Page 3’s cookie cutter women no longer titillate

Article by Lauren Rosewarne /
ABC The Drum /
January 20, 2015 /

Click here to view original /

For 45 years, British newspaper The Sun has festooned its, ahem, Pulitzer Prize winning offerings with a comely – and braless – English rose.

For 45 years, these scantily clad Page 3 lasses have proven a talking point. For radical feminists, they were about the continued objectification of women; a sign that women are still considered as consumable, as decorative.

For the conservatives, softcore porn has never had any rightful place in a daily, and thus the Sun’s decades-long inclusion of the pics was daily proof of social decay.

For the rest of us, a topless woman in a 21st century publication simply seemed curious at best and anachronistic at worst.

In a world where every kink and quirk and fetish is catered to by effortlessly accessed webporn, buying a newspaper for a bit o’ boob seems a tad farcical.

In a finale with no whimper let alone any bang, The Sun has seemingly woken up from its cultural coma – realised it’s 2015 – and quietly dropped the controversial page.

A victory? A buckling? An encapsulation of the Zeitgeist?

For me, it’s actually just an interesting case of timing, of trends. The Page 3 girl simply doesn’t matter anymore.

She doesn’t titillate sufficiently to sell papers. She doesn’t irk anyone enough to run articles about her naughtiness. She fails, even, to be classy enough to motivate defence of her on free speech grounds.

The Page 3 girl is a relic of a past where a certain class of gent liked to cop an eyeful before wrapping up his vegetable peelings. An artefact of a time when milky-white breasts alone were enough to arouse, a time when a sticky-paged Playboy was something sacred., on the other hand – a new offering-of-difference in a world where celebrities typically use personal sites to peddle $5,000 juicers – presents an alternative.

Centered on sex-and-body-themed interviews alongside photos of ladies in the buff, the site created by Caitlin Stasey packages itself as a kind of thinking person’s eye candy.

Judging by the sheer amount of press the site has received, Stasey has successfully tapped into “something” happening within our culture.

So the Page 3 girls with their teeny tiny waists and bountiful bosoms are out, are passé, are, apparently, failing to move units of Murdoch fish n’ chip wrappings. And yet, Stasey’s shots of big, little and brown women are achieving cut-through, are getting spoken about, are getting – judging from the trouble I had getting accessing site late last week – clicked upon in droves.

Sure, there are medium differences. Sure, there are target audience variances. Equally, was always destined to prove catnip for the Gen Y female lifestyle writers dominating online publications.

But the site nevertheless highlights an interesting development in our sex-saturated culture.

A topless woman of cookie cutter appeal isn’t an extraordinary vision anymore. No, not quite innocuous enough to appear on billboards in Australia yet, but it’s certainly an image mainstreamed enough to seem ho-hum in film and television.

Stasey’s site offers an alternative. She is making a consciously fashionable contribution in the nudie market and mounting the case that passive images of white thin girls staring doe-eyed into a camera have had their day. That tastes have changed. That something different in the world of softcore is needed to grab and hold attention.

Stasey’s site with its naked fat women and naked non-white women and naked women with snakes draped around their nakedness is doing what juggernaut alt-porn sites like, and have been doing for years: offering something that isn’t already readily available at the multiplex, sprinkled liberally throughout HBO series, or found on page 3 of a British rag.

Sure, the feminist statement of Stasey’s site is being overplayed, ditto the tragedy for feminists of the Page 3 girls. But is demonstrating an understanding of a market that knows white-and-symmetrical boobs all too well. And is ready for something different.

© Lauren Rosewarne