Anything that can be done clothed would be far more interesting if done in the nude.
Let’s look at a particular case: taking notes in class. There’s a guy who sits next to you in an anatomy lecture that you sometimes attend. You don’t know anything about him outside of the fact that his handwriting is rather sloppy and that he breathes heavily through his mouth. For the most part, it’s kind of annoying and sort of boring. You haven’t even taken the time to learn his name.
Now think of him, in the same context, naked. Completely nude. Not a stitch of clothing on him. Whether you are compelled to look or to avert your eyes, all of the sudden this no-name anatomy guy becomes absolutely fascinating.
“Who is he?” you ask yourself. “My, how he takes fine notes!” you notice. “Why is he committing this unprompted and unusual act?” you ponder. Now he’s on your radar, and you’ll never pass him on Elm Street without wondering whether or not he’ll scream out wildly and rip off all his clothes once more. You’re filled with a magnanimous uncertainty and you glory in it. Who knew taking notes could be so exciting?
Yale cherishes its special bond with nudity. Numerous parties are naked in theme and content. Hordes of clothes-less thrill-seekers storm the library on finals week, and Yale Security doesn’t bat an eye. One time, a group of them came to the YDN offering cold drinks. Here, we celebrate the body.
But, in many ways, our celebration ends at the isolated nude. For us, public display is never physically interactive. If you happened upon naked anatomy guy once more, you wouldn’t ask him to play basketball with you or recreationally wrestle or anything like that. No, no. He’s naked. We appreciate and that’s all.
Naked sports have been around for millennia. Although they predate the classical age, nudity in sports was not commonplace until its introduction into the Spartan city-state. The very word “gymnasium,” although technically a Latin word, is derived from the Greek word “gymnos,” which means naked.
What began as a celebration of aesthetic beauty in exercise spread throughout Greece and was extended to organized sports in the Olympic Games. Every sport was carried out completely nude. The one exception was chariot racing. For the Greeks, athletic prowess was a corporal gift from the gods; therefore it was befitting that the games should be carried out naked.
Or would they be nekkid? Someone once clarified the naked-nekkid question by saying that “naked” was when you had no clothes on and “nekkid” was when you had no clothes on and you were up to something. The Greeks, then, were certainly nekkid.
Naked sports soldiered into the 19th century when they were embraced by northern Europeans in a movement of body culture, known as Freikörperkultur, which advocated recreational nudity. However, in this day and age, nude sports have been sequestered by a “nudist” context. It’s as if being a “nudist” is a prerequisite for horseback riding, snorkeling or hiking in the nude.
To me, it sounds like an unnecessary excuse. I don’t want to have to justify a naked fencing duel by saying, “It’s okay, I’m a nudist.” I want nude sports to be accepted as a different breed of athletics for the nudist and the non-nudist alike.
There is an entire slew of nude road races. A surprising number take place in Texas. Some people ski nude. Christian Linde of Finland holds the record for the greatest nude powerlifting squat — achieved in 1993 at almost 420 pounds, according to nakedworldrecords.com. This phenomenon has gone way beyond a coy skinny dip or a surprise streaking incident.
Another man lifted two naked women, one on each shoulder, and got into the record books. He was, of course, also naked. To these athletes, nude sports are entirely different than the kind where clothes are required. And for them, we’ve only cracked the surface.
The existence of nudity in the context of sports has many years to go until it’s fully accepted in everyday society. Right now it’s all spectacle. If we saw a group of nude Frisbee golfers on Old Campus, we’d think it was a stunt or a trick of some sort. I’d say, “I wonder what they’re up to?” and leave perplexed. But what if they were just playing nude Frisbee golf? It’s a different sport, you know. That’s something to think about. I don’t think we’re all ready.
Take Stephen Gough as evidence of society’s disapproval of so-called unwarranted and alarming public nudity. This man, dubbed the “Naked Rambler,” has, twice in the last four years, hiked the length of Great Britain wearing nothing but boots. He was arrested over 20 times on the first excursion in 2003. But that didn’t stop him. He tried and succeeded on a second try in 2006.
The echoes of his victory have been heard round the world. Just last August, a troupe of nekkid hikers from Tufts happened upon a Yale FOOT group and decided to sing a song to commemorate the occasion. Those, I suggest, weren’t hikers hiking naked, but naked hikers. It’s not crazy anatomy guy taking notes while nude, but a nude note-taker who happens to be in my anatomy class. It’s all a game of semantics.
Nude sports have historical significance and precedents; my plea is to bring them back indefinitely. I take a kind of “why not” attitude to the nude sports arena. I just say that we should let ’em loose and see what happens.
Charles Gariepy is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. His column appears on Wednesdays.