The politics of topless sunbathing

I’m pretty certain that what I’m about to say is essentially unsayable. So here goes: we need to have a frank conversation about boobs. Bare boobs. Because on my recent holiday to Majorca, I have to confess to being a little astonished to see quite so many topless women on the beach. But what a simple joy it was; old, young, lithe, voluminous, ponderous – there they were in all their glory, glistening or wilting in the sun, or simply splashing about in the sparkling water. Boobs. I know, I know… as a straight, white, privately educated man in the raw good health of middle age this is not territory that

Liberté, égalité, nudité: France’s new sexual politics

Montpellier France is going through a sexual civil war. After the great carnal outburst of the free-loving soixante-huitards, some have reverted to abstinence and prudishness, while others are pushing sexuality to new extremes. The crisis in French sexuality has exposed itself this summer as the clothes have come off. It’s not always a pretty sight, and not just because it isn’t true that French people don’t get fat. Major confusion on the shifting boundaries of corporal and sexual expression has grown into a peculiar conflict, exposing a national sexual neurosis. On one side of this conflict is France’s army of traditional naturists: a largely aging clan who revel in the

Why men of a certain age love to get naked

Something very strange happens to men as they get older: they like to go nude. I don’t mean they become practising nudists who seek out and enjoy the company of others of their kind. But unlike most younger men, they feel no embarrassment or regret at being seen naked. Consider the recent battle between one nude man and his neighbour. Simon Herbert (54) was in his Oxfordshire garden mending a fence when he spotted his next-door neighbour — Air Marshal Andrew Turner (54), the RAF’s second-in-command — strolling naked in the paddock of the cottage Turner shares with his wife. Herbert says that his partner and stepdaughter caught an eyeful

Would you go to a naked dining club?

Why would anyone want to dine in the nude with other nude diners? Yes, I get being nude on a sunny beach. Swimming nude. Walking nude. But eating nude in public? What’s the appeal? Why leave your comfort zone for the Twilight Zone? Yet nude dining is making a comeback — or at least it’s trying to. The food-in-the-nude movement was just taking off in Bristol — and various secret places in London — when Covid first struck. Now that things are going back to normal, the normal are going nude. Ever curious, I went to an event billed as the ‘first in a new series of nude supper clubs’

Why everyone should try streaking

One evening a few summers ago, I convinced a friend to run with me up Portobello Road completely naked. As we reached the finish line, we could hear the sirens in our wake. We were accosted by two policemen. I was convinced they would throw us in the slammer. Instead, the officers gently told us that it would be wise to put our clothes back on. One of them, having seen my body gleaming in the pale moonlight, suggested that I should really consider getting a tan. I have long enjoyed streaking. People wonder why someone would choose to expose themselves in such a way. There are a few explanations.

Hats (and knickers) off to the hosts: The Naked Podcast reviewed

I spent half an hour this week listening to a woman make a plaster cast of her vulva. Kat Harbourne, co-host of The Naked Podcast on BBC Sounds, opened a recent episode by buzzing her bikini trimmer over the microphone before squatting over a British Airways peanut dish. Jenny Eells, her partner in crime, stood close by offering to hold up her dress. ‘I feel a bit like a voyeur, almost,’ she said, as if surprised at herself. ‘Thanks for letting me be a part of it.’ Then the mould-maker, Phoebe, put a porridgy alginate in Kat’s dish, and Jenny thought it looked ‘tasty’. Jenny and Kat are used to

There’s nothing normal about getting nude on set

I remember how I felt the first time I saw Daisy Edgar-Jones’ nipples. Sitting on my sofa at home during lockdown, watching the BBC Three adaptation of Sally Rooney’s prize winning novel, Normal People, my jaw dropped as Edgar-Jones casually stretched an arm above her head, her bare chest fully exposed towards the camera. “She’s so brave!” I shouted out of nowhere, at my boyfriend. “What?” he replied, eyes glued to the screen, lost in his own (potentially quite different) stream of thought. Whilst both Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal appear in the nude throughout the series, it was Edgar-Jones’ full frontal nakedness in particular that shocked me.Having worked on film

Proud to be a prude

What advice would you give to this modern moral question posed by my friend’s younger sister? A boy at school had asked her to send him a selfie. Nude, naturally. She was dithering. She liked the boy, a sixth-form crush, and was keen to endear herself. But she knew that if she sent a naked picture he’d pass it on to his friends. She had thought of compromises: just her breasts, or her bottom coyly reflected in a mirror. It hadn’t crossed her mind to say ‘get lost’. Then, she explained, he’d tell his friends she was a prude. That, to her, was far worse than the First XI seeing

The naked dinner

Bunyadi caters to folk for whom public nudity is somehow thrilling; I am here because A begged to go and bashed the steering wheel of the Honda Civic with his fist. I am not only nude, which is odd, because being sexually exciting is not my journalistic identity, but, worse, I have accepted a freebie. There was no other way to get in. I asked Rod Liddle, who fashioned an anti-Bunyadi polemic a few weeks ago, to accompany me. He muttered ‘skidmarks’. Then he said no. It is a glowering ex-nightclub in Elephant and Castle, south London; a black building on a corner with the windows taped up. It looks

Attack of the personal space invaders

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Mark Mason and Lara Prendergast discuss the personal space invaders” startat=1422] Listen [/audioplayer]It’s the shoulders you have to watch out for. If he’s pressing them back as his hand comes out to shake yours, then beware: you’re about to meet a Space Invader. It’s tricky, being an alpha male in polite 21st-century society. Gone are the days when you could expect other men to gather round, worshipping your medallion as it glistened on a bed of luxuriant chest hair. Now you have to subvert the genre. You have to go to them. You have to get in their face, literally. There’s a particular breed of alpha who displays

An armchair voyeur gets a glimpse into Nicky Haslam’s vast address book

Phaidon pioneered the modern art-book in 1936. The formula was: large format, fine production, exceptional plates, and essays by the superstars of German art history. After Richard Schlagmann acquired the imprint in 1990 Phaidon maintained, even enhanced, its reputation for good design, but visual style was prioritised over editorial substance and writers were marginalised. That is, more or less unwanted and, if wanted, not paid very well. Since 2012 Phaidon has been owned by hedgie Leon Black. The interest in massive, high-concept illustrated product remains, but design and production have slipped. Or so I thought, effortfully working my through Room: Inside Contemporary Interiors, edited by Nacho Alegre and others (£49.95,

The age of selfie-obsession

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Rod Liddle and Maria Miller discuss selfie obsession” startat=85] Listen [/audioplayer]So it now seems pretty clear to me that we can no longer send women photographs of our genitals without worrying that we might be the subject of some horrible sting operation and consequently suffer public humiliation and possibly lose our jobs. One by one, the harmless little pleasures in life are being withdrawn from us. It is even being said that we would be wise not to photograph our own genitals at all, let alone send the snaps to anyone, because a third party might somehow acquire them and cause us mischief. If this is true, I

Dear Mary: How can I make my host pour me a drink?

Q. Some years ago, on holiday in Egypt, we found ourselves in the company of a couple who wanted to see us when we got home. Out of politeness we agreed and we have now fallen into a rut of reciprocal dinners. It has become a bore — perhaps for them as well. How can we stop it without seeming rude? — B.K., address withheld A. Next time provide entertainment as well as dinner.  A talk, concert or play would give new shared references to discuss, just like in the days when you had Egypt in common. It would also halt a slide into cultural complacency. In London, for example,