The naked truth about on-screen nudity: women don’t like it, guys | Barbara Ellen

Let’s hope a new set of rules will make it harder for directors to ask actresses to disrobe

Why do some men feel aggrieved when actresses admit that they don’t enjoy doing nude scenes? To listen to men carp, you’d think that viewing on-screen female nudity was a basic human right.

Emilia Clarke has just spoken about doing “terrifying” nude scenes for Game of Thrones. Later, she became more assertive, thinking “fuck you”, when film-makers wanted her to strip, suggesting that, otherwise, she would “disappoint her Game of Thrones fans”. (Anyone else shuddering?) Clarke was only 23, fresh out of drama school, when she took on the role of Daenerys Targaryen, but she’s still been lambasted for complaining about the part that made her rich and famous. Clarke wasn’t moaning about the role, though – she was talking honestly about nude scenes. Is that OK or is it not enough for female performers to disrobe? Or do they have to pretend they like it too?

It was almost comical how stunned some people were that on-screen nudity was not a career high for Clarke. Was she supposed to sigh: “It was magical – I loved getting my tits out for strangers!”? How many of these men would like to spend their own professional lives nude? (Don’t answer that.) Of course, this was Game of Thrones, where female nudity was deemed “integral”. And Clarke agreed to do such scenes, as did co-star Maisie Williams. (All very creepy, given that her character, Arya, started the series as a child.)

But how were they supposed to refuse – how is anyone? Nude scenes are loaded with pressure: first, wanting the job; then wanting to be perceived as a team player. All laudable, but it shouldn’t involve taking your clothes off.

This kind of thing is being addressed with a new set of guidelines, from Directors UK, for the British film and TV industry. Meant as a resource for “grey areas”, bringing the UK into line with changes in Hollywood, Directors UK’s 96 recommendations involve everything from whether nude scenes are necessary to stopping nude auditions, via providing on-set support.

All of which is commendable, but shouldn’t audiences also change their attitudes? As it is, certain men weirdly seem to presume that they have a right to see women naked. Guys, calm down – you bought a television subscription or≈a cinema ticket, not a VIP seat at a lap-dancing show.

Let’s face it, most nude scenes are gratuitous – even when integral to the story, nudity could usually be suggested without anyone actually being naked. Yet here we are, two years since #MeToo, and actresses are still not only having to strip but being denounced for hating doing it. While on-screen nudity is a choice, and some are fine about it, too many others feel uncomfortable and obliged.

Perhaps the new guidelines will help people such as Clarke in the simplest, most effective way possible – making it a damn sight more difficult to justify asking them to get undressed in the first place.

Kindly take your partners... no matter your sexuality

Johannes Radebe and Graziano Di Prima
Johannes Radebe and Graziano Di Prima on Strictly Come Dancing. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC/PA

Fetch the smelling salts – two men danced together on Strictly Come Dancing! The show received almost 200 complaints about the professionals Johannes Radebe and Graziano Di Prima, who danced together during a performance by Emeli Sandé.

Radebe is gay and later commented that getting to do the routine “says so much about the people in this country”. Well, yes, but, going by the complaints, not all of it heart-warming.

Dancing on Ice is planning to feature a same-sex pairing as part of the competition, but Strictly is still murmuring vaguely about it possibly happening in the future. There’s understandable opposition on a technical level (traditional ballroom dances developed with male-female pairings in mind). However, were any of the complaints about technicalities or were people just angry about a same-sex pairing on a “family entertainment” show?

With gay marriage and gay parenting normalised, why are such anachronistic attitudes being pandered to? Strictly should go ahead and feature same-sex couples, gay or straight. If armchair bigots don’t like it, I’ve got two words for them – “boo” and “hoo” (not the first two words I thought of, but this is a family newspaper). When it comes to frugging under the glitter ball, mainstream television is the best arena to make it clear that “family” includes everyone.

It’s time the young faced the truth about tattoos

Bearded man with large tatoo down the side of his face
‘Face tattoos automatically place someone outside society.’
Photograph: Kirill Kukhmar/TASS

Is it a great idea for an 18-year-old to get a spider’s web tattooed across his face? How about flames to indicate how “hot” they are? A spray of stars? A cat hanging cutely out of a nostril?

Well, no, probably not. So, bravo to the British Tattoo Artists Federation for proposing that the legal age for face tattoos be raised to 21. I’d say, older – 25 or even 30.

At present, you’re allowed to get a tattoo anywhere on your body, including face, neck and hands, at 18 years old. These highly visible tattoos are known as “jobstoppers” – because people who sport them struggle to find employment. A survey last year showed that six out of 10 employers would be less likely to hire somebody with a face tattoo. Yet they are increasingly popularised by the likes of Justin Bieber and Lil Wayne, celebrities who don’t have to worry about aghast employers.

Face tattoos automatically place someone outside society, which hits the spot for rebellious teenagers. However, unless they really intend to drop out, join the Hells Angels or become the new Lemmy, they need to get real. Are they still going to yearn to be an outcast when they’re 35 or 50? If they balk at society telling them what to do (ma-aan!), why would they want their tattoos to dictate their entire professional lives?

They also need to understand one of the big lessons of youth: be free, experimental and wild, but travel lightly. You don’t want to be stuck dragging baggage from youth into the rest of your life. Priorities change. Skin bags and wrinkles. If you’re a tattoo lifer, what’s the big rush? If you’re so committed to a face tattoo, have it done at 30. Young people are entitled to get any inking they want – just give the tattoo artist a break and don’t get a job-stopper.

• Barbara Ellen is an Observer columnist


Barbara Ellen

The GuardianTramp

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