(Not So) Barenaked (Lords and) Ladies

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Wait, did Lena Dunham go to Oberlin? (via thesun.co.uk)

Last spring, I visited some friends at Wesleyan University — you know, the school we all got rejected ED1 from — and was at a place called Earth House when I walked into a room full of around 20 people, totally nude, eating cake. They were like, “Yeah, it’s our friend’s birthday, take some cake.” While naked parties are a Wesleyan stereotype, social/public nudity and liberal arts colleges seem to go hand-in-“I was the alt kid in high school”-hand.

All fratty penalty “naked laps” aside, for a school that is (as we hate-love to point out) in the middle of nowhere, we sure spend a lot of time clothed in public. Even the de facto dress code for last weekend’s Shock Your Mom (SYM) was “like, as close to naked as possible” — but not entirely so. The vibe I’ve heard seems to be that full-on nudity crosses from “hip” over to “crunchy,” which Kenyon is decidedly not. So, I couldn’t help but wonder — when it comes to public decency, is Kenyon a bit more conservative than we think we are? As a campus, are we sort of weird about nudity?

When I brought this up with other Kenyon students, as well as some friends who attend other LACs, we easily came up with a number of other schools with rumored nudie traditions: Hamilton College has a streaking team, University of Vermont has an annual naked bike ride, Oberlin College is, well, Oberlin. (When I asked my friend who goes there about nudity on campus, she mentioned, “clothing-optional dorms … group showers” and Safer Sex Night, where “you just need to cover your nipples and wear either a g string or a [genital] sock.” There’s also, as D-Cat — former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oberlin — described at the “Blurred Lines” panel discussion back in September, the stupefying “Tent of Consent.”) I Googled “college naked parties,” which was a mistake, but the last result on the first page was a 2007 New York Times article about the phenomenon, which apparently also goes down at schools like Yale, Brown and MIT.

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(via rattledcubchoo.tumblr.com)

So this is a thing, but not necessarily a thing here. Because the Internet is a cesspool, I decided to call the Office of Campus Safety re: public/social nudity at Kenyon, and I spoke with a Safety officer. When I asked if there were any rules beyond state law regarding nudity on campus, the officer told me, “I won’t say we turn a blind eye, but unless we get a complaint [from a student], … we try to be somewhat liberal.” The officer said they’d busted a few small, unofficial naked parties at Kenyon over the years, but “we didn’t really engage, personally; from an officer standpoint … it’s not something the officers want to do. I have a wife — I’m not sure she would like me going into a room with a bunch of co-eds.”

But the difference between a room with a bunch of naked co-eds and a room with a bunch of half-naked co-eds is a significant one. ABC parties have been big on college campuses lately, and their vibe better matches that of the closest official thing we’ve got, SYM. In fact, Safety ousted two topless female partiers at SYM in 2009, inciting controversy and student conversation on campus, particularly regarding female bodies. Could a more “liberated” social opinion of nudity create a more body-positive environment on campus?

Or did you choose Kenyon because it was more conservative on the “naked party” front? Have you created/uncovered underground hubs of social nudity on campus? I mean, I’m not not advocating that people throw clothing-optional parties in their fancy NCA living rooms with their obscene number of ground-floor windows — it would just be nice if this were a campus where that kind of thing could happen. (Read: How else am I going to win an Emmy?)

18 responses

  1. I hammered out a naked party policy back in the early nineties with the then Assistant Dean of Students. It was after the T&A Soiree at the women’s center. Sounds like someone should dig up the paperwork, because they used to be allowed as long as they were registered as such, no one had to pass through the space to get elsewhere, and all windows were blacked out.

    Sarah ’95

    • So I can’t delete this comment because it doesn’t specifically violate our comment policy, but just because it’s here doesn’t mean that the Thrill or I condone it, because we don’t and it’s super not okay.

      • Good to know, thanks. I expect better from Kenyon. (btw, you’re welcome to delete my accidental duplicate post up there)

  2. Is the memory so short-lived? that collegian article by the CA was from when current seniors were freshmen. That New Apts naked party was DOPE but appropriately unique … they don’t need to happen much

  3. I like to think Kenyon is more modest and restrained that our West Coast and Northern Ohio counterparts. We probably have more respect for decency and decorum than we like to admit.

    If/when we have nude parties, we don’t need to shove it in people’s faces or make a big to-do about it. We don’t run our mouths about it. We attend, have fun, play beer pong, wake up the next day and get dressed like nothing happened. Who likes listening to Stanford students/grads go on and on how liberating nudity is and how it makes their school socially cutting edge? Kenyon isn’t that school and I hope it never is (although I fear that’s the direction it’s heading).

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