Undressing. Getting one’s kit off, whether for the gentlemen or the ladies, depending on one’s bent. Disrobing, divesting, denuding. Slipping into something more comfortable. Giving one an eyeful. Getting ’em off.
Once we put away childish things and cease frolicking as nature intended, stripping off becomes a whole new ballgame. In our newly found state of youthful beauty, we may discover that flashing a bit of what one’s momma gave one can evoke a level of interest in others which one’s callow utterances cannot quite manage.
If big-bodied nobodies are stripping off for strangers, how could we expect entertainers to keep their kit on?
But equally, it’s important to know when one has reached an age — or a weight — when one should put it away. Cover it up. Keep it under wraps. No one wants to see it!
Until recently, it was generally understood that attractive people might expose themselves and unattractive people would keep a lid on it, cultivating other meritorious qualities such as kindness or spite. But recent years have seen the rise of bogus “body positivism” (if you were positive about your body, you wouldn’t want it to expire early from the side effects of morbid obesity) and fallacious “fat activism” (if you were active, you wouldn’t be fat).
As an attempt to redress the prejudice against fat people as being thick and lazy, the movement (or lack of thereof) has fallen somewhat short. This isn’t a struggle (except to get into a size twenty) as we used to understand it — standing on picket lines in the pouring rain helping the wretched of the earth to get a living wage.
Rather, fat activism means being an over-privileged and under-employed blue-hair sitting on your big fat bum and swearing at naysayers on the internet while a gaggle of similarly chunky girlfriends call you “Kween!” Perhaps a bunch of feeders and fetishizers will assure you than they love you for your brain, not your body, before transferring moolah into your account so long as you promise to spend it on cream horns and eat them naked. What harm could possibly occur to a kween’s self-esteem if she goes down such a sticky route?
If big-bodied nobodies are stripping off for strangers, how could we expect entertainers — the biggest show-offs around — to keep their kit on? A recent example of the sublime and the ridiculous when it comes to troopers shaking their money-makers has emerged: the actress Jennifer Lawrence and the singer Sam Smith. Lawrence has been grabbing tabloid headlines due to the Netflix release of her latest film No Hard Feelings (fnarr!) in which she appears as naked as the day she was born. She told Variety: “Everyone in my life and my team is doing the right thing and going, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure?’ I didn’t even have a second thought. It was hilarious to me.”
Female thespians have always disrobed — it’s one of the reasons why “actress” and “prostitute” were interchangeable words for so long — but until recently they were inclined to take one of two options in this arena. You could be an unabashed victor: “Because I’m beautiful” said Ursula Andress when asked why she posed naked for Playboy, or a victim: “I was broke and needed the money” said Marilyn Monroe of her nude calendar shots.
Then in 1992 Sharon Stone uncrossed her legs and the floodgates, as it were, opened. Suddenly, actresses who thought they’d won the right to keep their kit on were keen to cast it to the wind — for a price.
In 1996, Demi Moore was paid $12 million for her role in Striptease, the most an actress has ever received, though the failure of the film (“People just don’t want to see her… we would have to drag them kicking and screaming to see it,” a studio executive told Newsweek) disproved the old H.L. Mencken line about nobody ever losing money by underestimating the taste of the American public.
This didn’t stop excitable execs allegedly waving half a million dollars at Halle Berry for a flash of her rack in 2001’s Swordfish after she initially refused to strip for her payday. This kind of thing could feel a little livestocky — how much for one buttock? — and, with its echos of the skin trade, make one feel that Liz Hurley’s description of non-actors as “civilians” might more accurately be “punters.”
The far perkier modern attitude appears to be that if you can be judged Best of Breed and make a fortune at the same time, you’d be a fool to refuse the chance to laugh all the way to the bank, in the style of the ceaselessly chuckling Jennifer Lawrence.
However, being beautiful is a talent like any other. You need to be born with the main ingredients but you have to work at it and suffer for it too. Of course, love changes everything — it’s no coincidence that “romancer” means both lover and liar — and affection is capable of making the most adorable adjustments in the night vision of the smitten beholder.
But when unattractive people strip off for strangers, it’s as cringe as seeing someone who can’t sing going on The X Factor. Which brings us to Sam Smith. Though he hasn’t yet gone all the way, he often appears topless in videos and onstage — playing with his moobs in the manner of a wistful matron feeling the avocados for ripeness at Walmart — and often showing a good part of his vast ass.
But getting het up about Smith — he’s been accused of promoting pornography whereas the sight of his near-naked body is the most scary anti-sex message imaginable — is exactly what the big doofus wants. His fans, therefore, will continue to swallow his rather standard cruise ship mooing as something new and rebellious.
Mockery is far more the ticket. I’m used to watching my pin-up Douglas Murray speak on serious subjects, so imagine my glee on finding a priceless clip of him on Piers Morgan’s show tearing strips off Smith for stripping. In the clip, he perfectly sums up what I’ve said here: “The thing that makes it different is that when Rihanna or someone strips down, they do it because they look good…. Sam Smith is pudgy and very ugly — he looks ridiculous.” The Emperor Penguin has no clothes, chuck something over it and spare our blushes.
You’d be a fool to refuse the chance to laugh all the way to the bank
When I was young, we all knew people with weird parents who’d say things like “the naked human body is perfectly natural” and imply that when we all got it out, everybody would be happy. Is it true that now that we can see as many naked strangers as we please we are more sexually at ease with ourselves? Probably not, if the stats for late virginity loss, less sex and body dysmorphia are anything to go by.
If people can make an equally good living by keeping their clothes on, they’re likely to prefer that. There was a sad story in the Daily Mail last week concerning a young woman named Molly who has been putting up posters of herself looking sad in a pink bra with the words “this is what I’ve turned to” in the English village of Buckleberry, home to the Middletons. She claimed that she had been “forced” to become an OnlyFans model due to the royal in-laws’ company, Party Pieces, folding this summer owing more than $2 million to creditors.
Poor Molly — although best get them out while they’re perky and put them away when they’ve had their day in the sun. There’s a lot to be said for losing one’s looks: one’s sexual morality improves immeasurably. But after a certain age, the lovely Joe Orton line “never do anything in private that you can do in public” is disproved when we regard deluded and denuded celebrities, with bodies which surely only a blind mother could love. Keep it on!
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.