‘Why do men wear swimming trunks?’ my daughter asked.

‘Because they’re good to swim in?’ I volunteered.

‘But why don’t they wear swimsuits?’ she pursued.

‘Ah… ladies wear swimsuits because their boobies are private, but men’s aren’t.’ Probably a rubbish answer, but interesting in view of this post, which I had been struggling to write, or at least to get to the point of.

Women’s breasts hold a curious place in the public domain; both intensely private and yet also public property – Page 3, Zoo, Nuts and their nipple-counting ilk.  You see, there’s naughty bits, and then there’s royal naughty bits.

Yes, following on from Gingernutsgate, now there are pictures circulating of the norks of the England’s future queen. And what’s more they were taken by dastardly Frenchies! Curse those garlic-chomping, beret-wearing, zoom-lensing swine! If only they hadn’t killed off their monarchy, otherwise British paparazzi could go and take pictures of the unsheathed baguettes of their heirs to the throne, and see how they like them onions, huh?

But they can’t, so the press will just have to whinge, while secretly being pissed off that they can’t show the pictures because tabloid royalism ultimately has to trump naughty photos. It’s always fun watching them in a resentful froth.

The media view was that Harry was, and is, a naughty boy, and ought not to have compromised himself in that way. His security, having been roundly criticised, did come back with the fair enough point that they had to give him some kind of normalcy, for example not confiscating all photographic devices in his vicinity, and the freedom to make a tit (or indeed an arse or nob) of himself.

The Duchess of Cambridge, was, of course, preserved in a finely woven cocoon of disgust against those revolting Frog – or now it turns out they might have been English – snappers daring to have an ultra-long shot at the Royal Funbags. Unlike Harry, she can’t be said to have done anything to deserve it as such, having merely gone the ‘when in France’ way and had a bit of casual bikini-free time. Although the editor of a Danish magazine publishing the KateGate pictures claimed that she ought not to have been such a hussy as to have been ‘revealing her breasts towards a public road’, as though they were some kind of mammarial missile-launchers that might have blown up passing cars.

Yet Harry is second in line the throne (wait a minute, third, sorry Chuck), hardly unimportant, so it all says something about our gender attitudes as well. A famous bloke’s bits are funny and silly, and a bit inappropriate, but a man is generally supposed to keep calm and carry on should his unmentionables get into the public domain. Plus it’s his job to deal with it. But a royal lady’s boobies are no laughing matter (stop sniggering at the back) – they are entitled to their dignity, I tell you, and if you’re the right kind of person, there are legions ready to defend it.

Today, though, revealing photos are not just a matter for the famous – a few days after I wrote this down, my thoughts about breasts being public property was also brought up in an interesting and alarming article by Kira Cochrane the Guardian. The piece explores the charming fields of revenge porn and creepshooting. The first being where pictures of women are put up online by vengeful partners, or anyone who might have got hold of compromising pictures, the latter being the ‘art’ of taking salacious pictures of women in public for the express thrill of getting a cleavage shot without her consent.

Cochrane writes of how, in the case of revenge porn, blame is often cast upon the woman in question. Unlike our Kate, individual victims of shots made or shared without consent don’t have a national media or an outraged public to defend them  and may face their studies, job or business being imperilled because they are blamed for having ‘allowed’ such a picture to have got into the public domain. And the picture may not even be of her at all if there’s no face shown, but nonetheless be put up on a site where it’s linked to her online social profile. Or it might have been sneaked by one means or another from an entirely private set of digital pictures that have never been shared with anyone. So, a neat way to bomb someone’s chance of getting that job, for example, if those pictures will come up with a quick Google, and no, that’s not a euphemism. Indiscreet slut until proven otherwise. Or married to a royal.

Most of us are not stalked by half-mile zoom lenses and snappers in helicopters, but we’re still left feeling exposed in a camera-filled world. People can say ‘Simple – never take any compromising photos’, but while we do need to use a bit of judgement with risqué snaps, the wrong is with those who abuse such images and the people in them.

And the consequences by gender are interesting to compare: a man, if he’s not famous and this is all the wider public have to go on concerning him, is more open to accusations of being a pervert or creep, unjustly or otherwise; a woman tends to be seen as a slut who maybe deserves a bit of physical violence (oh, some people are such ‘controversially humourous’ cards!). The naked male ‘forces himself’ on us or is just a joke; the naked or dishabille woman ‘exposes herself’ to us, and is either a matter for salacious drooling, or else tutting and shaking of heads at her sluttiness. Oh, or if she’s not seen as attractive then she can be seen as a joke, too, because everyone knows ugly women are funny.

It’s easy to forget that naughty bits are attached to human beings – they may be naughty or nice, they may have put themselves out there willingly or unwillingly.  When we reduce people to their component parts, or their private parts, we lose the person, the identity and end up slinging around ideas like ‘slag’ or ‘perve’ without much really to go on. The famous, even the royals at the end of the day – I don’t see Windsor crashing to the ground over this, do you? – can keep on trucking, but it’s the incidents that don’t hit the headlines that can cause real damage. So be careful out there, and be sure not to direct your nipples towards public roads.

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