One Monday morning in the fall semester of 1997 or 1998, when I was an assistant professor at a university in Alabama, the phone rang in my office.
“Are you married?” the female voice asked.
“My friend, So-and-so, used to be your student. She’s getting married this weekend and we’d like to know if you’d perform a striptease at her bachelorette party on Thursday.”
“Really?” I asked, and then, vainly trying to sound business-like and nonchalant, “How much will you pay?”
“Name your price. So-and-so had a huge crush on you and nobody else in the whole state could do this and have it mean as much for her.”
Mostly to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, or falling for a hoax, I discussed the call with my colleagues and my wife, who all egged me on. I was flattered, confused, unable to sleep all week. Too concerned about ramifications on my fledgling career, I never did the striptease. The lost opportunities of youth! But I did start writing, and little by little the writing became the novel Co-ed Naked Philosophy. The novel’s protagonist, philosophy professor Christopher Ross, receives a similar striptease invitation and – braver than I – he accepts, though he must later accept the aftermath as well! And he tries to steer student interest in being naked toward a questioning of society’s stances on nudity.
I have always considered nudity mundane, and yet fascinating, a contradiction born from our society’s mixed messages. The Christopher Ross character, a philosophical provocateur, incites his students to explore these contradictions: stripping and teasing, clothing and unclothing. As he often says, “Context is everything”!
In general, the characters and events in Co-ed Naked Philosophy spring from the positive stand-outs of my years of practicing naturism. Some of the specific plot points are based on my own first family naturist visit at an unofficial nude beach in Florida, and uniformly positive experiences since at other beaches, landed clubs and 5K races. I did, unfortunately, see a suspicious person fussing with his hat on that first day at the nude beach. He may well have been taking photos with a camera concealed behind the hatband, as happens in the novel. Another character in the novel – an enterprising sing-nude-for-a-buck naked Santa cyclist – was someone I observed in traffic. He rode right off the street and into the novel!
But the splashy events that punctuate the first part of the novel come straight from the headlines: a concerned citizen demanding to cover up a replica of Michelangelo’s David statue; a male cop detaining women drivers and forcing them to strip (and one woman who threw her menstrual pad at a him); young women and men working as strippers to pay tuition. These nude-negative episodes, along with the consequences of a Halloween streak, spur the students, professors, and community allies to action: they form their own naturist activist group and sponsor events and happenings to “reclaim the image” of the nude body as an essential part of everyday life.
Read all about it in Co-ed Naked Philosophy, now available through Amazon in print format, Smashwords for e-reader formats such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo and PDF and also directly from Barnes & Noble in Nook format.