Letter from the Editor

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The naked truth

The Associated Press reports last week that Baylor University has sent out an e-mail threat to its coeds not to pose for Playboy magazine. And it isn't bluffing - one girl was previously booted out of school for posing even though the magazine didn't publish the photo, and a whole frat is on double-secret probation because a shot of some of its guys (fully togged) goofing in the background with a couple of bikini girls, once appeared in Hugh Hefner's rag.

The school says that such nudity is not in keeping with its institutional mission.

How it thinks all of its paying student clientele were conceived, I am not yet certain.

Do you get kicked out of school if your towel slips in the dorm shower room? What if you serve as a figure drawing model for an art class? Get suspended for a sunburn?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not in favor of young women resorting to nudie magazines to earn their tuition. But I'm not sure that deciding to share their charms in a legal format is grounds for denying them an education. Or that a college's role is to threaten its students into making it's idea of positive lifestyle choices.

I'm told that naked Pundit parties are all the rage at lofty Yale. Others are known for naked soccer or naked runs, for reasons that escape me. Most people, frankly, I'd rather not see so much of.

The only case of nudity I can recall in my years of covering BVU was one afternoon when an offensive lineman with loose laces bent over into a line-of-scrimmage stance and treated all of J. Leslie Rollins stadium to an uninvited view of 300 pounds of sweaty rear cleavage. I don't think he was expelled. My popcorn nearly was.

Then again, any town in which a strip joint can be billed as a "theatre of the performing arts" and the local sandy lakefront is commonly known as "Bare...um, whatever Beach" probably isn't going to be too puritanical.

To be honest, I wasn't aware they still printed Playboy. At Hugh's age, does it now consist of bare centenarians with their walkers? I don't think it's a big deal anymore... everybody and their dog is running around naked as a jaybird on the internet anyway, and Girls Gone Bersek commercials every 10 seconds on TV, to the point where nudity just isn't that interesting, certainly not as taboo, as it used to be.

Heck, Saddam is on the cover of the New York Sun in only his tighty-whitey bikini underpants, and MSN reports that there is now a "Naked News" network in which the anchors solemnly intone all the normal world headline stories, except that they happen to strip naked in the process. I just can't picture Willard Scott, Barbie Walters and Bryant Gumble in those circumstances.

In fact, there's so much nudity these days that it isn't even cool any more. Dressed is the new undressed. Put it on! Put it on!

I can't be the only guy to notice this disturbing trend:

You can't buy a magazine these days that doesn't have an almost naked lady on the cover.

I'm not talking Playboy stuff here, or even the Maxim-type fare for your cutting-edge hip partydude. I'm talking the regular, guy-reading stuff, sitting-on-the-rack-at-Wally-World magazines - GQ, Esquire, Fitness, even the mainstream travel, sports and car mags. The Dixie Chicks are naked on "Entertainment" - does anybody really need that?

Time Magazine, for goodness sake - Time -recently came out with a nude couple apparently doing the horizontal hoochie-coo right there on the cover. Where was all this when I was 15? - we had to really hunt for the naked pygmies in National Geographic.

It's not that I'm embarrassed by the human body. It's that I'm embarrassed to strut up to that nice older lady at the checkout counter, and end up in line between the Catholic nuns and the Girl Scout troop, boldly carrying a GQ cover of Jen Aniston's human body with only her wee hands covering anatomical features that really should be covered by clothing, at least in a grocery store.

So guys can't buy any of the magazines they like. Their families would look at them like creeps for bringing it into the house, and the mailman would give them withering looks if they subscribed.

So can we please put pictures of cars without the naked models back on the guy magazine covers? Put pictures of Ernest Hemingway on Esquire, large fish, Brett Favre, pizzas, tennis shoes, snow-capped mountains, whatever.

And it gets worse - I am not traipsing up to the checkout with a Men's Health magazine that invariably pictures some naked, greased-up guy on the cover. I don't need health that bad. And what's with the half-naked women on women's magazines? Have you looked at a Cosmo? Or Demi on Vanity Fair? What's the point - don't women already know what naked women look like?

A calendar featuring Humane Society members posing nude with their pets recently fetched $1,200 at a fundraising auction. It's bad enough my cat walks around outside with no drawers and no remorse, I don't need to get in on that action. And if you have a pit bull that enjoys hot dogs, a guy is just asking for trouble.

And remember that "naked" PETA circus protester on the street in Spencer not long ago? Why naked? Can't a girl protest in a nice skort and a windbreaker these days?

One hint for Baylor: I bet you if the stodgy college administration goes out and poses naked and posts the pictures around campus, not a single student will ever be moved to strip for a camera again.

Let it be a revealing lesson in Psychology 101.