I am not what you’d call an exhibitionist.
I didn’t grow up in an underpants-only kind of household. When changing for gym class, I would awkwardly wrestle into my sports bra while still wearing a sweater on top (believe me, this is actually not impossible). To this day, the first thing I will do in an unfurnished apartment is hang curtains.
While I might have a bit of a prudish attitude when it comes to my own public nudity, it takes just the briefest moment of browsing online to realize that there are plenty of women out there who have no problem exposing a little skin.
On any given workday, I’ve accidentally seen about three or four NSFW photos before I finish my first cup of coffee.
Whether or not these online exhibitionists are doing it for the right reasons (empowering self-expression) or the wrong reasons (desperate attention-seeking from creepy Internet lurkers) is up for debate, but there is certainly no shortage of skin on social media and beyond.
However, not all bare breasts are treated equally.
Last week, the Internet got its collective knickers in a twist after a French tabloid published a revealing five-page spread featuring Kate Middleton sunbathing sans bikini top while on vacation at a private chateau.
The magazine’s editor-in-chief defended the images, claiming they weren’t lewd, but a beautiful intimate series of a young couple in love. Of course, this “tasteful montage” argument might be easier to swallow if the photos weren’t captured by slimy paparazzi stalking the royals during what should have been a very private moment.
While many people expressed outrage at this extreme violation of privacy, I was horrified to see just how many people took to Twitter and online comment sections to unleash a barrage of hostility towards the duchess for having the audacity to act like a normal 30-year-old woman on vacation with her husband.
To argue that Middleton made a bad choice to go topless or that she “should have known better” is akin to saying that she got what she deserved. The idea that a woman should be publicly shamed for things she chooses to do in private that are then illegally captured by trespassing photographers is insane (hi, Kristen Stewart).
The violation of Middleton’s privacy and the furious responses that followed contribute to the archaic yet persistent notion that as women our bodies, more than anything else, are for display; to be looked at by men, by other women and, evidently, by telescopic lenses emerging from the shrubbery.
Follow Jessica Napier on Twitter @MetroSheSays.