Page Three & The Sexual Market Place

Do you remember when we used to talk about Page Three? You know, Page Three, the third page of a British tabloid newspaper wherein news consumers would be, day in day out, treated to the flat image of a half naked, female proto-adult? Like the less shiny version of the ‘Playboy Centerfold’.

We used to argue about it. We used to say that in our so-called post feminism age, it was unacceptable for a readily available, family newspaper to pilfer images of semi-naked teenagers as wanker fodder for blue collar conservatives.

But that is not what Page Three is! others said.

No, its great symbol of press freedom!  An expression of feminine sexuality! A righteous reply to the soporific nagging of the nanny state! A shield against an attack on righteous masculinity by that most oppressive of things – feminism – and its hell-bentism towards Victorian rectitude and its single-minded and jealously driven pursuit of uglification!

No, no, no, sillies… Page Three was about wanking!

Now I’m not so naive as to not know that these days, few men would jizz over the tit-fold, when at a click they can access a similar looking woman having her every orifice being thoroughly and vigorously examined by phalluses that look like they could joust over an elephant. Page Three was not wanking material, per se, but rather a reference point or manifestation of a particular kind of male sexuality, that views women’s participation in sex as wank fodder.

Before Page Three was, to some extent, shut down (or rather moved, as with all pornography, online) it was defended by such curious bed fellows as Paul Nuttall (UKIP Leader) and Tim Farron (Liberal Democrats Leader) – who both defended Page Three as a harbinger of ‘Press Freedom’ on the populist tele-arguing show Question Time. They didn’t actually extrapolate on what press freedom, specifically, symbolic wank fodder, had to do with (is it imparting information or ideas?!)

It was left to glamour model Laura Lacole , to explain what is was exactly, they were defending. During her skit on This Week, way back when, she told us – us who don’t know – that male sexuality is visual. It likes to look at tits. Female sexuality, on the other hand, is communicative. So that’s that.  Don’t get so irritated, ladies. Just let the fellas look at your jublees whilst you talk amongst yourselves.

There was an inherent contradiction in her point of view, which, needless to say was not scizzored apart by tangerine-testicle head presenter Andrew Neil.  Lacole made her distinction between homogenised female and male sexuality, and yet continued to refer to Page Three as an expression of (?communicative?) female sexuality. Presumably she was referring to the little boxes wherein the model gets to say something pithy and cute about Syria.

OK, maybe Lacole knows something I don’t, but I’ve stood in a studio – on several occasions – in my underpants and had ‘my photograph taken’, and not once – NOT ONCE – did I notice my lady flaps inflate, and don’t even begin to talk to me about orgasm. Cold. Hungry. Standing in weird, sub-human positions. Being told by the snappy snap-snap – to ‘soften my visage’ and think sexy thoughts.

Oh but I’m being deliberately obtuse, aren’t I?! Lacole and her ilk don’t mean that get-your-tits-out-for-the-lads-journalism actually turns women on, when they refer to ‘female sexual expression’. What they mean is, that women who are disposed to do so, may be vainly (and, frankly, intangibly) edified by their abilities to turn men on.

But hay mans and manettes,this is the 21st Century, we don’t deal in female desire. We deal in female vanity!

Sexually desiring women don’t stand awkwardly, in their pants, with their faces painted a la Mona Lisa. Sexually desiring women drip into their knickers, they climb aboard before they have fully taken off their tights, they  forget the garlic chicken that lingers on their breath , they shove about their range of pink, brown, stretched or hairy nipples for sucking. They skull rub, they implore their lover’s fingers to bring them off….whichever, whatever, however… *never* do actually sexually desiring women bring into bed with them their downloadable copy of Photo Shop. Women who do that, are women who want to be liked. Frankly.

Ah, you say, but Page Three – or any centerfold – is not designed to be about real sex. It is about fantasy sex. But what is the fantasy?

The fantasy that commercial pornography sells is  a world that is not threatening to a fragile male ego, because it proliferates the notion that ‘hot babes’ have limitless sexual availability and are undiscriminating in who they offer it to. Any guy, however lacking in charm, conscientiousness or wit, can approach its folds and be welcomed with neo-liberal, open arms.

Research by OKCupid! discovered that, whilst women often preference men of their own age demographic, men in both preference and energy spent on messaging, will opt for trying to secure dates with women as young as feasibly possible. OK so its a dating site, not The Harvard Medical Review, but it makes an interesting point.

The kind of like for like sexual equality that might arrive out of men engaging sensually with women of equal age and social status in a personal sphere, would mean having to recognise women as being ultimately the same as men. Human, desiring, complex. Not one coordinated group of objects servicing a group of consumers.

Yes sexual equality would not be conducive to the masculine hierarchies of commercialized sex, which depend on glorifying male power. In order for male power in sexual congress to be instituted, idealizing women who are most vulnerable and simultaneously most rare (teenagers mostly) is paramount.

When sexual commerce cultures focus primarily and most successfully on this rare kind of woman – AGE 21: BMI 21 – they draw male sexual attention away from the vast differences between women, the vast differences between men, and therefore the vast similarities between us all. The industry is dependent on the product being significantly different to the purchaser. You don’t buy what you already have, what you already are. Of course, in the porn industry all women are deemed to have an in theory value, but upon which men are able to label a Best Before End. What satisfaction!

Its throwing stuff away so we can buy new stuff. Its abandoning the whole fruit because it carries a slight bruise. Its sexual planned obsolescence.

Added, pornography, soft or hard, removes the need for there to be more of the product than the purchaser, in literal economic terms, because it can be literally reproduced again and again and again and again, ad infinitum.

But rather than examine the fact that this is happening, we wrap up our discussions of porn,  into platitudes surrounding notions of choice’ and ‘freedom of the press’ rather than these, actually, really quite unexamined concepts of objectification and sexual commodification.

 

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