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

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

How the French stay so slim while we British balloon can’t ever be reconciled

Rosie Millard
The plan could lead to up to 15,000 people being operated on annually  

The obesity crisis affects the whole of Europe... apart from France

Rosie Millard
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'