Guest Post: Seeing and Being Seen

Guest post by Glen..

The word “shocking” is being used about Kate’s topless photos.  Yet there’s nothing shocking about her topless sunbathing.  Nothing “shocking” about a photographer with a telephoto lens (this invasion of privacy is standard for the Paparazzi).  Nothing shocking about there being a market for such photos.

But here’s one thing that’s shocked me: I have had no desire to see them.  That’s really surprised me.

Well of course, you might say, you’re married, you’re a Christian, you’re a minister of the gospel, of course you don’t want to see such smut.

Don’t be silly.  Being those things doesn’t take away the desire to see a beautiful woman.  Attractive women attract and Kate is very attractive.  But, for some reason, I don’t desire to see these photos.  In fact I really don’t want to see them.  I’ve found deep, protective feelings on the matter.  I want to be an older brother who punches the photographer and destroys the memory card.  I want very much to reverse this invasion.

Why?  Why am I not tempted to view these photos?

Is it because she’s royal?  Maybe.  Maybe the House of Windsor has forever desexualised her.  Deep in my subconscious perhaps she’s now subsumed into her office – an organ of state.  It’s always interested me how men can express such raw attraction to Pippa but not remark on Kate’s obvious beauty.  Maybe Kate’s royal status puts us off that kind of desire. Maybe.

But I think it’s something else: she’s married.  And I was at the wedding.  I was there (well, in a Cafe in Brighton, but still very much “there”) when Gandalf himself declared “Those whom God has joined together let no man put asunder.”

That is a solemn charge.  In fact it’s kind of a threat.  Years ago, I was at a wedding where the minister added his own interpretation of this line from Matthew 19:6.  He held up the joined hands of the couple and looked fiercely at the congregation saying “THIS is NOT to be messed with!”

It made a lasting impression on the guests.  And the Royal Wedding has made a lasting impression on us.  How can we mess with this beautiful union?  And looking at these photos would mess with it.

In “Ways of Seeing” John Berger asserts that “men act – women appear.”  Men look.  Women are looked at (and look at themselves being looked at).  I think there’s a lot to that.  It gets to the heart of much of the bible’s teaching on gender.

When applied to marriage it means that husbands act towards their wives and see their wives in a unique way.  Women appear to their husbands and are uncovered in a unique way.  In fact “uncovering nakedness” is one of the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” euphemisms which the bible uses to describe sex (see Leviticus 18 in the ESV for instance).

So, having attended their wedding (sort of), having seen the couple’s mutual devotion, having heard them “forsake all others” and having been solemnly charged by the Grey Wanderer never to mess with this union, I find that I now have absolutely no desire to intrude.  And I have every desire to protect her and her marriage.

I wish I could say I constantly felt such righteous indignation at each such intrusion.  But I don’t.  Not the same.  And I wonder whether the ceremony of marriage (undergirded by a theology of marriage) is the reason.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Seeing and Being Seen

  1. You’ve certainly touched on something key here, Glen, to this particular event, and I wonder how many Brits also share a sense of indignation that, in this case, what has been invaded has been the sanctity of a time which should have remained personal to a husband and wife. There is certainly a uniqueness to that.

  2. interesting thought, Glen. Their commitment to “forsake all others” seems more legitimate because they aren’t seeking this kind of attention; a marriage that just happens to be in the public eye rather than a string of relationships geared for publicity and scandal.

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