Is The Sun about to set on page 3?: A critical view of when representations of sexual content in the media are considered a moral issue.

* MA Theology, Media and Communication: Media Ethics assessment requirement: 500 word blog piece about ‘sex in the media’, and the ethical implications this can pose. The question above is what I chose and this is the piece that I wrote*

This blog will develop the argument that women are portrayed as sexual objects in The Sun newspaper through the use of ‘page 3’ which can have ‘social and sexual implications for women’ as argued by Barrie (2002, 6). The blog will then analyse the ethical and moral role of ‘page 3’ in The Sun and argue for regulation of the images.

Research has shown that exposure to sexually objectifying images of women have led women to be more accepting to violence (Papadopoulous,201az0,11), encouraged promiscuity (Duits & Zoonen, 2011, 492) and self-objectification (Aubrey, 2006, 367). As a result there have been calls to ban ‘page 3’ in Parliament through; Claire Shorts’ Indecent Displays (Newspapers) Bill in 1986 (Franklin, 2008, 118) and the commission of the review into analysing violence against women and girls in 2010. (Papadopoulous, 131628532010).

In 2012, the ‘No more page 3’ online campaign was launched which has been supported by Caroline Lucas, Green party MP (BBC, 2013), UK girl guiding and 35 Students’ Union in which many have agreed to remove The Sun from commercial outlets, including Chester Students’ Union. (Chester Students’ Union Student Council, 2013, 3).


The full extent of the implications of ‘page 3’ alone as opposed to sexually objectifying images as a whole on the audience is still generally unknown as further research needs to be conducted to evaluate whether having topless models as part of the most read newspaper in Britain (Newsworks, 2014) has the same social and sexual implications as sexual images on television, magazines, advertising and film as a whole.

However, there are ethical and moral implications for the use of page 3.

caroline-lucas-page-3-newspaperFirstly, what role does ‘page 3’ serve in newspapers? Journalism should, according to McNair ‘present us with an ongoing narrative about the world beyond our immediate experience’ (2003, 23). Journalism should also produce ‘no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of … gender’. (National Union of Journalists, 2011) and in English Law the use of material with a sexual nature such as a topless calendar in the work place is harassment against an employee. (Equality Act 2010, Part 2, Chapter 2, s. 26, explanatory notes).

Secondly, should images of a sexual nature be available for all to see despite regulation of other media outlets showing the same content such as television? (Ofcom, 2009).

Thirdly, feminist thought would argue that the use of page 3 applies to; ‘constructing, maintaining, reinforcing and perpetuating patriarchy’ (Crook, 2010, 188) to ensure the inequality between men and women remains in society. 

With these examples, it is clear to conclude that the use of page 3 in newspapers such as The Sun do not serve the purpose of; journalism, the law or feminist thought. A suggested alternative would  be to regulate the use of ‘page 3’ images by; banning page 3 completely, to remove the newspaper from view of a young audience or for the newspaper to move online with age restricted access.

However, Libertarianism would argue that the press should be of ’free expression’ (Ward, 2011, 149), therefore would it be ethical for The Sun to be regulated at the expense of the freedom of expression? On the other hand, Deontology would argue that limiting the freedom of expression in this case is a necessary duty to ‘maximise the good of the greatest number’ (Ward, 2011, 96).

In summary, the use of page 3 in The Sun, is a substantial moot point in government, Higher Education and society. Questions have been raised about the need for ‘page 3’ in The Sun, however the balance of regulation and the freedom of expression needs to be fair. Therefore, sexually objectifying material of women in newspapers should be regulated similarly to television, films and plays to protect people from the social and sexual implications.

As a result, regulation of this nature would allow The Sun to remain as a form of news outlet; conforming to the law, the NUJ and ethics, however the images would be removed.










Barrie, G. (2002). Media Sex: What are the issues?. Taylor & Francis: e-library.

Crook, T. (2009). Comparative Media Law and Ethics. Routledge: London.


Franklin, B. (2008). Pulling Newspapers Apart: Analysing Print Journalism. Routledge: Oxon.


McNair, B. (2012). News and Journalism in the UK. Routledge:London.





Aubrey,. J, S. (2006). Effects of Sexually Objectifying Media on Self-Objectification and Body Surveillance in Undergraduates: Results of a 2-Year Panel Study. Journal of Communication, 366–386.

Duits, L., and Van Zoonen, L. (2011). Coming to terms with sexualization. European Journal of Cultural Studies. 14: 49.


Papadopoulous, L .(2010). Sexualisation of Young People.




BBC. (2013). BBC newsworks. Retrieved 18 March, 2014, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-22873790

Chester Students’ Union student council. (2013). Chester Students’ Union: Student Council Minutes. Retrieved 16 March 2014, from http://www.chestersu.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/15-11-13.pdf


Ofcom. (2009). Ofcom: Guidance Notes, section one: Protecting under 18’s. 5. Retrieved 16 March, 2014, from http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/broadcast/guidance/831193/section1.pdf.


NUJ. (2011). National Union of Journalists.: NUJ Code of Conduct. Retrieved 16 March 2014, from, http://www.nuj.org.uk/about/nuj-code/

(2014). Newsworks: Circulation figures. Retrieved 17 March, 2014, from, http://www.newsworks.org.uk/

(2012). No More Page Three. Retrieved 17 March, 2014, from http://nomorepage3.org


Equality Act 2010









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