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Cambridge students in controversial "Rear of the Year" competition

A CAMBRIDGE University student newspaper has been accused of portraying women as "sex objects" after encouraging female students to pose in just their underwear across campus.

The Tab, which is published online, asked readers to vote for their “Rear of the Year” contest, with five scantily-clad women flaunting their posteriors.

One wears stiletto shoes and lace knickers to pose in the University Library, as others wear just their undergarments for an x-rated shoot.

The competition has already drawn criticism from women’s rights campaigners, who say they are “disappointed” some of the brightest young minds in Britain were portrayed as "sex objects".

The editor of The Tab newspaper has defended the competition robustly, saying they had operated a policy of sexual equality by running a similar competition for men.

It is not the first time the tabloid has courted controversy, after it ran a “Top Totty” feature for female students to exhibit their bodies around the university two years ago.

Despite widespread criticism, it has continued to run a “Fit College” competition, where students are pitted against one another on their looks, and interviews with prospective “Fit Councillors” who were quizzed on their genitalia and sex lives.

In the latest in a series of scandals, they have now invited readers to judge five willing female students based on photographs of their rears and a short description of their erotic preferences.

Ruth Graham, 23, Cambridge University Student Union Women's officer, said: “This is hardly a new development.

"It is unsurprising that the Tab continues to reproduce the usual sexualised images of faceless women that we see in the media every day.

"The Tab's supposed nod at equality of objectification, by producing a men's 'rear of the year' story, is evidently superficial, given that whilst the women are featured wearing lingerie, the men are featured urinating and cooking."

“This kind of portrayal of women as sex objects not only plays to tired gender stereotypes, but it also reinforces the message that only one kind of beauty is acceptable, and it is a thin, white image.

“This is a harmful message to reproduce and one that we ought to be stepping away from.”

She also highlighted research identifying links between “these portrayals and attitudes that underpin violence and discrimination against women”.

Another critic commented the behaviour was “not appropriate for the library”.

The contest has received a mixed reaction on publication’s own website, with some readers discussing how they would like to “smash” the girls, and another saying simply: “Urgh”

The pictures, which were all taken from behind by necessity, do not identify the girls, who use just a first name alias to enter the competition.

One, calling herself Meredith, poses in the prestigious University Library wearing just her underwear, reaching to select a book from the highest shelf.

Another girl, Bella, wears stiletto heels to model a cropped black shirt and laced undergarments in what appears to be her bedroom.

A third girl, who described herself as a “self-confessed frotteurist” who “loves nothing more than rubbing her bosoms on the smooth sand-blasted doors of Emmanuel College”, wears just a pair of knickers.

Joe Bates, the 20-year-old editor of The Tab, said the competition was “just a bit of fun”.

The music student, from Gonville and Caius College, said: "We have treated girls and guys in the same way.

"The feature started with guys so I would reject any criticism that we have been anti-feminist.

"People make the anti-feminist assumption, but it says more about people's reactions to it and the difference between male and female at is held by them.

"The competition has been very popular, we have received lots of good comments. It is just a bit of fun.

"All the entries were anonymous. The university library is very large so the chances of getting caught are slim."

A Cambridge University spokesman did not wish to comment.