Page 3 is a colloquial term for a feature formerly included in the British tabloid newspaper The Sun. The phrase originates with the publication of a large photograph of a topless, bare-breasted female glamour model usually published on the print edition's third page. The feature first appeared in the newspaper on 17 November 1970 and on the official Page 3 website since June 1999, which it still continues. The terms "Page 3" and "Page Three" are registered trademarks of News UK, parent company of The Sun, although the feature has been imitated in Britain's other 'red top' tabloids and by newspapers internationally.
Page 3 was popular with Sun readers, but it also attracted sustained controversy. Critics argued that Page 3 objectifies and demeans women, while others believe that it should not appear in a generally circulated national newspaper. Some campaigners advocated for legislation to ban Page 3, while others have tried to convince newspaper editors to voluntarily drop the feature or modify it so that models no longer appear topless. The No More Page 3 campaign was launched in 2012.
The Irish edition of The Sun dropped topless Page 3 models in August 2013. After an article appeared in stablemate The Times in January 2015, it seemed the UK editions had dropped the feature too, but for a day on 22 January 2015 this seemed to be untrue. With that one exception, Page 3 in the previous form, has continued to be absent from The Sun.
Beginnings and early years
When Rupert Murdoch relaunched the flagging Sun newspaper in tabloid format on 17 November 1969, he began publishing photographs of clothed glamour models on its third page. The first edition featured that month's Penthouse Pet, Ulla Lindstrom, wearing a suggestively unbuttoned shirt. Page 3 photographs over the following year were often provocative, but did not feature nudity.
Whether it was editor Larry Lamb or Murdoch who decided to introduce the Page 3 feature is disputed, but on 17 November 1970, the tabloid celebrated its first anniversary by publishing a photograph of 20-year-old German model Stephanie Rahn in her "birthday suit" (i.e., in the nude). Sitting in a field with one of her breasts visible from the side, Rahn was photographed by Beverley Goodway, who became The Sun 's principal Page 3 photographer until he retired in 2003. Lamb thought the models featured should be "nice girls" and believed that "big-breasted girls look like tarts". Intended to be a feature which was "breezy, not sleazy", Chris Horrie wrote in 1995 that it was planned as comparable to the naturism of Health and Efficiency magazine rather than top-shelf pornography titles.
Page 3 was not a strictly daily feature at the beginning of the 1970s. The Sun only gradually began to feature Page 3 models in more overtly topless poses, with their nipples clearly visible. The feature, and the paper's other sexual content, quickly led to The Sun being banned from some public libraries, the first such decision being taken by a Conservative council in Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire. In this case, the decision was reversed after a series of local stunts organised by the newspaper, and a change in the council's political orientation in 1971.
The feature is partly credited with the increased circulation that established The Sun as one of the most popular newspapers in the United Kingdom by the mid-1970s. In an effort to compete with The Sun, the Daily Mirror and Daily Star tabloids also began publishing images of topless women, although the Daily Mirror stopped featuring topless models in the 1980s, deeming the photographs demeaning to women.
Since the mid-1990s
The Sun made some stylistic changes to Page 3 in the mid-1990s. It became standard to print Page 3 photographs in colour rather than in black and white. Captions to Page 3 photographs, which previously contained sexually suggestive double entendre, were replaced by a simple listing of models' first names, ages, and hometowns. After polling its readers, The Sun also instituted a policy of only featuring models with natural breasts in 1997. Although The Sun ordinarily features only one Page 3 model in each edition, a pictorial sometimes shows two or more women posed together. A special pictorial in 2009 to celebrate 40 years of Page 3 lined up 15 Page 3 women posed together.
In June 1999, The Sun launched its official Page 3 website, Page3.com, which features the tabloid's daily Page 3 girl in three different poses, including the photograph published in the printed edition. On 1 August 2013, coinciding with the launch of the subscription-based website Sun+, the official Page 3 website became accessible only to Sun+ subscribers.
Before 2003, British tabloids sometimes featured 16- and 17-year-old girls as topless models. Samantha Fox, Maria Whittaker, Debee Ashby, and others began their topless modelling careers in The Sun when they were 16, while the Daily Sport was even known to count down the days until it would feature a girl topless on her 16th birthday, as it did with Linsey Dawn McKenzie in 1994.
During her tenure as deputy editor of The Sun, Rebekah Brooks (then Wade) argued that Page 3 lowered the newspaper's circulation because women readers found the feature offensive. When she became the tabloid's first female editor in January 2003, she was widely expected either to terminate the feature or to modify it so that models would no longer appear topless. However, Brooks changed her position and became a staunch advocate of the feature. She later wrote an editorial defending Page 3 from its critics, calling its models "intelligent, vibrant young women who appear in The Sun out of choice and because they enjoy the job." Guardian journalist Hadley Freeman in 2005, accused Brooks of having "played up" Page 3 by introducing the "News in Briefs" caption (a paragraph attributing the newspaper's editorial views to the Page 3 model). The caption was removed in June 2013 when David Dinsmore took over as editor.
Controversies and campaigns
Critics usually consider Page 3 to demean and objectify women, as softcore pornography that is inappropriate for publication in a national newspaper readily available to children. Some campaigners have sought legislation to have Page 3 banned. Others, wary of calling for government censorship of the press, have sought to convince newspaper editors and owners to voluntarily remove the feature or modify it so that it no longer featured a topless female model.
A YouGov survey carried out in October 2012 found marked differences in attitude toward Page 3 among readers of different newspapers. 61% of Sun readers wished to retain the feature, while 24% said that the newspaper should stop showing Page 3 women. However, only 4% of Guardian readers said The Sun should keep Page 3, while 86% said it should be abolished. The poll also found notable differences by gender, with 48% of men overall saying that Page 3 should be retained, but just 17% of women taking that position.
Political campaigners for legislative action against Page 3 have included Labour Party MPs Clare Short and Harriet Harman, Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. The Sun has responded to such campaigns with mockery. When Short tried in 1986 to introduce a House of Commons bill banning topless models from British newspapers, The Sun branded her "killjoy Clare." When Short renewed her campaign against Page 3 in 2004, The Sun superimposed her face on a Page 3 model's body and accused her of being "fat and jealous." The Sun also branded Harman a "feminist fanatic" and Featherstone a "battleaxe" because of their stances against Page 3.
Elsewhere tabloids have eliminated topless models voluntarily, as the Daily Mirror did in the 1980s.
In August 2012, Lucy-Anne Holmes, a writer and actress from Brighton, began a grassroots social media campaign called No More Page 3 with the goal of convincing The Sun 's editors to voluntarily remove Page 3 from the newspaper. Holmes stated that she began the campaign after noticing that despite the achievements of Britain's women athletes in the 2012 Summer Olympics, the largest photograph of a woman in the nation's biggest-selling newspaper was "a massive image of a beautiful young woman in her knickers." Holmes further argued that Page 3 perpetuates the outdated sexist norms of the 1970s, portrays women as sex objects, negatively affects girls' and women's body image, and contributes to a culture of sexual violence against women and girls. Some commentators, such as Kira Cochrane in The Guardian, have been supportive of Holmes' goals although commentators in publications such as the Telegraph and New Statesman have criticised the campaign, calling it "censorious" and "sinister."
At the Liberal Democrats party conference in September 2012, former MP Evan Harris with the support of others, lent support to Holmes' campaign by proposing a party motion to "[tackle] the projection of women as sex objects to children and adolescents by restricting sexualised images in newspapers and general circulation magazines to the same rules that apply to pre-watershed broadcast media." However, party leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg distanced himself from the motion. In an October 2012 radio interview, Clegg said he did not support a legislative ban on Page 3, believing that government in a liberal society should not dictate the content of newspapers. "If you don't like it, don't buy it … you don't want to have a moral policeman or woman in Whitehall telling people what they can and cannot see," Clegg stated.
The Leveson Inquiry heard arguments for and against Page 3. Representatives of women's groups (including Object and the End Violence Against Women Coalition) argued that Page 3 was part of an endemic culture of tabloid sexism that routinely objectified and sexualised women. The inquiry also heard testimony from Sun editor Dominic Mohan, who argued that Page 3 was an "innocuous British institution" that had become a "part of British society." The Leveson report concluded that arguments over Page 3, and the representation of women in the tabloid press more generally, raised "important and sensitive issues which merit further consideration by any new regulator."
In February 2013, Rupert Murdoch, chairman and chief executive of News International, parent group of the Sun, stated on social networking site Twitter that he was considering replacing Page 3 with a "halfway house," whereby Page 3 would feature clothed glamor photographs, but not bare breasts.
In June 2013, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas defied parliamentary dress code to wear a T-shirt bearing the slogan "No More Page Three" during a House of Commons debate on media sexism. Arguing that The Sun newspaper should be removed from sale in Parliament until it dropped the feature, she said that "if Page Three still hasn't been removed from The Sun by the end of this year, I think we should be asking the government to step in and legislate." Culture minister Ed Vaizey responded by stating that the government did not plan to regulate the content of the press. Later that month, newly appointed Sun editor David Dinsmore confirmed that he would continue printing photographs of topless women on Page 3, calling it "a good way of selling newspapers."
In August 2013, citing "cultural differences" between the UK and Ireland, Paul Clarkson, editor of The Sun 's Irish Republic edition, announced that he would no longer print images of topless models on Page 3. The Irish Sun now features images of glamour models with their breasts covered. The No More Page 3 campaign called the decision "a huge step in the right direction," and thanked Clarkson "for taking the lead in the dismantling of a sexist institution," and called on Dinsmore to follow suit with the newspaper's UK edition.
The hopes of campaigners were further raised when Rupert Murdoch, in his Twitter feed in September 2014 suggested the Page 3 feature was "old fashioned." Eighteen months earlier on twitter "glamorous fashionistas" (i.e., clothed). Murdoch affirmed that the feature would eventually end in an interview for India Today magazine in 1994. While defending it from criticism, he said: "But show it to me in any other newspaper I own. Never in America, never in Australia. Never. Never. Never. It just would not be accepted."
The end of the Page 3 feature
The feature in the British newspaper was reported as having been scrapped in 2015 with the edition of 16 January supposedly the last to carry the feature, after a 20 January article in The Times, another Murdoch paper, said that a decision had been made to end Page 3 in the present incarnation.
On 22 January 2015, after an absence of six days, The Sun returned to publishing shots of topless female models. A notice appeared in the issue: “Further to recent reports in all other media outlets, we would like to clarify that this is Page 3 and this is a picture of Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth. We would like to apologise on behalf of the print and broadcast journalists who have spent the last two days talking and writing about us." In the evening of 21 January, Dylan Sharpe, the head of public relations at The Sun tweeted: "I said that it was speculation and not to trust reports by people unconnected to the Sun. A lot of people are about to look very silly ... "
The apparent ending of the feature gained much attention in the British press. Clare Short thought that the dropping of topless photographs on Page 3 of The Sun "is an important public victory for dignity." As Caroline Lucas explained in an article for The Independent: "So long as The Sun reserves its right to print the odd topless shot, and reserve its infamous page for girls clad in bikinis, the conversation isn’t over." After the re-appearance of Page 3 after nearly a week's absence, Lucy-Anne Holmes tweeted: "So it seems the fight might be back on."
The edition of 22 January saw the return of a topless Page 3 model, but this revival has turned out to be a one-off.
Page 3 models
Born 1991 onwards
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- O'Neill, Brendan (12 September 2012). "The censorious campaign against Page 3 is driven by the oldest and most foul form of snobbery". The Daily Telegraph.
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- "Caroline Lucas in Page Three T-shirt protest during debate". BBC News. 12 June 2013.
- Halliday, Josh (26 June 2013). "Sun's Page 3 photos of topless women will stay, says new editor". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
- Greenslade, Roy (8 August 2013). "The Sun's Irish edition drops topless Page 3 pictures". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 8 August 2013.
- Slattery, Laura (8 August 2013). "‘Irish Sun’ ditches bare breasts on Page 3". Irish Times (Ireland). Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Reynolds, John (8 August 2013). "The Sun's Page 3 under renewed pressure after Irish cover up". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 9 August 2013.
- Jane Martinson "", The Guardian, 10 September 2015
- Bill Gardner "The Sun drops Page 3", Daily Telegraph, 19 January 2015
- Ben Quinn and Lisa O'Carroll "The Sun brings back topless women days after apparent end of Page 3", theguardian.com, 22 January 2015
- Clare Short, et al "The panel: Is the Sun's scrapping of Page 3 topless models a victory for women?", theguardian.com, 20 January 2015
- Caroline Lucas "Page 3's demise should be celebrated, but it doesn't mean that we're not still stuck in the past", The Independent, 20 January 2015
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- "The Sexiest Page 3 Girl Ever!". p. 4. Archived from the original on 4 May 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
- "The Sexiest Page 3 Girl Ever!". p. 2. Archived from the original on 10 July 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
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- "The Sexiest Page 3 Girl Ever!". p. 5. Archived from the original on 21 March 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2011.