What A Cheek: The Left In A Lather Over Not-So-Racy Jilly Cooper Cover

Jilly Cooper The Riders

The poor, dear luvvies of the chin-stroking left have got themselves in a terrible lather on the matter of prudishness. No, we’re not talking about the issue of mothers breastfeeding children in public places, rather something a little more prosaic.

Should they praise Jilly Cooper for reissuing her ‘bonkbuster’ book Riders with new, curiously sanitised jacket artwork? Or is it political correctness on steroids?

Such a to-do about not very much at all. When Riders was first released in 1985 it showed a hand sitting seductively low down on a woman’s jodhpurs (above right) but now the 30th anniversary edition shows the hand placed coyly just below the rider’s hip (above left).

Not a big change, to be sure, but enough to get some committed cultural commentators choking on their tofu.

Irish novelist Marian Keyes is one. She thinks the change is a good thing. Keyes told the Daily Mail she supported the new cover and said it showed how society has become more enlightened, more progressive and just plain respectful. The Watermelon writer said:

“I think we’ve become more enlightened and more respectful and more responsible about women’s bodies – they’re not people’s property.

“Even the new one isn’t something I’m comfortable with. You can see that she’s the person holding the whip, which looks like its handing the power back to the woman. It does look less gropey and forced but it’s still invasive.”

Victoria Hislop, best known for writing The Island, is in the other corner. She said the new cover was “frankly, totally unsexy” and defended the original as “hardly pornographic”. Hislop told the The Times:

“What strikes me most is either that women’s bottoms have got bigger or men’s hands have shrunk in the intervening years.

“The 2015 proportions are extraordinary. I always thought the old cover ‘said something’ – it was funny, layered, open to some interpretation and started a conversation. The new one is bland, a bit ‘so what’ and frankly totally unsexy.

“If they haven’t changed Jilly’s story why do this? The next thing will be to delete the sauciness of the novel itself – and surely this is totally against the trend?”

Louise Mensch, the writer and sometime Tory MP, agrees. She believes the artwork “displays prudishness that Rupert Campbell-Black would disdain”.

Feminist author Germaine Greer is totally on board with Mensch declaring “It does sound like a sort of correctness, doesn’t it? [The new cover] seems rather boring. I suppose I’d rather see men’s bottoms being felt by women’s hands.”

Um, really? Perhaps the last word should go to the author herself. Well, it would if she would speak up. Friends of Cooper said she thought the new version of the cover was ‘bonkers’, although the author herself declined to comment, The Times reported.