I finished reading an electronic copy of a Salon article on my Twitter feed. It was about another one of these performance pieces involving large numbers of naked people in discreet public locations. It began: “On June 6th, over one hundred people went to Times Square, took off all their clothes, and painted a unique message across each of their chests. Why? Simply for the sake of human connection and art, that’s why.” This made me stop and think about the word ‘naked’ and about the curve of my life in response to this word.
Reaching back, I must have been about 15 when the profound life changing moment occurred. All I wanted, at the time, was to see naked ladies. It was the reason for my continued existence. I had to see naked ladies, and nothing else mattered. Just hearing the word ‘naked’ would give me a boner, and the words ‘naked lady’ or better ‘naked ladies’ were almost unbearable.
I would look at a beautiful woman all clothed-up, and I would see her naked. Her secret dark-deep-forest triangle, and her breasts of course, were breathtaking. But nipples took the situation to whole new heights. Her ass would be so unlike a boy’s bony flat ass. It would be clean, smooth, and a little bit large, protruding slightly, with two milky halves fighting it out behind her as she walked. That was what I thought of when I thought of ‘naked.’
There was a nude beach on the Columbia River about 45 minutes out of Portland. It was called ‘Rooster Rock.’ (But we called it ‘cock rock’ which was always good for a laugh.) We imagined a beach full of naked ladies wandering the shores of Rooster Rock. Nymphs, vixens, and French ladies, each perfect in her own exquisitely naked way.
You could only get there by car, and when one of us finally got a car, we yearned and awaited that first hot summer day in Oregon. When at last it came, we talked a guy outside a Quickie Mart into buying us a couple six packs, with our money of course. It was a familiar routine. Back then you could get people to do things like that.
An hour later we were parked in the lot just above the nude beach, and finishing off the last warm beers. None of us wanted to take his clothes off, but it looked worse to be clothed among the naked than the other way around. So, we decided to go incognito. We moved strategically around the hidden areas above the beach until we found a suitable viewing area.
What we saw, as we settled in, was not what we had imagined. There were naked people, laying on towels, strutting about, and playing frisbee and volleyball. The vast majority were fat older men, and if you have ever seen a fat older man play volleyball naked, you’ll know how this can affect you. To a lesser extent, they were women. These women were certainly not young nymphs or vixens–not even close. The image we held had been horribly contorted. It was as if our image of perfect budding feminine perfection had dropped acid, morphed into a beastly state, and gone off to join the circus. We scanned the horizon in search of our dreams, but we had come to the end of those dreams. We were crushed by what we saw. ‘Naked’ would never be an exotic, mysterious, and titillating word again.
Since that time, I have seen naked art displays, naked protests, naked bike rides, and even a few more nude beaches. I actually attained manhood during the era of streaking. I even streaked once myself in college. It was quite thrilling, but not sexy.
I am fully convinced, after years of scanning the fleshy-mass horizons, that semi-random mass public nudity is not beautiful. It is not art, nor should it qualify as art on its nakedness alone. And it almost certainly isn’t erotic. Any potentially erotic elements will be overwhelmed by the anti-erotic masses and the impersonal nature of the moment.
For quite some time now, I have preferred to select the people I will be naked with (or see naked). It is a personal thing. And it is a beautiful thing done properly. But the mere word ‘naked’ will never again have anything close to the same meaning. It will never again send me up over the moon, as it once did, as a boy in his teens, staring down his sexual nature for the first time in his life. The spell had been broken that summer so long ago.
S.Clay Sparkman was born in Portland, Oregon. A book of his poetry was published as A Place Between Two Voices (by Tabor Hill Press). He has had poetry, humorous articles, short stories, and essays published in Praxis, Moonglasses, Occulum, The Higgs Weldon, Down in the Dirt Beautiful Losers, Parenthesis, Zeroflash, Literaryyard.com, and 1859, Oregon’s Magazine, among others. He married into Chile, and considers Chile to be his second home—maybe his third. He currently lives in Nicaragua with his wife Veronica, his 12-year old son Javier, his dog Lola, and his cats.