You’ve heard about the Sun tabloid kerfuffle. The Sun is one of those British newspapers with giant print and giant celebrity heads on the cover page and maybe a giant headline involving one of the celebrity heads and a hamster. It’s popular. For over forty years now it has also featured a girl on Page Three with no top on. A woman girl–not a girl girl.

I don’t know if the Page Three girls get paid or are just in it for the exposure. I’d be sorry if they don’t get paid even a little, because that would make them no better than writers and musicians, who can’t give their stuff away fast enough these days. But, in either case, there seems to be no shortage of willing Page Three girls, and roughly twice that many titties. It’s been a working franchise.

Lots of people have been upset about Page Three over the years, because it objectifies women. So when The Sun suddenly up and stuffed a Page Three girl into a bikini recently, it was a huge deal. Feminists declared a victory of sorts. I’m not especially persuaded, myself. If a bikini is that much of an improvement, it’s kind of saying that it’s all about the nipple. As though nothing would restore a woman’s dignity more expeditiously than a nice set of pasties. At any rate, a few days later the bluff was over and the topless Page Three girl was back, winking. It was all a big tease.

Americans are weirdly prudish about sexual displays. We like to keep all that business under the counter where there’s no chance anyone will become inured to it. When I started out as a letter carrier, Playboy magazine and its competitors came in a plain brown wrapper so as not to unduly arouse the subscriber’s children, or mailman. The plain brown wrapper was open on either end, and proved to be one bit of technology that was easily overcome, even by employees of the Postal Service. At some point I guess enough subscribers complained about their magazines being delivered with the best pages stuck together that they switched over to a sealed black plastic wrap.

America’s Finest

This was a sad day in post offices across America. All that the American mailman had left to look forward to was the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and its coincidental one-day bump in overtime statistics.

As a ploy to sell a guaranteed number of newspapers, though, it’s hard to beat the Page Three girl. Our own local newspaper could profit from the idea. They couldn’t have any toplessness–this is America, after all–but surely they could rig something up with strategically placed graphics and sidebars. They already have plenty of graphics and sidebars to spare; they use them to keep the news tidbits from bumping into each other and inadvertently forming an in-depth article.

At any rate, although I am surely a feminist, I tend to regard this squabble over the nudity as something of an antique concern. We were pretty upset about the objectification of women in the ’70s, particularly in advertising, but things have improved a lot since then. (Now we objectify everybody.) I get more worked up about conditions for women in Africa and the Middle East and stuff like that. Maybe The Sun can come up with a fresh ploy. Mix it up. Maybe on alternate days, page three can feature pictures of moist layer cake. Maybe they can carefully hide two verifiable items in their regular reportage and challenge alert readers to Find The Facts. Or maybe just keep the titties on page three and the dicks on the masthead.