When I told my Oxford friends I was going to live in a gay, vegan nudist household in North America for a week, most of them looked at me like I had ceased to possess the power of reason. It was enjoyable watching my interlocutors squirm in bemusement as I relished my newly-found unclothed self-righteousness, and exchanges with them would usually follow a very similar pattern. The answer to question one was often something of a truism: “Will you be, you know, naked?” they’d ask, their facial expressions ranging from smiles of gleeful intrigue to sordid embarrassment. When I informed them that, yes, I would indeed be as naked as the day I was born, a whole host of questions would follow.
– “Won’t it be awkward when you first strip off?” No shit, Sherlock. Did you never read the story of Adam and Eve?
– “Isn’t a nudist household unhygienic?” Well so was coal mining, but that doesn’t seem to worry you.
– “What if you have the smallest, like, thingy in the room?” I’ll get over it.
– “What if you get a bit excited, as men sometimes do?” Not to worry – I’ll just leave my Viagra at home.
Day one arrived. With some trepidation (we had, after all, met our hosts through Couchsurfing) my travel companion and I dutifully turned up – still cowardly and encased in our clothes – at the door of our hosts. We were greeted by John*, a fairly young, brown-haired guy with a shy demeanour and an East Coast accent. More accurately, I suppose, we were greeted by the site of John’s penis, which – as that of the first nudist I had ever met – appeared to have a majestic aura around it. Here it was: a lifestyle of hippie-esque freedom embodied in a (flaccid) organ, resplendent in the glory of his liberty from clothed oppression.
We followed his bum to the room, where he informed us he was going out – to the library. Like all of us, being at Oxford has meant I have seen some bizarre behavioural traits manifest themselves in libraries, but nudity has never been one of them. I suddenly felt a rush of sympathy for the other users of the city’s library, most of whom were probably not expecting to see circumcised John Junior over the top of their MacBooks. Thankfully, he got dressed before stepping out of the door, thus answering another favourite question from my interrogators back in Blighty (“Do they, like, WALK AROUND OUTSIDE naked?”)
We lounged around for a few hours until John and his husband, Craig*, returned. The heart started to beat with nerves as the moment finally arrived. It was now or never. My emancipation from the comfortable world of clothing was about to begin, and with a glance over at my friend, I plunged myself into it. I draped my shirt over the back of the chair and cast an eye over at the window, where it became clear that my lack of six-pack now had the potential to be shared with the residents of a seven-storey block of flats behind the trees on John and Craig’s patio.
“Where, oh where, are the f***ing curtains?” I thought to myself as I undid my belt and dropped my trousers. And then, in walked Craig. To put it kindly, God had been horizontally generous with Craig, but sadly for him, not phallically so. To put it bluntly, Craig was fat and had a tiny cock. He extended a podgy hand to me, which I shook, and he invited us to have a boozy dinner with them that evening. Vegan steak, he said. Gorgeous stuff, apparently. “Come on through when you’re ready,” he said as he left the room, in a pointed reference to the fact that my metaphorical nudist train hadn’t quite pulled into its final destination yet.
With a slight inward sigh (and the incentive of unlimited free white wine making it somewhat more bearable) I pulled off my boxers and padded into their admittedly swanky kitchen-diner. John was frying the steaks, and I inwardly winced as the oil jumped and spattered around the pan. Probably through habit, he was standing a bit further away from the stove than is normal. Craig appeared at my shoulder. “Wine?” he asked. “Oh, er, yes please,” I said with a smile, and I gratefully accepted a large glass of sauvignon. Before I knew it, I was like a party animal lying in the road after a messy night out: drunk, naked, full of fried food – and loving life.
I had made two sweet, if mildly odd, friends, and it would be very unfair to characterise them as pervy or weird. They were extremely generous towards us, taking us on tours of the city and paying for our meals. They also confirmed to us that nudism is not, by and large, a ruse designed merely for sexual gratification. It is a way of life which embraces the important ideal of positive body image, which is a trait useful to everyone regardless of who they are or how they identify. Living as a nudist for a few days was one of the most liberating, natural and at times self-consciously hilarious experiences of my life so far, and I’d recommend even the most body-shy person to have a go.
But will I be strolling into the Rad Cam naked any time soon? Although I hate to disappoint you all, the answer’s no.
*Names have been changed