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Bouncing back: topless girls remain face up on page three

By Evelyn Tsitas - posted Friday, 23 January 2015


It was a storm in a DD Cup. The news that British tabloid The Sun had finally ditched its anachronistic topless Page Three girls had however, bounced back a few days later, firmer than the rebound of new knicker elastic.

The pundits had, it appeared, got it wrong.

As author Stephen Bayley gleefully predicted, "The naked breast is now in retreat, but only one thing is certain about the history of British manners and taste in which it plays so important a part: things change. It will return."

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And so it has. On Tuesday, the Sun's sister paper the Times said the tabloid would no longer feature Page Three girls. But, in fact, those cheeky journalists from The Sun announced otherwise with the perky flourish; "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."

As their topless photo of "Nicole, 22, from Bournemouth" revealed,those busty girls were just having a little rest, hoisting their wares into a nice firm sports bra no doubt, while the editors made that crucial decision – continue to exploit women's bodies for profit or not?

Indeed, in a time when journalists are imprisoned, jailed or killed for reporting the truth, when cartoonists are gunned down to silence their critical pens, The Sun editors had a bigger dilemma on their hands than freedom of speech or, I don't know, actually covering the news.

For a few speculative days, it appeared there was a cover up bigger than Watergate. A cover up of – dare we say – of mammary proportions. This was the really big one – as in, the DD Big One. This was about hauling the newspaper slap bang into the 21st Century and declaring "Right lads, don't knock it but no more knockers, eh?"

There had been a groundswell of discontent about the topless girls in print. The No More Page 3 founded in 2012 campaign with support from groups including Girlguiding UK, Mumsnet and Breast Cancer UK hailed the "truly historic news" of the Page Three demise in a Facebook posting.

ABC's The Drum purred "The Sun has seemingly woken up from its cultural coma - realised it's 2015 - and quietly dropped the controversial page.

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But it appears we all got our knickers in a knot for nothing.

The Page Three Girl is back. And I am in a perfect position to tell you why the editors are paying the girls to pose topless. Yes, it's about lack of imagination, and the sort of sexual imperialism that has historically seen men exploit women's bodies for a profit. But what really drives the Page Three girl is this - circulation and desperation. The editors shove a naked torso on the cover because they have no idea how else to get anyone else's attention and sell a paper.

I know this story because I have been part of it. I was complicit in it as a journalist in the 1980s on the now defunct masthead Australasian Post. Long before I worked in academia, before my doctorate, I spent 18 months writing you-beaut Australian yarns for the magazine.

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About the Author

Dr Evelyn Tsitas works at RMIT University and has an extensive background in journalism (10 years at the Herald Sun) and communications. As well as crime fiction and horror, she writes about media, popular culture, parenting and Gothic horror and the arts and society in general. She likes to take her academic research to the mass media and to provoke debate.

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