Friday, July 24, 2009

Peephole tapes and tribal society

Erin Andrews, a reporter for ESPN, was filmed without her permission through some sort of hotel room peephole and the footage inevitably appeared on the Web. The peephole tape obviously raises all sorts of issues about privacy and sex, and most of the attention has been focused on the widespread objectification of Andrews among sports fans and others.

I wonder if part of the problem with these sorts of sexual privacy breeches is not our over-sexed media culture, but our prudishness? I'm not speaking individually here — without question individuals have a right to privacy that extends to their bodies. But as a culture, we can barely accept the likes of breastfeeding in public because female nipples are so secreted away that the mere thought of them is sexualized by enough people to make it an issue.

At this point, it is fairly incontrovertible among the sane that prohibition fails. When you make something illegal (or inaccessible) you increase the desire to get it, and increase the thrill of trying. If nudity were just a part of public life — not in the service of advertising or for porn, just something one sees regularly — wouldn't the reward for "catching" someone naked diminish? Put another way: do you think that members of tribal society who wear little clothing find the mere sight of a naked person shocking and arousing? Are they constantly in a state of sexual frustration because of all the bodies on display? I suspect not. But the example of these mostly-nude societies demonstrates that attitudes towards the display of the body are malleable.

Unfortunately, I can't think of any feasible way to demystify nudity. It's something that just has to happen naturally, I suppose. But if it did, not only would it reduce the demand for privacy invasion, it would reduce the damage done by whatever tom-peepery still occurred.

No comments:

Post a Comment