After last year’s Druid Camp, I wrote about my experiences of Naked Men, so it seemed like a good time to revisit the subject. I’ve been to Druid Camp, there was nudity. Unlike last year, I went in knowing I could cope perfectly well with the exposed bodies, and that nothing bad would happen. As predicted, it was all perfectly fine, comfortable and easy.
However, as I was spending less time fretting, I managed to do more observing and thinking (not in a pervy way!). What occurred to me, was this:
In a space where nudity is normal, nothing can be inferred from the presence or absence of clothes, nor from the degree of clothedness. In normalising nudity, what you do is wipe out any scope for people thinking that bare skin equates to sexual consent. I think there’s also an effect of undermining the erotic power of nudity, too. If lots of people are casually naked, you become much less affected by it, much more relaxed about it. The idea of being inflamed to uncontrolled lust by the sight of a breast gets preposterous.
The culture of covering up has fetishised nudity. This in turn gives us the ludicrous idea that the presence or absence of clothing or certain kinds of clothing can be reasonably inferred to mean consent. In the culture of Druid Camp, it’s wholly evident that naked people are not asking for it. If someone is asking for it, you tend to know because they make that obvious, by asking for it with words. Naked people may in fact lead to a culture where courtship, wooing and friendly seduction are far more appropriate ways forward. The impersonal nudity of Camp means that if you’re interested, you need to ask. You need to pay attention to what people say and do, not how they look. Oddly, naked people in the right context can be harder to objectify.
These are lessons we could do with learning in the wider culture, regardless of whether people have their kit off. The trouble with Britain is that it is frequently wet and cold – I write this on a day when no sane person would want to expose skin to the unkind elements. How we feel collectively about nudity is not really informed by how many naked Pagans we get to see… but sometimes it helps.