Nip slip overload

Another day, another starlet and a gust of wind

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Senior Writer

Published December 22, 2009 7:23PM (EST)

There's something special about a little flash of the naughty, that glimpse at something never intended for public display. Takes you right back, doesn't it? to the first time you ever spied the goods, that rush of illicit excitement.

And yet, I couldn't suppress a wave of eye-rolling weariness recently when I saw "The New York Post" item that Catherine Zeta-Jones had "inadvertently" given the fans in the orchestra seats a healthy eyeful of her rack during a Broadway performance of "A Little Night Music" – a report her representatives were quick to dispute

Daily, it seems, there's a new "wardrobe malfunction" and an eager paparazzi waiting to catch it. The nip slip – like its kin, the upskirt – seems at once childishly tame and desperately vulgar, residing in the split personality sexual terrain of "Oh my God, I saw a lady part!" and "Hello, I'm a creep with a camera and zoom lens."

If you are a woman of any standing in the world and you have ever experienced the combination of a low-cut top and a gust of wind, your nips are out there for the world to wank to. Scarlet Johansson. J.K. Rowling. Lily Allen. Lady Gaga. Ashley Tisdale. Rachael Ray. Ashlee Simpson. Uma Thurman. Elizabeth Hasselbeck. You know what they all have in common? NIPPLES! Nipples which in certain circumstances have perhaps experienced FRESH AIR! And whose existence has been rigorously confirmed. When earlier this month, seventeen-year-old Miley Cyrus and her bikini top briefly parted ways, the Internet practically imploded. And nearly six years after Janet Jackson's aureola-flaunting Super Bowl performance, not only are people arguing about the trauma of it all, but the American legal system is still figuring out what it all meant. (Bonus points if you can remember which teams were even playing.)

Nobody needs to convince me that boobs are awesome. Nor would I argue that deshabille can't be more exciting than full on nudity. And yet, when there are  blown up images of the nanosecond that an extra centimeter of Beyonce's hooters escaped the constraints of her dance gear (yes, they're out there, and no, I'm not going to help you find them) out there, I have to wonder – why? When Kate Hudson's  and Natalie Portman's near nip slips actually make headlines – when the mere possibility of the exposure of that special area is breathlessly reported, photographed, and analyzed, I must ask, what could possibly be so revelatory under those designer duds? Priceless rubies? Weapons of mass destruction? The lost gold of El Dorado? Dark matter? They're lovely and sexy and all, but seriously – they're nipples. Men show them off all the time and it almost never makes the news.

So while the rumor of a sidelong glimpse of Catherine Zeta-Jones's breasts is kind of silly, and the fact that her publicity team even bothered to tamp it down is equally amusing -- enough already. Because I can guarantee without even seeing them that I know exactly what's under Ms. Zeta-Jones's kimono. They may come in different shapes and sizes and gravitational pulls than mine or yours, but they're the same things that are under everybody else's.

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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