Nude Etiquette

Brian Blickenstaff disrobes at a co-ed naked bathhouse in Baden-Baden, Germany:

[A]s I looked around, my gaze would inevitably fall upon the naked bodies of the other bathers – and, well, it got me thinking. Throughout our lives, how often are we actually naked? Excluding showering and (for some) sleeping, it happens pretty seldom, right? I mean, the only other time we shed clothing is when we’re getting intimate. Try as we might, it becomes difficult to divorce intimacy from the act of being nude, and this coupling casts a certain strange, erotic shadow over the proceedings at a place like Friedrichsbad.

Don’t get me wrong, there was no hanky-panky going on (and frankly, there’s not a place in Friedrichsbad where it could). I only mean that it creates a social situation that’s ripe for misinterpretation. Turning to look at a person when he or she enters a room becomes complicated because anything anybody does—those perfectly normal, friendly signals we give to one another all the time without even thinking—is re-routed through this erotic zone in our brain that has been activated by the absence of clothes and which we can’t really turn off. So a casual glance becomes a potential check-out. A friendly smile is now a creepy wink. That’s what it seemed like at first, anyway.