Naked Came The Teenagers
Winning the culture wars by embracing public nudity — for kids!


Here in Virginia we seldom find ourselves ahead of the curve. But times are changing. Indeed, we have jumped ahead of the curve this summer, or perhaps one should say “curves.” Virginia is hosting one of the nation’s largest nudist campouts — for adolescents. It’s in session this week, in Southampton County, where Nat Turner led an earlier rebellion. The only other official nudist camps for kids, we learn from the Richmond Times Dispatch, are in Florida and Arizona.

The site of the camp is Ivor, a small town on Route 460, which is perhaps best known as a speed trap. Yet this week it is home to 30 naked kids aged 11 to 18, most of whom are children of adult nudists. The compound is called White Tail Camp, which apparently doesn’t refer to the campers but the local deer population. Indeed, the sun been bright this week, and those little butts are surely nut brown by now.

To be sure, we’ve been getting naked in Virginia for many years, both before and after the arrival of the white-tailed masses. George Washington got naked when necessary, as did Madison and Monroe, though none of these gents got naked nearly as often as Thomas Jefferson, or so we have been led to believe. Woodrow Wilson, another of the state’s prominent sons, is thought to gotten naked a time or two, though his wife reportedly admonished him and ordered him to return to his books.

Yet there has been some concern about the naked children at Camp White Tail. A few churchgoers have been quoted in opposition to the idea, and child-protection types — who make a practice of turning people in for taking pictures of their naked babies — worry aloud about sexual exploitation. Robert Roche, camp director and reportedly a famous nudist, says these fears are misplaced. Counselors have received thorough background checks. Indeed, the camp is said to be a hotbed of Platonic behavior. Each day starts at 7 A.M. with exercise and ends many sun-drenched hours later with campfire singalongs. The Dispatch adds that additional activities include “volleyball, swimming, first-aid classes, even an introduction to firefighting skills.”

Did someone say “weenie roast?”

Well, making jokes at the expense of nudists comes easily enough, and many of cannot help but be amused by the idea of anyone paying for their kids to get naked with other kids. After all, as kids we used to do that for free, as often as possible. We also chuckle over reports that “nudist professionals” are being brought in to teach the kids how to be properly naked. One wonders what it takes to become a pro.

But the fact is that we might learn a few things from the nudists, who truly seem to be of a philosophical bent.

We will have disagreements, to be sure. They argue that being naked is “natural” and therefore there’s nothing wrong with being natural around your friends, family, and willing strangers. We might counter that many “natural” phenomena — including breaking wind and taking a leak — are nonetheless best experienced privately. Indeed, shielding others from such phenomena is a hallmark of civilization — as is shielding them from our deepest inner thoughts. And there’s no disputing that after a certain age the human body is increasingly hideous to behold. Clothes are our friends — sometimes our best friends.

At the same time, Mr. Roche makes an interesting point when insisting these young campers will not be sexually stimulated by one another’s nudity. Why? Because they are so accustomed to nakedness it has become old hat. If this is true, and it certainly seems reasonable, we can imagine vast implications, especially regarding the worlds of advertising and popular culture, which rely on nakedness, or near nakedness, to move about 85 percent of their product and 90 percent of their tickets. If nakedness loses its punch, creative types will have to come up with something new. They’ll have to use their brains again. And the culture will probably improve as a result.

Of course, it is quite possible that the nakedness is already losing its punch due to overuse by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. But traditionalists might want to help the process along by getting behind the White Tail movement. Indeed, they may want to start enrolling their own kids to nudist camps. Just don’t forget to send along the camcorder.

Dave Shiflett is a member of the White House Writers Group.