My housemate and I hatched a plan on a freezing mid-January day in Philadelphia. We had heard that people in college “used to be” wild; there were rumors that older members of my fraternity held nude parties. For some unknown reason, I felt the need to stand up for my generation of college students. I wanted to believe that the wildest days of college partying were not behind us but were still happening right now. So we did what any rational 20-year-old would do. We decided to host a naked party.
We sent out a couple now-hilarious invites to like-minded friends:
Yes, that night was almost eight years ago. But when I went out to dinner with Andrzej from Sexico City (more gossip on that later!), the topic of nude beaches like Zipolite in Oaxaca came up. I suddenly remembered that I had indeed hosted a naked party. From a single night, I learned a lot about what makes an event good and empowering versus potentially weird and creepy.
So, here’s what I’ve learned about how to host a fantastic naked party:
1. Spread the word to like-minded people.
Our event was very spontaneous, and word spread quickly. It took us only two days to invite everyone and prepare. Most people heard about it and attended it on the same day.
We didn’t have to worry about whether people would show up. On the subject of a naked party, our community quickly divided themselves into people who wanted to attend and people who were too freaked out or embarrassed to. As my former housemate put it,
“I think our house and communities were people who had an alternative bend or wanted to.”
If you’re hosting a naked party, be sure to invite your close-knit communities, like outdoorsy friends, feminist friends, and body-positive, nudist friends. They will do the work for you and help you spread the word.
2. Lead by example, i.e., Be naked.
As the host of your own naked party, you set the tone of the event. You have to lead by example with something as vulnerable as getting people to remove their clothes.
But perhaps getting naked in front of other people scares you? Does it feel like a bit of a stretch? One way to address this is by attending other clothing-optional events to practice for yourself. There, you can learn what to expect.
For example, I love “clothing optional” events, and whenever I have permission to remove my clothes, I usually do. But I wasn’t always this way. I developed this confidence from attending an annual event that probably deserves its newsletter: the Philly Naked Bike Ride. This is a real-life 13-ish-mile bike ride through Philadelphia in September when it’s still warm. I was fortunate enough to do the bike ride twice. Here are some photos.
The bike ride was empowering because I was naked alongside thousands of other people. These people had bodies of all different shapes, ages, sizes, and colors coming together to celebrate green transportation and nudism.
So, try to explore subcultures that allow for nudity, like saunas and nude beaches, until you gain confidence. You can also learn about the work of people like Charlie Ann Max, whose “Füde Dinner Experience,” i.e., nude dinner parties, were featured in the New York Times.
3. Curate a safe yet exciting experience.
Psychological and physical safety are essential when hosting a naked party. One of our male attendees later shared,
“I remember the atmosphere being very wholesome if not a bit bashful…Not the energy for an orgy that some predicted, but a memorable experience for all because by being a “stripped down” event, it pushed people to get comfortable and sociable faster.”
It’s both touching and fascinating that he remembered the night this way. So, here’s how we did it.
Warm, Comfortable Space
As I mentioned, the party took place in Philadelphia in January, where it could get as cold as -13°C on a bad day (or a mere 9° Fahrenheit). So we cranked up the heat. The last thing you want is for people to be cold at your naked party!
We also hosted it in our living room with couches and an extended open-plan kitchen. Truth be told, we lived in a trendy loft house, which was an old, converted gym, and the entire outside of our house was clad with ivy. The dimly-lit, double-height ceiling space had an almost mystical feel to it. So, be sure to find a cool but cozy location.
Technology & Privacy
The last thing we wanted was people sneaking pictures and posting them on social media. So we had a box next to the front door where people were required to put their cell phones in during the party. This helped people feel safe enough to take their clothes off and minimized any risk of social repercussions beyond the event.
No Hard Alcohol
To curate a safer environment, we did not provide hard alcohol at the party. Instead, we just drank beers and non-alcoholic cocktails and socialized in a nice, old-fashioned, offline way. However, this still did not stop things from going astray later on, the details of which I will share below.
Activities & Ambiance
Much like in pride parades, it’s important to remember that hosting a naked party is a celebration of our bodies and all their quirks, beauty, and glory! So, we added body painting, glitter, and sparkles as optional activities for our event. This made the night a lot more light-hearted and fun. We also played indie music.
4. Consider a theme or designated phases of the evening.
At our naked party, we had separate phases of the evening, which was a total accident that worked out well.
We invited our most body-positive, feminist friends over earlier, so at first, the event was a naked lady party only. This phase of the event was my favorite. Yes, it was a bit awkward when we took off our clothes at the very beginning, but once we were all naked, we started getting creative and doing body painting. We painted rivers, mountains, and leaves all over each other. It was a beautiful and almost nurturing start to the experience. I felt like we were a little tribe of goddesses or cavewomen in a way that felt accepting and comforting. I loved it!
Next, the party’s ambiance changed when a bunch of people arrived who we didn’t know and hadn’t expected, including male students. With that, the party moved into a more social phase. It wasn’t a bad thing, just different. My male friend recalls, “People were fine to mingle and glance, but cautious not to flirt and stare… And a few other cases of corner or couch makeouts.”
Depending on what kind of event you’re trying to have, you might want to make your event females or males only or make no clothing a rule. Your rules set the event’s tone, leading me to my next point…
5. Try to reach a critical mass of nudity, with female bodies first.
If you’re trying to have a gender-inclusive event where people of any gender can feel comfortable, I recommend starting with as many female bodies as possible. Due to safety issues for female bodies today, such as the rates of trauma and assault we experience, this is incredibly important to help make other females feel comfortable.
For example, a couple years after this naked party, I went to a sex party in New York. There, I was one of the only female bodies in a sea of naked men, so I didn’t want to get naked in front of them. In this way, I’m even more glad that my own naked party had enough female bodies so everyone taking part could feel safe.
Reaching a critical mass of nudity is very important for the success of a naked party. As the event unfolded, I observed something unexpected in this regard. We started out with about 10 naked women, and then, as more people arrived, we quickly got to 30-40 naked people. So when a new person arrived after that, they were suddenly the only clothed person in a house full of naked people. I saw that the new people arriving ripped off their coats, sweaters, and underwear even faster so they didn’t stand out and could fit in.
This experience taught me a lot about human nature. We humans are social creatures. We immediately want to do what everyone around us is doing so that we can fit in. In fact, so much of our behavior is entirely arbitrary, which we do to be accepted socially. Not farting loudly in public? Not shouting and screaming unexpectedly? Driving cars? Once you throw a naked party, it’s hard not to question the complete absurdity that is everything we have in society today.
6. Have a vetted guest list.
This tip is easier said than done, but it’s probably the most important. Because our event had spread through word of mouth across our college campus, we couldn’t control who would show up or how. Later in the night, we ended up with many students from Penn Dental School and members of the women’s and men’s Crew (Rowing) teams.
I noticed that one couple showed up far too drunk, and the guy from the Crew team kept following a girl everywhere around the house, and she wasn’t happy about it. I told him to stop repeatedly, and he didn’t, so I kicked him out of my house into the Philadelphia winter in only his t-shirt and underwear. He never came back for his pants, socks, or shoes.
In the days after the party, I contacted the university, but they wouldn’t do anything unless the girl came forward. She didn’t want to, so the guy on the Crew team was free to go. On the subject, my former housemate and fellow organizer shared, “I think we felt some level of being violated and responsible because it happened in our home.”
Our naked party was successful in creating a body-positive environment for one magical evening. Still, we also failed to grasp the pervasiveness and dangers of rape culture on our college’s campus. I feel disappointed that safety at our event wasn’t perfect. So, if you host a naked party, limit your event to people who you know are in it for the right reasons. Your concerted efforts to vet your attendees will pay off.
Naked parties and body-positive events can be joyful experiences that let your guests feel alive and empowered. However, creating a safe space requires effort and intention. Even as I was biking through Rittenhouse Square on the Philly Naked Bike Ride, surrounded by thousands of happy people, a man shouted at me,
His comment signals that there is a deeper evil in society that we need to root out: hegemony or the subjugation of some types of bodies over others. It’s that repressive kind of masculinity that trains men to see boobs and butts with a sexual eye only.
For many of these clothing-optional events, there was nothing sexual about what we were doing. It’s more about liberation, questioning the arbitrary rules society had boxed us into. Still, it’s clear to me that when we let toxic, hegemonic patriarchy in, the spell of a safe space is broken, and it makes us want to put our bras back on.
My advice is to proceed with caution. Only invite people who genuinely understand consent and respect other people’s bodies, no matter who that body belongs to. Then, have a super fun time!