Topless Photo Shoot a First for Cambridge Student Paper

How much nudity should appear in the student newspaper? The Varsity, an independent student weekly at Britain’s Cambridge University, pushes the envelope in its latest issue with a fashion-themed photo spread featuring an undergraduate female topless and bottomless-from-the-back.

The print-and-online spread, “Days of Heaven,” spotlights a lone student, a 20-year-old Japanese major, posing in fields around Cambridge on a chilly, rainy winter’s afternoon.  In the pics, she sports various items- sweaters, scarves, and caps- from a niche knitwear label created by a fellow student fashion designer.  The pieces are, ahem, strategically placed- either just barely covering certain anatomical parts or purposefully revealing them.

According to a report in UK’s Daily Mail, the attire, as it is arranged on the student model, “wouldn’t be enough to keep her warm during the cold winter term at Cambridge University- but it might raise the temperatures of a few fellows. . . . [One] shot shows her sporting a fur hat and stretching a dark jumper over the tops of her thighs to narrowly preserve her modesty, while elsewhere she reveals her bare derriere as she stands in a meadow wearing only boots and a jacket.”

The student model: “It was good fun and I thought the pictures had real artistic integrity. I had no qualms about doing it. I am happy with my body although I would change a lot of things if I had the power.”

In the most-talked-and-Tweeted-about shot, the student is topless, head down, sporting a black fur vintage hat.  It is the first topless photo the newspaper has run in its 63-year history.

What do you think? Empowering?  Tasteful?  Too explicit without warning? Gratuitous nudity for nudity’s sake?

My take: Overall, there is an elegant simplicity to the photos’ revealing.  The spread seems to embody the spirit of artistically-adventurous fashion shoots seen often in the professional press.  There is nothing overtly sexualized about the poses.  The student model is a willing, even eager, participant.  And the shots certainly must be pleasing to the student designer.  They show off her work in buzzworthy fashion, although admittedly my eyes did not always focus first on the clothing.

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