Naked and (un)ashamed

19 Sep

The British royals have been in the limelight recently. Three of the extended royal family have been caught in various degrees of “undressedness”, to the horror of some of their loyal subjects, and the amusement of others.

Prince Harry was the first. I must say, I have less sympathy for him than for Kate, whose circumstances were somewhat different, as we shall see in a moment. Anyone has the right to party in Las Vegas if they so wish – and can afford it – but being a public figure of note, and third in line to the British crown, HRH Prince Henry of Wales should have thought a little more carefully before getting himself into a game of strip billiards with an assorted crew of recently acquired “friends”. The very least he could have done is ensure his bodyguards confiscated all mobiles before allowing people in, though brushing up on his pool skills beforehand might also not have been a bad idea…

Prince Philip, aged 91, was next. His exploits do not seem to have hit the same level of public attention but are nonetheless there. Some reckon it was deliberate, a stunt to show tacit support for his grandson, who was certainly feeling the heat of the public gaze, and divert some of that attention to himself. But I doubt it – his seems more like a genuine slip-up to me. Wearing a traditional Scottish kilt he had joined his wife, the queen, at the second day of the Highland Games in Braemer, Scotland. What was not immediately evident, though, was that he was also wearing his kilt the traditional Scottish way, “going commando”. Scenes from Mel Gibson’s Braveheart come to mind. He was unfortunate enough to be sitting at one point with his knees just far enough apart for a photographer to “capture all”. The photos, mostly duly censored with an appropriately placed picture of the “crown jewels”, were soon doing the rounds of the internet.

And this week there was Kate Middleton. The timing could not have been much worse, coming as the Duchess of Cambridge and her husband Prince William were on a state visit in Malaysia; covering her head to enter a mosque contrasted rather with the photos of her topless published in a French gossip magazine. The legal battle will rage for some while to come – were the photos taken from a public road overlooking the 19th century hunting lodge, for example, or did the paparazzo invade private space? French privacy law is the strictest in Europe and Closer magazine will no doubt end up paying the maximum €64,000 fine, but that is small beer next to the increased revenue this series of photos will bring them. What is more, the magazine shows no remorse, rather being happy to offer the image of a modern young couple, royals or not, in pictures that are “full of joy” and definitely “not degrading”. Their British counterpart has no intention to publish the photos, nor will the sensationalist press, arguing that these photos do in fact constitute a deliberate invasion of privacy, unlike the photos of Prince Harry which were already enjoying massive internet circulation before The Sun defied the British Crown and printed them.

So varying degrees of naked, and varying degrees of shame – and anger.

Art, pornography, indecency, acts of protest, medical examinations… the naked human form is treated differently in different circumstances, but never goes unnoticed. Nakedness is not neutral; sexuality governs our relationship with our physical form.

In the beginning, where we have to look to understand things “as they should be”, we were “naked and unashamed”. (It is worth remembering that God’s original purpose also provides clues as to where we are ultimately headed too.) But after sin broke the harmony of that first garden, it was God himself who provided clothes for the unhappy couple, conscious as never before of nakedness and nervously attempting to cover their own shame.

I look forward to the day when there will be no more shame. But until then, we are stuck with it. Without being prudishly Victorian, the power of our sexuality requires necessary taboos to protect our dignity and individual worth; we break these at our peril. Our sexuality is a beautiful gift from God. But it has its place, and the internet or front page of sensationalist tabloids is definitely not that place.

P.S. My apologies for the gap in posting. Moving, starting new life in a new country with new responsibilities… didn’t leave loads of head space for much else :-)

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