The Sexist

Nude Co-Workers: Disturbing?

The cover of the August 22, 2007 issue of Creative Loafing Tampa was a doozy. Under the guise of a "newbies" guide to Tampa Bay, the alt-weekly fronts a nude photo of editorial interns Ted Scheinman and Brian Reed. The interns stand in the sparkling depths of a man-made waterfall, their hands posed jauntily on their hips. They wear no clothes. Covering their genitals are two triumphantly checked boxes that, to the untrained eye, could appear to be representations of erect penises. Observe:

After finishing their tenure at Creative Loafing Tampa and graduating from Yale, Scheinman and Reed came to work at the Washington City Paper (Scheinman remains as CP's Online Producer; Reed has since moved on to a Croc Fellowship at NPR). Before my new coworkers even arrived in the District, I heard tell of their cover-boy exploits down South, but I hadn't actually set my eyes the cover until last week. When the newspaper was unceremoniously dumped in my cubicle, I approached the cover as I would the site of a terrible collision: Not knowing what else to do, I simply stared, wondering why the tears were not coming.

As with any unexplained tragedy, the image piqued my curiosity; I needed to know how and why this had happened. In an interview, Scheinman detailed the genesis of the cover. "It was [Editor-in-Chief] David Warner’s idea. There were a bunch of half-assed ideas being kicked around about the cover, and then [Warner] asked us if we would do this," says Scheinman. "He clearly was not joking."

Scheinman and Reed—who had penned an essay for the issue on the "Caliente" nudist resort and community of Land O'Lakes, Fla.—were interested. "We thought about it for a moment, and no one could think of any reason not to," says Scheinman. Though Reed admits he was nervous the night before the photo shoot—"like the night before the first day of school"—he was comfortable with the idea. According to Scheinman, the pair had become accustomed to lounging together naked while undergrads at Yale. "Oh, yeah, yeah. There’s a seedy subculture In the Ivy leagues of naked, Dionysian revelry," he says. "There were naked parties."

Scheinman clearly was not joking.

On the day of the shoot, Scheinman and Reed, both 23, disrobed at Caliente in front of another Creative Loafing reporter, who took their photograph, and an advertising rep, who simply "wanted to come along," says Reed. After posing for about 100 shots, the Creative Loafing editorial team narrowed the selection down to a few possibilities, which were sent to the newspaper's Atlanta office to be finalized for the cover. "We knew, obviously, that the key areas were to be covered up," says Reed. "That was implied." After the digital insertion of the check marks, Reed and Scheinman were told that all copies of the nude photos would be destroyed, save for one CD of the photographs which remains in Reed's possession.

But while Scheinman and Reed were comfortable with their nude photo experience, I am not particularly comfortable with it. I generally am not opposed to the display of nude art in the workplace, but I do find saucy nude photographs of my co-workers moderately disturbing. I am not alone: In the aftermath of the issue, Warner wrote in a blog post, "the manager of a sports bar told us it was 'inappropriate for a paper featuring naked boys on the cover to appear at a family establishment.'"

Or, you know, in your office environment. Scheinman and Reed's essay, admittedly, is soaring:

They took a moment to look at us, lounging decadently in big, reclined patio chairs, sipping our drinks, smiling, feet up on the table, naked and spoiled as the day we were born, our cranberries dangling papally.

So soaring, in fact, that the image of papally dangling cranberries will forever be seared into my brain each time I approach our Online Producer with a modest question concerning our Web stats.

Even more unsettling is the inside photo. The second shot shows Reed and Scheinman, again naked, this time embracing an unidentified woman (also naked):

I may have just lost my naked lunch.

Am I right to be disturbed by this? Or is the nearly-naked coworker a sight we all must endure in the Internet age?

  • BilAk1964

    Perhaps the author of this article could do with some more open mindedness and the realization that in other countries nudity, whether Ars Gratia Artis or not is viewed more maturely.

    In many European countries A nude sauna after a business lunch is normal. In Munich's Englischer Garten co-workers sunbathe nude during their lunch hour.

    At some point we Americans are going to have to get over our prudishness about the human body and grow up a little.

  • http://washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    BilAk,

    Thanks for the comment. Good point about the cultural divide---could Tampa be more Germanic than Gulf Coast?

    In truth, I believe it is the brazen placement of the suggestive check-marks that I find most unsettling in this case (don't get me wrong: If pressed, I'll admit that I much prefer them to the full picture). But this does raise an interesting question: is an after-lunch nude work sauna, in which all parties consent and participate, less disturbing than a hard-copy nude work photograph?

    Yeah actually, probably not. When it comes to editorial skinny-dipping meetings, count me ethnocentric. I'm not jumpin' into that pool.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Ted Scheinman

    While Caliente is more téton than Teuton, it does feature a lovely little biergarten.

  • http://www.calienteresorts.com Angye Fox

    I'm the Public Relations Director for Caliente Clothing Optional Resorts and we've embraced mainstream media with much success for the past two years. Our relationship with Creative Loafing has been an integral part of that success. Our goal is to introduce a new generation of people to social nudism in luxurious surroundings. Ted and Brian are the perfect example of young Americans who understand true freedom.

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  • Larry

    Grow up hess!

  • http://www.naturistmingle.com Claudia

    The world is full of surprises and the secret naturist, who tends to explore country side and other areas not usually explored by 'normal' people and who also present an attractive target by being naked, tend to attract all manner of interesting creatures, many of which are intend on biting, stinging, eating and generally making life a misery for any unfortunate who passes by. Naturist looks like you and I and come from all walks of life. You will find it to be a relaxing lifestyle that is free of the daily stress we all experience. Naturist groups like naturistmingle.com are looking for people who are open minded and want to enjoy the company of others of a like mind.

  • http://www.naturistmingle.com Claudia

    There is a difference in nudism or naturalism and pornography. Nudism believes in the freedom from the restrictions of clothing, Porn is for sexual gratification. Naturist looks like you and I and come from all walks of life. You will find it to be a relaxing lifestyle that is free of the daily stress we all experience. Naturist groups like naturistmingle.com are looking for people who are open minded and want to enjoy the company of others of a like mind.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Arthur Delaney

    That's creative loafing for sure.

  • http://www.travelites.info Cheri Alexander

    They are not the first to be nude on the front cover of an alternate newspaper. Several years back, Free Times (free-times.com) had a cover of the reporter who covered Travelites' Halloweeen party.

    Simple nudity should not be disturbing to anyone; we were born nude and as some say "in God's image." The human body is just the vessel for the individual. We should all accept who we are and not what we look like, own, or wears. Nudism is the great human equalizer.

  • http://washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Thanks for writing, Cheri. I must respectfully disagree, however, that nudism is the "great human equalizer."

    I'm curious, was the reporter on the cover of the Travelites story a man? I think it's interesting how male nudity is often celebrated as "natural" while female nudity is so often sexualized.

    Imagine, for a moment, if young female interns were asked by their employer to appear naked on the cover of a newspaper. If they were convinced to do so, the women would almost certainly be both vilified and harassed by male and female readers. For someone whose life is dedicated to advocating nudity, this response might be expected and accepted; for a journalist, it would be something different altogether.

    In considering nudity on the job, I think there's something more to being a "grown up" and "accepting our bodies." Revealing our naked bodies---and looking at others'---offers up different connotations for men and women.

  • Tim Mayfield

    There does not seem to be any actual nudity displayed in the photos. I guess I don't understand why the fact that they were naked when the photos were taken is disturbing. Everyone is naked at some point every day, I guess its just the fact that there was someone else there to document it. As long as you weren't somehow subjected to the nudity, I don't feel its cause for consternation.

  • Chris

    This is great, in my book. Shame is so 1900s, and kudos to these guys for being comfortable enough to do this. It's not a porno mag or anything, it's the human body.

  • http://tampa.creativeloafing.com David Warner

    Sheesh.

  • Em

    Actually, I think the whole thing is kind of a sweet ice-breaker. As a new employee, I wouldn't be anything less than grateful if I saw my coworker's naked past plastered on the cover of our newspaper... at the very least, I'd have something to ask about in the kitchen instead of acting awkward, talking about the weekend and waiting for someone to figure out what my last name might be.

  • http://none james

    As for the nudity in Germany, I think commenter 1 is exaggerating just a bit. I work in a German office and I'm not sure I'd be too down with seeing my coworkers in the buff, although I think the scarring-for-life attitude is also over the top. And while it IS done, there are still plenty of Germans who happily go to the sauna with their friends of the same sex, not wanting to inject an amount of weirdness into a professional relationship.

    I do, however, think the Finns and Swedes do this. They practically live in saunas.

  • http://washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Sandra Beasley wrote a great essay for the Washington Post's XX files about a sauna experience at the Finnish embassy:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/07/11/ST2008071102562.html?sid=ST2008071102562&s_pos=list

  • http://www.travelites.info Cheri Alexander

    Amanda Hess: They are not nude, they are covered by a square and a check mark. There is one commercial that comes to mind in which women are wearing only aprons for their message.

    Yes, the reporter was a man who interviewed me and attended our Halloween party. However, I've frequently been interviewed, but I subscribe to the philosophy, "clothed when practical,nude when possible." I lecture to sociology classes about nudism and am clothed as during any interview.

    The "naked cover" is a great gimmick, and that is all I see it as. More people will pickup that issue especially since it is controversial.

    Nudism is the great human equalizer. People don't compare the price tag of their jeans. The man in the 3-piece suit and 2 PhDs is not thought more of than the person who generally wears cut-offs and a ripped tshirt.
    If you have a police officer at a corner and two men show up, one in a suit carrying a briefcase and the other in torn jeans and tshirt carrying a brown paper bag, the officer will be alerted to the poorly dressed individual and might even warn the better dressed man about the element that sometimes frequents the street.

  • http://washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Cheri,

    I do agree that the cover is a great gimmick! It's controversial, interesting, and gets people talking. So I'm talking about it. When I call the cover an "unexplained tragedy" and relate it to a "terrible collision," I'm joking. But I have to disagree with you again that nudism is the "great human equalizer" in this case ... I have nothing against nudism, but I also don't see the equalizing quality of "gimmick" nudity in journalism. Two young guys from Yale, cheeky and funny; a young woman from anywhere, and your journalism career will probably never be the same. When you're clothed during interviews and when lecturing to sociology classes, it's probably for the same reason that I don't pose naked (or at all) in a newspaper---you want people to listen to what you have to say. I've found that women's bodies are often part of the conversation on the job anyway, whether or not they're putting it all out there on the cover of a newspaper. And I think that sucks.

    I have learned a lot from people who wish they could see their coworkers naked on the job save for digitally inserted checkmarks, though. Who knew!

  • Robert

    Amanda...speaking from the left coast of the country, I think you need to relax a little. You seem to be more disturbed by the long "erect" checkmarks than by the fact the guys were bare. I think the lady in the inside photo sports the same checkmarks...so, they must just be part of the modesty issue...not a threat.

    I've seen a couple of my co-workers nude, when we recognized each other at a local nude resort. We all blushed, laughed...and had lunch together. They've seen mine and I've seen theirs..both male and female. Not a big deal, and we all smile when we pass in the hall.

    Try being nude at a nearby resort some Sunday. Do it as an experiment...take a tour...see the sights. You might find it enlightening, and fun.

  • http://washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    Hey Robert,

    I'm also from the left coast! ... Though I usually speak for myself, and not for the great West in general. I probably will never have the occasion to see my coworkers' 'sights' at a nude resort, but if I do, you will be the first to know.

  • Brian

    When I saw the pictures I had to laugh at the ridiculousness of the coverings. Does anyone not know what is there? I dout that by covering those parts someone is less likly to be sexually stimulated, maybe by covering the parts they will be more stimulated.

    If the author asked me I would tell him, yes, he is wrong.

  • http://none James C. Thacker

    Come on people !! Whats the deal about being naked ?? And whats with left coast ?? Is there a right coast ?? How about nakedness from coast to coast ?? Right wing, ... left wing, even those who don't fly !! Its time for America to lose its "up-tightness" about nudity and worry about greater issues !!

    "Nude on"
    J C Thacker
    jctha@hotmail.com

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/columns/showandtell/ Amanda Hess

    What's the deal with airline food?

  • http://none James C. Thacker

    Say what ???? How did food get into this ?? Did i miss something?...maybe i was napping!

  • Mark

    Come on, nude coworkers? Of all the silly things to worry about.
    Relax, it's just a body. That's the real point of naturism/nudism. The idea that we can accept ourselves with all our imperfections, despite the millions spent by Madison Ave to shame us into buying more clothes, makeup, cosmetic surgery, so people will like us. I'd rather have a tolerant society than one which takes away our right to feel good about ourselves.

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