Never mind the C-list celebrities, it's the naked academics you've got to watch out for. Cayte Williams averts her eyes
The next time you go to your local library and the book-stamper stands there absolutely starkers, don't be alarmed. She's probably spent the past 20 years putting Doris Lessings in chronological order and feels the need to express her "fun" side. At least, that is the likely excuse given by bookish historian Amanda Foreman, who stripped for the February issue of Tatler.

Ms Foreman, whose biography of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire has been shortlisted for the Whitbread Book of the Year award, appears in the buff with a stack of her worthy tomes saving her - and us - from blushes. Perhaps she got the idea from Elizabeth Wurtzel, who appears on the cover of her latest book, Bitch, completely starkers.

Amanda and Elizabeth are just the latest in a long line of would-be celebrities who have queued up to bare all in the pursuit of fame. It started in the Seventies with Playboy spreads, and the nudies-for-notoriety reached its zenith with the arrival of the Nineties lad mag.

Fully Booked's Gail Porter wore an antimacassar in GQ; Sara Cox made a career out of leering in Loaded and Emma Noble forgot to put her dress on for the BAFTAs. There isn't a TV starlet who hasn't got her kit off for the lads, but it comes to something when Britain's top bluestockings start whipping off their suspender belts. But don't worry - Amanda's not doing it for publicity. "I have spent five years cooped up in libraries researching my book and I thought why not have some fun now," she explains in Tatler. "You're only young once and I'm certainly not going to do it when I'm 40." One wonders if having your butt in a magazine makes up for five years with your nose in a book, but that's academia for you.

While going naked is no doubt good for the morale (Kate Winslet reportedly felt "released" after she performed her first on-screen nudity), it's no slouch in the publicity department either. Foreman and other mouse- like friends may take their clothes off as much to dare themselves (look, I'm not just a brainbox!) as to generate publicity, but the Nobles of this world have the more street-smart approach (cop a load of this!). The only problem with the Noble approach is that it can become a habit.

"Some people become addicted to the publicity," says Dr Raj Persaud, consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital in London. "It's a way of reassuring yourself that you are attractive. They also spend a lot of time looking after their bodies, and in a sense they might want to get some positive feedback. Most people often look after themselves as a flirtation with a partner, but these women have a flirtation with the public."

Alas, the floodgates are open, and any C-list celeb can strip off in the pursuit of fame. So what shall we see next? Perhaps Carol Smillie, who was dumped this week from hosting the midweek TV Lottery show, will show BBC bosses what she thinks of them by mooning in the Mail on Sunday? After all, she was voted Rear Of The Year. Perhaps Ann Widdecombe will really show what she thinks of Labour spin doctors by pirouetting in front of the House Of Commons wearing nothing but sensible shoes?

It's only a matter of time before some smart cookie catches on and promotes their book/TV show/film in a yashmak. Yes, nudity will become so de rigueur that we will be bored to death at the sight of a nipple. Melinda Messenger will present chatshows in a polo-neck. Page Three will become "Ways With Wool". Eurotrash will feature women with small bosoms. Demi Moore will play Cartman in the South Park movie: "I just love those furry jackets," she coos, "and best of all, you never get to take them off." Now that would be exciting.