My college has a first-rate psychology department, where one can study learned texts on human behavior. But book learning has its limits, so the department prides itself on conducting clinical exercises that expand on the material. That academic rigor applies throughout the department, but nowhere more starkly than in its course on human sexuality.
All participants in that course have to agreed ahead of time to participate fully in the clinical exercises - which they are warned may require them to reveal intimate details about their sexuality and their bodies. Sort of an academic Truth or Dare. Participants pledge to keep what transpires in the class confidential, but enough rumors have seeped out to clothe the course with a mystique.
To entice the more shy individuals to participate (so that the universe of participants is not skewed just to the adventurous), the college awards double credits. You pay for three credit hours, but receive six.
At the beginning of the course, each student undergoes an evaluation. I was seated at a computer, onto which images of individuals of both sexes were displayed. Participants are to press a number, 1 to 10, to express their sexual interest in the subject.
An attractive woman, with a lovely smile appeared on my screen. She was dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. Very nice. I pressed 6. Then the image shifted, and this women's t-shirt was gone; she was wearing a lace bra. I still pressed 6. Next her shorts were gone, and her bottom features were clearly outlined by her panties. I pressed 7. In the next slide, she was nude. Small breasts, smaller than I like, and a shaved mound. She went back to a 6.
This process was repeated. Other women, some quite beautiful, some plain, appeared. Slowly their bodies were revealed as clothes were removed. I got into the spirit of the exercise, and saved the 9 and 10 ratings for women with my favorite, shapely firm breasts and curly and plentiful pubic hair. If women had very pretty faces and smiles, I rewarded them with higher ratings even if their bodies weren't spectacular. Sensors attached to my body measured my heart rate and respiration, as a corollary and check to my self-reporting. And I was presented with guys too. I kept pressing 1 to reject feelings of sexuality until the computer caught on and only offered me women.
It was very pleasant to watch women's clothes disappear in a peek show. I was disappointed when the session ended. But it wasn't done just for my titillation; the purpose was to create a database as to what facial characteristics and body types generated the greatest sexual excitement. Later, this would be used when I was matched with a classmate in the clinical studies.
One of the early lectures involved the question of male/female sexual arousal. Few would deny that the sex drive in the young male is ferocious. Men are easily aroused by the sight of an attractive female, or even by the perfumed scent she leaves behind. And that manifestation is readily observable. The penis is a reliable and visible barometer - especially when not hidden by clothes. But the female is different. For millennia, women were on a pedestal, considered to be pure and shy creatures, needing to be wooed to provoke a willingness to engage with the male. Our professor asked us our views on whether women's sex drive was as strong as the male's.
Most of the men thought it was not. But the women, demurely at first, then more vigorously as others spoke up, asserted that women like sex too. A lot.
"I tend to agree with you," said the professor. "But then why is it," he asked, "that in a recent study of men and women, 25 percent of males reported masturbating almost every day, compared to 8.7 percent of women? And even among men who don't masturbate a lot, they do so at rates that are 50% higher than women?"
One of the females spoke. "I'm sure the women responding to the survey were lying. It's difficult for a woman to discuss her sexual needs. Guys joke about it; guys consider masturbation as being manly. But for a woman, it's a mark of shame."
Several women nodded their agreement.
"So shall we find out?", the professor asked. "Who's willing to do a show of hands for who masturbates at least on a weekly basis?"
There was dead silence in the class. No one moved.
"That's what I expected. Our society is awash in sex, yet it remains a taboo to discuss your own sexuality openly. That's part of what we're going to change in this class. Your homework assignment is to keep a journal on how often you masturbate - or how often you want to do it, but don't, for whatever reason. And if this class is to be of value, you need to be absolutely honest."
The assignment caused some excitement amongst us. And I heard a few of the guys acknowledge that they masturbated when they returned to the dorm, thinking about the assignment - and wondering what their classmates might be doing.
As the lectures continued, we became used to listening about sex, and more open to discussing it.
The professor occasionally would question us about our own sexuality.
He called on Dawn, a pretty brunette in the first row.
"Dawn, when you compare your naked body to others of your gender, how do you think you compare?"
Dawn gulped, but answered truthfully. "Well, I worry that my breasts are too small. Other women seem prettier to me. And I ought to lose a few pounds."
"Do the other women agree?" he asked.
Several of the women expressed how attractive they thought Dawn was.
"But you haven't seen her naked, have you?" he asked. "Dawn, would you be willing to remove your clothes so we could judge for ourselves?"
There was dead stillness in the class. No one spoke; no one breathed.
"I can't do that," said Dawn, with a look of terror on her face. 'I'm sorry."
"Not a problem. No one will ever be forced to do anything they don't want to. But as time goes on, you'll find that you'll lose your fears. We'll return to this another time."
Everyone resumed breathing. But the suggestion that nudity - open nudity - was part of the class was something we hadn't fully comprehended.
The following week, we had our first evening clinical session for when we returned to our dorm rooms. We were divided into a team of two, a man and a woman, or gay men and gay women with their own sex. The assignment pairings were predetermined, by that know-it-all computer. As fate would have it, I was teamed with Dawn. Tall, brunette, with (I guess, by her own description) small breasts, but otherwise a lovely figure. I was quite taken with her. (The computer had figured me out well. I wondered if she had curly pubic hair. Would I find out?)
We were assigned to discuss our early sexual experiences. The first question was:
"When and where were you first naked before an adult member of the opposite sex?"
I volunteered to go first.
"When I was 16, I stayed a few weeks with my uncle and aunt in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. There was a stretch of beach where nude bathing was permitted. I occasionally would sneak off there to sunbathe. But really mostly to look at the women. It was very exciting to me."
"Were people looking at you?" Dawn asked. "If not, I don't think that counts. Just being naked on a beach isn't the same as someone examining your body."
I was a little disappointed that my revelation hadn't been well received.
"Can you do better?" I asked.
"Well, my first time was accidental. I was trying on bathing suits in a small clothing shop which had one unisex fitting room. I inadvertently failed to fully close the door so it hadn't latched. I had taken off a bathing suit when the door opened and a man stepped forward to enter. He saw me, saw all of me, and his eyes went wide. He stammered "Excuse me", and backed out. I was both mortified and excited. It even today turns me on to think of him looking at me."
I was on her story. "Well, I don't think that counts either. It wasn't voluntary; you didn't engage with him in any sexual way."
She laughed. "I guess neither of us is very good at this."
We chatted on, and after that first exchange, it was easier to talk about our first boyfriend/girlfriend. And our first time being naked with them.
When we returned to the classroom the following day, the professor asked us how it went.
Everyone agreed that discussing a sexual experience with essentially a stranger had been easier than we expected.
Next, we read a study on the impact of sexual pleasure on human relationships. Sex for animals is mainly for propagation of the species. The female comes into heat, intercourse happens, then babies appear in the Spring. Human beings are different. We come together sexually because it is intensely pleasurable.
"Why do you think we evolved this way? And is too much pleasure a curse, leading us into misadventures?" the professor asked.
A number of students volunteered stories where they did very foolish things in pursuit of an idealized partner - or even multiple partners at the same time. Everyone had some episode of folly, stemming from a lustful pursuit.
The professor gave us an assignment. "When you return to the dorms tonight, you'll separate into groups. This time, it will be 4 people. Your assignment is to talk about group sex. What drives people to violate the cardinal principle of societal morality, that partners need to remain celibate vis-à-vis the rest of the world? And what do you think of people who do that?"
I asked to team with Dawn again, and she was agreeable. Two others, Brad and Jennifer, rounded out the group.
We began by questioning whether any of us had engaged in group sex. Jennifer was the only one of us who had. She was a little timid to describe the scene but mustered up the courage.
"I had gone with my boyfriend to his friend's house. They had a pool in the backyard. He and his girlfriend were lounging by the pool. She was topless. I had never done that before, but peer pressure and some alcohol soon had me topless. My boyfriend had a bottle of sun tan lotion, and he volunteered to rub some on my back. I lay down and he did a good job. The other girl said she needed some too, and he, gallant male that he was, agreed. Only the lotion didn't stay on her back. He slid around to rub her breasts. The girl's boyfriend was feeling left out, and he came to where I was laying. He began massaging my back and then my front. Before we knew, we are all naked and screwing each other. He on me, me on my boyfriend, we went back and forth. Even us girls dallied a little."
She was growing excited talking about it.
"We did it one more time, but then the couples drifted apart. I've never done it since."
"Did you feel remorseful afterwards?" I asked.
"I knew it was something I couldn't talk about. I was raised in a religious family, and my mother would be mortified if she knew. Which she never will. I only told my best friend, no one else. You guys are really the first ones to hear of this. But no, I didn't regret it. It was wonderful."
We were all turned on by the story. We talked a little about some missed
opportunities for multiple partners that we've had. Some hints not picked up on, some suggestions rebuffed out of fear. I thought about sex with Dawn and Brad and Jennifer. But I didn't have the courage to ask. No one did. We all returned to our rooms and went to sleep. I know I masturbated. Likely the others did too. I made an entry into my journal. Yet another missed opportunity?
At the next class we talked about the sessions. Not so much the details, just how the stories affected us and our view of the morality. But we were more open in the class than ever before. The more we talked about our sexuality, the easier it was to do so.
Then the professor moved to talk directly about our bodies.
"Society views the body in different ways at different times. You can walk around on the beach is the skimpiest bikini and no one says a word. If you wore the same outfit in the supermarket, they'd probably arrest you. The writers of the Bible pinned their discomfort with the unclothed body on Eve for her purported transgression. But we know it's men's fears over their ability to control their lust. For your assignment tonight, I want your groups to discuss nudity and its role in shaping who we are. And I want you to be brave. Choose one of you to be nude during the session. We'll talk tomorrow how you felt confronted with the naked body."
When the four of us met that night, we were aflame with the prospect. But who would it be? How would we choose?
We all looked at each other warily. Brad suggested that he or I should volunteer to strip, to save the women from that fate. But Dawn said that was sexist. Weren't the men assuming that women's modesty was more precious than theirs?
I asked her. Are you volunteering then to be the one?"
"No," she replied. "But I'll take my chances like all of you. I don't need special treatment as a woman."
Jennifer agreed. She said we should draw lots.
We got four pieces of paper, all identical. Three of them were blank. On one, I wrote the word "Nude."
The papers were placed in a bowl. Brad drew first. The paper was blank.
Jennifer drew. Her's was blank.
Then I drew one. It was blank.
Dawn let out a shriek. There was no need for her to draw.
We sat quietly, staring at her. For a long while, she didn't move. Then she rose. She pulled off her blouse. She had a white frilly bra underneath. She unbuttoned her pants and slid them off. She had on tight fitting red panties. She was breathing heavily. We were hardly breathing at all.
Then she took a deep breath and unhooked the bra. Beautiful firm breasts, and not too small, with broad areola and prominent nipples. Then she pulled down the panties. Her mound was covered with abundant, curly hair. (I knew it!)
She was beautiful in her nakedness. She sat down, breathing rapidly. "Start talking guys," she said. "If I have to sit here naked, we better discuss the subject." She folded her arms across her breasts, and crossed her legs.
We began talking about times we'd encountered naked people, or people wearing inappropriate or revealing clothes. And how it made us feel. We tried not to stare at Dawn, but it was hard not to. But a funny thing happened. After about 15 minutes, we accepted her nakedness as just how things were. And Dawn became used to it too. She unfolded her arms and uncrossed her legs. She accepted herself and we accepted her for what she was—a beautiful woman who happened to be nude.
Then Jennifer made a decision. "If Dawn can do this, then so can I. In solidarity with my brave classmate." Dawn rose and peeled off her top. And removed her shorts. Then she stripped off the bra and panties. She sat down and faced us. We stared at her full breasts, her curves, her round buttocks.
Brad and I looked at each other. It was obvious what had to be done. We rose together, and each of us stripped off our outer clothes. And then the shorts. Our penises hung free. The girls stared at us as we had at them. We tried to continue the conversation but the outcome was clear. I moved closer to Dawn and put my arms around her. Brad and Jennifer merged into one. We began kissing, slowly at first, then more feverishly, as the sexual tension from the weeks of exploring the subject of sex exploded.
I explored Dawn's body, caressed her breasts, her abdomen, her womanhood. She grappled me, rubbing my back, my buttocks, then reached to massage the testicles and the erect shaft. We fell onto the floor and were oblivious of the two other people in the room. In truth, they were oblivious of us. Each couple pawed each other until we had intercourse and release. We lay on the floor, spent. Then the four of us huddled together in a mass, naked and at peace. At peace with our bodies and with the idea of nudity.
The next day, in class, it was revealed that most of the groups had ended up as we did. Those that hadn't sat there angry at their own timidity. The professor congratulated us.
"This was the outcome I was looking for. Not sex necessarily, but the acceptance of nudity without shame. You shed your inhibitions along with your clothes. Well done."
He continued. "So Dawn. Let me revisit a request I made of you at the beginning of the semester. Will you remove your clothes so we can see if your view of your own body is accurate?"
She replied. "There is no need to do that, professor. I now know there is nothing to be ashamed of about my body. We're all different, and we're each beautiful. I'm okay."
"Dawn, I couldn't be happier with that answer. Bravo," he said, smiling.
We're graduates now, but we often hang out together. There is a bond that formed, a bond knowing that we view sexuality in a mature way. We're at ease with our bodies. It's nice.