Editor’s Note: The identity of the person interviewed for this story has been changed for privacy reasons.
Some people prefer to eat undressed salad. Others, to eat salad undressed.
The latter might be less common than the former. But last year, a group of UR students celebrated their lack of dressing, salad or otherwise, while eating food (salad, or otherwise). They hosted nudist potlucks.
They were sort of like a club, but without SA recognition, foregoing funding so they could strip away SA’s rules and regulations.They didn’t advertise meetings; they didn’t mass-invite people to events on Facebook. They didn’t even have a name. They were just regular students enjoying a meal together while completely naked.
Nudist potlucks were serious affairs, as Alan, who graduated in May, discovered at his first get-together. He’d been to naked events at the Burning Man festival, but wasn’t sure what to expect of UR nudists. He’d heard the events had had a “sexual vibe” in the past. It wasn’t until he’d heard that this was a potluck — “and that my friend was bringing pasta” — that he believed it would be an honest, bare-bones event.
Getting into one of the potlucks was no streak in the park. The club organized by Google Docs. If a member wanted to invite someone, they put a name down. If another member didn’t want that person attending, they had a 36-hour window to scratch out the name. When Alan was first put on the document, another member disapproved, and his invitation was rebuffed. After a second try, he was able to attend in the buff.
Alan showed up to the off-campus house a little late, so he missed the meal part of the potluck. Still, he came in, undressed, and headed to the kitchen to check out the food. Some of the dishes that people had brought to the potluck were vegan pasta, potato skins, and homemade sangria. When asked whether certain foods pair better with nudity, Alan replied, “I guess certain foods pair better […] I’m not entirely sure. Wings are not usually the sexiest of foods, but it’s not like potato skins are notorious for, you know.”
After grabbing some snacks and alcohol, Alan greeted the other guests. He saw friends he knew and met some he didn’t. About 30 people were at the potluck. Some were sitting and talking, others playing flip cup. There were regular conversation topics, like traveling, feminism, and tattoos, since they were easily visible.
“It was a normal, run-of-the-mill college party,” Alan explained.
These potlucks gave students a space to explore their most natural state. Alan found nudism empowering. He argued that humans weren’t designed to be covered up, and that we shouldn’t feel ashamed of being naked. Nudism is about having pride in your body — feeling comfortable seeing and being seen by others. If someone were interested in attending but didn’t want to be fully nude, that wouldn’t be allowed. People had to be nude to attend, because clothing would demonstrate a person’s discomfort and impact the dynamic of the group.
“If you wanted to cover up,” Alan said, “what are you doing here? Did you come to the right party?”
It raises the question: At a nudist potluck, is it then rude to cover your lap with your napkin? Alan said no. Dinner parties are notorious for their rules of etiquette, such as specifying what fork must be used for each dish, and the nudist potlucks were no exception. Any regular dinner party etiquette was followed, and in fact, followed more carefully than if attendees were clothed.
For example, no one reached across another person’s chest to grab something off the table. Guests were hyper-aware of making eye contact, so that no one thought their gaze was wandering anywhere below neck level.
Alan “saw all of the vaginas because I wanted to and looked at them,” but noted that people were careful not to ogle and to respect boundaries.
“There’s a lot more side hugs,” he said. “I hug everyone I would normally hug, but we’re both aware of our nakedness. Hence the side hug, and not the full-body smush.”
Alan enjoyed the night so much he made plans to host his own nudist party. He didn’t want it to be a regular potluck, though. He wanted people to dress up, “in a very nude way,” with glitter, headdresses, and masks. He said he would have top-shelf liquor and bartend the event.
He was also going to make sure that the guest list was carefully curated, and that his guests understood his rule, “don’t be a dick with your dick out.” Along a similar vein, Alan jokingly admitted to his true motivation for attending the events. “People really should know that my penis is big,” he said.