I wrote Co-ed Naked Philosophy because I love to write,and because I love social nudism. That may seem obvious, but loving what you’re doing is essential if you’re going to dedicate large chunks of time over ten years to a writing project on nudity. I definitely wrote the novel with a naturist readership in mind, and I was grateful to have some feedback along the way from naturists. But I also had the novel critiqued in a general fiction-writing workshop, and I hope that the novel can serve to educate and entertain non-naturists as well as naturists.
The splashy episodes that punctuate the first part of Co-ed Naked Philosophy come straight from the headlines and tend to be nude-negative: a concerned citizen asking to cover up a replica of the David statue in someone’s lawn; a cop detaining women drivers and forcing them to strip; a woman who threw her menstrual pad at a cop who was harassing her; young women and men working as strippers to pay tuition. These were all news items in the mainstream press around the time I was beginning to write the novel, and they troubled me, they convinced me of the importance of writing affirmative alternatives to the fear, ignorance, and shame that too often mar our society’s view of nudity. But not all of the story came from the headlines. Some of the characters’ specific experiences, whether positive or negative, are based on my own life. In fact the spark that started me writing—just writing down my thoughts, without knowing that what I was writing would become a novel—was a former student’s invitation to perform a striptease for her bachelorette party! I was flattered and overly stimulated, and spent a few sleepless nights mulling over the possibilities. Ultimately I did not accept the invitation out of concern of losing my job, but the anecdote became rich plot material: early in the novel the main character, Dr. Ross, does accept a similar offer, and the consequences of his decision form part of his learning about contexts for nudity. Also, just like Dr. Ross, I saw a suspicious person fussing with his hat on my family’s visit to a non-official nude beach in Florida; he may well have been taking photos. It was still a great day at the beach, though, and I have also visited and had uniformly positive experiences at official nude recreation areas and nude 5K races. The enterprising sing-nude-for-a-buck Santa cyclist was someone I observed in traffic myself; he rode right off the street and into the novel!
Straight from my life experiences working at a public university came the detail of a state-mandated academic viability, based on a minimum of 7.5 majors per year, that throws the Gulf Coast University philosophy department into desperate attempts to attract more students. Would nude classrooms really pull in more students? Maybe not everywhere or all the time, but I don’t see why they couldn’t be part of the university experience, or even the core component of something like a major in Naturism Studies. Although I invented the specifics of the research conducted by another character, Dr. Saucedo, I did not fabricate the general theory that freedom from clothing facilitates learning. Actual studies on school uniforms and dress codes; on how nudity helps autistic learners;and on the general confluence of sensation, movement, and language development, all support Dr. Saucedo’s implementation of what she calls Nude Body Learning.
The novel engages sexuality as a part of general cultural assumptions about nudity. The characters identify, and thenreject, the extremes of public perceptions about nudists beingeither lusty swingers or humorless puritans. In the second part of the novel Dr. Ross tells his class, “Accepting nudity does notmean tolerating flagrant sexuality. Accepting nudity does mean welcoming inherent sexuality.” Motivated by the affirmative power for change that naturism has, the students create their own body-positive nudist student group, the Corporal Rights Movement. Key figures in the campus administration and the local media support the group. Even so, an embarrassed student alleges sexual harassment in confusion over the nature of erections, and Dr. Ross’s new-found allegiances are challenged. At the novel’s end, the aftermath of a hurricane helps the Corporal Rights Movement usher in new possibilitiesfor a revolution in body attitudes that grows beyond the campus to the community at large.
I’m very grateful that Co-ed Naked Philosophy has been discussed and reviewed by so many attentive readers, and it’s a special honor to kick off the Clothes Free Readers Book Club on clothesfreelife.com! Please feel free to send questions my way at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on Twitter @nudescribe, and check out nudescribe.blogspot.com for my latest posts on naturism, nudity, and the body.