For most modern men, the thought of public nudity is largely consigned to embarrassing nightmares and hazy childhood traumas of their dads showering them in a public swimming baths sans Speedos. Equally horrifying scenarios, we think you’ll agree.
And granted, we’ve all seen the friendly gym-goer towelling himself off the locker room, waving his tackle in our faces as we secretly pray to the Virgin Active Gods to let it pass, but even if we reverse these roles - so that you are that same naked renegade massaging your hairy bare thighs with rough cotton - you wouldn’t want your picture taken would you? It’s intrusive.
And so we come to the newly published images of Orlando Bloom, snapped by the paparazzi letting it all hang out during a day out with his popstar girlfriend Katy Perry, looking noticeably unbothered about his state of undress as he blithely floats along on a paddleboat as though he’s on a lake in the Garden of Eden and they were out of large leaves. Well fair play to him, we say.
That a man used to walking red carpets should feel as comfortable in his birthday suit as a Tom Ford tux, his actions should be admired, applauded even. Moreover, with the images now going viral you’d hope they might instil the sort of courage in other men to travel to some far-flung location and bare all, embracing the cool sea breeze on my nether regions without the fear of embarrassment or persecution.
Sadly, however, we all know this won’t happen. Nor is it ever likely to. Particularly on these famously prudish isles, where the average Brit is about as keen to go starkers on the beach as he is leave over 15 per cent tip for impeccable service in a restaurant. It’s just not in our DNA.
Take nudist beaches: long the preserve of our less shy continental cousins, even these can prove a minefield of awkwardness for British men, prompting questions such as “Do you have to get naked?”, “Do Speedos count?”, and the old classic “OH GOD WHY DID WE AGREE TO COME HERE?!”.
Whereas women going topless seems the norm on most beaches abroad, something about a man going bottomless somehow doesn’t. It takes a (literally) cocksure individual to walk around with his member flapping about and feel both comfortable in himself and comfortable in the fact he’s not in danger of invading anyone else’s space. Which is quite frankly a shame.
Holidays in hotter climates are generally place where a man should feel comfortable in his own slightly sunburnt skin, paunch and all. But ironically enough, these newly released images of Orlando Bloom might even serve to reinforce negative body attitudes among men.
Does our collective unease at downing trunks keep us from doing as Bloom does? Or is it simply that being a millionaire actor with pop star girlfriend, bronzed abs glistening in the sun isn’t an ideal we could live to?
Try as we might, we will never be Orlando Bloom. Not even after three rounds of reconstructive surgery. And that’s before we get onto the offending area itself…
If all the ‘third Legolas’ jokes going around Twitter are correct, he could well be - as countless gossip websites have eloquently put it - “packing” (and we don’t mean sunscreen). Whoever censored the images might not be sparing the actor’s blushes, but rather our own. To riff along the lines of what Zach Braff Tweeted upon going to see Michael Fassbender in Shame, there’s exhibitionism and then there’s plain showing off.
Just saw the movie "Shame". The only "Shame" is my peep compared to Michael Fassbender's...— Zach Braff (@zachbraff) January 21, 2012
Joking aside though, what are men who feel insecure about their bodies to think when the only pictures of naked men they see are from the perfectly toned and ripped physiques of Bloom and Bieber? Why are paparazzi never chasing a towel-less Jack Black? With so little male nudity in the visual media, is it any wonder men have an uneasy relationship with it?
It’s the same on TV. As long as double standards are routinely flagged up in shows such as Game of Thrones over the grossly unbalanced amount of full frontal nudity between sexes, the naked male form will always be taboo. Shock shows such as Channel 4’s Naked Attraction might have done their bit to instil more confidence about body issues in men, but even then it's important to remember this is reality TV, a format where exhibitionism is currency and participants will do anything for their five minutes of fame.
It’s not that we’re any more comfortable with male nudity on screen, it’s that we’re in danger of becoming desensitized to the musclebound ‘ideal’ figure as being the custom. For every Les Dennis in Extras, there’s an Aiden Turner in Poldark, a man whose chest is a practically a hairy tsunami of big ripples, or Tom Hiddleston getting out of the pool in The Night Manager.
Well we’re here to tell you that it doesn’t actually matter what you see on telly, in the tabloids, or your Google image search for Orlando Bloom, because men shouldn’t fear nudity but embrace it, and that goes for covering those tan lines.
Besides, who cares what other people think, or who’s watching on? In fact, the one positive about not being a Hollywood actor is that you’re unlikely to have anyone tailing you with a telescopic lens for two days? If more men start going 'full Bloom' it might change how younger generations view themselves. So go on, be free. Just nowhere near a school or anything...
The tide is changing, we’re just paddling really slowly.