Okay, I admit it – I couldn’t resist a peak at the Kate Middleton photos. You know the ones I mean. Even though it was out of curiosity more than anything else (really!), I’m definitely not proud and a little embarrassed (not enough not to write this though, apparently). Anyway, I have to say my reaction was somewhat less than scandalized. The invasion of privacy and all that, yes, definitely scandalizing, but the pictures themselves? Left me wondering A) what’s the big deal about nipples? Because pretty much everything else is visible in a bikini, so they must be what all the shock-and-awe is about, yet, unlike some body parts, literally all of us have them (for further reference, see “nipplegate”), and B) don’t people ever get tired of looking at identical female bodies? From the neck down, Kate Middleton could be pretty much any white female celebrity or model. She has a fine body, an attractive one even, but looking at it I couldn’t help but feel like I’d seen it a million times before, even though this was technically the first time. You’ve seen one uber-thin, long-limbed woman, you’ve seen ‘em all. Of course, it’s different when it’s an actual person rather than a media construct imposed upon one; affection transforms many things, among them the beloved’s body, which becomes something precious and fascinatingly unique no matter its contours. Without that though, the constant parade of indistinguishable female flesh becomes just…tiresome. Looking at those photos really brought that home to me.
I suppose that’s not why the pictures were taken or why the photographer was able to sell them for however much they were though: it was about the shiver of surprise people get from seeing an icon in the flesh and realizing she’s actually human and in the grand scheme of things not all that different from themselves, just as hostage to her physicality. Or maybe it was about an illicit thrill of seeing someone who’d been so carefully packaged and presented to the world without all the trimmings (debatable as that is: is she really free of them in the images in question? Can she ever be?). Whatever it was, it was definitely more complicated than a simple hunger for more female nudity. It’s not like anyone is starved for that in this day and age. What people are hungry for, what I was hungry for, was something else. The question I’m still mulling over is what.