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Naked Ambition

I was shocked, shocked, to see that there is public nudity at Yale. Imagine, acts of debauchery going on at one of our more august institutions of learning, a nurturer of our finest minds and most moral business and political leaders.


Apparently nothing new on some campuses; I am just showing my age...

Actually, the nakedness wasn’t completely public; you had to know about the party where birthday suits were de rigueur. And apparently it was a chaste affair, despite all the flesh (though one guest was asked to go outside when he displayed a little genital exuberance).

I learned about the naked party in the Yale Daily News, which was referencing a blog from the Harvard Crimson. Evidently, some Harvard students down in New Haven for “the Game” were a bit surprised to come across a naked party – and the Elis’ blasé attitude toward the frolicking sans clothes.

No, there were no Ivy Leaguers nakedly parading through the streets of the Elm City that night – at least none that made the news. But the article got me thinking about going outside one’s own home without clothes. Not my own home, mind you; I have skinny-dipped or sunbathed au naturel exactly two times in my life, and odds are the count won’t be going higher. But what about throughout history; who were some of the folks who make a social statement with their fashionless statement?

British streakers, 2007 - the fad that wouldn't die

Maybe I'd play softball nude with a body like that...

We had the streaking craze, of course, about 35 years ago. And naturists, (the term preferred over nudists) have sunned and romped in the buff at their own enclaves for more than a century. Greek and Roman athletes competed nude, explaining why few women were allowed at the original Olympic Games. (The exceptions, says Tony Perrottet in his Naked Olympics: young single women, especially ones looking for husbands, and prostitutes. Ah, athletes and the ladies: some  things never change…) A series of Christian sects I’d never heard of before practiced nudity as part of their beliefs. They included the Carpocratians, part of the Gnostic movement of the 2nd century, and the Marcosians, a slightly later group based in France. Rather than flaunting their nudity, they lived in isolated areas or behind stone walls, but just knowing they were there upset the Church powers-that-be.

The early Quakers gave us a more public display of religious nudity. (The Quakers? Yes, and you can read about my interest in the practice here.) They used biblical justification for their nakedness, which was a taunt at the ruling Puritans who scorned them: “’Go, and loose the sackcloth from your loins and take your sandals off your feet,’ and he [Isaiah] had done so, walking naked and barefoot.” Some modern Biblical scholars say, don’t take that literally, he wasn’t really naked. But the Quakers did take it literally, if only because they loved tweaking the Puritans.

During the last few years, public nudity made the news, thanks to Vermont. State statutes do not ban public nudity, so in 2007, some folks in Brattleboro, from teens to the elderly, decided to exercise their civic right to stroll through town in the buff. The town council then voted to temporarily prohibit public nudity. Thankfully, sanity triumphed and the ban was soon reversed. Would you really want to live in country where you can’t go to at least one town and proudly strut your stuff without rebuke? (Assuming your stuff is truly strut-worthy; the skinny excuse of a butt I carry around would definitely not past muster.)

And don't forget the World Naked Bike Ride; click for more info

I don’t have any profound summation on the pros and cons of public nudity. I guess seeing others’ naughty bits could get distracting (see the case of that poor Harvard undergrad above), though the folks who attended the Yale party said most eyes seemed to be conspicuously focused above the neck during conversations (dancing, however, was prohibited). I understand America’s puritanical streak (as the Quakers did), so I don’t expect an upswing, as it were, of naturism. But I also understand the appeal of being outside, under the sun, enjoying nature with nothing between us and our environment. With no one worried about how their clothes fit and if they’re the latest fashion. Going beyond the superficiality of looks and taking people for who they are, with no discrimination or sense of superiority. Just as all of today’s naked Yalies surely must do as they go on through life and enter the corridors of power.


  1. January 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Believe it or not, Christianity and Naturism (Nudism) is alive and well. No, not to poke at the purists, nor to use Isaiah as the reason for freedom. But we realize that in fact, there is no biblical ban on nudity per se. Ban on forcing nudity on others, yes, that is, don’t force others to be nude nor cause them to be nude for your pleasure.

    In a society that shows respect to Playboy magazine like they would Time or People, they should have no problem with naturism. Since naturism is not about sex or the wrong kind, though Playboy is. So Playboy is accepted, where Christians who truly live as Christians, yet don’t bother with the clothing aspect of it. Seems the “right” leaning you are in Christianity, the more legalistic you are are the fancier you dress. Seems those that are legaistic wear suits and those who are not legalistic wear casual clothing to church. Then you have those, even women, wear jeans to church!

    But naked?

    Yes, I have led worship music, communion, spoke and taught at venues of Christianity totally naked. Not even sandals on my feet. And yes, Isaiah was naked.

    Boyd “Live Nude and Prosper” Allen

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