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Naked Parties Held At Many Universities Including Yale, MIT

By Rachel Aviv

In the unforgiving fluorescent light of Rosenfeld Hall, a dormitory on the periphery of Yale’s campus, students crouched in a hallway and quickly stuffed their clothes into plastic grocery bags. Shirts were left inside out, socks balled in pant legs. Giggling, they hurried into a basement storage room, where some 40 people stood around, under stone arches and gargoyles, wearing nothing but shoes.

Lighted only by tea candles, the party had the afterglow of a literary reading: Students chatted in small groups, drifting toward the darkest parts of the room. Arms held tight to the body, eyes unwavering from face level, they drank and smoked and talked about the fact that they were naked: “I’m so pale.” “You look radiant.” “The air feels weird without clothes — skin is this big sense organ.”

This was no bacchanal. A few students danced, with less body contact than normal, and the men seemed more self-conscious than the women. When a couple started making out in the back of the room, a barefoot member of the Pundits, the student society that threw the party, asked them to leave.

“Person-to-space ratio is very, very important,” he explained dispassionately. (He would not give his name because the Pundits don’t want the Yale administration to know who they are.)

“It’s one of those things people feel they need to do before they graduate,” says Megan Crandell, a senior who estimates that she has been to a half-dozen naked parties during her time at Yale. “The dynamic is completely different from a clothed party. People are so conscious of how they’re coming across that conversations end up being more sophisticated. You can’t talk about how hot that chick was the other night.”

The Pundits have been throwing naked parties since 1995. Students who throw them at Brown say naked partying began there back in the 1980s. Since then, the idea has caught on. Wesleyan, Wellesley, Columbia, MIT, Bowdoin and Amherst have all been host to parties with similar rules: before entering, take off your clothes. The parties are rarely associated with fraternities or sororities; more often, they’re thrown by campus organizations or groups of friends.

At Brown, too, the nudity is described as more of an experiment in social interaction than a sexual experience, though people begin to loosen up as the parties progress. One year, students formed a back rub chain that sprawled up a flight of stairs.

Watermyn House, a living cooperative near the Brown campus that houses about 15 students, throws a naked party every fall.

“With this whole 20-something party culture, getting dressed to go out is such a big deal,” says Kate Horning, a senior who went to the party. “But that whole part of the evening is purposely absent. My friends who didn’t go were like, ‘Oh, my God, were people just staring at each other’s bodies all night?’ And I said, ‘No, people were just kind of chatting and playing pool and playing piano.’”