Well ... there is the post-feminist line that this can be considered an expression of
self-confident, equal women's sexuality, that they exercise choice and control. It can also be argued that the viewing male [a presumption in itself of course] audience is rendered a weak supplicant before this display of inner strength.
That can be debunked (isn't this free market rhetoric too easy, not to say optimistic of how things actually work, and the power relations at play?)... but shouldn't be glibly dismissed.
Here's a snippet from a feminist's rebuttal of a defence of page 3 by The S*n's new editor:
Putting naked "ladies" on Page 3 is a "good way of selling newspapers", according to David Dinsmore, the new editor of the Sun. It's such a cunning wheeze, indeed, that the tabloid's normally upmarket sister title the Times has started to follow suit.There is an element of the postmodern to Dinsmore's line, which effectively collapses any distinction between a tabloid topless photograph and an art piece.
Consider the picture above, part of a new exhibition of erotic Japanese paintings at the British Museum in London, brazenly covering about one-tenth of page 3 of the Times on Wednesday. "This is Japanese art – Spring Pictures as it's euphemistically called," said Dinsmore in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live. "It's given the editor of the Times the opportunity to put a naked Japanese lady on page 3, which as we know is a good way of selling newspapers."
Its an interesting contemporary debate, with social media playing its part (Murdoch famously replied to an opponent's tweet), some advertisers boycotting the S*n after pressure from campaigners, the Girl Guides raising their objections, even an MP being rebuked for wearing an anti-page 3 t-shirt!
Read more on the Media Guardian's page 3 microsite; more links to follow.