Nude calendars proving alluring for both sexes

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The Independent Online

It's calendar time again in Italy and Gigi, my local newsagent, is quietly disapproving.

It's calendar time again in Italy and Gigi, my local newsagent, is quietly disapproving. A taciturn 55-year-old with bulbous eyes, he must be one of the few in the country who doesn't relish the arrival of languid female nudes to adorn his news-stand.

Gigi has strong views on pornography, morality and the decline of modern society and needs no encouragement to express them. The girlie mags that abound at child level in most giornalaii have no place in his kiosk but he can't say no to the calendars. They are produced by some of the leading magazines and are often sold with the glossies, boosting sales in the pre-Christmas season.

In the beginning there was Pirelli – the tyre company that invented the arty, high-class female nude calendar, using photographers like Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and Peter Lindbergh to snap actresses and models in classic black and white. This collectors' item has spawned a thousand imitators. The weekly news magazine Panorama and the stylish monthly Max offer two of the most famous calendars, and actresses and models will bend over backwards to be the face, or rather the body, for the coming year. Most are nude or close to it, though tone, style and sexiness vary.

The Italian media is usually full of froth about which calendar is the most popular or how each starlet feels about getting her gear off. This year though, the great calendar debate has assumed ridiculous proportions. One of state television's most prominent current affairs shows, Porta a Porta, dedicated an entire programme to the topic. The former Benetton guru Oliviero Toscani dismisses the calendars are "ugly and vulgar". But his seems to be a voice in the wilderness.

The desire to expose oneself appears to be contagious. In Trieste, renowned in literature for its beautiful women, the posties have posed for a two-year calendar. These figures of everyday life with their uniforms and satchels will now take on a whole new dimension and the 1,000 copies sold immediately.

But the one that has caught the biggest headlines is the Rhoss calendar, whose notoriety is that its creator uses only casalinghe, which literally means housewives. The photographer, Gianfranco Angelico Benvenuto, has ironically entitled his work "The Scandal of Normality". The women are displayed naked, or close to it, in ironic poses, holding giant spaghetti forks or knitting needles or calling their husbands home to lunch.

An online survey of 977 Italian women aged from 25 to 55 years, found 36 per cent would be prepared to pose nude for a private sexy calendar for their husbands. Another 35 per cent said they wouldn't dream of it and the remainder were undecided.

Photo agencies said a growing number of women were wanting to do a "do-it-yourself" sexy calendar as a gift to their partners. The aim seems to be to rekindle desire that might have waned or been distracted by the bare flesh that abounds in the Italian media.

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