Wednesday, September 18, 2013

(Not) Streaking at College

At the school I attended for my graduate degree, there was a tradition among students to streak down a very large quad at night. Not everyone did it, of course, but it was a commonplace sight there after about 11 pm. I once talked to some security guards posted nearby about it; they just laughed about it and said they never interfered. So I kind of really wanted to. I've never streaked (struck?) or skinny-dipped in my life. I figured this would be a great opportunity to do so in a way that I wouldn't get in any trouble--socially or academically--for. But I never did.

Why not? Well beyond the normal hesitation I think most people raised in American culture feel about being nude in public, I'm also kind of shy and didn't want to do it alone--but also didn't know anyone who would be interested in doing it with me. I blame* that mainly on most of my friends being fellow Mormons. That pretty much ruled out my female friends: even though I knew a few who might have possibly been OK with it, I just didn't know how to start that conversation ("hey member-of-the-opposite-sex, want to run around naked in public for a few minutes?") and didn't want to risk the awkwardness if they said no.

Male friends didn't seem like a much more promising pool of people, either, sad to say. Honestly, I think part of it was my fear of vague societal homophobia--I'm already semi-outspoken about LGBT issues, will guys in the ward kinda look at me weird if I ask them to run around naked with me? [To be clear, this isn't something I'm proud of, but I have to admit it did factor into my apprehension about asking any Mormon male friends to join me.] But even without that factor, I hadn't seen any of my male friends nude before, and vice versa, and it's not easy to offer to change that.

So I think the main reason I didn't ask anyone to join me streaking (and thus why I never did it) was the weird taboo our culture (American generally, but especially the Mormon sub-part thereof) has about nudity. There's just no non-awkward way of being naked in someone else's presence unless you're in a sexual relationship with them. If you have experiences with breaking that ice in a non-sexual context, I would love to hear about it, though! How do you ask someone to go skinny-dipping or streaking with you?

Anyway, this cultural nudity taboo is sad to me. If nothing else, it means I missed out on a fun, safe, liberating experience. But hey, I guess there's always reunions!

* I use "blame" in a not-carrying-any-bitter-connotations kind of way, just describing reality. I have nothing against Mormon friends! :)


  1. Well, people (and Mormons) don't go around nude because people (and Mormons) supposedly understand these things called modesty and chastity. Bodies are sacred things, and we shouldn't just be showing them to people willy-nilly. Even the briefest of glances of someone's nude form can ignite thoughts and feelings better left until after marriage to your only one and only. What I don't understand is this push I feel from everyone (even Mormons, who ought to know better) to come to terms with your naked body by flinging it about and showing it off whenever and to whomever you feel like. I'm not saying being naked is not okay, because I think you can learn a lot about yourself by being alone with your nakedness, but we've been counseled numerous times by general authorities to be very careful about where and to who we show our unclothed bodies, but for some reason, it doesn't seem to be sticking. From a religious standpoint, our bodies are temples, which means we need to keep them to ourselves, out of sacredness. You don't just let anyone come into the temple; you don't let just anyone see your naked body. It's the same. Streaking, though I can see the appeal of the adrenaline rush and partaking of something taboo, is disrespectful to our bodies and takes lightly the purpose for which we were given them. They are to house our divine spirits, and though we are allowed and encouraged to delight in the wonderful things they can do, we need to do so with decorum and respect, and above all, we need to keep it to ourselves. Sorry, it isn't that I think you are a terrible person for wanting to streak that one time, but apparently I have a lot to say about the subject and your post has gotten it all to the surface. Perhaps I should write my own submission and get it done with yeah?

    1. But, Naomi, you DO think Austin is a terrible person, don’t you? It’s endemic to your language, to your outrage couched in concern. Look at your huffy and exclusionary generalizations and rankings: “people (and Mormons)”; everyone (even Mormons, who ought to know better)”; etc.

      The implication of the partitioning: if you were right, if you were good, you would think like me. You would have all the same thoughts and feelings as I do, which are the correct ones, as I am the arbiter of the interpretations of these definitions and concepts.

      You say you feel that push to “come to terms” with your body by “flinging it about”; I wonder why you feel so threatened and pressured. I wonder why you are so upset by someone sharing this one time they thought about being naked in public. It all seems to frighten and upset you.

      Bodies are sacred but they are ours and they are us and as such are deserving of worship as we choose.

      I like the word “worship” quite a bit. It comes from the West Saxon word weorðscipe which meant “condition of worth and honor.” To worship something is to recognize it and know its value; to show someone or something its value. There are as many ways to interpret this when it comes to bodies as there exist bodies. Really good sex is a kind of worship. So is, sometimes, being outside in the elements. Being seen. I could go on here; maybe I’ll write my own post.

      You should write your own post; it would be welcomed. You should also remember the purpose of this blog, which is to explore and challenge and share in an environment of love and understanding, instead of indignant judgment and othering.

  2. Naomi, yeah I think we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one :)

  3. I go skinny dipping all the time. Mostly at night, which is a lot more gentle on the sensibilities, because you don't feel as exposed. Lots of people have gone with me, mostly because they all know that I am a being-naked-in-water enthusiast. Because they already have this knowledge they aren't (always) weird-ed out by an invitation. I have even had a few people ask me if I will take them, because they know I don't get freaked out by it. I will admit though, the one time I went with other people in full sunlight, turned out to be the single most embarrassing experience of my life. Always check for lurking fishermen. ALWAYS!

  4. Anon, so I just have to convince people that I go skinny-dipping all the time, and then I can start! :) But seriously, that's a good approach, I'll try that!

  5. I don't know how I feel about this. It seems to me that the desire to go streaking in college just to have the experience isn't that different from wanting the experience of drinking, doing drugs, or sexual experimentation. It may seem less "spiritually threatening" because there isn't a commandment that says "Thou shalt not be naked" but I have to say that Naomi is right about the chastity thing. The prophet has commanded that we be chaste at all times. He doesn't say it's okay to be unchaste if it's for a fun college experience.

    1. I totally disagree. Streaking across campus at night is not actually physically or spiritually harmful to someone who wants to do it. BEING NAKED IS NOT BREAKING THE LAW OF CHASTITY. Human bodies are NOT PORN. Gah.