Co-Ed Naked Philosophy: Examining Nudism, Social Norms & Body Freedom
Co-ed Naked Philosophyby Will Forest is a novel about a college philosophy professor named Christopher Ross who embarks on a journey to get social nudity more accepted in mainstream society. The journey takes place in southern Georgia and starts with his first experience on an unofficial nude beach, located on U.S. Navy territory (which is abruptly ended by his and others’ arrest for trespassing). From this point on, Ross begins to question his previous attitudes towards nudity and the human form. It leads him to re-imagine a world with no restrictions on dress and given his profession, he conjures up an imaginary “Palace of Fine Arts.” This fictional palace is like a college with the ideal learning environment. There, creativity and new ideas are exchanged among a host of various classes, with one unique twist: everyone is nude. Why nude? Because, as he states in the book:
“Nudity is truth. Nudity is sincerity. It allows us to see beyond social class and pretension, of which clothing is always an indicator. Paradoxically, nudity helps us see past gender, of which, again, clothing is always an indicator and even an exaggerator. And nudity encourages us not only to express ourselves unabashedly, but also to openly receive and understand the honest expressions of others.”
Ross also describes it as an “environment where skin exposure aids exposure to new ideas.” (Would it really do that? Who knows, but it’s an interesting concept.) He does not share his thoughts when he decides to make this idea a reality on the first day of his new philosophy course. In a very gutsy move, he undresses in his office and proceeds down the hall completely nude. There’s a humorous moment as one teacher almost catches him. But he makes it into his classroom, shocking the students as he walks to his desk to face them. He welcomes everyone to the course and says, “…this is what my body looks like. If you feel uncomfortable with my lack of clothing, I have two suggested options: undress, as much as you’re willing, or leave.” A few depart, and those that remain decide to fully or partially undress. In explaining what the course is about, he lays out the case for classroom nudity. He argues that not only does it make sense for their subject of study, “aesthetics of the human body,” but it also offers the benefit of exposing the largest organ in the human body (the skin!) “to more fully receive and process stimuli.” He tells the class they must “Reclaim the Image” that has been concealed by current taboos and censorship. He states, “The norms for censorship—including, by the way, the decisions about which body parts are sexually arousing—are set by those in power, like the church, by using its authority to define sin, and the government, by enacting laws.” –A fact we just uncovered ourselves, in our recent censorship article!
Now, at this point, a little “suspension of disbelief” is required. Ross is not fired, suspended or punished for this behavior (or stunt), as would reasonably be expected. He gets away with it because he is a well-respected and accomplished professor in his field of work. In addition, the philosophy department is in danger of being eliminated due to low enrollment, but once word gets around about his naked class, students begin clamoring to enroll. Therefore he is permitted to continue.
While some elements of the story may seem unrealistic, readers may be surprised to learn which ones are based on actual events. In one such example, an individual is forced to censor a replica of the David statue. The statue, located on his storefront lawn, receives numerous complaints. This was the case in a similar incident that took place several years ago in the U.S.
The whole concept of nude education is also not that far off from reality. Another character, Professor Angela Saucedo, is in the midst of her research at a fictional middle school in Sweden. At this school, every aspect of a student’s life, from gym class to school concerts, is conducted in the nude. As part of her research, she interviews the students about confidence and body image. The results reflect actual research findings with regards to the positive effects that nudism has on children. While the idea of a nude school may seem preposterous, there was in fact a school in England where students and teachers were nude together, called the English Summerhill school. The school, founded in 1921, still exists today, but sadly no longer has the social nudity aspect.
Of course there are opponents to public nudity (the story wouldn’t be complete without them). The most memorable of these opponents were the members of the “Children of the Lord Our God Fundamentalist Congregation.” Every once in a while they would show up to read from the Bible and publicly scorn the nude sinners. The scenes are rather funny because we know such people do exist, some of which believe that going to a nude beach is a grave sin.
The story continues with more poignant truths scattered throughout. In the discussion of the nude school, the topic of pedophilia comes up as a potential danger for the kids. Angela says, “We’re not accustomed to thinking about children and nudity that way, because our society has conditioned us to make the pedophile connection automatically. How couldn’t we think of it, when the only context for nudity and children that is ever presented in the media is pedophilia?” Anybody running a nudist youth camp for kids knows this to be true! In reality, due to the heightened sensitivity of nudist resort goers, children are probably safer at a nudist resort than they would be at textile camps.
There are too many topics and ideas presented to discuss them all here. All in all, I would say this novel touts all the usual benefits and arguments given in favor of nudism and social nudity: body acceptance, physical comfort, greater mind-body connection, to name a few. It also refutes the usual misconceptions people use against it: that it’s bad for children, that nudity always equals sex, that the human body is obscene, gross, shameful, and many more. Nudity is examined and explored in many different contexts, from nude beaches to schools to strip clubs. The book certainly does its job in summarizing the nudist philosophy with regards to the human body. The main criticism I have is that its storyline might be a bit weak to keep certain readers engaged. It’s filled with a lot of self-serving inner dialogue, in order to get across so many of the core issues that pertain to social nudity. This book does, however, offer a new way of looking at various aspects of social nudity as well as a glimpse of what a body-positive world might look like!
Keep up with book news and author Will Forest at his blog, Nude Scribe.
Now, guess what guys. I have a free copy of Co-Ed Naked Philosophy to give away to one lucky reader!
How to Enter the Giveaway:
1. Leave a comment below, sharing either your favorite nudist book (thus far ;)) or your favorite thing to do nude.
2. For another entry, tweet a link to this article (you can click the Tweet button below) and tag me in the tweet so I see it – @FelicitysBlog
Details: Contest will end on January 13th at midnight. Open to residents in the U.S. and Canada only.
(Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions, and I was not paid for this review or endorsement.)
Category: Felicity's Nudist Blog By Felicity Jones
About the Author (Author Profile)I'm Felicity, author of Felicity's Blog and co-founder of Young Naturists America. I write about nudism and naturism in today's world along with issues like top-freedom and body acceptance, and various naked topics. Enjoy, and leave a comment when you've got something to say! :)
Cannot recall a book with a lot of naturist/nudist philosophy included, but I do recall what started my interest in naturism! It was a film entitled "Walkabout," starring Jenny Agutter. The film itself was about... Well, let's not spoil it for you! It was a social commentary!! The idyllic scenes at the end were what triggered me so much to a "Yessss! THIS is how life is meant to be" stance, and what set me off seeking naturism in the UK where I then lived.
Favourite thing to do naked? - be out in Nature, no matter what I am doing. That simple feeling of wind, sun on the skin, in the hair - even rain (there are naked dancers revelling on the back deck in this house when it rains in the summertime!!!) That total connection with the Universe is where it's at, for me!! :)
"The Harrad Experiment" (1990) by Robert H. Rimmer is a novel centered on a fictional U.S. college that utilizes utopian educational and social concepts grounded in normalization of nudity and sexual freedom. An interesting read.
In the American film "Auntie Mame," Mame, the free-thinking main character sends her nephew Patrick to a school "in Greenwich Village" where all of the students are naked, "because it's more democratic." The film and the book that it was based on are the highly fictionalized memoirs of Patrick Dennis. I'm not sure if there was such a school in New York during the 1920s, as the idea is largely a plot device to shock the conservative banker who controls Patrick's inheritance.
Thanks for the book review your readers are invited to Join the coed nude philosophy book club @nudephilobkclub and read and discuss this book. We even plan to have a discussion with the author.
Thank you so much for this very thorough and even-handed review!
I love how you've linked quotes and passages from the novel, to YNA articles about the basic battles we all need to fight against censorship and discrimination.
Keep up the great work!!
It is unfortunate that I found nudism after college. it would have been great to try to start an organization at my school. (club)
It's amazing how quickly nude swimming in schools has been forgotten about and even being denied as it had never happened. But it shows again that we are all being socially engineered.
“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” 1948, George Orwell.
Isn't it so true!
My favorite thing to do nude is everything where possible, I do however love riding my horses nude. Really enjoyed the article. Please let us know how we can get additional copies of your book so that we might pass this along to our members for there enjoyment. Yvonne (Freedom Fields Naturist Ranch) Ontario, Canada
I am jealous. I wish I had a school that was would be conducted in total nude! I wouldn't probably have had as many body issues as I do now.
Your description of A.S. Neill's Summerhill School in England as a place of social nudity might overstate the case. The school does not require clothing and has a pool in which nudity is generally accepted. Nudity in pools was customary in England in the past (as it was in America, too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGt_HUSSyQQ). In fact, consistent with the philosophy of the school nudity could have probably been accepted just about anywhere on the campus as long as it did not infringe on anyone else. However, in an account I read there was a tendency for new students to behave as gawkers at the pool often enough to discourage the practice. Since the school had no overriding identity as a nudist environment they did not confront the discouraging behavior and then the nudity simply faded in the same way that any other fad would amongst school age kids (6-14 year olds, I believe).
Nudity is probably just as acceptable now as it ever was to the degree that the philosophy and democratic character of the school would make it unlikely for them to prohibit nudity entirely. And even if they did come up with such a prohibition it could, and probably would, be challenged through the democratic process and over turned.
@dberg Thank you, good points. The history of nude swimming in U.S. schools was very interesting! Especially how some schools didn't have it at all while others did, leaving people with a totally different experience of it.
You're right, I think I did perhaps exaggerate the nudity at Summerhill, as if everyone was naked there all the time. I've tried researching the school when I first heard of it, but didn't come up with much about the nudity aspect. But I suppose it was more like the U.S.'s tradition of nude swimming than naked classrooms then.
Favorite nudist book (so far) is the Koala Bares collection as I have an ever so brief cameo, favorite thing to do in the nude is either knit or do yoga
I have a feeling the connection with nudity and child pornography is made deliberately by the media so that most children never get to see nudity as something healthy and normal, thus preventing a whole generation to accept our life style. The selling of the emotional wave is, once again, in full swing and only the most liberated among us can see through this scam!
I really do not have a favorite thing to do in the nude because I do pretty much everything I can in the nude because that is the lifestyle I have chosen to live, but if I was forced to choose only one thing, I think it would have to be nude hiking.
I recommend "The Nudist Idea" by Cec Cinder. It's a long read, but it's the best resource on how the modern nudist movement developed. The book is hard to find, but there are still a few copies in the Bare Oaks store: http://www.bareboutique.ca/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=69
@ChetKresiak Thanks for the recommendation Chet! I've heard of Cec Cinder but haven't read that one, so I'll hafta check it out.
My favorite thing to do nude is go to Sandy Hook and strip down under the sun with the sea breezes all over my body. That makes me feel closer to God or my Higher Power than going to church!