One senior thinks he has a unique perspective on women at Bowdoin.
Given the fact that he has stripped for over 100 of them, his suspicions are probably right.
"[Women at the parties] were taking off my shirt, removing my belt. It's a sexuality you don't see a lot," he said.
The student, who wished to remain anonymous, danced naked at some 10 campus birthday parties before "going into retirement" this year.
Although he said he doesn't regret the years he spent stripping for classmates and peers, he's "grown out of it."
"Also, the six pack turned into a keg," he said.
The student, whose favorite song to strip to is Ginuwine's "Pony," said he first considered dancing naked for money when a friend proposed the idea to him. "I really enjoy working out. Stripping was a platform to validate that," he said.
According to the student, stripping for fellow Bowdoin students on Saturday nights did not significantly change the ways in which they interacted with him in class on Monday.
"It's like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde identity," he said, noting that he often came to the parties dressed as a police officer or a "sexy cowboy" in order to further highlight the performance aspect of the night's activities.
"There's always some kind of persona involved that masks the reality," he said. "It helps purvey the fantasy."
While shaking his hips wearing nothing but a cowboy hat is one student's preferred way to be naked at Bowdoin, nudity at the College comes in many forms?some less sexual, but all equally exposing.
If the worst part of swimming in Maine during the winter is drying off your cold, wet bathing suit, some brave students have the solution: Don't wear one.
Diving head-first into the frigid Maine ocean completely naked, or "polar bearing," as its advocates call it, made No. 12 on the Bowdoin Student Government's list of "50 Things To Do Before You Graduate."
According to Aspen Gavenus '09, who polar bears a few times a month, the naked aspect of the event is not crucial, but it certainly adds to the experience.
"The nudity is not required, but there is something more awkward about being in your underwear when everyone else is naked," Gavenus said. "A lot of people go with the intention of not being completely naked, but end up taking all their clothes off at the last minute."
Sean Sullivan '08, the proctor of Quinby House, arranged a group polar bearing trip for his housemates and first-year affiliates in the fall semester as a bonding activity, complete with hot cocoa and cookies.
"I was really worried because a lot of freshmen approached me saying, 'I don't want to be naked,'" he said. Although he said he reassured them that nudity wasn't a requirement, by the time the vans arrived at Simpson's Point for the plunge, everyone was so pumped up that all of the clothes came off.
"There's so much adrenaline, and being naked contributes to that adrenaline rush," he said. "In the dark, it's so quick, nobody's looking at each other naked."
Gavenus agreed. "The experience of dunking yourself in the frigid waters of the Northern Atlantic in the middle of the night with a group of similarly crazy people takes center stage, and the nakedness is just a part of it. Indeed, compared to the other components of polar bearing, the nudity seems rather mundane," she said.
In addition to leading a group polar bearing adventure, Sullivan said he also enjoys polar bearing on his own time. "I honestly try to do it once a week, alone or with [a friend]. I'm convinced that it's good for your health," he said. "You won't find anything more invigorating to show you're alive," he added.
A thousand words
When Nicole Willey '08 arrived at the opening of last year's photo exhibit "Corpus" and saw the framed photograph of her naked self on display, she was speechless.
"Oh my god," she thought. "It's a poster." Willey, who had posed for the show after seeing a similar exhibit of photographs her sophomore year, had not expected her nude photo to be so large?or to be the center of the exhibit.
As the only photograph of a woman that showed the student's face, Willey's portrait gained a great deal of attention at the College. In fact, men and women alike approached Willey throughout the next month to congratulate her on her courage, she said.
However, according to Willey, the decision to show her face was not a difficult one. "[When I saw the show my sophomore year,] it really kind of disturbed me that there were no heads on the bodies," she said.
"As a Gender and Women's Studies major, I'd thought a lot about women's bodies in an academic way. I didn't feel comfortable chopping my head off for a picture," Willey said.
"In doing it, I wasn't looking to make myself look like a playboy model or something," she added. "Corpus," which was arranged by Britta Bene '07, will be replaced by "Exposure" this spring, an exhibit of nude photographs aimed at exposing the Bowdoin community to a wider variety of body types. Though wildly popular, "Corpus" also received criticism for portraying mainly thin, white bodies rather than a true cross-section of the campus.
"It is important to try to represent bodies of varying shapes, sizes and skin tones because it is the imperfect uniqueness of every body that unites us?there is no normal body," said Sylvie Piquet '08, a co-organizer of "Exposure."
Willey agreed. "I hope this year, models may be more willing to show flaws, show a little more of the reality. Even the thinnest, most beautiful bodies can have their flaws."
Piquet, who posed herself in last year's show, said that this year's exhibit will allow students of all different comfort levels to participate since it includes a self-portrait option for those unwilling to be naked with a student photographer. In her experience, however, posing naked can be "a psychologically, mentally, and physically liberating experience."
"It is different for everyone, but being naked as part of an art form is especially freeing because the body is then being regarded as an object, not in a demeaning subjectless way, but rather in a way that looks at an arm, thigh, stomach for just what it is?it normalizes being naked," Piquet said.
"I feel most awkward when I'm putting my clothes back on," she added. According to Piquet, the exhibit aims to provide a valuable opportunity for students and community members to foster a healthy relationship with the physical body. However, her objective is more than that.
"My biggest goal is for people to leave the show wanting to get naked," she said.
Beyond the pines
Nude models, skinny-dippers, and strippers are by no means the only upholders of nudity at Bowdoin. From the notorious "naked parties" to the Bowdoin Cable Network's most-popular program, "Pants Off, Dance Off," there is certainly no shortage of nakedness at the College.
Nonetheless, other peer schools are more publicly known for their states of undress. Tufts University, for example, is famous for its annual Naked Quad Run, in which students run laps around the campus's main Quad in the buff.
"I've heard that originally, the tradition started years ago when Tufts became a co-educational institution. Boys were furious that the administration was now accepting females, and to rebel they stripped down to their birthday suits and jogged merrily around the Quad despite the bitter cold," wrote Tufts junior Peter Accomando in an e-mail to the Orient.
"Since then, the tradition has continued, but the values that the run were started on are gone," said Accomando, noting that the streaking event is now catered by the dining hall and guarded from onlookers by security guards and temporary fences.
"Where is the 'rebelliousness' when there is a police force at the run to protect the streaking students? I'd like to see if someone could organize a separate Naked Quad Run sometime, one without the police, or the nighttime reception, and see if people actually join in and participate in a more spontaneous run," he added.
Perhaps the NESCAC school most famous for its high incidence of nudity is Wesleyan University, which boasts a clothing-optional underclassmen dorm.
According to Wesleyan senior Oren Gersten, who lived in the dorm as a first year, "Within this dorm you are not required to be naked but it is generally understood that that is acceptable."
"There were very few awkward situations in the naked dorm," he added. "Rather people felt comfortable to be themselves which made people more friendly to one another."
Rob Boyd, also a senior at Wesleyan, said that while nudity is common at the College, some of the media attention on the issue is mere sensationalism.
"The news likes to make a big deal about this sort of thing. The facts are, yeah, there are sometimes naked parties, yeah, we have a dorm that is technically clothing-optional, yeah, we used to have a pornography course, and we still have a course called 'Reproduction in the 21st Century,' and yeah, people do go streaking, but it often doesn't extend past the usual college antics we've all come to love," Boyd said.
The anonymous Bowdoin stripper seemed to agree.
"Just chalk it up to experience," he said.