus one where she’s naked and licking a hammer. I’d be trying to put my daughter off a career in pop if I had one.

        4. It’s been around a long time so why do you only want it stopped now? Come one man! For one thing you’re assuming a lot about the age of the person writing the article. You’re also taking silence on the issue as tacit approval. Women might have hated it since the 60s and not been really able to say anything about it, because again, it’s part of the culture. Also, being around since the 60s isn’t a reason to keep something. Homosexuality was only legalised very recently. Would you have told gay rights activists “we’ve been locking up gay people for years so how come you’ve only got a problem with it now?”. Even if you’d actually like to make homosexuality illegal again, it’s still not an argument.

        5. On that last point about the murder of Lee Rigby. Can I just point out there’s a culture of objectification of females, i.e. it’s something that happens all the time across the world in a multitude of different ways. Lee Rigby’s murder, was a single horrific act that so far, has (thankfully) not been repeated, and the men responsible have been jailed for life, so it’s difficult to see what more we can do about that. Unless you’re saying we should address the culture of people who believe that Muhammad was gods final prophet, then I don’t really get the comparison.
        The country is in a shit state partly because of the issues including the objectification of women, the every day exposure of children to sexualised images, the pornification of the advertising and music industries, the lack of women in powerful positions (like governments and company boardrooms). Would you not agree? Page 3 represents a number of those things in some way (the first two directly) so it’s hardly a trivial thing. Should everyone in society basically decide what the single most important issue is and all work on that, meanwhile ignoring everything else?

        Also, your name LeaveTheSunAlone. They are leaving the Sun alone, we’re not trying to ban the Sun. Just get one thing removed from it for the sake of gender equality. Would getting racism and homophobia out of football be an attack on football? No. It would be an improvement.

        p.s. I’m aware that hammering each of your points took quite a while. If you’ve even read this it’ll be a miracle!

      • feministborgia March 4, 2014 / 9:54 am

        “Firstly, try not to sit next to someone with a Sun newspaper (women buy it too you know)”
        Why is it the rights of a person reading the Sun override the rights of a person who doesn’t want to see it?

        “Secondly, mind your own business and read your own boring book/kindle all about growing veg in clay laden soil.”
        But I don’t read books about growing veg…….oh, I see, you’re being witty! You should have warned us in advance, we could have prepared. Hang on, just one second *clears throat* heehee. There, well done, we’re all very impressed.

        “This is prudish.”
        No, it’s not. There are numerous blogs on the subject. Many people have explained repeatedly that it isn’t prudish. I personally don’t run screaming at the sight of my own breasts (I saw them once, in a mirror, it was fine). I just don’t think they should be in a newspaper.

        “The model on page three is happy to do it,”
        No one said that she wasn’t. But the effect of the publication of naked breasts designed to elicit a sexual response goes beyond the person to whom those breasts belong.

        “and is I’ve no doubt paid handsomely to do it”
        See previous statement. Money does not negate harm. It’s not magic. It’s just money.

        “(never did Linda Lusardi or Sam Fox’s careers any harm)”
        That is a matter for debate. And it’s interesting that those are the two women who posed for page three who’s names you know. Have you any more? And in terms of ‘not doing their careers any harm’, what career did it prepare them for?

        “so why are you so offended ?”
        Really? We’re ‘offended’ now? I love how you reduce it to this so you can dismiss everything we have said.
        How about you read the post you have commented on. That might help. And if it doesn’t, try this one:
        Mumsnet explained their reasons for supporting the no more page 3 campain here:
        and here
        and here
        The woman who started the campain explained it here
        and here:
        and here:
        In case you haven’t figured it out, I am implying that to continue to ask ‘why are you so offended’ you are basically showing yourself to be in posession of poor reading comprehension, or that you are remaining willfully ignorant. Perhaps you should read more?

        “If the model was being forced to show her breasts then I believe you’d have a point.”
        Oh excellent, we have a concession. I mean, it’s not a real concession. It basically consists of saying you can only object to naked women in a newspaper if it’s an image of rape. The trouble is, if it was an image of rape the point we would have would be an entirely different one. I believe this sentence is actually more closely related to the previous phrase ‘why are you so offended’ than I thought. If you genuinely cannot understand why we are ‘offended’, then have you considered seeing a therapist? I think your total lack of basic human empathy may be a matter for some concern.

    • DoWhatYaWantWithTheFilthyRedTopsIDon'tGiveAShit February 27, 2014 / 11:47 pm

      Yeah I read it !! The name was just general cover for all the red tops with tits on show !
      Hence this new name !
      You got it exactly Charlie, nice one !!
      I asked a Gay friend earlier how he’d feel if sat on a train and a woman opened a paper blatantly flashing off Cock and Balls, of course he said yes please, I would just mind my own business, however if I had my children with me I would politely ask that the page be turned. If she refused I’d like to think I’d avert their eyes or move…….it’s not rocket science.
      An example of this country losing the GREAT from Britain, is jailing a Marine for killing a Taliban idiot, whereas the IRA terrorist that killed 4 soldiers walks free !!! This and previous governments have no spine !!!
      Hey you guys, sorry I misunderstood your campaign. Good luck with getting The Sun, The Star, and The Sport etc to remove tits from pages (The Sport would shut down)
      Regards x

  2. Jamie White February 26, 2014 / 4:51 pm

    Congratulations Helen!

    • Not The News in Briefs February 27, 2014 / 12:17 am


  3. David Cavanagh February 26, 2014 / 5:04 pm

    So it’s OK to read page 3 on public transport, but to photograph page 3 being read is an invasion of privacy (even though the reader is carefully not framed…..!). We really have gone mad, haven’t we?

  4. k mac February 26, 2014 / 5:36 pm

    You were doing so well until you slid into those other ignorant rants. Now I’m embarrassed you’re part of the nmp3 movement

    • Not The News in Briefs February 27, 2014 / 12:15 am

      Which ignorant rants were those?

    • Kate Smurthwaite February 27, 2014 / 3:34 pm

      Embarrassed are you? By a piece of really insightful journalism. Well feel free to leave the campaign. The other several hundred thousand of us won’t miss you…

  5. kazzylew February 26, 2014 / 6:30 pm

    I completely agree with you. I work in a male dominated industry and in the builders’ merchants was faced with a copy of The Star that was readily displayed on the counter for all to see the young woman with hardly any clothes on. When I spoke up and said that this wasn’t acceptable in the workplace a deadly hush fell over the entire place and I was ignored. There are female staff that work behind the counter, why should they have to put up with this aswell? I have to use this shop regularly but have come to dread going in there. I don’t care if the men there choose to look at soft porn in their own time, in private, but do object to it being displayed in public where the rest of us have no choice.

    • elliegro15 February 26, 2014 / 10:32 pm

      Hi hun, sorry to hear about your workplace.
      It is a criminal offence to display this kind of material in a workplace.
      It’s covered by harassment law x

  6. sonsiekat February 26, 2014 / 6:32 pm

    Reblogged this on Sonsiekat and commented:
    This completely sums up both a) my thoughts on page 3), and b) the patronising ‘if you don’t like it, don’t buy it’ excuses so frequently trotted out to those of us who object.

    • Not The News in Briefs February 27, 2014 / 12:18 am

      Thanks for the re-blog!

  7. Robyn February 26, 2014 / 6:40 pm

    Brilliant post. I’m going to direct people here in future. Thank you!

    • Not The News in Briefs February 27, 2014 / 12:18 am

      No no, thank you!

  8. Ellen Grogan February 26, 2014 / 8:22 pm

    Great piece Helen and yes you did totally right thing in taking the pix.
    I wonder if it’ll set a trend ?
    I have a plan to challenge any man I see with P3 open.
    I’ll say politely that it makes me feel uncomfortable/harassed and ask them to close it.
    And I’ll say it so others can hear and see where it goes from there !

    • Not The News in Briefs February 27, 2014 / 12:19 am

      Good luck with that! I chickened out and just took a photo…

  9. kate February 26, 2014 / 9:19 pm

    I wonder would the man reading page three on the train have opened up a porn website on a laptop or phone in a public place. Or invited you round to join him when he viewed some internet porn at home? I suspect not, I suspect he would feel that made him just a little bit creepy. So why was it ok to open it to page three.Our local Chinese takeaway has piles of Sun newspapers on the counter for people to peruse. All those who pick it up hurry past page three looking embarrassed. Whatever news is there is avoided by both males and females. They recognise the image is not suitable to look at in public.

    Like Kazzylew I once worked in a male dominated industry. I firmly blame page three for being bullied out of it. Daily bullying comparisons with the page three girl. The suggestion that that was what real women did and so on. I dreaded going to work every day and eventually left. My working experience in an environment where nobody read the Sun was completely different.

    Well done for having the courage to take the picture.

  10. angela February 26, 2014 / 10:01 pm

    It is time that the Sun published ‘Rack of the day’ A pair of Boy’s balls (have to say ‘boys’ as of course all the women whose tits are on display are called ‘girls’ and indeed they are probably mostly teenagers). So come on you teenage boys, get yer balls out for us to TITter over! Let’s have a pair of big ones each day! We ‘girls’ can buy the paper and display porn on trains too! Would men like that? Only thing is I doubt many women would bother to spend money on trash, after all, once you’ve seen one rack of balls, you’ve seen them all haven’t you? Funny the lechers never tire of tits.

  11. elliegro15 February 26, 2014 / 10:25 pm

    Well done Helen. This man is actually harassing women by showing P3 in a public space.
    This kind of harassment in a workplace is a criminal offence.
    I’ll probably follow your example and do the same.
    I also think it would be a good idea to directly ask any man displaying porn in a public space to stop.
    If I do this on one of my feisty days, I’ll report back !

    • Not The News in Briefs February 27, 2014 / 12:21 am

      Please do! I look forward to hearing from you!

  12. Decembermum February 26, 2014 / 11:40 pm

    Funny isn’t it that we’re told to look away, or not buy the paper if we’re offended. But if people claim to be offended by a woman discreetly breastfeeding she is the one who is told to cover up, or move to a toilet to feed her child.

  13. DoWhatYaWantWithTheFilthyRedTopsIDon'tGiveAShit February 27, 2014 / 1:40 am

    Dear “weareunfinished” (probably could have fed a homeless soldier in the time it took you to work that name out)
    Funny you should mention it, but, yes I do support the Armed Forces as I’m an ex serviceman myself. I do my bit for Help for Heroes and Soldiers off the Streets etc etc. We hold car shows, boot sales, sponsored Runs, Walks, etc etc
    You lot are what is known as “Keyboard Warriors” – so an e-petition is gonna do it is it ?
    The best of luck to you all !!!
    Oh, and by the way, Rupert Murdoch is a twat, I don’t buy the Sun, I also campaign for finding a cure for cancer cos my wife had breast cancer, and I’m now looking into what I can do to help Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, because they saved MY life !!!!!!
    Sure I skip read the original post, and probably missed something, but what good is a debate without the other side’s point of view ?
    This is a storm in a tea cup, it’s only women that are offended, and to be fair if you look in the mirror, you’ll find most of you have breasts yourselves !!!!
    Nice having a Mass Debate with you ladies !!
    See ya X

    • stephaniedaviesarai February 27, 2014 / 10:42 am

      ‘It’s only women that are offended’. Oh that’s alright then. There I was thinking it was something important.

      • Not The News in Briefs February 27, 2014 / 11:26 am

        ‘Only the women’ – where have we heard that before?

    • Robyn February 27, 2014 / 12:22 pm

      Er, “only women”? My boyfriend has signed the petition and feels very strongly about it. I suppose that makes him less of a man, though, does it?

  14. nicola February 27, 2014 / 10:53 am

    I have two little girls and I can not control where they look. I would be upset if they saw something like this and I would have to address any questions they may have very loudly with, “she’s a stupid lady and he is a very bad man”. If you are going to ‘read’ something like this in public, then you are open to public criticism. It is not OK for my four year olds to grow up with these kind of images, I am their mum and I know what is best for them. Actually if a child had seen them then surely this is a type of ‘grooming’.

    • elliegro15 February 28, 2014 / 12:35 pm

      Nicola, I totally agree that it is grooming.Court cases on abuse show that the most common form of grooming is exposing children to sexualised images.
      I’m willing to bet that we could win a legal case on the grooming issue.

  15. SuJo February 27, 2014 / 11:22 am

    Helen, keep doing what you do. It’s time for P3 to go. Ignore the rants and vitriol, porn is porn and has no place in a family paper. That’s because porn is damaging. Simples.

  16. David February 27, 2014 / 11:25 am

    I wonder if the same people who complained at you “invading the privacy” of that Sun reader (which makes no sense seeing as you couldn’t even identify whoever the person was) get as angry and complain about the many “Creepshots” Twitter accounts and websites encouraging men to send in photographs of women and girls they’ve taken without their knowledge? A result of the culture Page 3 adds to incidentally. I doubt they’d ever attack them for this clear invasion of privacy and degradation.

  17. Kate Smurthwaite February 27, 2014 / 3:29 pm

    Interestingly there are two photographs under debate here. One of a fully-dressed man’s knee and hand casually holding a newspaper. One of a very young nearly-naked woman, paid a vanishingly small fee, waxed, made up, coiffed and arranged to look “sexy” in the most boring identikit way to sell newspapers full of lies and distortions with racism, misogynist, homophobic and just about any other -ist or -phobic editorial overtones owned by a corrupt billionaire who overtly uses it to try and influence democratic elections. And it’s the photo of the guy’s knee that’s the problem? Give over.

  18. bravenewmalden March 1, 2014 / 12:24 pm

    The Great in Great Britain has nothing to do with any perceived awesomeness. It’s a geographical term, meaning that this particular landmass is the greatest (i.e. largest) of the British Isles.

    There. You’ve learnt something.

  19. GarryMac March 24, 2014 / 1:52 am

    I think (and hope) we’ll continue to evolve our society and culture over the coming years to the point where we look back and think “oh, wasn’t that old-fashioned, we had pictures of topless women in the papers and everybody (not really everybody!) thought that was ok!”.
    We’ve got a bit to go on that one though.
    For me, it’s not about whether the images are offensive and i say that for three reasons: firstly, they’re not offensive. It’s just parts of the body and we’ve DECIDED they should be offensive. Secondly, it’s the objectification that’s offensive and that clearly runs a lot deeper than the images. Thirdly, why do we care about offending people so much? When did that become the biggest issue in the world?
    What’s my point? I’m getting there, fear not. My (slightly hard to spot from a distance) point is that the best campaigning and voting on this issue would be for people to be encouraged not to but The Sun. It’s a horrible rag predicated on lazy journalism and people’s misery. I truly believe that a significant drop in circulation and revenue is the only thing that would prompt a re-think of its social responsibility not to promote objectification of women.
    AND there’s the clumsy segway into my proper point. AS damaging (if not more-so) to hundreds of thousands of women’s confidence, happiness and belief in their own inate value is the nonsense and disgusting hypocrisy peddled by magazines like Closer, Grazia, Hello, Ok and shelf-fulls more of generic similar titles. Look at the cover of any one of, ANY time in the last decade and they will either be alternating between celebrity weightloss or weight gain. Depending on the toss of a coin either one will either be a tragedy and disaster or a heroic empowerment of women. Bollox. Stop beimg ridiculous and, more importantly, if you are currently thinking “well men are not going to stop buying The Sun” then seize the initiative and set the example. Don’t be ome of the hundreds of thousands of women who buys these rags every week and by default confirms to the editors that their behaviour is acceptable. PS I’m not being sexist or stereotyping: i did my readership demographics homework.

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