The Naked Truth: SEX+STL Clothing Optional Events

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Photo by Danny Wicentowski

  1. Why Do We Do This?

Why throw a clothing optional event? Why attend one? It’s a question a child might ask, but it’s not a childish question. I’ll answer with more questions. Why do we wear costumes on Halloween? Why do we wear black to funerals? Why do some offices require business attire, and why do some of those same offices have Casual Fridays? If I’m just as capable of punching someone in the jaw while wearing a suit and tie as I am while wearing baggy jeans and Timberland boots, why do some clubs enforce a dress code as means of tamping down violence? If the clothes we wear affect our mood, behavior, and experience, wouldn’t a lack of clothes do the same thing? If formal attire implies a level of formality, wouldn’t social nudity imply a level of intimacy?

Also, some people just like to be naked.

  1. Public Events vs. Private Events vs. Secret Events

So, this gets confusing. At SEX+STL we have three types of events: Public, Private, and Secret.

Public events are advertised on all our social media and are typically free and open to anyone, although some may be restricted to people 18 and over, or 21 and over, depending on the subject matter and venue. These events are usually in public spaces and require street legal attire.

Private events are usually advertised in our Meetup group, but attendees must RSVP by email to attend. In order to attend a private event, you must be known to the leadership of SEX+STL, or be the guest of someone who is. The best way to get to know us is to attend our public events and introduce yourself. As scheduling permits, we try to have public events shortly before our private events to give newcomers a chance to meet our community and our leadership. Most of our clothing optional events are private events.

Occasionally we have secret events that are by invitation only, and those invitations go to people who have attended our clothing optional events in the past. Secret events are typically beta-tests of new clothing optional events that we want to have a trial run on, before opening them up to the larger community as a private event.
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  1. Clothing Optional is Not Nudity Required [No Pressure]

I hear this all the time: I invite a newcomer to a clothing optional event, and they say, “I don’t know if I’m ready to take my clothes off in a room full of people.”  These people are losing the core concept of what the word “optional” means.

Of course, if you threw a clothing optional party and everybody kept all their clothes on, it would be a pretty wack clothing optional party. But then, if you threw a karaoke party and nobody sang karaoke, that would be pretty wack, too. The point is, you don’t need everyone to sing in order to have a successful karaoke party.  If 30% of attendees actually get up and sing, and everyone else is there to watch, support and socialize, that a pretty good karaoke party. Think of clothing optional parties the same way. After doing this for quite a few years, my experience is that about 10%  of party-goers will remain fully clothed, around 25% will go fully naked, and the the vast majority of people will be in some stage of partial undress; topless, bottomless, underwear, lingerie, or some interesting costume. The point is, you are not required to be naked, or [as in the default world] required to be clothed. You have the option of choosing your own comfort level without having to factor in someone else’s.

Clothing Optional does not equal Nudity Required.

  1. Gender Balance and Single Men

Most event producing nudist or sexuality groups that throw private parties will have to grapple with the question of gender balance. Ideally, you want an even number of men and women at co-ed events. Some groups handle this by simply not allowing single men at their events. Some handle this by charging higher ticket prices for single men than they do for women and couples. We have chosen not to do either. When we first started throwing clothing optional events, we discovered that the first wave of RSVPs would be single men, followed by couples, followed by single women. I’ve heard several theories on why this is, many of which I believe to be polite bullshit. My personal theory is that it all comes down to risk assessment. Men and women are socialized around the subject of sex and nudity differently. Combine that with the real sexual threats that women face much more often than men, and the result is that men feel much safer attending these types of events alone than women do.

In the old days, we restricted the number of single men who could attend a private event. Single men who RSVP’d early were put on a waiting list until we had an idea of the number of women who would be in attendance. We were also proactive about making sure that everyone at our events, particularly women, felt safe and comfortable so they would be more likely to come back. We started holding women’s only clothing optional events so that women in community could get to know each other and experience clothing optional events in an all female environment first, if they chose to. After years of tinkering with the formula, the gender balance at our private events is pretty organic now, I’m happy to say.

  1. “What if I get an erection?”

This is a question I get all the time from men who’ve never attended a clothing optional event. In fact, I get this question exponentially more than this issue actually… comes up. Sorry. Erections at clothing optional social events are like in-person voter fraud. People talk about it way more than it really happens. After six years of throwing and attending clothing optional parties, I’ve probably gotten inopportune erections maybe twice. And, after all those years, I’ve still seen very few erections in person that were not my own.  

But it can and does happen. So, what to do? Ignore it. It will go away. Other people may notice, but most will ignore it as well. If your erection last more than four hours, consult your doctor. If it lasts more than a few minutes, or makes you self conscious, try sitting down to de-emphasize the… protrusion. You can also wrap your towel around your waist, since most clothing optional events require you bring a towel to sit on.

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Public nudity laws demonstrators in San Francisco, 2013. Source: Wikipedia.

  1. Consent/Touching

Back when I was an undergrad, my Performance Art professor used to talk about “atmospheres of permission,” and that resonates a great deal with the work we do at SEX+STL. The risk in creating an atmosphere of permission is that when you relax certain rules, some people think that this applies to ALL the rules. It doesn’t. At a SEX+STL event, you have permission to talk about sex in a way that wouldn’t fly in so-called “polite society.”

At our private events, you have permission to be naked. So, some people assume if we’re all naked and talking about sex, then anything goes, right? Wrong. The key to keeping atmospheres of permission safe and available is to color inside the lines. Non-consensual touching is almost never okay, but even the types of non-consensual touch we might ignore if both parties are clothed can be seriously uncomfortable if one or both parties are nude. Remember that creepy uncle whose hugs always felt inappropriate when you were a kid? Now imagine that with both of you naked.

I’ll give you moment to recover from that.

Okay.

Don’t be that guy.

Even consensual touching can be an issue if it’s outside the rules of the particular event. Someone may consent to having sex with you or flogging you, but if you’re not at a sex party or BDSM party, then the rest of the guests have not consented to witnessing it. Read the rules. Follow them.

And, if you are at a sex party or BDSM party, consent still matters. If people are having sex or playing in full view, it’s safe to assume they don’t mind being watched, and voyeurism from minimum safe distance is cool. However, inserting yourself into their scene (even asking to join in once they’ve started) is at best an interruption and at worst a violation. If they wanted to include you, they probably would have asked.

  1. Body Shaming

I hear this all the time outside of nudist communities: The people at nudist events are never the people you want to see naked.

Newsflash: No one gives a fuck who you want to see naked.

As Pink would say, “I’m not here for your entertainment.” There are strip clubs for that. Pay the cover, order the drink minimum, and tip the dancers accordingly. Clothing optional events are about participation in an experience. It’s not a spectator sport. Your negative opinion of someone else’s body is none of their business. Keep it to yourself. While we’re on the topic, if you can’t express you positive opinion of someone’s body in a way that is respectful, you can sit on that too.

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Clothing optional beach at Hanlan’s Point, on the Toronto Islands. Photo by Alexandre Moreau. Source: Wikipedia.

  1. The Rules [No Photography, No Hard Liquor, Bring a Towel]

No Photography

The subject of photography at clothing optional events is something that organizers of events both large and small have to grapple with. Some simply ban cameras, but these days every smartphone is also a high resolution camera. Some events ban smartphones as well. Some require you to cover your phone’s camera lens with masking tape. Other events allow photography, and make neon colored “No Photos” wristbands available in the hopes that if you accidentally get someone in the background of your photo who did not want to be photographed, you will not publish the photo or obscure that person digitally.

Outdoor clothing optional events face a real challenge. When you’re in public, you give up your right to privacy and it’s legal to photograph you. This right to privacy doesn’t magically return when you take your clothes off in public. So, there’s no legal obligation to get consent to photograph a person who chooses to be naked in public, it’s just the polite thing to do. So, events like Folsom Street Fair and World Naked Bike Ride have promoted “Ask First” campaigns to educate photographers about consent.

With few exceptions, all SEX+STL clothing optional events take place on private property and in general photos are not allowed. Of course, if you want to take a selfie of you and your friends to commemorate the occasion, that’s cool, we just ask that you do so away from other party guests who have not consented to being photographed. Oh, and if you’re using a flash, give people nearby a heads up. Nothing stops a room full of naked people in their tracks like a flash going off.

No Hard Liquor

We’ve learned the hard way that hard liquor and a room full of naked people don’t always mix well, so we’ve limited our clothing optional parties to beer and wine only. If beer and wine don’t take you there, and you need something for the “I’m naked in a room full of people” jitters, there are some other options that are legal in Colorado and Oregon that don’t typically lead to aggressive behavior. Just ask the host or one of the SEX+STL leaders if the party is 420 friendly before you blaze up.

Bring A Towel

Ever been at a party and knocked a drink over? You had to run around looking for napkins or papers towels, and maybe you got back to the spill and realized you didn’t bring enough napkins or paper towels to absorb it all? Awkward? Embarrassing, yes? Well, this won’t happen to you at a clothing optional party, because you’ll have your own towel. The towel will also give you something to sit on so you won’t have to put your nasty, naked ass on someone else’s furniture.

  1. Bringing Guests

Only people we’ve met and their guests are allowed at our private events. We vet you, and we trust you to vet your guests and bring them up to speed on the rules. This way everyone can reasonably assume that the people at our parties are safe. Your guests arrive with you and they leave with you. If your guest is asked to leave for any reason, you will be asked to leave as well. If your guest is banned from future events, you won’t necessarily be banned, but let’s just say: it doesn’t look good on your resume. Be careful who you vouch for. Think about it like the mafia: don’t bring anybody crooked into the family.

  1. Final Thoughts

Wow, if you’ve read this far, you’re obviously pretty committed to getting this whole ”clothing optional event” thing right. If you really want to impress me, send an email to davidwraith at yahoo dot com with “The Naked Truth” in the subject line and, “I question your commitment to Sparkle Motion.” in the body of the email.  It will let me know that you actually read the whole article and didn’t just skim the page for the naked pictures. Attaching a nude selfie to your email is not required, but hey, it couldn’t hurt.

Posted in clothing optional, consent, David Wraith, event, nudism, SEX+STL.