Naked parties all the rage for Ivy League students
Students at America's prestigious Ivy League universities are rebelling against their colleges' stuffy reputations by casting off society's norms along with their clothes to hold naked parties.
The Pundits, a secretive society at Yale University, initiated the events - which profess to be non-sexual in nature - in the mid-1990s, open to a select few. The society claims that president George Bush's daughter, Barbara, attended a naked party during her second year, in 2002. The White House has always declined to comment.
But the naked parties are now fixtures among liberal students being primed to become the nation's elite.
While one campus source at Yale - to which Euan Blair, the Prime Minister's son, has won a scholarship - says naked parties are "the No. 1" thing to do before graduation, students who attend the six to eight parties held each year say it can be a life-changing experience, far from the "frat-house" bawdiness portrayed in films such as Animal House. Megan Crandell, a final-year Yale student who has attended six naked parties, said: "The dynamic is completely different from a clothed party. People are so conscious of how they're coming across that conversations end up being more sophisticated. You can't talk about how hot that chick was the other night."
Another Yale student, who did not want his name to become known by campus authorities - which do not try to stop the parties but do not encourage them - said: "Part of it is just the mystique of not knowing where you're going. It's become a hip thing to do."
The events are magnets for social-climbers at other top academic institutions, including Columbia, MIT and Brown. Students invited to a party at Columbia last year received this e-mail: "Compadres, join us in refusing to comply with a culture that tells us to hide our body, to be ashamed of its scents, secretions, curves and hair, to conceal those parts that have been dealt sexual connotations." Some students wear token items, such as hats; others bare all. Occasionally, parties charge $1 for each item of clothing worn. Some are even held in college libraries, though the early, underground events were often referred to in code as "bar mitzvahs".
Of party etiquette, Mollie Farber, a senior student at Yale, said: "You're allowed to give everyone a quick once-over as you say, 'Hey, what's up?', but after that, you've got to maintain pretty good eye contact."
However, Alexandra Robbins, a Yale graduate who detailed secret sorority life in her book Pledged, warned: "It can be a rude awakening. It really comes down to the idea that if I shed my clothes, I will lose my inhibitions. But it doesn't always work that way."
Birk Oxholm, who graduated from Columbia in 2006, was not convinced of the liberating effect of the parties: "To pretend you're feeling great and happy to be overcoming the oppressiveness of clothing overlooks the more authentic feeling, which is, 'I feel kind of weird'."