Oh that virtuous exhibitionism

First a disclaimer: I love women’s naked bodies. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been spent in their presence, and I cherish every one, especially those I can remember.

Moreover, at the risk of enraging my more devout friends, I even enjoy female nudity vicariously, by looking without touching.

Photographs of naked women don’t upset me, quite the opposite. And I even like explicit sex scenes in films, provided they’re gratuitous and pursue no artistic ends whatsoever.

Having thus established my dissipated, tasteless and probably misogynistic credentials in three paragraphs of self-lacerating disclaimers, I now feel it’s safe to say what it is I dislike, nay despise.

That’s nudity practised for a cause and thus pretending to be something it isn’t (virtue), while concealing what it actually is: exhibitionism covering itself with an ideological fig leaf.

What the cause is doesn’t really matter: no good one can be promoted by parading female flesh in the buff. And even if the cause starts out as good, it’ll be compromised by the striptease.

Actually, the original Calendar Girls dropped their kit in 1999 allegedly to support a worthy cause, Leukaemia Research. Yet, even though a film was made about them, with Helen Mirren starring, they only succeeded in trivialising that deadly disease.

Miss Mirren, incidentally, has struggled to keep her clothes on throughout her distinguished career. Even now, in her dotage, she likes to parade her superannuated flesh at every opportunity, making one suspect that such exposure is an aim in itself.

Anyway, the idea caught on, and exhibitionism for commercial or ideological causes became a standard technique. Actually, Pirelli tyres have always been promoted that way, which is tasteless but otherwise unobjectionable.

Famous actresses stripping for the anti-fur campaign, on the other hand, was not only tasteless but also actively revolting.

Various naked celebrities would drag their fur coats behind them, each leaving trails of blood. “I’d rather go naked than wear fur,” was the line.

Ladies, this side of puerile, onanistic fantasies, there’s usually something worn between one’s skin and an overcoat. Hence the choice didn’t have to be as stark as that (pun intended). It’s possible to shed a fur coat and still sport, say, a jumper and a skirt for decorum’s sake.

Yet the ‘celebs’ jumped at the chance to parade what the Americans call T & A. Exhibitionism is as much of a compulsion as drug addiction.

And speaking of Americans, the latest actress to let it all hang out for an ideology is Jennifer Lopez.

Now Miss Lopez has devoted her whole life to keeping herself in shape, and it shows. Even at 49 she’s still a knockout, and her body is well worth admiring even fully clothed (especially in profile), never mind nude.

Her mind, unfortunately, is something else again, which she proved by shedding her clothes to strike a blow for women’s rights.

“It has taken time,” explained Miss Lopez in fluent Hollywood, “but I think we’re in a very powerful moment where women are going, ‘Wait a minute. We’re not afraid to say what we deserve.’”

And what would it be, dear, that you deserve to say? That you can bare your jutting attraction in a show of pathological exhibitionism? But we already knew that, thank you. Nothing new there.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the greatest barrier in the way of women’s emancipation from their servitude men’s insistence of seeing them as merely sex objects? Those ghastly creatures’ refusal to see a subtle mind and a great soul hiding behind well-rounded secondary sex characteristics?

So explain to me how an actress baring all in provocative poses upholds women’s rights. I’d suggest she’s striking a blow against them, not for them.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. It’s possible that Miss Lopez has set a pattern that could be profitably followed by prominent politicians, such as Mrs May.

She has already danced her way to the podium at the latest party conference – why not do pole dancing next time, to make a case for soft Brexit?

Yes, I know Mrs May isn’t exactly Miss Lopez, but then neither were those original Calendar Girls. Exhibitionism is an inner imperative that doesn’t have to depend on outward beauty.

And Frau Merkel is definitely missing a trick, which in her case is inexplicable. Naked photos of her as a young girl are widely circulated, so why not travel the trodden path?

As a former adman, I can even suggest a concept. She could run the ‘then and now’ photos side by side, with the headline saying: “I’ve matured over the years. So has the EU”.

On second thoughts, scratch that. Bad idea, sending a wrong message: the EU must portray itself as full of energy and youthful thrust.

The striptease would work better for Brigitte, Macron’s foster mother. The headline could say: “Manny loves me for what I am. Why can’t you love him for what he is?”

Please stop me before my imagination runs away with me. But the harrowing thought is that nothing I or any other perverse individual can think up is a match for reality.

Modernity makes satire redundant; today’s Swifts and Fieldings would be writing ads for toothpaste, or perhaps financial newsletters.

If you disagree, tell me if you would have been impressed by any satirist back, say, in the 1990s cracking a joke about a man who used to be a woman marrying a woman who used to be a man, and then getting pregnant because her reproductive organs weren’t removed when her brand-new penis was sewn on?

Of course not. You would have laughed at the man, not his joke. Now you can weep when reading such stories in medical journals.

Note that I said 1990s, not 1920s. Just one generation, and satirists already have nowhere to go. Perhaps now they’re unemployed, they could spend more time admiring Miss Lopez’s body, and never mind women’s rights.