Motif Magazine Covers "Bare As You Dare" (Covers… Get It?)

Katie Lewis of Motif Magazine.
Katie Lewis of Motif Magazine.

My Bare As You Dare clothing optional workshop has been called “life changing.” I think it’s safe to say that writer Katie Lewis of Motif Magazine got more than she bargained for when she attended:

“My dare this month was to prove that my clothes don’t make the woman by taking the Bare as you Dare clothing-optional workshop at this year’s Fetish Fair Flea.

I figured it would be easy. Get naked and socialize? Piece of cake! But when I entered the workshop, my feelings changed entirely. People of all shapes, sizes and ages entered the room, and clothes started to hit the floor. I wondered, are ALL these people gonna get naked?” Read the entire article here.

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Getting Naked at Dartmouth: The IvyQ Conference

Me and Denice Frohman, after her performance at IvyQ.

So last week I presented at the IvyQ Conference at Dartmouth University. It’s a conference of LGBTQ Ivy League students. To say the least I was intimidated. I’m used to presenting at kink conferences, not at schools I wasn’t a good enough student to get into.

Then I arrived in Hanover, New Hampshire and read the conference schedule. That’s when panic set in. I was scheduled to teach Polyamory 101 and my body acceptance workshop, Bare As You Dare. When I checked the schedule I saw that Janet W. Hardy, co-author of The Ethical Slut, was teaching an intro level polyamory class. Why would anybody take an intro to Polyamory class from me when they could take one from one of the women who (literally) wrote the book on polyamory? Then I realized that Janet W. Hardy’s class was at the same time as my Bare As You Dare class.  I had to call Elaine, my partner, to calm me down and convince me everything would be okay, but I thought I’d be facing two empty classrooms.

As time for my Polyamory 101 class drew near, I was, in fact, staring at rows and rows of empty seats. This has happened to me once before. It’s not the best feeling. You feel really silly, like you threw yourself a party and no one showed up. You start to wonder how long you’re obligated to keep hoping people will come before you give up and go somewhere and weep.

Luckily, people started to trickle in and I ended up with about twenty bright-eyed and engaged students and everything went fine. One down, one to go.

Then it was time for my clothing optional body image workshop. Joe, my tech assistant, came in to help me get the room set up and he sheepishly said, “Um… I was told that you usually teach this class… in the nude.” I have to admit, I enjoy that my life leads to situations like this one.  

At first I was worried that no one would show up. Then I figured that a bunch of Ivy League college students would be less willing to get naked than the older crowds I present to at kink conferences. I thought I would be the only naked one presenting to a bunch of clothed college kids, and wondered how that would feel. I was so wrong. This was the biggest, barest and best Bare As You Dare workshop I’ve ever done. I was in a room that held seventy students and it was packed. Kids just started streaming in and taking their clothes off. Presenter Vanessa Van Edwards gives out chocolates to people who answer questions during her presentations, so taking a page from her book, I gave out chocolates to students who were brave enough to get undressed. Once the chocolates started being given out, the clothes just started flying. The class basically came to a stop while I delivered chocolate to naked and half naked co-eds. By the end of the session, I was out of chocolates. I am now officially the old man who gives candy to students in exchange for taking their clothes off.

I somehow got it in my head that the class ended at 4:30, so I sped thought some stuff and cut out some parts where I talk about myself and was done around 4:20. I realized the class went to 5pm and we had 40 minutes left. I kinda panicked thinking I was going to have to fill time. I had built in a new part where I ask if any member of the audience is willing to come in front of the group, get naked and talk about their body image issues. I thought, maybe I’d get one or two takers. I lost count of how many people volunteered. Not only did we fill 40 minutes, but so many people were willing to share that we ran over time (but we only ran over time by two minutes, cause that’s how I roll).

Several students confessed to horrible traumas in their childhood and high-school years. There was so much radical honesty in that room. They didn’t just get physically naked, they got emotionally naked. There were several times when I thought I might cry, but I held it in for the sake of the students. I’ve never been so moved at a conference.

There was one young lady in the audience who caught my eye. She came to speak to me after the workshop and I flirted with her, which is probably somewhat immoral, if I think about it too hard. She told me how old she was and the next thing that came out of my mouth was, “You’re young enough to be my daughter,” and with that, any infinitesimal chance I had with her was brutally murdered.

After the workshop I went to see spoken-word artist Denice Frohman perform. She was amazing. I’m really happy to see poets at conferences like this. By the end of her set, she’d brought the crowd to their feet and received a long and very authentic standing ovation. Afterwards, I stood in line to buy a copy of her CD. When I told her I was from St. Louis, the conversation immediately turned to the situation in Ferguson. When I got back to my hotel, I listened to her entire album in a single sitting, which I almost never do. It’s that good.

Waiting for the shuttle back to my hotel, I found myself sitting in front of a building that was all lit up in the colors of the rainbow, underneath a billowing Gay Pride flag and a gentle snow fall. It was a beautiful and calming ending to a very healing event.    

Friday I’m off to New York City to perform my work at the book release party for The Big Book of Domination. St. Louis, please don’t burn down while I’m gone. 

Bare As You Dare North American Tour 2014

 

Back in 2012, Stephanie Co, the co-founder and then coordinator of the World Naked Bike Ride St. Louis, asked me to put together a workshop on body image to help promote the ride. In retrospect, it’s a little embarrassing that the idea hadn’t occurred to me before that, but I jumped at the chance.

I did the first Bare As You Dare: Radical Body Acceptance workshop at the old Shameless Grounds in the Koken Art Factory. It was clothing optional within the limits of applicable laws, so a lot of brave people sat together in their underwear, among friends and strangers alike, and talked about their body image issues. It was pretty incredible.

I did the second Bare As You Dare at the new Shameless Grounds in Benton Park, not long after they opened their doors in 2013, and then decided to take the show on the road.

This year, I’ve held BAYD workshops in Providence, Rhode Island for the New England Leather Alliance, in Vancouver, Canada for Westcoast Bound, and I’m very happy, proud (and more than a bit surprised) to say that this Friday, I’ll be naked on the campus of Dartmouth University, conducting a BAYD workshop for IvyQ, an association of LGBT ivy league students. One bonus of holding this event in non-food and drink establishments is that participants can, and sometimes do, go completely nude.

When I was in school, there was no booth on career day for Clothing Optional Workshop Leader, and yet somehow, in the back of my mind, I was pretty sure I’d end up doing something like this. 

From the Web: The BMI is a Big Fat Scam

 

Single-Breasted Swimsuits, Topless Equality & Body Image

 

[Author’s Note: This blog started out as a quick shout-out to the folks behind Monokini, a line of single-breasted swimsuits, but has since morphed into a rant about topless equality, gender identity and body image. Just watch my feet for a minute, I promise there’s a point to all this.]

Monokini is social art project that designs swimwear collections for single mastectomy survivors who have elected to forego breast augmentation surgery. It’s also the thing that currently restores my faith in humanity.

I love this for two reasons. I have several friends who are breast cancer survivors, some have had mastectomies, some haven’t. Of those who have, some have elected to get breast implants, some haven’t. I think it’s pretty awesome that this project highlights the fact that there is a choice and it’s really the decision of the survivor (and, I suppose, her doctor, I know nothing about the medical ramications of these things).

The second, somewhat stranger, reason is that mastectomy survivors who forego implants call attention to how ridiculous it is that in so many parts of the country, it’s illegal for women to be topless in public. It begs the question, what part of the female breast is so offensive? The nipple? Men have nipples, but we can be topless in public. Is it the amount breast tissue? What about flat chested women and amply breasted men? And, if that were the case, why is it legal for women to be basically topless if their nipples are covered? It makes no sense. I think what the powers-that-be find offensive about the female breast is that they are attached to women.

To see how silly this can get, contrast the cases of Jodi Jaecks and Andrea Jones. In 2012 Jodi Jaecks was temporarily banned from swimming topless in a public pool in Seattle, despite having had a double mastectomy and electing not to get breast implants.

Jodi Jaecks photo by Kelly O./The Stranger

In 2011, Andrea Jones, a transgender woman living in Tennessee, was arrested for indecent exposure after walking out of the Department of Motor Vehicles topless. She was protesting the fact that the DMV refused to change the gender on her driver’s license from male to female. Her argument being that the state couldn’t treat her as both a man and a woman, and if she was legally male, she should be able to walk outside without a shirt on.    

Two women, one with neither breasts nor nipples, the other born biologically male and still treated as such by her state, both sanctioned for doing what cisgender men do all the time: being topless in public. It makes no sense to me.

Andrea Jones – Photo from WATE-TV

 

On a brighter note, photo below comes from bodybuilder turned body image activist, Taryn Brumfitt at bodyimagemovement.com.au. It’s part of a blog titled “The best reason to get naked in front of a thousand people!” and it tells the story of two total strangers, both mastectomy survivors, who met  and bonded at the world’s largest naked swimming event.

 From bodyimagemovement.com.au

Taryn is also running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a body positive documentary called “Embrace” and you should definitely support it by going here