Conjoined twins Abby, Brittany Hensel back in spotlight after wedding speculation. It's gone too far.

 The internet, once again, can't seem to stop talking about conjoined twins Brittany and Abigail Hensel − and experts say the unwelcome obsession over their personal lives has gone too far.

The 34-year-old twins, who rose to fame in several television shows including "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in 1996 and the series "Abby & Brittany" in 2012, were recently thrust back into the spotlight as multiple outlets, including Today and the New York Post, reported Abigail had a private wedding ceremony in 2021.

The Hensels have said little about the nuptials themselves, but they seemed to confirm the ceremony on their unverified TikTok account where they shared what appears to be wedding photos in 2023. The twins haven't commented directly on the ensuing discourse, but they did share two TikTok videos late last month that seemed to reference it. In one of the videos, they wrote in the caption, "The internet is extra LOUD today. We have always been around," and, in another, they included an audio addressing "all the haters out there."

Experts in disability and media studies say heightened fascination around the Hensel twins' personal lives illuminates a lot about how people treat and talk about those with unusual bodies. The truth is, the Hensel twins, like anyone else, deserve to live a normal life and not spark discussion whenever they do so.

"We see something where this is unusual, this is exciting, this is a little out of the ordinary, and it's not something that many people are equipped to talk about very well," says Elizabeth Ellcessor, an associate professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and author of the book "Restricted Access: Media, Disability, and the Politics of Participation." "And so we see a lot of social media attention and other coverage that is focusing on this as being particularly remarkable when people in their thirties get married all the time."

Why are people so fascinated by Abby Hensel's wedding?

On the one hand, fascination around the Hensel twins is to be expected, says Alice Dreger, a historian, bioethicist, and the author of "One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal." After all, conjoined twins are rare, and people are often fascinated by the lives of people in unusual circumstances.

"People have always been fascinated by conjoined twins because they obviously represent a challenge to the way we think about individuality," Dreger says. "We normally think of individuality as being about one person existing in one expansive skin, and, for conjoined twins like Abigail and Brittany, they are obviously two people in one expansive skin."

Conjoined twins Brittany and Abigail Hensel rose to fame in several television shows including
Conjoined twins Brittany and Abigail Hensel rose to fame in several television shows including

This fascination, however, becomes problematic when it gives way to exploitation and the violation of others' privacy. The Hensel twins, for instance, have kept a relatively low public profile outside their television appearances, giving the impression they aren't interested in sharing every detail of their lives with the world.

Fascination around the Hensel twins' romantic relationships is also especially inappropriate because it often stems from "prurient sexual interest," Ellcessor says. This is likely why the Hensels seem to have no desire to address any of the reactions to Abigail's wedding.

"They have no interest in answering follow-up questions," Ellcessor adds. "This is not anyone else's business."

How should we talk about Abby and Brittany Hensel?

Ellcessor says it's essential for any discussion about the Hensels' private lives to happen on their terms, not anyone else's, and to let the twins take the lead on what's OK for speculation and what's not.

"The best advice is to prioritize their voices and their wishes," she says. "What do they want to share? What do they want us to know?"

It's also important to remember to treat people with unusual bodies as human beings rather than as anomalies.

And, if they choose to not open their lives to discussion, it's important to respect that.

"The experience of having a body that's different depends on the culture that's around you," Dreger says. "Abigail and Brittany have been fortunate to live in a small town that has been reasonable and accepting. And, in fact, throughout history, most conjoined twins have chosen to live in small towns for I think exactly this reason: that they can live peaceful lives without constant interference."

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