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Feeling sheepish: why nude calendars have finally gone too far

Let’s play a game. Look around your kitchen. Do you spy any of the following three items: a clock reading ‘Gin-o’-Clock’; a wine glass large enough to hold an entire bottle of wine; and a nude calendar? If you’ve got all three, congratulations! You’ve won a game of basic bingo.

At least the clock and the enormous wine glass are useful. Who wants to see some dodgy black-and-white photography of a university rugby club in the buff? Not me. Thankfully, it looks like the days of nude calendars might be coming to an end.

The Times reports that students at the Royal Veterinary College have been censured by animal rights activists after posing naked and using sheep to cover their modesty. The Veterinary Vegan Network condemned the students for “tipping” the sheep in the nude calendar photoshoot – a position in which they are held up by their forelimbs – claiming that they were performing an unnecessary procedure on the animals. According to the British Cattle Veterinary Association (BCVA), though, the procedure “is widely recognised as being safe and pain free for the animals”.

While the calendar has not been pulled from publication (contrary to the Times report), the offending image has been removed, with the RVC principal Stuart Reid on sheepish form. “To those who have taken offence at the calendar, I apologise,” Reid wrote in a statement. But is it time to retire nude calendars completely?

While any project that raises money for charity is a good thing, there has to be an easier way to support worthy causes than some extremely hokey photography of you and your friends shivering in the cold. Nude calendars have always felt to me like vanity projects. They are an opportunity for women to glam up in the style of that Boots Here Comes the Girls advert, or heterosexual men in sports teams to get together and get naked – something they absolutely love doing, for reasons I cannot fathom – but with the extra endorphin kick of knowing they are doing it for a Good Cause™. When they were first demoed by a group of Yorkshire Women’s Institute members in 1999 – later documented in the movie and stage play Calendar Girls – they were a welcome novelty. But now they are everywhere, and I’m tired of it. Nude calendars are the charitable equivalent of Rita Ora: overexposed, with minimal artistic merit. Nude calendars. It’s time for an ewe turn.

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