Find Yourself if You Bare
Lose the clothes, find yourself
BRENDAN WORK – (Swarthmore College, PA)
April 5, 2007
-- As spring emerges and flowers bloom, Swatties are shedding their winter clothes. But some, namely the Tri-Co Nudists, are shedding more than others. Now that the temperature permits, the recently-formed club has begun to walk the Crum Woods in the nude, and though their membership is short, their devotion is not.
“Nudism is about having fun and realizing you don’t need clothes to do that,” Tri-Co Nudists co-founder Eric Mulligan ’08 said. “There’s nothing wrong with nudity.”
But Mulligan and co-founder Gaby Kogut, Bryn Mawr ’09, face public stigma about their philosophies. Although they report a maximum of about 12 members, Mulligan and Kogut were the only two to attend the April 2 information session. While part of that may be attributable to lack of publicity and snacks (Kogut noted, “Nudists are people, too; they eat food,” and suggested free sushi at the next meeting) they acknowledged disappointment at the turnout.
“I was expecting at least a few people,” Mulligan said. “The stigma is a little bit stronger than I thought. Maybe people don’t understand what we do.”
And the Nudists’ purpose, they say, is neither body image advocacy nor ideological persuasion. Going on one-hour walks in the Crum, with occasional swimming, is something they describe very simply.
“Ultimately, it’s recreational,” Kogut said.
“There’s the potential for advocacy,” Mulligan said, “but that’s not our mission. We’re about doing, not talking.”
Mulligan admitted that the group’s bare-all attitude isn’t for everyone, but he didn’t foresee any problems cropping up between the Nudists and the college.
“We’re not worried about [legal repercussions] happening,” he said. “Usually when people see us, they walk away. They could complain, but frankly I think that would be just asinine.”
“Some people got scared and some just grinned at us,” Kogut explainee. “The funny thing is, people are going to be scared of a group more than a single person. We have the upper hand. We undo conditioning.”
That social conditioning, Kogut claims, is the root of the taboo so widely held toward the practice also known as naturism, which is more acceptable at the thousands of nude beaches and nudist communities boasts than at the 65 nude beaches America has.
“Clothing makes it worse, because you have to worry about what you look like,” she said. “Fashion is about concealment. If you’re curvy, you have to look thin. If you’re short, you have to look tall. It’s all about looking the way you don’t look.”
But while an interest in the human body and its image introduced Kogut, an art history major, to nudism, Mulligan’s interest stemmed from a lifelong passion to be naked.
“I’ve been a closet nudist all my life,” he said. “I’ve always felt you shouldn’t need to cover anything up. I’ve been modeling for art classes for a while, but I had to wonder if anyone shared my opinion.”
Even as membership results currently lend towards ‘no,’ Mulligan is certain that Swarthmore remains an untapped community.
“If I found several people among my friends who were interested,” he theorized, “statistically speaking, there’s bound to be someone else here. I know you’re out there.”