I’m not especially concerned whether we’ve seen Kate’s boobies, or the specific legal and moral cases for doing so. I’m rather more concerned with the UK’s public and media outcry over the matter, and the gross disparities this furore illustrates in both class and gender terms.
Kate vs. Harry (and Wills and Grandad)
On 24th August, Dominic Mohan, editor of The Sun (circulation 2.6 million) made the “long and hard” decision to publish the photos that emerged of Prince Harry, who had been partying in Vegas. These photos were first published by American website TMZ. Accounts suggest that Harry and those in the photo had been playing strip billiards (as one does) in Harry’s hotel room. St. James’ Palace (the spokesbuilding for the royal household) contacted the Press Complaints Commission and asked that they refrain from publishing. The Sun’s defence was based on the argument that the 3rd in line to the throne’s actions were “of public interest”. No other British papers published them, but many discussed the photos in even terms, for example suggesting Harry acted inappropriately. On 28th September, the Palace dropped their PCC action.
On 13th September the French magazine, Closer (‘la presse people’) published topless photos of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (hereafter DOC) sunbathing on honeymoon near Aix-en-Provence. Analysis by The Times suggests the photographers must have been on the D22 motorway, over 500m (two football pitches) away from the private villa. St. James’ Palace again contacted the PCC, and released a statement saying, “A red line has been crossed.” No British papers published them, and most heaped reproach upon the French (and later Irish and Italians) who had. The Sun ran with the headline “IT’S A KATE CRIME!” When asked about this choice, Mohan explained:
“”The Sun has no intention of breaching the royal couple’s privacy by publishing these intrusive pictures.
The circumstances are very different to those relating to the photos of Prince Harry in Las Vegas. As we said at the time, he was at a party in a hotel suite with a large group of strangers and one of those present released a photograph into the public domain.”
-Mohan quoted in Campaign.
This seems to be bollocks. This seems to be largely meaningless language surrounding the gender assumptions and consequent actions of the media. These assumptions are as follows:
Men: Often get drunk, do silly things, flirt and act without thinking. Their bodies are largely unremarkable. They are, however, independent, strong and quite able to take a little offence. It’s fine to criticise them and abuse their privacy.
Women who aren’t whores (see below, or HERE) are pure, virtuous, delicate, honourable, weak and in need of defence by men. Their bodies are roughly as holy as Muhammad. It’s abhorrent to consider publishing anything which might compromise their privacy, and anyone who does is vile, republican, Catholic-European, or degenerate internet geeks.
Porcelain women need protection, presumably by all the red faces and hot air Middle Britain can produce. Men don’t. Indeed, virtually no-one has pointed out that William was also photographed in his underwear – the poor poor man! More astonishing, there has been fuck all on a pic of the Duke of Edinburgh letting it all ‘hang loose’ under his kilt, which one enterprising American managed to angle.
Mohan’s blither over this is just window-dressing. He knew he couldn’t break ranks with Kate’s Boobs, because the Sun readership would lynch him. But all the arguments were the same.
Public interest in Harry?
When in private, (i.e. with friends) Henry Charles Albert David Windsor relaxes, has fun and gets drunk. He also possess a body.
Public interest in Kate?
When in private, (i.e. with her husband and Viscount Linley’s family) Katherine Elizabeth Windsor relaxes and sunbathes. She also possesses a body. It is highly likely that she has consumed alcohol, on the basis of numerous other photos.
The ‘privacy’ defence seems bollocks too (pardon the pun). Harry was in his own hotel suite, and would presumably not have acted in the way he did in the ‘public eye’, neither would he have granted photographers permission to photograph him if he was. If the issue is consent (which I happen to think it is) then the cases are practically identical. Whichever of Harry’s friends, who must have been implicitly or explicitly trusted with this potentially-embarrassing situation, took pictures and sold them, in full knowledge of the consequences, seems to be just as great a target of vilification and moral condemnation as Anonymous French Paparazzo.
Kate vs. Everyone Else
Hate to break it to the Cambridges, but plebs get papped all the time. No, I don’t mean “paid and photographed by publications” or “photographed at public events which they attend in full knowledge they’ll be photographed” – I mean papped in exactly the same way Kate or Harry were papped.
Many in recent memory were as bad, or worse, than the rather blurry (I’m told) royal snaps. An innocent little google of “paparazzi nude photos” gives me apparently long-lens, non-consensual photographs of Gwyneth Paltro, Maria Sharapova, Jennifer Aniston, Mischa Barton, Janet Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio + woman, and Sienna Miller. That’s just page one. There was the leaked video of Tulisa Contostavlos (a singer) performing oral sex on her boyfriend. Vanessa Hudgens, star of High School Musical and the apogee of cinematic endeavour, Sucker Punch, was forced to publicly apologise after naked photos of her were published. The photos were private, but Disney (HSM’s producer) released a statement saying, “Vanessa has apologized for what was obviously a lapse in judgment. We hope she’s learned a valuable lesson.” No, she had a human relationship. All lapses of judgement were on the part of whoever leaked the snaps. In contrast, Heat! magazine apparently apologised to Her Kateness for publishing (relatively innocuous) photos of her in a supermarket.
Vagenda frequently highlights and savages the frequency with which gossip magazines photograph celebrities – at the beach, without makeup, kissing other humans, etc etc. There is no public outcry. Millions of people buy these magazines, or they would not exist. Yes, Miller had her spot at Leveson, which was important, but was nothing like Kate-gate.
There is clearly a set of double-standards going on regarding the public’s opinion of privacy for people in the public eye. Princess Diana, Jacqueline Kennedy or DOC – fire and brimstone. Tennis, music and acting stars – muted muttering and the distant sound of fapp.
The women I allude to are not included in the public’s aforementioned “women who aren’t whores” category. Various media figures have stated as much – the argument runs ‘they are in the public eye, they sometimes benefit from media attention, so deserve it’ or ‘they should expect it’. Many even state the argument as, “We’ve seen their bikini-bods/breasts/everything before in x film/music video/revealing outfit, so they are happy to be photographed naked, they bring it on themselves, so it’s fine that we do it again”.
Well, let’s suspend our knowledge of the fact that Kate also knowingly married into quite an important public-facing role, because the British press clearly have*. The difference between Kate and other women is class and occupation. Quite patently, the population see these women as less-than-moral, and their dignity as deserving little defence.
The argument, as you might already appreciate, is astonishingly illegitimate. It shows the sort of prejudice I discuss HERE. It is precisely the kind of reasoning that SlutWalk and similar initiatives are working against – let’s call it ‘The Slut Argument’ – and here is a simple response to it:
It is perfectly possible for a person to consent to an action in one set of circumstances, but to withhold consent to that or any similar action at any other time. Consent cannot be presumed.
I will illustrate this with an analogy. I have, in the past, played rugger (a game a bit like American Football, US readers). I would be quite shocked if, when in Tesco, or walking around my village, or in a nightclub, or on a beach, or in a secluded French villa 500m from any activity, a complete stranger ran up and tackled me. Quite shocked.
Whether you are male, female or trans*, royal, upper-middle-class, working class, a stripper, a prostitute, a butler, a CEO, gay, straight, bi, queer, clothed, unclothed, swimming, flying, eating mayonnaise from the jar or any other fucking activity, you have the exact same right to privacy, and right to take offense when someone invades that privacy.
So it comes back to the ‘public interest’ justification. Oh, flimsy dear. Oh, oh. What can the public possibly learn from these photos?
1.) Britain is sexist.
2.) Britain is classist.
3.) British and foreign celebrities possess bodies.
4.) France is hot.
*Indeed, after his abdication, Edward Saxe-Coburg and Wallace were able to take quite a low profile. Kate chooses to accompany Wills on his tours, which Wills chooses to do. They’re as much celebrities as Jordan or Piers Fucking Morgan.
Feel free to comment!