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‘As naked calendar season rolls around again, maybe it’s time we stopped being so cynical’ (Opinion)

By Will Stroude

October’s a bit of an odd month, isn’t it? We’re huffing and puffing over the fact that our laundry is now taking three days to dry and almost breaking our necks as we run to catch the bus, thanks to the collection of wet leaves that have now gathered across the pavement.

Fortunately, October also brings with it the latest wave of naked calendars – every cloud has a silver lining. Whilst the Warwick Rowers are erecting their paddles for yet another naked photo-shoot, a group of inclusive rugby clubs have come together to strip off and raise awareness of another worthy cause. But despite the good intentions behind these calendars, some people are far from impressed.

The Warwick Rowers have been taking their kit off since 2009, making them somewhat seasoned naked models. Of course, they’re not just doing it for the thrill of running around in the nude in front of a camera, as 10% of the profits go their charity, Sports Allies, which helps tackle homophobia in sport. Sadly, many LGBT people still don’t feel able to take part in sports, with sexism, homophobia and transphobia still rife in many areas of the sporting world.

The fact that the Warwick Rowers have taken a so-called “straight allies” approach to tackling these prejudices is equally important, as it gives the green light to other straight sports players and fans to talk about these issues and call them out. What’s more, it promotes the notion that it is everyone’s responsibility to make sport more accessible and inclusive – LGBT sports players cannot be expected to change attitudes alone.

Alongside the Warwick Rowers, players from six different inclusive rugby teams have joined forces in the fight against male cancers. The Caledonian Thebans, the Kings Cross Steelers, the Manchester Village Spartans, the Newcastle Ravens, the Northampton Outlaws, and the Swansea Vikings have jumped on the au naturel calendar bandwagon, with the profits being split between each rugby team and Balls To Cancer, a charity which helps to improve awareness of cancer amongst men. With ‘Movember’ just around the corner, perhaps the launch of this calendar is serving as a timely reminder for us blokes to become more aware of our health – especially because of the fact that men are generally less likely to visit their doctor if they’re experiencing a health problem.

Of course, there are some who argue that these calendars do more harm than good, given that a high proportion of gay and bisexual men suffer with issues around their body image. I agree that body image is an issue that we should all be taking seriously, given the harmful effects it can have on people’s mental and physical health. That being said, perhaps stripping off is sometimes simply an effective way to raise money for important issues like homophobia and men’s health.

For things to change, we need to look a little more closely at how we spend our pink pound. If as consumers we’re drawn to a certain body type on the front of a calendar, then those body types will continue to appear. Ultimately, body image is a collective responsibility that will only change once buying habits change. But it’s clear that these naked calendars can have a positive effect on many gay and bisexual men, be it by breaking down the barriers they face when playing a sport they love, or through raising awareness of cancer amongst men.

In addition, these calendars help to support charities, allowing them to continue their important work. On the other hand, these calendars open up a conversation around body image and how this impacts gay and bisexual men. Perhaps what needs to change is the attitude of people who buy these calendars, in order for them to become more representative of the various body types within society. Despite this, it is important that this does not overshadow the wider contribution that these calendars can have on the LGBT community as a whole.

Follow Hadley Stewart on Twitter @wordsbyhadley.

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