Responsible reporting of rape and sexual assault

Reports of sex slavery and rape alongside naked pictures on page 3 minimise sexual violence and titillate the reader. Yet more reasons for #nomorepage3.

This kind of sensationalised reporting causes real harm by minimising and eroticising sexual violence against women. The fact is that stories of abuse which are placed next to soft porn on the next page are designed to titillate. It is deeply discriminatory and underlines the need for Page 3 to go and for more responsible reporting of abuse. Furthermore, it is essential for women’s groups and other third parties to be able to complain to the new press regulator about discriminatory reporting.”

On nomorepage3:

From nomorepage3.org

This front page precedes the usual Page 3 feature with topless 21 year old Sabine and over the page  on Page 4 a big headline ‘Slave gang forced me to have sex with 5 men at a time.’Where newspapers and other publications cover awful crimes such as rape, trafficking and child sex abuse it is vital that language and tone is carefully chosen. That the public are made aware of these things is obviously important but it is crucial to consider carefully the language used and the placement of the story so that the seriousness is not lost and that survivors of this and similar crimes are aware that they are being regarded with total respect. It is NEVER appropriate to use the crime of rape to titillate readers or to trivialise it by placing it next to pictures meant to arouse. Not only is this very likely to traumatise any rape survivor and belittle their experience it also potentially feeds into a culture that considers rape as less than a violent crime and therefore supports rapists by reinforcing and reaffirming that their act was perhaps not “rape” at all.

Rest: nomorepage3.

4 Comments:

  1. Steve (@steve_twenty)

    So you believe the person reading the paper will think rape is more acceptable after they’ve finished? I can’t picture that myself…

    • It’s all very subtle. First, the constant reminders that women’s bodies are always available, primarily objectionable and for male use, and of little value is what is key here. Second, the presentation of objectifying images of women beside stories of sexual violence imply that rape is about sex, desire and pleasure (rather than violence). Third, the presentation of reports of rape, which are already framed in sexual rather than violent terms, next to sexualised images increases the titillation of the reader.

      • Steve (@steve_twenty)

        “the constant reminders that women’s bodies are always available” – in picture form, you mean?

        Pictures of naked women along with stories of sexual violence imply that rape is about sex, desire and pleasure? How so?

        Do you believe the editor doing this intentionally, or it was just the case that there was a big story which of course gets put at the front of the paper?

        “the presentation of reports of rape, which are already framed in sexual rather than violent terms” – Are they? How so?

        “next to sexualised images increases the titillation of the reader.” – You believe the reader is fantasising about having a sex slave because there was a naked girl on the previous page?

        • This is about the ways in which women and their bodies are portrayed.

          How so: pictures of naked women imply that women are always available, objectified and for pleasure. The placement of these pictures beside reports about rape is important because of the purpose of page 3 images and the ways in which those reports are framed. Research on media (and particularly the tabloid media) has told us that rape reports often use sexualised descriptions (e.g. how a victim was undressed by her attacker), sexualised imagery (e.g. a woman wearing little clothing), and sexualised language. On that last point, the act of rape is very often called “sex” implying a pleasurable act rather than rape which is a violent act. (Indeed, the term “sex slave” in the piece in question conflates sex and rape.) So, on one page, there is an image that is there to arouse and on the opposite page there is a titillating description of a violent act. The latter is accentuated by the former. (And all the while, women’s bodies are portrayed as being open access.)

          The editor: his/ her primary concern is to do whatever to sell the publication and there is a whole list of criteria to fulfil in order to do that. Titillation is one such criterion.

          The reader fantasising about having a “sex slave”: no, I did not say that. I said that the placement of page 3 alongside rape reports minimises and eroticises the act of rape.

comment/ discuss/ express/ dance if you have to.