“Save The Boobs”!

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 7.6 million deaths (around 13% of all deaths) in 2008, whilst breast cancer is the principle cause of death from cancer among women globally.

According to Cancer Research UK, more than 48,400 women were diagnosed with breast cancer – approximately 133 cases per day. It is also the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 7% of all cancer deaths. According to Cancer Research UK, breast cancer accounts for around 15% of female deaths from cancer, and is the second most common cause of cancer death among women in the UK, after lung cancer.

Despite lifesaving developments, we are still no closer to a cure today, than we were two decades ago. Therefore, we regularly witness cancer charities releasing donation appeals; emphasising the importance of supporting their research.

This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in support of America’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, PornHub, the world’s third largest porn site, has launched a somewhat controversial fundraising venture by announcing that it would donate 1 cent to the Susan G Komen Foundation breast cancer charity, for every 30 breast-themed video viewed on the site. The company claims they receive about 70 to 90 million clicks per month, which would amount to a donation of approximately $23,333-30,000.

However, the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen Foundation has said that it wanted no part of the campaign, stating: “We are not a partner, not accepting donations, and have asked them to stop using our name”. This raises the question as to why, when bearing in mind the reliance upon charitable donations for important research. Furthermore, is it ethical for the Komen Foundation to turn down potentially life saving donations, particularly as the foundation has faced much criticism for threatening to pull funding to Planned Parenthood, leading to a significant drop in participants for their “Races for Cure” events? I question whether a charitable donation from a pornographic website is really so unethical, that it is worth rejecting money that may save lives.

The pre-controversy press release from Pornhub states:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re into itty-bitty-titties, the perfect handful, jumbo fun-bags or low-swinging flapjacks, what matters most is that your kind and selfless gesture will go a long way towards helping our sisters to find a cure.

This isn’t the first time Pornhub has taken action to combat breast cancer. Six months ago, the website brought their “Save the Boobs” bus to NYC to rescue Manhattan’s mammories by spreading awareness. So how can you help save the boobs this time around, you bravely ask?

Simply visit the landing page on Pornhub’s site (link available upon request) and follow the prompts, or head to the ‘categories’ tab on Pornhub.com’s home page and choose either “Small Tits” or “Big Tits” videos, then sit back and let the good times bounce.

The Save the Boobs web page will keep track of the total unique visits for the month so be sure to encourage your red-blooded friends and family (yes, tell your fathers too) to become a hero of the headlamps and a champion of the cha-cha’s!”

One major problem with the press-release is insensitive and disrespectful language. The final paragraph even goes so far as encourage the partners of breast-cancer patients to leer at attractive young women with healthy breasts, whilst their wives/girlfriends may be undergoing the trauma of a mastectomy. When a charitable campaign potentially makes women feel insecure about their bodies, therein lies the problem; but, had the press-release been less insensitively worded, by perhaps omitting the final paragraph, would the source of the donation really be so unethical?

There is no denying that a large percentage of men and lesbian women are attracted to breasts, and pornographic websites and images have always been irrefutably popular. A high demand for pornography, and sexualisation of breasts will always exist in our society, whether we like it or not, and breast cancer awareness is unlikely to make pornography anymore (or, indeed, any less) sexualised than it already is. Whilst promoting and exploiting the sexual objectification of breasts may seem inconsiderate when so many breast cancer patients are undergoing mastectomies, and losing their hair as a side-effect of chemotherapy, sexual objectification exists regardless of breast cancer campaigns.

Yet, breast cancer charities readily accept donation money from a number of junk-food manufacturers, ranging from Cadbury’s to KFC, who have also taken the opportunity to exploit the breast cancer Pink Ribbon campaign. Ironically, charities are accepting donations from the sale of the very foods that the cancer charities and health officials advise us to avoid. Scientific studies have long acknowledged that cancer cells thrive on glucose. Foods with a high glycemic index (GI), which causes a sharp rise in blood glucose, trigger the secretion of insulin and insulin growth factor (IGF-1), thus promoting cancer growth. Yet, we have witnessed Cadbury’s produce a pink ‘Flake’, McVities produce pink packaged Jaffa Cakes, and Lucozade produce a pink drink – All are foods that are high in sugar and fat, and have donated their proceeds to a readily accepting breast cancer charity. If cancer charities are accepting donations from an, arguably, unethical source that is contributing to a serious public health issue and costing lives, why is a donation from PornHub considered any more unethical? After all, welcoming donations from the manufacturers of potentially carcinogenic foods, is perhaps akin to a lung cancer charity accepting donations from a cigarette company.

Perhaps the issue has more to do with the discrimination of male sexuality, than it has to do with ethics. Surely, it is more unethical to refuse a donation that could potentially help to save lives, particularly when donations from foods that potentially contribute to cancer are welcomed, just because of an inherent discrimination of male sexuality. Yet, a number of nude or imposed nude calendars have been sold over the years – including calender pictures that objectify men to fund raise money for cancer charities, which, arguably, is not any more ethical than money donated from a pornographic website.

Australian Rugby Player, Dene Halatau, poses nude for a Breast Cancer calender

Newcastle’s female students pose naked for charity

Despite any good intentions, critics of Breast Cancer Awareness Month have complained for some time that the campaign has become a form of commercial exploitation. L.A. Times writer Rosie Mestel published a blog post in 2010, on so-called “pinkwashing”, and writer, Christie Aschwanden has reported on “the downside of awareness campaigns.” Suzanne Reisman wrote in her blog post: “Why I Don’t Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”:

“Where are the campaigns to figure out why, once diagnosed, black women have longer delays in getting diagnostic results than white women? TheTheologiansCafe is soliciting topless photos to raise money for free mammograms for low-income women and asking women if they would pose nude for a good cause. (I’ll pause for a moment so I can be polite.) While that’s a nice idea — helping women get a mammogram — the real question is how are these low-income women supposed to pay for treatment if they find out that they have breast cancer? Will there be more topless photos taken?”

Meghan Casserly wrote on her Forbes.com blog:

“Breast cancer awareness month has bugged me for years–I imagine the cheap plastic factories overseas churning out all manner of things, rubbing their palms over how quickly American women open their wallets to anything pink or emblazoned with the Susan G Komen ribbon. I may be the biggest cynic in the free female world, but it’s a marketing charade I just can’t get behind”

Commercial exploitation of cancer awareness campaigns in an attempt to boost profits, may be unethical, but when so many lives are lost as a result of a cruel disease, surely we should all put our aside, and accept the much-needed charitable donations that such commercialism offers. Not everyone can afford to pay monthly donations to a cancer charity, and some may feel ashamed if they can only afford to contribute a small amount when they do contribute. Another issue is the questionable ethics of charities selling the details of their patrons onto other charities, and the regular mail from charities sending raffle tickets, and requesting more money once a charity have a person’s details on file. It would appear that charities are also guilty of exploitation.

Exploitation and capitalism may be unethical, but surely a charitable contribution through the purchase of a product or service that a number of people would have purchased regardless of a breast cancer campaign, is a cloud with a silver lining.

Had PornHub offered to donate to a Prostate Cancer charity, I question whether the donation would have faced the same refusal, or the same level of opposition from feminists. In response to my tweet, Men’s Rights Activist, Tony Chiaroscuro, from ‘A Voice For Men’, tweeted:

“If porn was viewed and funded donations to prostate cancer treatment/research, guys wouldn’t bat an eye… and given it receives significantly less awareness and funding for very real instances and deaths, maybe pornhub should.”

The prostate cancer charities that I contacted, have not yet responded to my question as to whether they would accept a donation from a pornography website, thus, we can only speculate.

Meantime, PornHub.com says it is now looking for a new recipient for what it classifies as a “significant” amount of money. It will be interesting to see if any charities will ultimately accept PornHub’s financial contribution.

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Page 3 of The Sun – Are Naked Breasts Really So Bad?

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There is much media attention surrounding the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign launched by Lucy-Anne Holmes, aimed at banning topless models featuring on page 3 of the The Sun newspaper.

The petition is a hot-topic on Mumsnet, and supporters include Eliza Doolittle, Jennifer Saunders, Frances Barber, Lauren Laverne Frances Barber, Tony Hawks, Chris Addison, and Graham Linehan. Caitlin Moran has tweeted: “Teenage tits aren’t news OR a feature.”, and Janet Street-Porter wrote in The Independent: “Page 3 girls started in the 1970s as part of a tabloid circulation war. They seem so old-fashioned today… it’s hard to see how a pair of nipples can sell a paper in 2012.”

At the time of writing, the ‘No More Page Three’ petition had reached 45,376 supporters. Yet, despite 45,376 signatories, recent figures published by the National Readership Survey suggests that that “a pair of nipples” do not deter a person from buying a paper, as The Sun is the most read newspaper (both in print and online) in the UK, reaching an audience of approximately 13.6-million per week. Based upon these figures, it would appear that the majority of the UK population do not have that much of an issue with Page 3.

This latest campaign to abolish page 3 as we know it, is nothing new. In 1986, Labour MP, Clare Short, was branded “fat, jealous Clare” by the newspaper when she launched her campaign against page 3. Last year the feminist campaign groups, ‘Object’ and ‘Turn Your Back on Page 3’, made a joint submission about “the hyper-sexualisation of women in the press” to the Leveson inquiry. MP Evan Harris also backed the campaign, stating: “Why should it be considered acceptable and mainstream in hypocritical family newspapers to portray women in this way? It’s just wrong in my view that this should be seen as normalised.” Dr Harris added, “These images can be available for adults if they want to access them, but they should have to reach up to a higher shelf than what is at the general view for young people.”

Why are we so offended by the human body, and is page 3 really as degrading as the protesters claim?

Lucy Holmes felt the necessity to launch the latest campaign after reading a copy of The Sun during the Olympics. Despite the extensive coverage given to the victorious achievements of British female athletes such as Jessica Ennis and Victoria Pendleton, Holmes stated the dominant female image in the paper was “a massive picture of a girl in her pants”.

Journalist, Deborah Orr wrote in The Guardian that “The Sun’s Page 3 is the highly visible tip of misogyny’s iceberg”. Orr claims:

‘A lot of women feel the people who want an end to Page 3 are uptight harridans, envious, bitter, prudish and prescriptive. They would love to be glamour models themselves, given half a chance. They want it for their daughters. You can see them in any city on a Friday night, hobbled by their Lycra dresses and towering heels, so keen to be viewed as “empowered” that they can barely walk…. They are on Team Katie Price, those women, not Team Lucy-Anne Holmes.’

Being neither in support or condemnation of Page 3, I would like to believe my view is a little more objective. I am not at all enamoured by the “busty-babe” look, and I am most certainly not a woman who is on “Team Katie Price”. In fact, when spending time at a friend’s house during my childhood, we would sometimes spend our afternoons giggling at the nonsense printed in The Sun, which her father would leave lying around on the kitchen table we used to do our homework. We would draw moustaches on the face and a bra on the breasts of topless page 3 models, etc., and draw big breasts, fangs, and long hair on John Major and William Hague, whilst (supposedly) working on algebraic equations. “Dear Deidre” – The Sun’s Agony Aunt page, was also a hoot. Yet, I do not pretend to understand the minds of those who buy The Sun because, to be perfectly honest, I am now educated and middle-class. However, I do possess a keen sense of humour, and this has ensured that I have never taken frivolous tabloid stories, or Page 3, too seriously. In my view, The Sun is little more than an adult comic bought by the working-class, and is not really a “family newspaper”. It is only deemed a “family paper” because it happens to be stumbled upon by the rest of the family, as they lounge around on the sofa watching daytime TV, or happen to find it lying on the kitchen table when grabbing a snack, or perhaps whilst the children do their homework – which, of course, was my first encounter with the paper.

Not every person shares my permissive perspective, however. Deborah Orr seems to believe that glamour models affect a woman’s sense of self worth, stating: 

‘I remember, as a teenager, studying the breasts of the women who appeared in the tabloids, and fretting about the dismal fact – to me, then – that mine weren’t “like that”.’

Contrary to Deborah Orr’s belief, not every woman wishes to have large breasts, or to look like a glamour model. Not once have I ever looked at a Page 3 model and compared my body to hers, nor have I ever aspired to look like a glamour model. Every person has a different take on what they believe to be attractive. Furthermore, if Page 3 were to be abolished, and more “positive” body images were featured by the media, such as pictures of victorious Olympic athletes like Jessica Ennis, the new body comparison will subsequently become, “My abs don’t look like that”, or “I’m not that muscular”. The subsequent trend could, thus, become a cocktail of steroid abuse, over training, and eating disorders; instead of the breast augmentation and eating disorder combination that society is familiar with at present.

Women will always be of the belief that her outward appearance is dependent and related to her personal worth. No matter how confident one particular woman is, she will always compare herself to other women. As psychologist A. Schopenhauer has stated: 

‘ … women are all in the same profession (competitors for the attentions of men), they all stand much closer to one another than men do, and consequently strive to emphasize differences in rank.’

In many cases, this is unfortunately, true. An interesting study can be found in this psychological article: R. Joseph, Competition Between Women (1985), (Psychology, 22, 1-11, 1985).

Ironically, the misogyny Orr suggests, appears to lie not in the media’s sexualisation of women, but in womens’ hatred of sexualised women and their naked bodies. If that were not the issue, one must question why this campaign is so focused upon naked breasts on page 3, and not the unpleasant, opportunistic, civilisation-eroding content, and the blatant lies that so regularly appears on other pages of The Sun. This is, after-all, the newspaper that invented the phrase ‘gay plague’, and ironically, if anything is at all misogynistic in the paper, it is some of the text and headlines featured on pages 1,2,4,5, etc. Why is Page 3 such an issue, and why are the campaigns not drawing attention to Mail Online and its “sidebar of shame“? It would appear that the petition is rather distastefully using the subject of misogyny merely as an attempt to rally support. Let us remember that the term ‘misogyny’ means a hatred or dislike of women. Surely, those who enjoy looking at the women on Page 3, are more philogynistic and misogynistic, because if they hated women, why would they wish to ogle at their breasts? Does a woman with a hatred of men enjoy looking at a penis? – No.

Nevertheless, the politician Lynne Featherstone has felt it necessary to focus her argument on a different aspect of misogyny, by specifically linking page 3 to domestic violence – an assertion made without any evidence whatsoever. In her “farticle” ‘Page 3 pictures cause domestic violence’ against women‘, Featherstone claims: 

‘When you know that one in four women experience domestic violence in their life, two women are killed each week by their partner or husband, there is a very long way to go. While a lot of blokes say ‘You are mean, sour-faced, whatever – it’s harmless’, actually it’s not harmless at all.’

Perhaps Lynne Featherstone would be interested to learn that despite her absurd assertion that Page 3 pictures somehow drives men to kill their partners, the National Centre of Domestic Violence statistics suggest that 1 man dies every 3 weeks as a result of Domestic Violence perpetrated against them. However, due to factors such as shame and embarrassment, most men will not seek help to get out of the abusive relationship. Approximately 4 million men are affected every year by domestic violence, and practically the same percentage of men as women are victims of severe acts of Domestic Violence. Bearing in mind the large amount of non-reporting, official Data from Home Office statistical bulletins and the British Crime Survey show that men made up about 40% of domestic violence victims each year between 2004-05 and 2008-09, the last year for which figures are available. In 2006-07 men made up 43.4% of all those who had suffered partner abuse in the previous year, which rose to 45.5% in 2007-08 but fell to 37.7% in 2008-09. Yet, men assaulted by their partners are often ignored by police, have far fewer refuges to flee to than women, and usually see their female attackers get away with their crimes.

I think this goes some way in invalidating Featherstone’s unsubstantiated assertion that page 3 is the cause of domestic violence. This is, of course, assuming the victim is female, and not the man – for, ironically, looking at page 3 pictures.

If the mere sight of naked breasts really are too offensive to have a place in a ‘family newspaper’, as the protesters claim, I must also question why it is considered acceptable for women to openly take her breasts out in the middle of Starbucks to breastfeed her child in public, whilst in front of a number of families with young children. Consider the vast number of “Breast is Best” pictures published and broadcast on daytime television, in order to promote breastfeeding, not to mention the large-scale breast cancer campaigns featuring photos of naked breasts, and topless women on daytime television shows, such as ‘This Morning’ – a program broadcast before approximately 11 hours before the watershed, and viewable by young children. Last year, the family TV show, ‘This Morning’, featured a woman with the largest breasts in the world (ironically, this link is to the Daily Mail – another “family newspaper”), and most recently a feature on a man with the world’s largest penis. Yet, there was no furore over either. There are also the vast number of breast photos published in school encyclopedias and anatomy books, used for so-called educational purposes, and are uncensored. The Guardian also features this picture:

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Reproduced from article ‘The wonder of breasts’, featured in The Guardian newspaper.

If it is the sexualisation of breasts that is the problem, rather than the image of breasts per se, why are there no protests against adverts such as that for Herbal Essences Shampoo? This is, after all, an advert that sexualises both the hair and product, whilst portraying the man as useless and humiliated. The Western world condemn Islam for oppressing women and forcing them to wear a hijab, which essentially prevents the sexual objectification of hair in the same way as wearing a sweater does for a woman’s breasts. Yet, if we find the objectification of hair to be acceptable, when we condemn Islamic countries’ condemnation of oppressing women with a hijab for the equivalent reason the Western countries revolt the revealing breasts, is this not further hypocrisy?

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Herbal Essences is, by far, not the only example of sexual objectification. Just take a look at some of these examples, and furthermore, women are not the only ones subject to it. Take into consideration how the Lindt advert with Roger Federer and the adverts for Emporio Armani and H&M featuring David Beckham, and the infamous Diet Coke advert, all objectify men just as much as women. Yet, if this objectification were reversed and instead featured female objectification, there would be the same ever-so-familiar heated debate on the subject.

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Also consider that naked breasts are not the only form of sexualisation in the media, which again discredits the argument against page 3. Bear in mind that for a foot fetishist, a photo of bare feet can be just as provocative as a page 3 photograph for a man who likes large breasts; and for a hair fetishist, the sexualisation of hair in a Herbal Essences advert, may also be provocative. Furthermore, there are a number of websites for those with a breast feeding fetish. Consider how a person with such a fetish will sexualise a woman who chooses to breast-feed openly in Starbucks (which is her right), in a similar way that women, who autonomously model for page 3, are sexualised by another.

One of the signatories of the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign has stated: “How are women meant to be taken seriously in the workplace when this is how they are seen?”. I argue that abolishing page 3 pictures will not change the perception of glamour models, as long as pornographic sites exist. In fact, page 3 is far less obscene than pornographic sites, which so often reveal women and men performing a number of lewd acts, which I shall not mention here. Whilst glamour models may, perhaps, degrade themselves, it is their autonomous choice to do so. Just because some women like to be objectified, does not make it wrong, and as long as the objectified person consents to being objectified by others, where is the problem? Live and let live.

If the answer is to reject any form of glamour modeling in order to prevent women from degrading themselves, it would not only infringe their right to autonomy, but it would drive the industry underground where it cannot be regulated. It would also result in the loss of newspaper sales, and less work for models, photographers, and publishers. At a time of economic downturn, this is surely not advantageous.

It is important to remember that sexual taste is incredibly diverse and complex. Not every man is attracted to the sight of breasts: Some may be sexually attracted to bare feet, just as some women may be sexually attracted to the sight of a “beer-belly” – because being with an overweight man makes some women feel less self-conscious about their own “imperfections”. It would appear that any photo could potentially be subject to sexual objectification depending upon the viewer and their sexual preferences. Perhaps the campaigners should review their protest, and call for a ban on all photos – or just airbrush out all people, just as Ikea removed women from the Saudi Arabian Ikea Catalogue. 

I am sure that even the ‘No More Page 3’ supporters would find this a ludicrous proposition.

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A photo from the Swedish Ikea catalogue (left), next to the modified picture in the Saudi Arabian catalogue. (Image reproduced courtesy of BBC)

Microchipped Kids

The recent abduction of 5-year-old April Jones in the Welsh town, Machynlleth, has sparked much public and media interest as the search for April continues. The abduction has lead to much debate on the social networking site, Twitter, as to whether children should have a GPS microchip implanted at birth.

The question is, will microchipping really help us keep children safe?

Brazilian millionaires are already tagging their children in an attempt to thwart kidnappers, and in the Brazilian city of Vitoria da Conquista, children up to the age of 14 have had electronic chips implanted into their school uniforms by the authorities, in an attempt to combat truancy. The students’ whereabouts are fed into a central computer when school starts, and teaching staff are informed immediately if a child is absent.

Based upon Brazil’s example, it might appear that microchipping could very well be a good idea, particularly as many people now also microchip their beloved pets. The process is quick, and the insertion is simple.

However, microchips have been known to work free of the skin in pets, which could perhaps pose a problem with a more boisterous child. In fact, many pets have still managed to go missing without a trace, despite being microchipped. Bear in mind that April Jones was left to play outside unsupervised, in the belief that the neighbourhood was safe. If microchipping were to become common place, it may lead to further false security, where parents believe that their child is safe because they are both microchipped, and living in a “safe” neighbourhood. This is all the more problematic when one considers the possibility of a microchip working free from the skin as a child is playing, and the possibility that the chip could also be removed surgically by an experienced kidnapper.

At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, if GPS microchipping were to be funded by the NHS, there is perhaps the additional concern of the information possibly being stored on a government database throughout a person’s life, and a concern as to how the information might be used by the authorities in the future, leading to an invasion of privacy.

One could argue that where there is “nothing to hide; there is nothing to fear”. Yet, at a hacker conference in 2006, Annalee Newitz and Jonathan Westhues showed that they had successfully cloned an RFID chip implanted in Newitz. A home-built antenna let the hackers steal the unique ID contained on the chip, which apparently lacks any sort of security device. If a chip can be counterfeited, this might suggest a possibility of the ID implanted under a child’s skin, being stolen by identity thieves – At least in theory.

In-body RFID chips have generated a considerable backlash of protest, and there are claims that the chips cause cancer. Citing a number of animal studies, CASPIAN’s new report, Microchip-Induced Tumors in Laboratory Rodents and Dogs: A Review of the Literature 1990–2006, suggests a causal link between implanted radio-frequency (RFID) microchip transponders, and cancer in laboratory rodents and dogs. The report claims that in almost all cases, the malignant tumors, typically sarcomas, arose at the site of the implants and grew to surround and fully encase the devices. The report also claimed that the tumors were malignant and fast-growing, often leading to the death of the afflicted animals, and claimed that the implants were “unequivocally identified as the cause” of the cancers.

The report recommends that any further microchipping of humans be immediately discontinued; and that all implanted patients be informed in writing of the research findings and offered a procedure for microchip removal.

There are also a number of additional risks that the FDA already recognises, such tissue reactions, chip migration within the body, and the possibility of the chip carrying a current from MRI magnets resulting in burns.

If I can interject my own opinion, I would suggest that the under-skin microchipping of children is over-hyped, and until more research is undertaken, should not be implemented anytime soon – if at all. Although a very young child is not legally competent to consent to the procedure, and the decision is that of the parent; is it ethical to implant a microchip, given the potential risks, and the likelihood that the child will wish for it to be removed later in their life? Furthermore, as long as there are people who wish to harm children, it is unlikely that such perpetrators will be deterred by implanted chips. It is, therefore, crucial that parents teach their children not to speak to strangers when not accompanied by a guardian, and for parents to keep a close eye on their children.