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As ever more actors disrobe on prime-time dramas: Should we be celebrating male nudity on TV? 

Bel Mooney (pictured) questions who wants to see full-frontal nude men, unless you’re in a relationship

NO 

By Bel Mooney

A few nights ago we watched the latest version of Jane Austen’s Emma. That handsome actor Johnny Flynn is (I thought) miscast as a too young and modern-looking Mr Knightley — but hey, we saw his bottom!

We were treated to a quick glimpse as he dressed and I said ‘Phwoar’ while my husband rolled his eyes. ‘Do they have to?’ he asked.

Good question. Why has there been a sudden increase in male nudity on our screens?

These days it seems fashionably necessary to show male full-frontals (see this year’s hit drama Normal People, and current BBC2 shocker Industry), and maybe this trend levels the playing field.

After all, women have had to do nude scenes for ages, whether they wanted to or not.

So I suppose you could argue that it’s progress to now degrade male actors, too, with a bit of cheeky sleaze.

We live at a time when feminist activists prowl museums counting the number of female nudes and insisting there should be an equal number of males.

I only want to see turkey gizzards at Christmas 

Bring on the Greek statues and cast aside the fig leaves! Equality is apparently the name of the game — so it’s our right to turn on the TV and see the male member in (nearly) all its glory.

Oh, but do we really want to? As far back as 1985, the wonderful Merchant Ivory film A Room With A View included the famous comic scene where three chaps have a dip in a woodland pool then run around it starkers, unaware ladies are approaching down a path. Oops! Fleeting shots of dangly bits just added to the hilarity.

But unless you are in a lovely, intimate relationship with those funny dangly bits, do you really want to see them?

One of my favourite scenes in literature comes in Sylvia Plath’s 1963 novel The Bell Jar. The heroine, Esther, is with her high school crush Buddy Willard, when he suggests they get naked. He strips off his chinos and his nylon mesh underpants, ‘Then he just stood there in front of me . . . The only thing I could think of was turkey neck and turkey gizzards and I felt very depressed.’

Oh dear, ‘turkey neck and turkey gizzards’ seems rather apt somehow. And the only time I want to contemplate them is when making the gravy on Christmas Day. Not on our increasingly filthy TV screens. Not when the rumpy-pumpy is icky and absurd and puts you right off real sex. Not when I just want a cup of tea.

YES

By Hannah Betts   

Hannah Betts (pictured) claims seeing normal genitals helps to make us a less porn-obsessed society

Hannah Betts (pictured) claims seeing normal genitals helps to make us a less porn-obsessed society 

Of course we should feature the male member loud and proud on our TV screens — this is quite obviously progress.

Unless you are a Mary Whitehouse throwback, forever railing against the cultural tide, then there should be equality in nudity as in all things, desire included.

It’s not that I’m fixated on the sight of so many limp appendages per se. However, I am tired of the sexist anachronism that deems female nudity fine, charming, titillating, while male nakedness remains somehow shockingly unrepresentable.

The fair sex has been the object of the ‘male gaze’ for so long, and it’s time for a spot of role reversal. One particularly choice example of the double standard is the 2017 film Call Me By Your Name, in which the gay lovers at its centre are never seen fully naked — despite going at it fairly often — leaving female bit-player Esther Garrel as the only performer to go truly au naturel.

Its Oscar-winning screenwriter James Ivory declared himself disappointed, stating: ‘When people are wandering around before or after making love, and they’re decorously covered with sheets, it’s always seemed phony to me.’ Television has always replicated cinematic prejudices, adding a further level of prudishness given that it didn’t have X-ratings to hide behind. If there was costume shedding to be done, it would be actresses rather than actors who were required to do it.

Men did the writing, directing and producing, women made their fantasies flesh for a male audience. For all its talk of sexual liberation, even Sex And The City was a showcase only for the female body (Samantha’s model boyfriend aside). If people wanted to enjoy the male form, they had to be content with Aidan Turner’s topless Poldark, or a quick shot of Night Manager Tom Hiddleston’s rear.

There should be equality in nudity as in all things

Well, no more. More women are behind the camera these days, and they are treating the performers they see in front of it differently, and fairly.

Series such as Industry, Normal People and Sky Atlantic’s Euphoria are ‘equal opportunities’ enough to feature naked actors and actresses in a naturalistic setting. Neither gender is objectified, meaning that both can be taken seriously.

Meanwhile, seeing normal genitals in normal contexts actually serves to make us a less porn-obsessed society. No actor or actress should feel obliged to let it all hang out, but — if they’re relaxed about it — then so am I. And so should we all be.


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