Actually, to me, as a lawyer, what is more interesting is how privacy law is increasingly being used as an excuse for empty ‘moralising’ by our class of New Victorians’.
The Duchess of Cambridge managed to — shock, horror! — expose her breasts. The public response to this was, of course, the hilarious circus that arises every time someone of the dubious rank of ‘celebrity’ airs her mammary bodies in public view. The Palace is pissed and suing the pants off the French mag publishing the photos. Lawyers are already rearing for a lovely fight about privacy, in particular about the point whether the chateau, where the photo was taken, was indeed truly ‘private’ and whether thus a genuine expectation of privacy had existed. Meanwhile, angry feminists are being angry to the point of confusing autonomy with privacy rights and Guardianistas show that they still haven’t learned the difference between contract (consensual exchange) and tort (wrongful interference).
The fashionable commingling of HRH the Duchess of Cambridge’s breasts with Page 3 ladies, as the Grauniad’s Homa Khaleeli has committed, ignores of course the prime idea of privacy law: the tort of invasion of privacy is about a non-consensual interference. Its arguments, even when they keep someone’s breasts off the front page, have nothing to do with censoring content. They have everything to do with how content is obtained. It is quite crucial at this point not to let the debate turn into the the faux-Victorian moralising that certain political interests wish it to turn into. There are those who focus on the content or sexual nature of the photos, rather than the fact that they have been obtained in a truly invasive fashion, using high-power telephoto lenses. These new Victorians, riding on a throne of contrived verbiage, don’t give a thing about privacy: what they care about is, ultimately, boobs and their God-given right to decide who, when and in what context may consume pictures of them. They are very happy to bemoan the invasion of the Duchess of Cambridge’s rights, but what they want even more is invading everyone else’s rights and deciding for them what content is good for their moral growth.
Make no mistake — I have yet to see a person edified by a diet of Page 3 and pornography. In fact, recent research shows the latter to be particularly unedifying. And indeed it is a valid concern that given the vast menu of information served to all of us thanks to the internet, people will follow their natural instinct towards instant gratification (no pun intended). That, really, isn’t at issue. What is at issue is, to use the trite term of our new social moralists, how society should respond.
Here’s my suggestion — and it may be an old-fashioned one: create beauty. Wage war on profanity by elevation. Destroy the mundane, the crude and the primitive by creating accessible yet aesthetically pleasant works of art that communicate ideals of virtue.
Admittedly, creation is much more difficult than campaigning for the banning of Page 3 nudes, but the latter ignores the important question: *why* exactly do men look at Page 3? Apart from the feminist stock answer (“Because men are pigs!”), most considerations lead one to conclude that they are in pursuit, ultimately, of beauty. If men need Kelly, 25, from Essex, and her 36DD breastage — or indeed that of Catherine, 30, of Windsor — to fill the innate, human need for beauty, then we as a society have failed them. We have failed them not because we have failed to heed our new Victorians, but because we have failed to provide them with enough accessible beauty to satisfy their human needs. We have wasted money on sharks in formaldehyde and sheep cut in half, but have left an entire generation of men in the sort of aesthetic squalor that leads them to resort to simple satisfaction.
In the Renaissance, probably the rudest and most blood-sodden age of humankind, they didn’t have Page 3. They had Michelangelo’s *Sybil* and *David*, Correggio’s *Leda* and Titian’s *Danae*. They had plenty of nakedness, but always in service of virtue — and beauty: not brutish hedonism. Art and beauty served to elevate man, not to reduce him to a drooling animal. And we can gain that back. We can get back to an age when art served to inspire men and women to be excellent in body, spirit and mind. We can get back to an age when people didn’t look at Page 3 because they didn’t need to. They were, amidst all the chaos of the 16th century, surrounded by a conscious effort by craftsmen and artists to create beauty — and enough of it to satisfy man’s innate hunger for aesthetic pleasure.
The hip Kensington cognoscenti will, of course, interject about ‘bringing art to the masses’, as if that had worked brilliantly (or indeed worked, full stop). Like Margaret Hodge, they will use fashionable concepts like inclusiveness to relegate the large lower strata of the population to a Page Three and *Coronation Street* kind of existence. Art doesn’t need to be made inclusive. Good art is inclusive enough: it speaks to the innate sense of beauty that everyone possesses, from Margaret Hodge to a Newcastle welder and a council estate teen from Blackbird Leys. The ability of aesthetic appreciation isn’t a privilege: it is part of what it means to be human. The fear of exposing the so-called ‘lower classes’ (a term you don’t generally hear, save from the people who claim to have their best interests at heart by feeding them ‘inclusive’ but deplorably bad ‘art’) to ‘proper art’ which they might not understand is the kind of prejudice by the self-absorbed products of the modern arts bubble that creates Page 3 aficionados.
Bad money, they say, drives out good. The reverse is true, too: good and aesthetically pleasurable art drives out the more profane forms of human enjoyment. Whether we as a society are still able to create, rather than merely criticise and campaign for bans, remains to be seen.