At least Salome held on to her seventh veil

Share

Everywhere we turn, women are baring all. From the pregnant Demi Moore down to TV presenters and
Tatler girls, no excuse so flimsy but serves for lingering studies of female nakedness. Famous and unfamous, young and middle-aged alike, they are peeling off for celebrity shots in newspapers and magazines, feeding a demand for nudity so relentless that readers often have to be told who the "celebrity" is.

Everywhere we turn, women are baring all. From the pregnant Demi Moore down to TV presenters and Tatler girls, no excuse so flimsy but serves for lingering studies of female nakedness. Famous and unfamous, young and middle-aged alike, they are peeling off for celebrity shots in newspapers and magazines, feeding a demand for nudity so relentless that readers often have to be told who the "celebrity" is.

It's part of a wider trend towards exposure of every kind, no personal detail too intimate to be revealed. Anthea Turner's account of her marriage breakdown and illicit love affair contains a lengthy description of how she first had sex with her lover in her marital bed. Later, the reader follows her to the kitchen as she breaks the news to her husband and watches him weep. There's more, and worse. In Turner's story, her husband, her lover and his wife all become part of the circus, and it's a real Roman holiday.

What is driving this? Female exhibitionism has been with us since Salome, but she knew the value of the seventh veil. Some of the "new nudies" such as Amanda Foreman may have products to promote, and sales of her book about an obscure 18th-century duchess suffer nothing from Foreman's striptease. But most do it from a furious attention-seeking that screams, "Look at me!" at all costs. That in itself argues a deeper malaise, a life so hollow at the core that any recognition is better than none.

Emotionally defunct males jump off mountains or take up sky-diving, tasting death to make themselves feel more alive. Women throw themselves off emotional cliffs, breaking taboos of taste and privacy for the same inner burn. Madonna is queen of the genre, and for her, it has worked. Most women who fly this route crash, like Paula Yates.

That is not to say that women should not enjoy their bodies and sexual power. A major triumph of 20th-century feminism has been the extension of this basic human right to women. Older women ready to show their bodies on stage, billboard or screen are also a welcome reminder that women's sexuality deepens with experience, something history had always known. Legendary lovers such as Cleopatra remained captivating all their life, and Arthur's queen Guenevere was still the most desirable woman in Britain in old age.

But today's emotionally empty frenzy of self-display argues nothing but a world of sensation-seekers that implicates us all. The sensation of watching the sensation-seekers out-sensationalising themselves is an authentically postmodern experience that leaves us all more alienated. More compromised, too, because we learn things we should not know, details that stick to our souls like the stuff on the sole of your shoe.

It's a game of diminishing returns. We look in vain for some shred of human truth amid the strident stereotypes, clichés and crude sentiment. "I was a golden girl," mourns Anthea, but she broke "the silver thread of marriage" because "we were playing with fire." These are real people, you think. Surely one touch of nature must make the whole world kin.

But only in Shakespeare, it seems. Ever since our frog prince found himself and his Cinderella cast in a fairy-tale romance and wedding, the separation of fact from fiction has had us all in thrall. The pictures and confessionals continue to pour forth and be consumed.

And the women pressing forward, breasts, bosoms and life stories at the ready, why should they stop? Lord Byron once spent a society ball sulking in an archway, refusing to eat or dance. "How long will this go on?" the hostess asked one of his friends. "As long as we go on noticing it," was the reply.

The author's Guenevere novels are published by Simon & Schuster

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Belong: Volunteer Mentor for Offenders

This is a volunteer role with paid expenses : Belong: Seeking volunteers who c...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Apprentice Telesales & Marketing Opportunities

£10400 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
A Del Tajo la Reina's bull falls during the second  

Spain's torture of bulls has hit a gruesome peak this year – and no thanks to the EU

Mimi Bekhechi
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests