Tag Archives: rape

On prostitution: a new publication and the potential for a new law

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In 1998 Ruth Jacobs interviewed a woman who worked as a call girl, referred to for anonymity as ‘Q’. She has published the transcript of her interview, in full – stops and hesitations inclusive – as ‘In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl’.

In Her Own Words is an extremely frank account of the complex psychology involved in selling sex. For Q, it is neither wholly positive or negative – she is conflicted, saying both ‘I buzz off it’, ‘I love it’, ‘it’s fun’ and ‘I hate it’, ‘it’s very hard’, ‘you’re risking your life’, and ‘you feel like you’ve been raped’. Women like Rebecca Mott, who exited prostitution, have also said that their former work amounted to little more than being raped for money. Having heard Rebecca Mott speak, she estimates that (in her experience) it takes approximately five years after exiting prostitution for women to fully process how they feel about their time selling sex. (Those in the sex industry are predominantly women, although there are exceptions.) If we consider this perspective, Q’s inability to consistently pin down how she feels about selling her body makes sense within this prevailing trend that Rebecca Mott refers to – for Q had not exited at the time of the interview.

For me, it is key to view Q’s interview within the context of this confusion and not take everything she says at face value. Indeed, if we were to do this, we would struggle to come to any conclusion as her words are so contradictory! Part of her difficulty condemning her profession could be attributed to her lack of ability to see any other kind of life. She cannot envisage an untroubled relationship with men:

‘I have a completely different outlook on men.I don’t trust men. […] You see some really sick things and it like… it stays in your mind.’
‘I don’t know how I’m going to stop and have a normal relationship. I don’t think I could ever, ever.’

She also sees herself as ‘abnormal’ and feels alienated by those outside of the industry:

‘I find it very hard to mix with normal people […] It’s hard for me to hold a conversation down or… I find them completely different. It’s like they’re in a completely different world than me.’

Taken with the above marginalization from ‘normal’ conversations and interaction, a mistrust of men, it is unsurprising that Q considers her options severely restricted:

‘[…] it’s just like all that I know and I can’t stop it. Even if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t stop it. […] I find it easier with a client than I do with a normal man’

I do not wish to speak for Q, for any women working in prostitution, or indeed any other human being, which is why it is perhaps helpful to contextualise Q’s comments with some studies that have been conducted. In a study of five countries by Melissa Farley, 72% of women involved in prostitution were currently or formerly homeless. I say this because some would argue that Q asserting she does not want to leave prostitution may not be uncommon – and that we should respect this standpoint and not attempt to ‘save’ those who sell sex or assume their feelings. However, we must must must look at the context in which these assertions are made. Q feels alienated from normal society, unable to connect with other people on a basic level, unable to trust men or conduct a relationship with them beyond prostitution and is statistically at higher risk of homelessness than other members of society.  Add to this the guilt of abuse that her family receive because of her prostitution and being deemed (as she says) ‘scum of the earth’ by men and women alike, and there is a distinct lack of support in place for Q to make any other choice. And prostitution is a choice which she initially (in her own words) experienced as rape and she eventually normalises into her only choice, one she cannot and will not give up (‘it’s just like all I know’).

Although Q does not express a wish to exit, Farley’s study did in fact find that only 8% of women involved did not want to exit prostitution immediately. As Genderberg states ‘there is no sensible feminist reason to ignore the 92% of prostitutes who do not consider it work but slavery in favor of the 8% minority’. This is my firm belief. True, this figure could be inaccurate, for it comes from only one study, but preventing abuse is more important than a small group’s freedom of expression – which allows the other, larger group’s abuse to continue.

Rebecca Mott, an exited woman, believes that women normalising the experience of selling their body everyday constitutes torture. She puts this very eloquently on her blog:

‘I write to the place where it was no longer rape, no longer battery, no longer bad language – it was just our routine.
That is when rape, battery and mental abuse is made torture – when it done so often by so many men and ignored by the majority of outsiders that it becomes just the role that the prostituted must perform.
Torture is excused by saying this prostituted class are needed to prevent real sexual violence being done to real women and girls.
Torture is made invisible by saying and believing that the prostituted class enjoy and choose their lifestyle.
Torture is not allowed to happened to the prostituted class – for we must not question the male right to buy and sell the prostituted class for the great male orgasm.
Without access to torture the prostituted class, the whole structure of human society would fall apart – or all men would go insane.
I hope most of my readers do not believe such rubbish…’

Mott raises many excuses used to allow prostitution to continue, none of which hold validity when examined closely (‘choice’, men’s ‘uncontrollable’ libido, prevention of sexual violence against the non-prostituted), but what is interesting to me is that she terms all the excuses as contributing to her torture. She shows us how the position of abuse that exited women express is consistently downplayed in favour of a ‘liberal’ standpoint that women should be allowed to express themselves by selling sex. Really? Having read Mott’s blog, I believe the important focus is not about freedom of expression, but that we should avoid abuse and VAWG (violence against women and girls). Women in prostitution are highly likely to experience violence given the power dynamic in sex as a transaction. Women should not have to take work where violence is a likely by-product. As another exited woman states:

‘To those who would say legalisation would make prostitution safer: I think the same thing any former prostitute I’ve ever spoken to thinks, which is that you may as well legalise rape and battery to try to make them safer. You cannot legislate away the dehumanising, degrading trauma of prostitution, and if you try to, you are accepting a separate class of women should exist who have no access to the human rights everyone else takes for granted.’

And so I say, any woman who wants to exit should be able to do so. Currently this is not the case in the UK. Any woman who is wavering, like Q, should at least be given the option.

Q is a young woman in her early twenties, who has been working every day for seven years to service the sexual needs of men. To her, it feels like she’s slept ‘with billions and billions’ of men, although working for seven years her clients are likely to have numbered between 5,000 and 50,000, working on the basis that she saw between two and twenty clients a day (facts she recalls). She was forced into prostitution at fifteen by a pimp. This is the time she says was ‘hardened’ to it. In case that’s not clear, she started selling sex as a child – this makes the men who bought her paedophiles. This is child abuse. See the below from the survivor quoted above:

‘The one thing that linked those men together, besides their urges to pay to abuse my young body, was that they all knew just how young I was. They all knew because I told them, and I told them because it had the near-universal effect of causing them to become very aroused […] I learned that on my very first day while sitting in the car of an elderly man who repeated over and over the thing that was causing him such sexual joy: ‘Oh, you’re very young — aren’t you? Aren’t you?’’

Entering prostitution at a very young age is a common picture when examining the backgrounds of women who sell sex. Farley found that the average age women enter prostitution is 12 years old. Three published studies of prostitution each independently found it was 14  (Weisberg; Silbert & Pines; Gray). These figures are never easy to pin down – but the key is, when attempts have been made, the findings are shocking. And yet we persist with talk about ‘choice’.

I say this not to suggest that child abuse is worse than abuse of adults, or to draw any level of hierarchy in abuse, but to expose prostitution for what it is. Exploitative and abusive, to women and girls. I say this to dispel the myth of choice. When we consider a child’s ability to make a ‘choice’ about entering the sex industry, it demonstrates the sex industry’s willingness to manipulate vulnerable women and children; those with a lack of real choices available to them. A choice made in a context of unequal choices seems to me a difficult thing to term a ‘choice’. As is a ‘choice’ made by a minor that leads to her normalise abuse. Make no mistake, those who sell sex operate within an industry that profits from making money from selling commercial sex acts, whether a striptease or ‘full sex’. This is not an industry with human rights or self-expression at its heart. To suggest women enter this industry armed with any ability to combat the greater forces at work of an industry with strong links to the two biggest criminal networks in the world – drugs and trafficking – seems to me, incredibly naive. ‘Choice’ in this context becomes an increasingly redundant term.

As Q says, ‘it’s bad to think like what people think of prostitutes because we’re exactly the same as everyone else’. The key thing is, women working in prostitution are just people like any other; they’re not different or immune to harm somehow. We tend to ignore groups with a lack of political power – even if they face extraordinary abuse. Throw sex into the mix and everyone seems to get a little confused about coming down hard on abuse, and starts talking about choice. Choice – some women can exercise this to a certain degree when entering the sex industry (‘is this the best of the limited choices available to me?’) – others, who have been trafficked, cannot. See my post on sex slavery / trafficking here. Getting sidelined into this argument doesn’t ultimately help prevent violence against women. And this is my key aim.

In my own research about prostitution, I have been dismayed, but ultimately unsurprised, by the discovery that some men who buy sex have been found to consider women who work in prostitution ‘unrapeable’, that they believe they are buying the right to do whatever they want to their ‘purchase’.

‘Look, men pay for women because he can have whatever and whoever he wants. Lots of men go to prostitutes so they can do things to them that real women would not put up with.’

This quote is from Julie Bindel’s study ‘Men who buy sex’ – an NGO study which focuses on the people driving demand for sex as a commodity, not the women selling it. 27% of the men in this study believe they could engage in any act they please once they’d paid for sex. A quarter thought the idea that a women involved in prostitution could be raped was ‘ridiculous’. 42% believe that women ‘did not always have certain rights during prostitution’ – so if they say no, they have no right to. Kinnell (2008) also argues, such men believe that ‘buying sex entitles them to do anything they want’ or that paying ‘gave them the right to inflict any kind of assault they chose’. Prostitution seems to me an open door, allowing men to commit violence against women and get away with it – because, what, prostitutes are ‘different to normal women’, ‘sluts’ or ‘whores’?

This attitude positions women involved in prostitution as exactly what Q perceives herself to be in the eyes of ‘normal’ society – different. Unrapeable. Unable to assert her rights, to say no, to refuse to submit to any act being perpetrated on her body. And in seeing these women as different, normal men are perpetrating abuse they would not perpetrate on a woman they respected, saw as a human with their own desires and needs, or would have a relationship with. So Q ends up in the position of a woman who is used, disrespected, abused and raped by men who think this is acceptable because she is a certain kind of woman, an ‘other’ in relation to women they choose to associate with normally. And because of what? The transaction of money passing hands – this changes the process entirely. If a woman were subjected to the abuses Rebecca Mott details on her blog and she had not received money for it, would we not consider it differently? Would we not be calling it abuse, rather than work?

‘I hate to know and say that being raped just by a penis in the vagina was a relief, if that was all a punter wanted. It was almost nothing.
No, the prostituted are drown[ed], are strung from the ceiling, are penetrated in every hole in their body including ones too small, are burnt, are thrown out of moving cars, are sexually tortured for many days and nights.
That is just a tip of the hell we have known.’

I’m afraid I can’t bring myself to detail the abuses that Rebecca Mott went through, but if you’re feeling brave enough, please do read this post – in order to understand what we were excusing by talking about ‘choice’ so flagrantly. In my mind, receiving money for sex does not mean a tacit agreement that abuse should follow – especially given the Home Office figures that 45% of women involved in prostitution were sexually and /or physically abused as children, 70% spent time in care AND most entered prostitution as children – these are not women with the luxury of choosing another life. Some figures state that child abuse endured by women in prostitution (before entering) is as high as 75%. To condemn them as ‘scum’ and ‘slags’ (Q’s words) is to detract from the much greater issues at play behind their choices and to excuse the abuse they suffer on the basis of our privileged position to judge them as such.

Prostitution is not illegal in the UK. What is? Running a brothel, loitering or soliciting sex on the street, kerb-crawling. Who do you think gets pulled up on these and given a criminal record? That’s right – the women involved in prostitution. Not the men with free choice not to buy sex, but women, 95% of whom have a drug habit, women trying to look after children, women who are homeless, women who were trafficked into this country or within this country, women who see no way out, who had so few choices to begin with, women who know nothing else, who cannot report any injustice against them for fear of being jailed themselves, women who are psychologically and / or physically controlled by pimps. I do not believe our system is fair and just. Why are we punishing those without the power to improve their lives? This is why I recommend a group called NorMAs – Nordic Model Advocates – who will be lobbying the government to punish the men who buy sex, those with real choices, those driving demand to keep an industry rife with abuse of women alive. The fines these men receive would then be used to help women involved in prostitution get off drugs, receive housing, counselling, other professional options – give them a better life. This is not legalisation, but it is also not criminalising women in prostitution. The system has been successfully employed in Norway, Iceland and Sweden – hence ‘the Nordic Model’. Ireland, France, Denmark, Northern Ireland and Scotland are looking to follow suit. We now need the UK government to stand up and take notice.

‘[…] when I first started doing it, I cried my eyes out every day and just scrubbed myself in bleach and… I felt like I’d been raped. It was just… It really screwed my mind up. And there’s this feeling when you get…when you’re with a client and it’s like sometimes you feel like… you grab your fists and it’s like, ” Get off me! Get off me!” And it’s like you can’t push them off you, right? Because you know you’re getting paid for it. So basically it’s allowing yourself to be raped, right? […] and you cry while it’s happening […] and you go home and you cry yourself to sleep after all that shit, and it happens to you a lot of times until eventually that feeling goes away […] And you become hardened in your like… your heart and your soul to it, and this is when you get the hatred for men.’

What’s especially touching in In Her Own Words is reading the long, unedited segments of Jacobs’ transcript, as above. This is where Q’s voice comes through so strongly – and my soundbites here do the full publication little justice, so I would urge you to download your own copy. Sadly, Q is no longer with us, but this heartfelt transcript of her conflicted feelings towards her life is powerful indictment of society’s stigmatisation of women involved in prostitution as people to shame and punish, rather people who need more consideration than that damning allows.

I believe the majority of women working in prostitution would like different choices to begin with, the ability to exit if they do sell sex, and our compassion and empathy as vulnerable human beings a situation of abusive control and daily rape. Many thanks to Ruth Jacobs for sharing her research with us. You can download a copy of In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl here and the money will go to a charity called Beyond The Streets working to end sexual exploitation in many areas, including prostitution.

Ruth Jacobs’ website is here and you can follow NorMAs (Nordic Model Advocates) on Facebook here.

Useful links:

A selection of survivor blogs – there are many more:

 

http://therealsgm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/16-days-of-action-on-violence-against.html

 

Objectification: it’s no small thing

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I am frustrated. I’ve had yet another conversation with men full of rape apologism and no remorse. It all started, as it always does, with objectification.

Candidate number one is a repeat offender on this front – you could set a timer from the point he walks into a room and when the talk about women’s body parts. I’d estimate it’s about two minutes (max.) before something is said, and then he goes for it, full steam ahead. Today it was because of the Olympics, which is ironic, because I had just managed to sort of, maybe, get over the commercial capitalist machinery of it all and had been enjoying seeing women given an equal platform to men in something. (Ok, it’s been riddled with sexism – with women flying economy and men first class, and commentators getting carried away talking about women’s hair or over-masculine appearances – but I was trying to see some positives.) I will admit that this is the first time I have experienced a competition where the general public seem to be equally encouraging towards the women as they are to men, so that’s pleasing. And then the talk started about how you can Google Jessica Ennis’ bum, how she’s ‘really fit’ (British slang for attractive) except her shoulders are ‘just a bit too broad’ and her husband just isn’t ‘fit enough’ for her. People are ridiculous. This escalated to evaluating every athlete in the line-up on the basis of her appearance (‘oh yeh, she’d get it’). When I pulled him up on it, he said he probably spent 96% of his time talking about his perceptions of women’s sexual attractiveness. What a sad life. (Knowing him, this probably isn’t far off, either.) Funnily enough, I’m not interested in the minutiae of who he finds attractive (the list is endless, it seems) and why (this never involves evaluating their faces). Now, I could just write him off as an arsehole. But that isn’t helpful for anyone.

Because his opinions don’t exist in a vacuum, he isn’t a one-off and his attitudes have wider repercussions – especially when we live in a culture that fosters rape and does not punish it when it occurs. (You all know the pitiful conviction rates and stories about juries being biased by the fact the woman was wearing a skirt, and therefore ‘invited it’ – or whichever particular rape myth they rolled out on that particular day. For the Truth About Rape, see here.) I tried to explain how viewing women as objects, and therefore dehumanised, is one of the major reasons why perpetrators of sexual violence are able to commit their crimes. Because if you saw that woman as a well-rounded human, equal to you, considered them as someone you had respect for, you wouldn’t be abusing her or touching her without consent. I tried to explain about the normalising of sexualised attitudes to women in society (at least partially) accounting for the prevalence in rape. Objectification is by no means a small thing, happening in the private sphere without wider implications. Your attitude is heard and absorbed by the next person, and if it’s horrifically damaging, you might want to think about that. He wasn’t bothered, as long as he was unaffected (this is a similar argument that men who buy sex tend to make), and claimed not ‘to understand me correctly’. Basically, me telling him he held similar atttidues to a rapist slid off him like melted butter. So I’m afraid I have to come to the conclusion, sir, that you are not overly intelligent. It’s a no-brainer that women presented as sex objects, existing for the male gaze and not for themselves – with a life beyond men, relationships and sex – and the acceptance of this sexualisation as normal, is not going to result in a healthy societal attitude towards women. Because we are bombarded with thousands and thousands of adverts using this tactic daily – the estimated number we see in a day is astounding. We are also very susceptible to implicit cultural rules and norms, as Cordelia Fine explores in her book Delusions of Gender – even people who report progressive opinions, when their implicit attitudes are tested, are very affected by basic black and white stereotypes such as women = weak, men = powerful, women = empathisers, men = strategisers. We carry gender stereotypes around with us in our subconscious, even if we don’t consciously subscribe to these beliefs. What a silly world.

Anyway, candidate number two chipped in with his tuppence about how girls must like it when men comment on their appearance and how they can’t hear us anyway – they’re on tv. Hate to break it to you, but being constantly evaluated on the basis of your appearance is a poor existence. It’s pressure many constantly fight against, for fear of being found lacking when held up to society’s unforgiving standards of what is ‘beautiful’. Being scrutinised on the basis of appearance is a fundamental cause of many women’s insecurities with their body, resulting in multifarious psychological problems including eating disorders, self-harm, body shame and depression – it has all sorts of adverse effects. Women are trained to see beauty as success, but with beauty being so elusive and ever-changing according to fashion, we can never win this war. So we are constantly assessing ourselves as not good enough. This can also lead to us undernourishing our other areas for potential: by spending all that time, effort and money on the upkeep of our exterior, rather than our interior. In addition, I, and women in general, do not exist for the purpose of your visual titillation. So to answer that astute rebuttal to my points about rape culture, no – I don’t want your opinion on my appearance, I’m not flattered, and well, give me some credit, for Christ’s sake! It is conceivable that I don’t care what you think. To be fair, this is the man who told me that he went into a department store for the sole purpose of perving on the women behind the make-up counters, adding that he knew that’s why they’re at the store front, and felt it was the store’s fault for using that tactic to draw him in. (Funny, I’d just go with you needing to change your attitude to women, rather than it being their fault; although aggressive marketing using women is two a penny.) To add insult to the injury of him telling me this perverse story as if it were appealing conversation, he added that he had gone on the escalators for the sole purpose of getting an aerial view of said women on the make-up counters. He also mentioned their awareness of him looking. And he’d ended up buying two shirts because the escalators had landed him in menswear – this also the store’s fault. Now, the storeplanners are good, they may use the women to draw you in, potentially, but they’re not THAT good – they didn’t know about your debased aerial view technique. So again, I’d come back to you having the problem.

Can you imagine me, alone, in a room with these guys? This is how I find myself, no friendly boyfriend anywhere in sight to defend my side. I ended up, frankly, very angry and frustrated. Because I feel like I read so much sensible literature, I meet all these sensible feminists who know how badly sexual violence is dealt with in the legal system and by the police in this country (broadly), how we’re failing survivors of rape, sexual abuse, prostitution and so on. They know the stats, they know the facts, they know the reality – and often,  sadly, have the lived experience to boot. And then in an instant, a couple of flagrant misogynists can come along and make me feel impotent in the face of such huge societal attitudes and the mechanisms of capitalism clicking away and profiting off the mantra ‘sex sells’.

This is why it’s so important for us to all work together to say we’re not having it. I called these guys out, and I hope, despite their resistance, that something I said got through. We need to continue to do this in our personal lives, and we need to continue all the wonderful campaigning. Don’t let the objectifying bastards get you down! Objectification is a giant, massive, gargantuan issue feeding into so many others, it’s no small fry.

The Sun and the misrepresentation of women

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English: Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Murdoch at t...

Image via Wikipedia

Who knows what Rupert Murdoch, Dominic Mohan et al. are really up to behind closed doors at News International? However, one thing’s for sure – as more and more details about the hacking scandal come out, it’s not a pretty picture that’s emerging. As far as I’m concerned, The Sun is no more than a glossy magazine dressed up as a newspaper; the only difference being that sometimes the content is about current affairs rather than what so-and-so wore to the Oscars. I say ‘sometimes’ because on the day of writing, The Sun’s front page headline is ‘Girl Eats 4,000 Sponges’. I didn’t read the rest of the article, because needless to say, it looked like codswallop. Utter rubbish. However, despite my reservations about giving The Sun’s official website yet more traffic, in the name of research I thought I’d check out this story that was clearly so world-defining that it made the front page ahead of say, ooh I don’t know, genocide in Syria? (Out of interest, I googled what stories The Guardian was running on the same day and the second from top was James Murdoch being removed from News Corp’s board – oh, the delicious irony.) The offending article was actually rather long for a Sun article, and gave quite in-depth coverage of the girl in question’s addiction to eating objects that are not food (a condition called pica apparently). However, I really don’t think it was about raising awareness of how miserable pica can be. In all honesty, the article looks mostly like an excuse to profile a young girl that fits the mould of what Sun readers would probably deem attractive – and then feature multiple photos of her provocatively posing with sponges. Bizarre, yes; surprising, no. Any excuse to sexualise, however mildly, and The Sun are there, loud and proud.

Dominic Mohan recently told the Leveson Enquiry that the daily page three photograph of a nude woman was ‘meant to represent […] youth and freshness’ and ‘celebrate natural beauty’ and amounted to an ‘innocuous British institution’, despite four woman’s groups with expertise in rape and domestic abuse claiming they believe the pictures are damaging to the general perception of women in society, and therefore to their equality. During the Leveson enquiry submission by the aforementioned women’s groups, Anna Van Heeswijk of Object said of the disparity in reporting standards for women and men:

We have to think about what kind of story this tells when they see men in suits, in sports attire, men as active participants and subjects, and women as sexualised objects who are naked or nearly naked on every page in the case of the Sport.

It’s more harmful to have these images in mainstream newspapers because of the normalising effect it has.

This is the key here. The Sun is a huge newspaper. According to Wikipedia, ‘It has the tenth-largest circulation of any newspaper in the world and the largest circulation of any daily newspaper in the United Kingdom.’ It sold approximately 2.7million copies a day in 2011. It therefore has a responsibility to the public not to propagate unhelpful portrayals of women. Page three, and depictions of women throughout the The Sun, showcase us as primarily sex-objects, instead of celebrating our achievements as people. Perhaps The Sun ought to re-address their definition of the word ‘innocuous’. Pre-watershed boobs? This can only be described as pornography. (Definition: ‘writings, pictures, films, etc, designed to stimulate sexual excitement’.) Yes, these pictures are there to titillate the gentlemen reader. They serve to pander to his whim of wanting to legimitately see naked women without feeling ashamed of it. They serve to normalise looking at such images in public spaces, in front of strangers, in front of colleagues… What about the large demographic of female Sun readers? How do they feel about it? They probably don’t want to question it in case of being labelled a prude. Equally, they may not even question it at all, because we are so used to this ‘institution’. Boys will be boys and all that. Usually the word is institution is used for a long-standing tradition that serves some purpose. This particular ‘institution’ of nudity serves no other purpose than to show a one-sided view of women. And no, I don’t want any children of mine exposed to that by accident in a newsagents.

I don’t mean to diminish the condition the girl on the front page suffers from, but check out this quote concerning the eating of soap and sponges:

I’m so proud she has worked hard to fight this condition and is recovering through counselling. She is really brave to talk about it so openly.

These are the kinds of sympathetic quotes it would be great to see The Sun print about survivors of serious crimes, such as rape. Instead, The Sun is known for trivialising serious crime against women by choosing pictures of the women in question in scantily clad outfits to accompany the articles. In addition, when challenged, The Sun and all of its might launches full pelt into attack. When Clare Short questioned the place of page three in a newspaper available for purchase by children, they notoriously (albeit under previous a Editor) labelled her – on the front page no less – as ‘fat’ and ‘jealous’, claiming it would be ‘impossible’ to make her into a page three girl. The presumption here is that there is intrinsic value in being attractive rather than having a value system and something to stand up for as Clare Short did. Yes, it would be impossible for Clare Short to be a page three model. Because she has better things to do with her time! I’m afraid it is attitudes like this, that trump atttactiveness over any other characteristic for women, which make rape victims less likely to report their attack.

If a woman has been raped and looks around her for support, what will she see? Perhaps she will find a rape helpline, or the shoulder of a friend to lean on. Perhaps she will walk past a newspaper stand and perceive that the dominant voices of society, such as The Sun, are only proposing one view of women – as half-clothed and posing for men’s gaze. Perhaps she will then feel that it is inevitable that she is treated as a sex object and that she cannot fight the ‘powers that be’. In the vulnerable position of being a victim of crime, women need to feel they are valued as more than the sum of their body parts. Media portrayals of women that are significantly different to portrayals of men reflect inequality in our society. Why is there no page three man? Because it was trialled and failed. Why? Because men are widely accepted as being more than sex objects. Women are only sometimes accepted in this way. And this makes women feel less secure that they will be taken seriously in reporting crimes. Unfortunately, it is often the case that prejudice is present in our police system and reported rapes are not properly dealt with, but that is for another post. Either way, crimes should still be reported so that we have a more accurate idea of the scale of the problem. Currently, we can only guess at the number of rapes committed.

The Sun is certainly doing women no favours at being taken seriously for their merits in clothing. It’s certainly doing women’s self-esteem no favours by portraying only one type of ‘ideal’ body. It’s certainly doing nothing for survivors of serious crime that are unsure how they will be received. I, for one, would like to see that change. Are you with me?

You can support the Turn Your Back on Page 3 campaign here.