Male Nudity in Public

Jamie Utt realizes that it’s time to put some pants on.

I’ve gotta admit . . . I am a man who used to love me some public nudity. Some of my friends used to joke that you didn’t graduate from Earlham College if you didn’t see Jamie Utt naked. It started just after high school when my friends Zach, Jeff, and I just couldn’t hang out without a little bit of nudity. In college, some buddies and I had a tradition every semester during finals where we would stop studying, get naked, and streak the library.  Weren’t we just HILARIOUS!?  We would go to parties . . . NAKED!  AAAhahahahahahaha.

I didn’t just find my antics hilarious, though. I honestly thought them a progressive redefinition of masculinity, one that challenged aggressive homophobia and that celebrated bodies. After all, all those homophobic dudes would cringe and “Uhhhhhh” when my dudebros and I would run around with our things flapping in the wind.  And weren’t we just loving the masculine form that we had been taught from a young age to feel ashamed of and to hide?  Plus, most people found it hilarious (or so it seemed)… so why not keep doing it?

A few different times, women approached me to talk about how it bothered them that I (and my friends) were always getting naked in public.  Sadly (especially considering that I would have called myself a “feminist”), I never listened, simply attributing their concern to “prudishness” and their strange desire to control my free expression.

It took me a long time (and lots of times of being told) to realize what was actually going on: a simple recreation of oppressive, privileged, hegemonic, normative masculinity.

Now, I know some of my readership is saying, “What on earth do you mean by ‘normative masculinity’ and a ‘redefinition of masculinity?’”  So let’s back up.

The crux of the issue is that normative masculinity is (most often) destructive and restrictive. Normative masculinity tends to reflect traditional values of Western patriarchy: physical strength, stoicism, dominance, self-reliance, control, heterosexual virility, violence, and power over. Perhaps most importantly, normative masculinity tends to devalue traditionally feminine traits like emotive expression, collaboration, non-violence, community, and power with and through (particularly when men display these traits). As such, normative masculinity restricts both men and women into roles that do not allow either to be fully realized as human beings. As such, it’s also often called hegemonic masculinity for the ways that it forces normative masculinity on everyone, even those who actively try to resist it.

One aspect of feminist theory and thought encourages a redefinition of traditional gender roles and understanding, and as part of that, normative masculinity ought to be challenged and changed.


Growing up steeped in many aspects of normative masculinity (as most men in the U.S. are), when I discovered the liberated feeling of public nudity and noticed the ways that other men condemned male public nudity as “gay,” I immediately assumed that this was part of the “liberation” I had learned about in my elementary understanding of feminism.  Hence, the “progressive redefinition of masculinity” farce that I lived under for a number of years.

I’m ashamed to say that it wasn’t until about a year ago that I truly began to question how problematic my getting naked in public actually was.  I’ve always found it a little strange when women streaked (though I never bothered to interrogate deeply why).  I generally just hated the way that many men took it as an opportunity to “ogle some boobies,” and I felt a paternalistic desire to “protect” the women from the male gaze.  Plus, it was never quite as “funny.”

A year ago I was at an ultimate frisbee tournament, and a couple of dudes and a woman streaked through the party.  Of course, I laughed.  Then one of the naked dudes asked me to help him “land shark” the party, an absurd display of public nudity where four folks hold up a naked person face down and with a frisbee wedged into his ass while carrying him through the party.  Get it . . . the disc’s a fin!  HILARIOUS!

Well, I agreed, but as I was carrying him around, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How many of these people really want this dick wagging in their face while they enjoy their drink?”

There, in that moment, I realized what so many women had been trying to tell me but hadn’t heard because I’m a privilege denying, traditionally masculine asshole who must figure things out for himself rather than listen to a woman.  Every time that I ran naked through the library, I was saying to everyone there, “This space is mine.  It is so much mine, that I can force my nudity on you, whether or not you like it or whether or not it makes you uncomfortable.”

I refused to consider the ways that my act of public nudity could be triggering for survivors of sexual violence.  I refused to consider the ways that my act of public nudity claimed all space as mine rather than as egalitarian and public.  I refused to consider the incredible amounts of privilege that it took for me to so brazenly strip down and flap in the wind.

And therein lies why I was never quite comfortable when women streaked.  Rather than being a redefinition of traditional masculinity, I was simply enacting hegemonic masculinity, forcing my nudity on every person in whatever space I streaked.  When women did it, though, it was actually subversive, as women’s bodies were claiming space that is traditionally masculine (since all space is masculine in a patriarchy unless we construct it as otherwise).  Such an act of subversion made me uncomfortable because it exposed my act as really just another act of masculine assholery.

Dudes, we need to wake up.  I recently was hanging with some folks who were discussing the wonderful trend of unsolicited dick pics.  One of the guys, a known streaker, was describing how “creepy” he found this phenomenon, and I couldn’t help but wonder: how is an unsolicited dick pic any different from land sharking a party?  In both cases, a man is forcing his penis into the space of those who did not ask for it.  In both cases, consent is FAR from present, and in both cases, it’s a gross abuse of male privilege that, when we get down to it, is little more than sexual harassment.

To close, I want to tell you about my friend Margot.  I’ve known Margot since high school, and for a long time (until she got married and learned of the wonders of consensual, committed, crazy sexy time), she wore her innocence with pride. She waited to have sex until marriage, and though I’ve taken a different route in life, I respect her decision and her commitment. Recently, though, we were hanging out, and she said, “You know, the first penis I ever saw was yours.”  We laughed, but then I got sad. She didn’t have a choice in that.  She didn’t have agency.  Maybe she wanted the first penis she saw to be her husband’s, but because of my “hilarious” antics, I took away her agency.

And for that I am profoundly sorry.

Image of frisbee courtesy of Shutterstock
About Jamie Utt

Jamie Utt is a diversity and inclusion consultant and sexual violence prevention educator based in Minneapolis, MN. He lives with his loving partner and his funtastic dog, Chloe. He blogs weekly at Change From Within. Learn more about his work at


  1. hello i found your blog today and I have read some good posts. website

  2. wellokaythen says:

    This is totally unfair, but in today’s climate I would be very careful doing what Jamie did. In some places, in some jurisdictions, with some aggressive prosecutors, you’d be looking at charges that if convicted would make you a registered sex offender for the rest of your life. If a child was anywhere around and the parents were of a mind to, you’d be looking at some massive legal fallout.

  3. Jennifer J. says:

    I think what we’re really talking about here is polite and considerate behavior. All of the examples, from streaking through the college library to flashing one’s breasts in a store to putting on nylons on a train are, in a word, rude. Not evil or criminal, but certainly immature.

    Believing that the general public has a desire to see/hear/smell your personal stuff, because your personal stuff is just so AWESOME, is one of the hallmarks of youth that most of us grow out of. Teenagers at the mall who talk to their friends louder than necessary, professionals in a restaurant who shout into their cell phones, or neighbors who play their music at ear-blasting volumes are the auditory equivalent of baring one’s flesh in public.

    In our society, we have certain conventions that include not walking around naked. If you feel the need to break that convention, that’s your choice, but it seems like a fairly sad plea for attention. Jamie and Joanna both realize that they were inadvertently rude to people who didn’t deserve it, and they regret it. That’s because they are compassionate adults who no longer see the point in getting a laugh by causing strangers, or worse yet, friends, discomfort.

    • Nick, mostly says:

      Rude, immature, sad, attention seeking… I can see all of those, even if I don’t agree with them. I also believe if people want to push the norms the best way is probably to flaunt them (best done legally, such as topless women in New York, but if you’re comfortable with a misdemeanor I guess you should go for it?).

      What I strongly disagree with are suggestions that this was an exercise of male privilege or that it is sexual assault. That removes it from the arena of contravening social conventions to branding someone as a sex offender. That our society’s obsession with and fear of sex might do so to a streaker, or someone urinating in public, is a moral shame.

    • This is the most thoughtful, mature, and considerate post in the entire line up.

  4. CajunMick says:

    To see or not to see, that is the…
    Y’all, in this this thread, I finding myself in some pretty rarified air.
    Self-flagellating ex-pranksters and women who get the vapors at the sight of an accidental phallus. Nudity as a kind of violence, pasties, cellulite, and people who get offended for…everything, and nothing.
    Y’all, I saw my mom get cracked across the skull with a cast iron skillet, one of many episodes of domestic bliss I had the good fortune to witness as a child. During the dissolution of my own marriage, I considered suicide because I felt like a failure as a husband and father because I left to save my sanity from a spouse who was emotionally abusive.
    These are the kind of substantive issues I look forward to reading/commenting about here at the GMP.
    I’m not saying everything on this site has to be *sturm und drang.* I love humor, and I like the funny things I’ve read on this site.
    But this thread,…meh.
    I’ll choose my battles, save my passion for a better fight.
    I do wish everyone well.

  5. wellokaythen says:

    About the Margot story:

    The conclusion seems to be that your actions destroyed her innocence somehow, that her first glimpse of a penis should have been of someone else’s, that you ruined that special “first penis” moment. You think she should have been able to choose the moment in which she saw her first penis.

    So, the men of the world are supposed to bear this possibility in mind before they consider going nude. Our sex education classes should have no pictures in them. Her anthropology textbooks should be vetted for any inappropriate photos containing penis sheaths or piercings. If you are planning to have kids, make absolutely sure you never have both male and female children – a girl’s first glimpse of a penis should be her husband’s, not her brother’s.

    Unfortunately, choosing when you see your first penis may not be one of those things you get to decide.

  6. wellokaythen says:

    I know it’s not totally this simple, but I think the questions are still worth addressing:

    If you don’t want to see something, why not just not look at it?

    How can my appearance cause you harm?

    Why are one person’s expectations going into a public space more important than another’s expectations about going into a public space?

    (If you knew that Jamie was going to be there or could be there, and you know he’s the kind of guy who goes naked, then why would you expect there would be no nudity?)

    Should someone change behavior every single time someone else expresses offense?

    Anyway, let’s admit that we have to make some subjective and even arbitrary rules covering some big gray areas. We can’t really construct any etiquette about nudity without giving power to some people’s feelings and minimizing the feelings of others. Some people who feel offended in one way will get more say than other people offended in other ways.

    I would love to hear an explanation from the anti-male-sexuality-hegemonists as to where Jamie crossed the line. If his penis and scrotum were covered by a g-string, is that sufficiently inoffensive? Should he have worn baggy shorts? Perhaps a burqa?

    And, specifically what the article is talking about is not “male nudity” but “adult male nudity.” I doubt anyone would be talking about “male hegemony” if the male in question running around nude was 3 years old. I doubt people would be talking about hegemony if the man in question was 80 years old. So, it’s not a universal “male” thing, it’s a particular “type” of male thing.

  7. This young man must be indoctrinated into the feminist religion? “Normative masculinity” is bad? Oh, really? Normative masculinity built the infrastructure of this country, innovate technology, and politically worked to secure female protections. No, what is bad is anormative masculinity, masculinities socialized by poorly socialized fathers and feminism. When we decide to unleash so-called normative masculinity again,\ we will be back on top. As far as nudity goes, women are much more sexualized than males. Clothing accentuates sexuality while ordinary nudity is mostly a turn off. So, what the author is really arguing for is maintaining a sexualized environment for women. This is the good man?

  8. I’m on the train this morning; a woman has her makeup laid out across the adjacent seat and is in full war paint mode.
    There is a forced intimacy, exhibitionism & voyeurism associated with this that makes me uncomfortable.
    I’m intrigued by tools & their use and repulsed by forced knowledge of secrets I’d rather not know.
    In my book it is akin to passive-aggressive streaking. I have yet to see a man shave, in 22 yrs, on the train.
    I have seen numerous women apply make up, change panty hose & tweeze errant eyebrow & leg hair.
    When I got to the sleeping over & using her bathroom stage of dating I was intrigued by all the shit women had- and it was a pleasant, sometimes, one on one moment when they dolled themselves up.

  9. Given a choice, I’d rather be confronted by a dangling participle/white ass than a hipster dude wearing skinny jeans and ironic eyewear. Them are the folks that should be apologizing to us all.

    • John Anderson says:

      When I was younger, I sometimes wore a taekwondo jacket or sleeveless shirt. I know that it intimidated people and sometimes I’d feel bad and moderate my behavior. I wouldn’t directly look at someone for longer than a couple seconds. I would resist raising my voice and tried to keep a calm demeanor. Sometimes we can make others uncomfortable by the things we wear.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Yes, and let’s think practically.

      If the guy’s nude: not much worry about hidden weapons or obnoxious cellphone ringtones coming from his pockets. If you prefer Jewish men you may have clear evidence if he’s not Jewish. If he doubles over in pain, you can see if he’s had his appendix out or not. You can learn something about a man based on the tattoo he has on his butt.

      Aren’t we supposed to be living in the information age? The age of transparency?

  10. When I lived in Germany, only about 10% of the people who swam the Isar Rvr in Munich (down-town Munich) wore anything. So there was submerged swimming and plenty of above-surface walking, talking, diving, etc. Whole families and just individuals partook. The very young and very old and the non-sexual aura was solid. There, public and in-home-public nudity is casual and fully normalized. I guess it is normalized from birth-on.

    I found the same situation at lakes and rivers all around Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Social taboos about public nudity just were not there.

    Cut-to my childhood in Massachusetts: Groups of us would skinny-dip in the lakes, but we were clearly cheating a deep taboo…but we didn’t know why it was as such. We even discussed it.

    While on Cape Cod, there were “nude beaches” that were not official, but were tolerated. The sexual tention/nature was palpable, and scared the shnick out of me, even though there were plenty of kids my age. I had no real body-image “issues” to speak of, but at 10, 11,…something there was just ‘not right’ in my opinion, and I did not go near them (the nude beaches). My parents even knew about those beaches and never said a world about avoiding them, being OK with them…nothing. I was even invited by peers…that was even more creepy. I liked my choice best. It felt the safest.

    Anyone forcing “views” upon the unsuspecting are self enthralled jerks, IMO. At Cape May, there are a few such beaches, but no posted warnings for the many unsuspecting families who end-up walking the beaches, only to get a rude realization.

  11. I was going to leave a comment about how your new position is messed up. But, on examination, you’re previous position was messed up, too. Perhaps more so than you’re current one.

    I think, in fact, that a significant part of your problem hasn’t changed. You see nudity as a big deal. Before, it was an aggressive statement and a “HILARIOUS” joke. Now, it’s an intrusion. But the actual transgressive truth is that nudity is only a big deal because society makes it a big deal.

    But you never really believed that. Of course the nudity taboo was a big deal, that’s what made breaking it “HILARIOUS”. You weren’t making a statement, you were trolling. You weren’t trying to undermine the nudity taboo, you relied on it to get the lulz.

    So, kudos for being self-aware enough to recognize that you had a problem, and changing it.

    But try to recognize what the problem actually was. The nudity was not the problem.

  12. John Anderson says:

    It kind of bothered me that you didn’t think it was a problem and even thought it might be a good thing when you thought it was only bothering men. It only became a problem when you found out that it bothered women also. I’ll assume that when you reached the realization that it could be harmful to sexual assault victims, you realized that included male sexual assault victims too.

    I know that there are people who believe that if a man doesn’t want to see other men naked then he must be anti-gay. That’s just not true. I’ve seen women naked that I would rather not have seen naked. There are attractive women I’ve seen naked, who I would have rather not seen naked. There was a woman at work, a solid 9 and maybe a 10, who would never talk to me when I came into her department. I figured that she probably got hit on constantly and it didn’t bother me. One time she asked me to fix her laptop and as I was fixing it a picture of her and another woman in an intimate situation popped up. She apologized. I closed it and told her not to worry about it. I fixed her laptop. Now when I’m in her department she comes up and talks to me. I kind of try to avoid her now because it’s a somewhat uncomfortable situation for me, but I don’t have the experience that she had of avoiding unwanted attention besides I kind of feel responsible for violating her privacy too. Even if I don’t meet them very often, it still uncomfortable when it’s a co-workers wife or girlfriend.

    Nudity as a form of sexual violence has always depended on who was the aggressor and who was passive. A voyeur gets pleasure from seeing someone else nude without their consent, while an exhibitionist gets off on showing themselves nude to someone else without their consent. Guys don’t always want to see women nude just as guys don’t always want to have sex or want to have sex with a particular woman. I and some friends of mine have had our sexual orientation questioned by women we’ve turned down. When a woman forces herself on a man, it’s not empowering, it’s just rape. A woman doing it doesn’t make it OK.

    • Nick, mostly says:

      besides I kind of feel responsible for violating her privacy too.

      I’m curious as to why you feel this way. Did you go searching for nudes, or did the photo appear unintentionally and incidental to your work? Surely there must be more to this for you to feel any culpability at all.

      • John Anderson says:

        It was unintentional. I’ve run across pictures before and since, but it’s usually because a PC is so infected that it’s better to redo the operating system. I tell people to back up their files, but most of the times they want me to do it for them. They always tell me to make sure I keep their pictures. I understand. They’re memories

        I usually spot check a couple files to test the integrity of my back up. Sometimes I’ll open something best left closed. Sometimes I think I shouldn’t, but it’s a tough call when you’re dealing with someone’s memories. That’s the reason they don’t feel comfortable backing it up in the first place. On other occasions, I’ll see a picture preview if they have things set to thumbnail. This time she had a picture manager program installed. She couldn’t get her laptop to recognize her personal media player, which had a built in camera. I got it to see the device and her picture manager automatically launched and imported her pictures. The risqué picture was one of them. I usually have the good fortune of not actually having the person present when this happens so only I know I saw it. Unfortunately, she was right there.

        With all this sexting stuff going on, I can almost see this being a phenomenon with the younger generation, but there was a married woman around 50 who had some risqué pictures mixed in with some pictures of her daughter skating. Every now and then I hear stories of people trading in their old cell phones that have nude pictures they never deleted on them. A young guy j know in his 20s once convinced a woman he was about to sleep with to let him get a topless photo of her.

        I guess the reason it feels like I violated her privacy is because I didn’t intend to see it. I guess if I was looking for it, I wouldn’t feel so bad. That may be a good GMP article. Why don’t people remove their intimate pictures from devices or computers before trading them in or giving them to someone to work on?

        • Nick, mostly says:

          I think you’ve got it entirely backwards, my friend. If you were intentionally rifling through her pictures then you have violated her privacy. If you unintentionally saw a picture as a consequence of work she asked you to perform, then you did not violate her privacy.

          I had a friend once ask me to back up pictures on her computer, some of which were risqué. She alerted me to the fact which put me on notice to avoid looking at them. But she also had the good sense to know that there was no way to verify the pictures had indeed been successfully backed up without looking at some of them, so she gave me the go ahead to verify the photos were okay, even the risqué ones. No one’s privacy was violated – she gave me notice so I could decline if I didn’t want to see them, and I made every effort to avoid seeing them until she gave me the okay (which I didn’t ask for, btw).

  13. I love this author! Wish more men would analyze and reflect on their actions like he does

  14. I always felt there are bank walkers & sissies…. You get naked when it’s time to get naked.
    As a kid I had the opportunity to swim at a few Men’s Clubs and it seems to me some Y’s were sans bathing suits as well.
    I never understood streaking- but have enjoyed the hell out of seeing streakers.
    Never thought of it as a “redefinition of masculinity” thought it was simply a pie in the face in the best Abbie Hoffman tradition.
    I don’t sky dive, act or perform music- all of which I consider exhibitionist activities.
    I can’t understand why a naked man would be more of a rape trauma trigger for a victim than a clothed man- but again I’ve no shared vantage.
    I can’t understand what Amazon utopia and closed dystopia Margot was raised in. No brothers, Fathers, Cousins who ever left the bathroom door unlocked? Never a trip to the beach where a guy was fast changing in the parking lot? Art, anatomy and popular entertainment? Not to besmirch Margot, but I’m thinking yours is the first penis she ever saw & thought- Hmmmm.
    I’ve been naked in public- bathing, swimming & hot springs- both in stretching heat and scared turtle cold.
    Haven’t stripped down lately, in public, and would like to think this has more to do with my place in life than it does with my back hair, scars, sags and general aging.
    Honestly this GMP is giving me pains- I thought I got naked in public for practical reasons and here i discover it was for political statement.
    The other day I had to Wiki “cis male”- i thought i was just a middle aged guy, now I have to go look up ‘normative”.
    Keep up the good work.

    • I might be a bank walker. Maybe Jamie is, too. I walk around town shirtless in the summer, because I can, and I like having my belly and chest exposed to the light and air. It feels good. I’m well aware of the privilege I’m using when I do it. I wish others felt like they could do it, too. It’s not “too much”: I’m not getting naked in the library, just heading out the door in shorts and sneakers to walk the dog. But what if people don’t want to see that? Joanna’s pasties were technically legal, if potentially shocking. My shirtless chest is also a shocking sight: I have really large scars. Is what Joanna did at 21, and what I do now, acceptable or are we responsible not to offend anyone when we walk the streets? I know women who think it’s respectful and appropriate to cover their hair when they visit friends who are Muslim, or when they visit a Muslim country, even though they’d wear slacks and their hair down anywhere else, even among people know who know full well they’re not Muslim, themselves, and have had the opportunity to have seen plenty of other non-Muslim women on the streets.

  15. I’m sorry, but I don’t see the connection between your personal bad behavior and masculinity as a whole. I’m going to be blunt here. To me, it seems that you want to excuse your character flaw, namely being inconsiderate, with this overarching idea of normative masculinity.

    There is no shortage of men who act like the world belongs to them. But is this really an inherent trait of normative masculinity or is it just someone being an ass? I know enough inconsiderate women to believe that the second is true.

  16. What is the difference between this and say, a woman walking around NYC topless? After all, I’m fairly certain that the entirety of the internet was screeching at any person who said they shouldn’t be walking around topless in the city for denying them their freedom, but here we have the exact opposite where exercising your freedom to be comfortable in your own body as harming others. Why the double standard?

    Also, before anyone makes a comment about breasts being different from a guy letting his dick hang out, I have to disagree. A man’s chest is not a secondary sexual characteristic and even though your penis is most definitely primary, I’d say it is not much different than a woman walking around without a top on.

    • I don’t want to see women in public topless. I don’t want to see men with their pants off either, I am not a prude but there are appropriate and I appropriate places for nudity. Most people look better with clothes on and people’s genitals are simply not very aesthetically pleasing to look at, to be completely frank about it.

      • Why though? What is it about genitals that are so bad? I seriously can’t understand why people care that much about it? We accept tattoos, body piercings, extremely raunchy clothing yet a nipple or penis comes out and omg omg omg nudity!111!1! The only reason it’s so shocking is because it’s rare, if it was common I highly doubt many people would give 2 shits.

        People should be more offended by offensive tshirts, hell I am more offended by the cross people wear around their neck, it’s a guy nailed to a piece of fucking wood, how is that not more offensive than nudity especially to those who have been victim to the atrocities perpetrated by people wearing that symbol?

      • Nick, mostly says:

        $lt;sarcasm>I don’t want to see ugly people in public either. When I go to the beach, I only want to see beautiful people with taut bodies. I don’t want to see cellulite or a protruding gut or a hairy back (ew!) and I shouldn’t have to see those things which cause me discomfort, should I?</sarcasm>

        • I would agree, most people I see at the beach SHOULD cover up a little more!

          I’m a middle aged woman. I have cellulite and saggy breasts. I don’t wear a bikini to the beach. I wear a modest one piece and I keep my shorts on unless I’m actually going in the water. Because, no, I don’t want to inflict the sight of my flabby pale thighs on innocent people. It’s just common courtesy. Nobody wants to see that. Seriously. Do you want to look at my thighs? I didn’t think so. And I don’t want to see yours either.

          • Nick, mostly says:

            I’m a cyclist and my thighs actually look pretty good, if I do say so myself.

            But I don’t care if you have cellulite, or saggy breasts, or anything. To me the beach is for relaxing in the surf and sun, not judging other people and being offended at seeing normal bodies. If I decide to people-watch, I’ve no right to dictate which people cross my view, nor judge them because they don’t live up to my ideal beauty standard.

            • Sarah, like Hitchens says, you are your body. Feeling like you’re “inflicting” your thighs upon us on a summer day sounds like you don’t think you deserve to take up public space or let the sun and wind touch your skin. I wish you felt less inhibition, there.

              Where’s the zone of overlap between modest and confident?

          • @sarah- I’ve reached an age where I look pretty good naked; in the dark & under the sheets….
            There is a couple, of a type, at the beach one sees from time to time-
            50 something or older
            He looks as hairy and lumpy as a burlap sack of potatoes & is wearing an abbreviated speedo.
            She has skin like an old boot and breasts like cake icing bags & is wearing a bikini.
            I used to think they were creepy perverts.
            The last time I saw a couple like them I thought “Wow, is that true love?”
            Me, my wife told me 20 yrs ago to put on a shirt when I cut the lawn.

            @ jason, in my case it is situational… I don’t light a cigarette while people are eating, I try not to harsh the people’s mellow.

          • John Anderson says:

            @ Sarah

            You shouldn’t feel too self conscious. Just go out and have fun. There is a difference between seeing and looking. I see a lot of people every day, but I only look at a few. No need to worry about someone seeing you, but if he’s looking; he must probably likes what he sees.

      • wellokaythen says:

        I guess the central question here is to what degree my desire to see one thing and not see something else gets to restrict other people’s actions. I’m not even sure that the majority should always win in cases like this.

  17. Joanna Schroeder says:

    I actually agree in most ways with Jamie here, but I don’t disagree with Nick entirely.

    Jamie’s not talking about a nudist colony or even television. He’s talking about non-sexual events where people weren’t expecting to see a penis. If a person wants to go to a nude beach or even watch HBO, she or he knows the risk they’re taking in perhaps seeing some nudity.

    Jamie’s talking about putting nudity into a setting where it simply doesn’t belong, and wasn’t expected. And doing so without consideration of others’ feelings. I agree with him that it is actually incredibly inconsiderate. Just because we SHOULD be “over” the penis and think it’s non-sexual, the fact is that it IS sexual. The fact is there it is sort of a big deal. And so are vulvas and even women’s breasts. Sure, maybe this should change. But that change isn’t up to Jamie and his friends to make at the expense of someone else who may be made uncomfortable. Just because you or I may think it’s silly that Margot may have wanted to only see her husband’s penis, doesn’t mean it’s silly to her, and it’s not up to you or me or Jamie to decide that.

    I tell this story from my own Jamie-like perspective. When I was 23 I worked at a store in a VERY trendy, sexy, LA spot. We sold women’s clothes and were literally one of the hottest places to shop in LA. And it was very LA. We wore super-short skirts, high heels, lacy tops (the lingerie look was very in). We played loud music and sold g-strings as well as jeans and whatever else.

    But I had this one shawl I would wear as a top. If I held my arm down, the shawl was quite conservative, showing just one shoulder. If I lifted up said arm, however, you could see the the shawl was held on by one tiny clip and my entire side (including showing that I had on no bra). If I leaned forward, that side of the shawl would’ve fallen forward and exposed my entire front. Of course I held onto the front when I’d bend so it was okay. But it was sexy. Under it I wore these pasties called Hidees which were cute pasties designed for times when you might “show too much” or have on a see-through top. It was quite ugly in retrospect, but we’d been dressing stars like Lil Kim in them and it was the trend. Anyway.

    So when the girls who worked with me would want to sell these Hidees, they would say, “Jo, show us your Hidees!” and I would lift up the shawl and show my entire front. With just Hidees. I honestly didn’t care. I was 23, 5’7″ and weighed 110 lbs. I didn’t have any reason to be ashamed. Then one day, a coworker goes, “Jo, show the Hidees” and I did and this woman and man looked over and their jaws dropped. The woman’s eyes filled with tears then she composed herself. She later said to me, “I just had a baby a few months ago and I saw you do that and was shocked. My poor husband hasn’t seen anything like that in more than a year!” she was laughing but I could see that she wasn’t expecting it and that I’d violated her comfort level, and when I saw her husband I could see I had done the same to him.

    I don’t think I”m bad person for it, but I identify with Jamie on this front. It wasn’t my right to go around showing my body to everyone who was just shopping, even if they were shopping in LA or on Robertson or whatever. It wasn’t a strip club, it wasn’t appropriate. I could’ve walked up to the woman my coworker wanted me to show and shown her privately. But I didn’t. I thought just because I didn’t think boobs and bellies were a big deal, it shouldn’t matter. But it did.

    I don’t think Jamie’s streaking IS non-sexualized. Why? Because he was doing it BECAUSE it was inappropriate. If he were at a place where penises were just a floppy organ, it would be. Instead, he’s saying, “here’s my sex organ, which no one else is showing right now, and I’m going to SURPRISE you with it so you have to see it.” If it weren’t a sex organ, it wouldn’t matter, but the fact is, the penis is the sex organ.

    Streaking wouldn’t matter if it weren’t sexualized. That’s the whole point. And I agree with you about the Babble dad photo, but I disagree that it’s relatable to this story. Jamie was steaking to make a point. The Babble dad was just being a dad, doing what he does everyday, what all of us who have had small children have done. Sit with a kid in a diaper.

    Fact is, Jamie was being disrespectful in the way he was challenging those around him. And he was doing it for his own selfish reasons. I did the same thing with my flashing. It was about ME, the fact that I didn’t care, that I thought boobs were no biggie. But the fact is, *I didn’t care* what anyone else felt about it, and that’s where the problem lies.

    • Nick, mostly says:

      I’m afraid you misunderstood my nudist camp reference. It wasn’t to say that walking around naked is perfectly normal, but rather that the absence of clothing isn’t the sole determination of whether something is “sexual” or not. I might have used the Finnish Sauna to equal effect – being naked together in a sauna isn’t sexual unless you make it sexual. My right index finger can be sexual. So can reading a poem.

      Causing someone offense is not the same as causing them injury. That someone should catch a glance of a naked person running by is not a sexual assault. That Margot should have a desire is not the same thing as having a reasonable expectation. Streaking is intended to be shocking – why do it otherwise – but it’s because people running around naked is not our everyday experience. If someone were to run through the library in a gorilla suit it would have similar effect. It’s not meant to titillate or arouse, nor is it intended to frighten or cause distress. That there is someone that will experience distress by seeing three seconds of a naked guy running says a lot about our culture and our relationship with our bodies. Christopher Hitchens has said, and I’ve grown fond of repeating, “I do not have a body, I am a body.” When I am being sexual, all of my body is sexual; when I’m not being sexual, none of my body is.

      Would you place streaking at the same level of a guy exposing himself to a woman on a subway car? Why or why not?

      • I would say it’s the same, it’s exhibitionism designed to shock other people and intentionally upset them. Maybe streaking is less sexual but the malicious intent — a desire to upset unsuspecting strangers — is exactly the same,

        • Nick, mostly says:

          No, I don’t think it’s meant to upset people. Quite the opposite, actually. And certainly I don’t believe there is maliciousness to the act. Why do you see it as malicious?

          • Because streakers are trying to shock and upset people. They think it’s fun. To shock people and make them uncomfortable. I find an element of maliciousness there

          • Nick, how can something possibly be shocking without being somewhat upsetting? You claim it is meant to shock and entertain, the problem is it shocks the audience and entertains the streaker.

            • Nick, mostly says:

              Perhaps shocking is the wrong word. My partner told me she thought the word was negative, whereas I think of it as value-neutral. So whatever word means “causing abrupt surprise” is the word I meant to use, because I think that’s the intent behind it.

              Given that streaking can be interpreted both positively and negatively, where do we draw the line between how we classify the behavior if not intent? Do you think the intent is to cause distress? Jamie’s essay certainly doesn’t give that impression. Because someone might feel sexually assaulted by the behavior, should we then prosecute the streaker as a sex offender? After all, the behavior was intentional, and if we classify it as sexual assault based on the subjective experience of an observer, then it was in fact intentional sexual assault.

              I do think we’re wandering dangerously far into the territory of defining the morality of a behavior based on the subjective experience of the observer, rather than the behavior itself. I don’t believe it’s a tenable position to hold.

    • wellokaythen says:

      I see more of a gray area here, and no, that’s not a scrotum joke.

      The penis is a sex organ, but it is not just a sex organ. It has sexual uses, but the urethra is not just for semen. The penis is there whether sex is occurring or not. I’m not sure defining a penis strictly as a sex organ is any better than defining breasts as sexual. They can be, but they aren’t always. In a way, it’s sort of odd to think of a limp penis as a sex organ. That’s the problem I had with the hysteria over the Joe Camel image many years ago – his face looked like a limp penis and a scrotum, so that means the company’s using sex to sell cigarettes? Huh?

      I’m sure many men will tell you that the male nipple can be just as sexual a body part as the female nipple. If Jamie was shirtless and showing his nipples, is that not also exposing us to his sex organs?

      Yes, Jamie did the streaking for shock value, and the shock value came from taboos about nudity of sex organs, so that does mean in a way that he was doing something sexual. He could also have mooned people and shown just his but cheeks – is that a kind of sexual hegemony, or is that just bare glutes?

      Is the lesson from the Hidees story that people with young, firm bodies should be more cautious about showing them for fear of making others feel bad about their bodies?

  18. Nick, mostly says:

    Um, yeah, no.

    Your story of Margot reminds me of how we take these ideas, such as normative masculinity and agency, and apply them in such a way as to approach the absurd. So what if yours was the only penis she’s ever seen? How is that taking away her agency? And is it really a “harm” that her husband’s penis wasn’t the first and only she’s ever seen? There are lots of choices, every day, that we don’t have. That’s not a denial of agency, that’s life. Let’s reserve “denial of agency” for when it’s actually applicable.

    I think gender studies is one of those college courses where a little knowledge is actually quite harmful. Divorced from a lot of the nuance that comes in later courses (that you would only take if you’re majoring in the subject) and lacking the historical and cross-cultural analysis that’s requisite to have true understanding, it allows people to take fancy terms and apply them haphazardly.

    Here’s something you’d learn if you spent some time at a nudist colony: penises aren’t sexual, and neither are breasts and vulvas. Nudity is not the same as sexuality. A lot of well-intentioned people get tripped up on this false equivalency, and thus feel the mere presence of an unclothed penis is a form of “sexual assault,” or feel the need to chastise a mother breastfeeding in public.

    Consider this recent essay on Babble: A Photo Sparks Debate. Tell me, who is the one sexualizing the little girl in the photo? The father sitting next to her? The person who took the photo? Or the reader who looks at the innocence of an obviously adoring little girl and whose imagination leads directly to “pædophile” rather than “cute kid?”

    I don’t think streaking is in any way sexual assault. Men do it, women do it, and it’s almost always for fun and shock value, not titillation and discomfort. (The guys showing their penis to a woman to make her uncomfortable don’t do it by streaking.) You might say your streaking behavior is somewhat immature, and I think your argument might have merit. I’m not ready to cast the people who are opposed to public nudity as prudes, but I do think the failure to distinguish between sexualized and non-sexualizd contexts betrays an immature and simple-minded attitude towards nakedness.

  19. If you streaked, I would probably laugh n go on with my day. It saddens me that some people are so bothered by nudity. I’m not sure the whole trigger for rape survivors is really a good reason to keep clothes on, if it’s legal to get nude where you are. Actually, no, it’s not a good reason unless it’s illegal to be nude there. That said, don’t go up to people n harass them, but if it’s legal to go nude where you are then who are we to judge?

    “We laughed, but then I got sad. She didn’t have a choice in that. She didn’t have agency. Maybe she wanted the first penis she saw to be her husband’s, but because of my “hilarious” antics, I took away her agency.

    And for that I am profoundly sorry.”

    What kind of society do you live in? A prudish one? By the age of 5 I probably saw 3-5 genitalia of males n females, probably more. As a kid I use to run down the street butt nekkid, the neighbours kids are regularly naked for some reason too, maybe we’re all just pretty relaxed about that shit here. Haven’t seen any adult streakers yet however, seen close to it and found it funny.

    To those bothered by nudity, why? You see animals naked all the time, does it bother you? I can understand a rape survivor might be traumatized and afraid to see a penis/vulva/whatever, but for other people…what is the big problem with nudity? Where I live some women wear so little that they may as well be naked, a few inchs of fabric covering the vulva and nipples, because that bit of flesh is somehow vile n dangerous to the eye?

    Stay within the law, but if it’s legal to go nude where you are then by all means let it all hang out if you wish. It’s our most natural state afterall.

    • Archy, one very simple reason not to want naked people on top of you: skin diseases you don’t know if the unsolicited streaker has. Crab lice, fleas, etc. If the pants are on, they are more likely to stay there. As much as I appreciate the human form, I don’t appreciate everyone’s hygiene. As for where you grew up and what’s natural or not, forcing your hygiene o lack of on other people, apart from the sexual element of nakedness, is just rude.

      • Never once did I state they had the right to get on top of you, or even within a 1-3m personal barrier. Clothed or unclothed someone on top of you is a breach of your personal space and doing that here would probably get you bashed. I meant people who are nude but still respect distance, same as everyday people cept sans clothing.

        You do realize you have a much higher risk of disease every day someone comes to work sick or anytime you mix with a large group of people when a flu season is around? In fact a much higher risk of death even.


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