Naturism - The Naked Truth
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April 20, 2006

This summer, strut your stuff in your birthday suit

Excerpt from the recently discovered Gospel of Judas, translated from the Coptic: “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Crum. And the Crum being green and without form, God made trees, and shrubs of all predilections. He made the humble ant, and the proud Dinosaurs; he made the noble golden retrievers and the middle-aged people to lead them. And He created the collection of waters, and the great creek animals, and God blessed the crawdaddies, saying Be fruitful and multiply. And He created eel-walks, and He created Ewoks, because they sounded so similar anyway. And He saw that it was Good. And the Ewoks embraced the crawdaddies, and the middle-aged people used only retractable nylon GentleLeader™ leashes, which would not harm the noble retrievers. And all were naked, and they were not ashamed. And God saw everything that He had made and behold, it was very good.

And in the middle of the Crum was Crumhenge, the Henge of Good and Evil. And the lord God said make any bonfire you like, but do not make a bonfire in the Henge of Life, lest you die. But the Ville-rats said unto the middle-aged woman, you shall not die, for the day you make the bonfire your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as God, knowing Good and Evil. And the woman saw that the Henge was good for bonfires — and hot dogs thereupon — and she and her husband constructed one.

And then the eyes of the middle-aged dog-walking suburban professionals opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they were ashamed; and they sewed leaves of the fig tree to make North Face windbreakers for themselves. And also in the Crum, the eyes of the mushroom-eating college students opened, and they also knew that they were naked. And they were ashamed, but kind of into it; and so were the many couples knowing one another behind rocks and in God’s Amphitheatre. And God drove man out, and assigned the students 800 pages of Lacanian theory to read by Thursday. And he lodged Public Safety at the gate of the Crum and the flaming sword whirling around to guard the way of the Henge of Life.”

As we bask in the April sun, sipping on Courvoisier and watching freshmen play over-excited Frisbee on Parrish Beach, it isn’t hard for us to believe that Swarthmore was the original site of Paradise. We have the nature, the peaceful beasts, the unfettered displays of love and touchy face, but where’s the nudity? While people out here on the Beach do seem pretty comfortable taking off a few layers — mostly the shirtless guys showing off the nice tans they’ve gotten from sitting in McCabe all winter — it seems we have lost the Biblical ability to run around starkers and shame-free. Most of us have pictures in the family album of ourselves as naked, grinning toddlers, about to do something really clever like try to eat grass or cut our own hair. But those pictures can be a little uncomfortable now that we’ve become conscious of our own sexuality and a sex-saturated media. Now when people get a little naked on the Beach, it’s almost impossible not to look at them and judge them in a sexual context. Skin is no longer equated with freedom or comfort; it is linked to throbbing biological urges.

Ironically, however, the nude body in its natural state (we are not talking porn here) is almost de-eroticized. Think about it: which is more provocative, a skimpy thong that leaves a little sumthin’ sumthin’ to the imagination or a completely bare ass? Ask anyone who has lived in Europe, visited Europe, read a book about Europe or even just seen a map of Europe at some point in their life and they will tell you that over there topless or nude sunbathing is really just not a big deal. Little children run around naked in parks. It’s cool. No one stares. No one calls the police. They eat baguettes. Social nudity, as opposed to being awkward, breaks down the kind of erotic barriers that make us so overly conscious of our bodies being on view, and allows the body to be … just a body. And that is really fun.

According to the American Association of Nude Recreation, clothing-optional vacations are THE (naked) bandwagon you should be jumping on this summer: “When you take off your clothes, you put on a smile!” But why stop at the family nudist RV park? We propose that there be a lot more nudie and a lot less prudie here at Swarthmore, where it all began. College, after all, is nothing more than a selfish extension of childhood: Someone else cooks and cleans for you, and you are ultimately accountable to no one but yourself. You also start to cry when your roommate carelessly misplaces “Mr. Bawa.” So why not reclaim the innocence of nudity while you’re at it?

There are, of course, a number of rather thorny legal issues to deal with when engaging in naturism. It appears that the Pennsylvania state legislature isn’t so down with the groovy styling's of nude recreation. While there is no national law prohibiting nudism (insert joke regarding our president’s surname here), in Pa. public nudity can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor depending on the place, time and company of your getting nekkid. This is why we are calling for a return to Paradise: maybe some naked time alone in your room, maybe some naked time in the Crum, maybe a Parrish Nude Beach to get you comfortable in your skin so you can be comfortable in whatever summer styles you’re rocking.

Annie and Lillian are seniors.
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