Page 3, or Page Three, was a British newspaper convention of publishing a large image of a topless female glamour model (known as a Page 3 girl) on the third page of mainstream red-top tabloids. The Sun introduced the feature, publishing its first topless Page 3 image on 17 November 1970. The Sun's sales doubled over the following year, and Page 3 is partly credited with making The Sun the UK's bestselling newspaper by 1978. In response, competing tabloids including the Daily Mirror, the Sunday People, and the Daily Star also began featuring topless models on their own third pages. Notable Page 3 models included Linda Lusardi, Samantha Fox, and Katie Price.

Attitudes toward Page 3 varied widely. Although some readers regarded the feature as harmless entertainment, cultural conservatives often viewed it as softcore pornography inappropriate for publication in generally circulated national newspapers, while many feminists saw it as demeaning women and perpetuating sexism. Some politicians, notably Clare Short and Caroline Lucas, campaigned to have topless photographs removed from newspapers, while others, including Nick Clegg and Ed Vaizy, voiced concern that banning images would compromise the freedom of the press. Legislation was never enacted against Page 3. However, in 2012, activists launched the No More Page 3 campaign, which pressured newspaper editors and owners to end the feature voluntarily. The campaign won support from 140 MPs as well as a number of universities, trade unions, and charities.

In August 2013, The Sun's Republic of Ireland edition replaced topless Page 3 girls with clothed glamour models.[1] Its UK editions followed suit in January 2015, discontinuing Page 3 after more than 44 years.[2] The Daily Star became the last print daily to drop topless photographs, moving to a clothed glamour format in April 2019.[3] This ended the Page 3 convention in Britain's mainstream tabloid press. As of 2022, the only British tabloid still publishing topless models is the niche Sunday Sport.

History

After Rupert Murdoch relaunched the loss-making Sun newspaper in tabloid format on 17 November 1969, editor Larry Lamb began to publish photographs of clothed glamour models on its third page to compete with The Sun's principal rival, the Daily Mirror, which was then printing photos of women in lingerie or bikinis.[4] The Sun's first tabloid edition showed 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.

On 17 November 1970, the tabloid celebrated its first anniversary with a photograph of Singapore-born model Stephanie Khan in her "birthday suit" (i.e. in the nude).[5] Sitting in a field, backlit by the sun, with one of her breasts fully visible from the side, Khan was photographed by Beverley Goodway, who became The Sun's principal Page 3 photographer until he retired in 2003.[6][7]

Page 3 was not a daily feature at the beginning of the 1970s,[8] and The Sun only gradually began to feature Page 3 models in more overtly topless poses. Lamb thought Page 3 should feature "nice girls" and made a conscious effort to avoid the sleazy image of top-shelf pornography titles,[9] asking the Sun's female reporters to review Page 3 images before publication to ensure that women would not regard them as "dirty".[10] Regardless, the feature, and the paper's other sexual content, quickly led to some public libraries banning The Sun. A then Conservative-controlled council in Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire took the first such decision, but reversed it after a series of local stunts organised by the newspaper and a change in the council's political orientation in 1971.[11][12]

Page 3 is partly credited with boosting The Sun's circulation.[13] In the year following Page 3's introduction, daily sales doubled to over 2.5 million,[10] and The Sun became the UK's bestselling newspaper by 1978.[14] Other tabloids, including the Daily Mirror, the Sunday People, and the Daily Star, began publishing topless models on their own third pages, although the Daily Mirror and the Sunday People discontinued the practice in the 1980s, calling the photographs demeaning to women.

In the 1980s, Page 3 launched the careers of many well-known British glamour models, including Samantha Fox, Maria Whittaker, Debee Ashby, Donna Ewin, Kirsten Imrie, Kathy Lloyd, Gail McKenna, and Suzanne Mizzi. Fox, who appeared on Page 3 between 1983 and 1986, became one of the most-photographed British women of the 1980s, behind only Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher.[15] In 1986, David Sullivan launched a new tabloid, the Sunday Sport, which took the Page 3 concept to extremes, publishing numerous images of topless models in each edition and even featuring a "nipple count" to highlight how many exposed breasts each edition featured.[16]

The Sun made stylistic changes to Page 3 in the mid-1990s, printing all Page 3 photographs in colour rather than mostly in black and white. Captions to Page 3 photographs, which previously contained sexually suggestive double entendre, were replaced by a listing of models' first names, ages, and hometowns. After polling its readers, The Sun in 1997 ceased featuring models who had undergone breast augmentation.[17] In June 1999, The Sun launched the Page3.com website, which featured the tabloid's daily Page 3 girl in three different poses, including the photograph published in the printed edition. In the latter years of Page 3, The Sun added a "News in Briefs" item that gave the model's thoughts on current affairs.[18]

Beginning in 2002, The Sun ran an annual contest called Page 3 Idol. Amateur models could submit photographs that were voted on by readers, with the winner receiving a cash prize and a Page 3 modeling contract. Page 3 Idol winners included Nicola T, Keeley Hazell, and Lucy Collett.

Alison Webster became The Sun's principal Page 3 photographer from 2005 until the feature was phased out. In 2020, Channel 4 produced an hour-long documentary, Page Three: The Naked Truth, to mark 50 years since the introduction of Page 3.[19]

Publications

Activism against Page 3

Page 3 was controversial and divisive throughout its history. Its defenders often represented the feature as an inoffensive aspect of British culture, as when Conservative Party MP Richard Drax in 2013 called it a "national institution" that provided "light and harmless entertainment".[20][21] Its critics often considered it demeaning to women, or as softcore pornography inappropriate for national newspapers readily available to children. Some politicians, such as Labour Party MPs Clare Short, Harriet Harman, and Stella Creasy, Liberal Democrats MP Lynne Featherstone, and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, took stances against Page 3 and made efforts to have it removed from newspapers. The Sun vigorously defended the feature, often responding to criticism with ad hominem attacks. When Short in 1986 tried to introduce a House of Commons bill banning topless models from British newspapers, The Sun ran a "Stop Crazy Clare" campaign, distributing free car stickers, calling Short a "killjoy", printing unflattering images of her, and polling readers on whether they would prefer to see Short's face or the back of a bus.[22]

As a co-founder of Women in Journalism, Rebekah Brooks was reported to be personally offended by Page 3,[23] and was widely expected to terminate it when she became The Sun's first female editor in January 2003. However, upon assuming her editorship, Brooks became a staunch defender of the feature,[7][24] calling its models "intelligent, vibrant young women who appear in The Sun out of choice and because they enjoy the job".[25] When Short stated in a 2004 interview that she wanted to "take the pornography out of our press", saying "I'd love to ban [Page 3 because it] degrades women and our country",[26] Brooks launched a "Hands Off Page 3" campaign that included printing an image of Short's face superimposed on a topless woman's body, calling her "fat and jealous", and parking a double-decker bus with a delegation of Page 3 models outside her home.[27] The Sun also called Harman a "feminist fanatic" and Featherstone a "battleaxe" because of their stances against Page 3.[28] Brooks later said that she regretted The Sun's "cruel and harsh" attacks on Short, listing them among the mistakes she had made as editor.[29]

In February 2012, the Leveson Inquiry heard arguments for and against Page 3. Women's advocacy groups argued that Page 3 exemplified a culture of tabloid sexism, while Sun editor Dominic Mohan defended the feature as an "innocuous British institution" that had become "part of British society".[30] In his report, Lord Justice Leveson stated that complaints of sexism over topless pictures fell outside his remit of investigating media ethics, but merited consideration by any new press regulator. Noting Mohan's "spirited defence" of Page 3, Leveson stated that "many will feel that Page 3 of The Sun raises a taste and decency issue and none other".[31] Short questioned Leveson's finding, stating: "Surely the depiction of half the population in a way that is now illegal on workplace walls and before the watershed in broadcasting, is an issue of media ethics?"[32]

Lucy-Anne Holmes, a writer and actress from Brighton, began campaigning against Page 3 when she noticed during the 2012 Summer Olympics that the largest photograph of a woman in the nation's best-selling newspaper was not of an Olympic athlete but of "a young woman in her knickers".[33][34] Arguing that Page 3 perpetuated sexism, portrayed women as sex objects, negatively affected girls' and women's body image, and contributed to a culture of sexual violence, she launched the No More Page 3 campaign in August of that year.[35] The campaign gained support at the Liberal Democrats party conference the following month, when Evan Harris proposed 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".[36] Featherstone supported the motion, claiming that Page 3 contributed to domestic violence against women,[37] although the party's then-leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg distanced himself from it over concerns about press freedom, stating: "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".[38] The No More Page 3 campaign collected over 240,000 signatures on an online petition and gained support from over 140 MPs, as well as a number of trade unions, universities, charities, and women's advocacy groups. It sponsored two women's soccer teams, Nottingham Forest Women F.C. and Cheltenham Town L.F.C., who played with the "No More Page 3" logo on their shirts.[39]

In June 2013, Lucas defied parliamentary dress code by wearing a "No More Page Three" T-shirt during a House of Commons debate on media sexism, during which she stated "If Page 3 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 that the government did not plan to regulate the content of the press, and that adults had the right to choose what they read.[40] Later that month, newly appointed Sun editor David Dinsmore confirmed he would continue printing photographs of topless models, calling it "a good way of selling newspapers". Pointing to a survey showing that two-thirds of Sun readers wished to keep Page 3, Dinsmore argued that most people who wished to ban the feature had never and would never read the Sun.[41]

End of the feature

In February 2013, Rupert Murdoch suggested on Twitter that The Sun could transition to a "halfway house," featuring glamour photographs without showing nudity.[42] In August 2013, Paul Clarkson, editor of The Sun's Republic of Ireland edition, replaced topless Page 3 girls with clothed glamour models, citing cultural differences between the UK and Ireland.[43][1] Thanking Clarkson "for taking the lead in the dismantling of a sexist institution", the No More Page 3 campaign called the decision "a huge step in the right direction" and called on Dinsmore to follow suit with the newspaper's UK editions.[44]

For several days after 16 January 2015, The Sun's third page featured images of women wearing lingerie and bikinis. On 20 January, The Times, another Murdoch title, reported that the tabloid was "quietly dropping one of the most controversial traditions of British journalism".[17][45][46] The end of the feature received significant media attention. On 22 January, The Sun appeared to change course, publishing an image of a winking model with her breasts fully exposed and the caption: "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".[47] This turned out to be an isolated return, with clothed glamour replacing topless images on the paper's third page thereafter.

Longtime campaigners celebrated the decision, with Short calling it "an important public victory for dignity",[48] while Nicky Morgan, then Minister for Women and Equalities, called it "a small but significant step towards improving the media portrayal of women and girls".[49] Although Lucas welcomed the decision to discontinue topless images, she criticized the transition to clothed glamour, saying: "So long as The Sun reserves its right to print the odd topless shot, and reserves its infamous page for girls clad in bikinis, the conversation isn't over".[50] Others defended the feature and the women who posed for it, with model Nicola McLean telling ITV's Good Morning Britain that: "[Page 3 models] are all very strong-minded women that have made our own choice and feel very happy with what we are doing. We certainly don't feel like we have been victimised".[51] In a televised debate with Harman and Germaine Greer, model Chloe Goodman asked: "Why should feminist women tell other women how to live their lives?" Harman responded: "In a hundred years' time, if you look back at the newspapers of this country, and you see women standing in their knickers with their breasts showing, what would you think about women's role in society?" Goodman replied: "All over the world there are [depictions of] bodies in the nude, so I don't understand why it's just Page 3 that's being targeted".[52]

Although The Sun had abolished the feature in its print editions, it continued to publish topless images on its official Page3.com website until 29 March 2017.[53] No new content appeared after that point. Page3.com was taken offline the following year and its URL redirected to The Sun's website. In April 2019, the Daily Star became the last mainstream print daily to discontinue topless images, when it also shifted to clothed glamour.[54][18] This ended the tradition in the mainstream British press, with only the niche Sunday Sport continuing to publish topless images in tabloid format as of 2022. The No More Page 3 campaign site, nomorepage3.org, was taken offline in early 2020.

Notable Page 3 models

See also: Category:Page 3 girls

Born 1991 onwards

Born 1986–1990

Born 1981–1985

Born 1971–1980

Born 1961–1970

Born 1951–1960

Born 1941–1950

See also

References

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