Performing Nude on Campusbyboknude©
Last week, Jonathan Creighton created a stir by performing nude in The Dance of Darkness. While female nudity is not commonplace, it has occurred in the past. This was the first nude performance by a male actor on this campus. The campus has been abuzz since. We at the Daily asked Jonathan for an interview to explore how it felt break new ground.
Daily: You made quite a stir on campus with your part in The Dance of Darkness. How has your nude performance affected you?
Creighton: When I was first cast in the nude role, I was nervous. I had never performed nude before, and I was very nervous about taking my clothes off in front of everyone. It is hard to put into words. It was just a step beyond anything I had previous done. I mean, people would be looking at me, and at particular parts of me that I don't usually show. Maybe it was just that I didn't want people sizing me up. In any case, it called for some courage on my part. The cold air and a nervous attitude can make you shrink pretty small, and I worried about that was well. People tend to make judgment about you based on what you reveal downstairs. I did want to be judged inadequate. Maybe the guys in speedos on our swim team go through the same thing; they must, as not much is hidden in those suits. But for me, it was new.
Daily: Julie Cohen is a renowned Butoh instructor. How did she help you in your nude role?
Creighton: Julie had me rehearse nude right from the start. The others wore tights or shorts and t-shirts. If you were going to bare your breast, then you uncovered them in rehearsal as well. I was really the only one completely nude. My main dance partner, Miriam, was mostly clothed, and we had to get comfortable with that. I think it was the second or third rehearsal when Julie told Miriam to put her hands on me, and especially on a particular part of me. She had to overcome her apprehension about touching my sex as we were going to come into contact with each other. It was kind of cool. I also had to get use to her feeling free with my body.
I suppose that there was a CFNM dynamic that we both had to deal with (CFNM=Clothed Female=Nude Male). I was exposed and felt vulnerable. She played a role in that vulnerability as she was the one enjoying my naked body. We spent time talking about how she felt about her relationship to my maleness. Her initial response was to pretend that her eyes weren't drawn to it. But they were. She had to learn to embrace this part of herself.
Miriam and I lived in a small artist coop on campus. We decided that it would help if I spent as much time naked around her as we could manage. She wanted to learn the "ins and outs" of my body as if it were her own. This went beyond what the production called for, and we went overboard a bit. But it was fun. We marked off Saturday as our day. On many Saturdays, it was late afternoon before I put on any clothes. If I can speak frankly, she learned that my penis changes sizes and shapes throughout the day and not just if I have an erection. She also learned that it has a mind of its own. It can rise at some unexpected times. She will probably kill me, but she got several first-hand experiences of a male orgasm, if you catch my drift. This is probably enough on that. I think she is going to kill me.
Daily: To be honest, we did a provocative spread on you in which we published a page of pictures focused on your nudity. How did you feel about that?
Creighton: I felt a little exposed, to tell the truth. Several members of the case wanted to sell reprints to raise money for African relief. I had to put the axe to that, but I did like the idea. Maybe another time. Several women I didn't really know begged me to show them the real thing. To told them to come to a performance. Most did. I have to say that attendance improved quite dramatically after you ran that page spread.
Daily: Did the performance affect your relationships with students and faculty or other people you know?
Creighton: Yes. I couldn't go anywhere without people recognizing me. I became a hot item on the date scene. My advisor told me that I had performed well, and then she gave me a wink. It has calmed down now, and I don't hear much about it anymore. Besides, I have a girlfriend.
I felt most odd knowing that my mother was present opening night. She also brought my aunt. I don't know if you saw opening night, but I wasn't in, shall we say, a normal state most of the performance. It was a bit embarrassing being nude in front of your mother and aunt anyway. This made it harder. After the performance, everyone set off up the hill. We were still in costume or as, in my case, out of costume, and pictures were taken. My mother came to me smiling and said, "That was quite a performance. Why didn't you do an encore?" I can't really say what my aunt said to me, but I did turn red even with all that white paint. Nevertheless, I do have picture of my mother, my aunt, and me in my birthday suit.
Daily: What were some other problems you had to face, and did you call on help?
Creighton: There was the problem I alluded to earlier. Part of the problem was that the play revolved around my nudity. I was usually in the forefront, and the dances put my privates on center stage. They called for me to present myself fully to the audience. I knew this, and it was a challenge not to make it seem like some XXX scenes.
To put it plainly, I was aroused almost all the time during the first rehearsals. On the day I got my part, I wouldn't, at first, take my pants off. Julie asked if I was having second thoughts, and I said no. Then, she realized. She told the others to begin—most of the women had already taken their tops off—and asked me to join her in her office. She went to her computer and opened her browser to a video of Daniel Radcliffe, you know, Harry Potter, doing a nude scene in the play Equus. He clearly had an erection, and yet he played his role. She told me that it could always happen with male actors, particularly in a romantic scene, and these were always the best because of the sexual tension. She knew from the grapevine that Daniel was frequently erect in that scene. And yet he played the character. She told me to go slow and to keep my briefs on until I felt I could take it them off.
I went back and began rehearsal, but everyone could see what my problem was. About half way through the rehearsal, I felt I had things under control and I removed my briefs. My control lasted about two minutes, but I couldn't put them back on after I had taken them off.
I did call an older actor friend, Josh Morgenthau, for advice. He told me that he had been in three plays in which he had performed nude. The first time he appeared naked on stage was also at university performance. It was Equus. There was, at the time, a lot of hype about Daniel Radcliffe doing it in the buff, and so everyone knew that he was going to be naked in it. He said that he was really worried about appearing nude because he had a bit of a crush on the girl who was playing Jill. During rehearsals, he was allowed to keep his underwear on and she wore a pair of tights. The first time he was nude was doing it live. On the opening night he said he was so worried and was actually shaking at one point during intermission. Obviously, she didn't face the same worries. He said that it felt a bit unfair. There was a lot of kissing and caressing, and he did rise up. But he managed to get through it. The point he said was that I will be fine. Ironically, he said that not arousal but shrinkage was a much bigger concern for him now.
I told him that the problem was that I wasn't "fine." He told me to let an aroused guy be the character and to get into it. It didn't help much. What did help was Julie arranging for me to model nude at art classes. I began to think of being naked as something normal. I got used to walking into a class of mostly women students and letting them draw me. It took the edge off.
Soon, I had no problem with rehearsal. Come opening night however, and it was different. Julie told me that, if that was my character, then that was who I had to be. She then took a hard look and told me that said she like what she saw. I thought the first performance would never end, but my girlfriend liked it a lot. It was actually the first time that she had seen me naked. She said that I was cute, and it was too!
After the first couple of times, I lost my nervousness and began to enjoy performing. By this time, almost everyone in school, we are a small school, had seen me. There was one part that I found and still find erotic. I am dancing with Miriam. We move in unison. The CFNM thing is clearly present. There is some sexual tension in the scene – her looking at me fully. By the end, I was into it. One or two of the pictures you used were from that scene.
Daily: Would I do it again?
Creighton: Maybe. The hard part is over, you know, the first time. Maybe I will wait a bit though.
Daily: Thank you.
After our interview with Jonathan Creighton, we caught up with the actress, Miriam Goldstein, who played the lead with Jonathan. While Jonathan was nude, Miriam performed fully clothed. We wanted to get her take on all the commotion and what it felt like to performed with a nude co-lead.
Daily: The play, The Dance of Darkness, has caused quite a stir on campus. You play a lead part with Jonathan Creighton, who performs nude. What was it like play the lead with Jonathan?
Goldstein: He is a terrific and courageous actor. I learned a lot and became a stronger actress myself.
Daily: Let me put it differently. What was it like playing the lead role with a nude Jonathan Creighton?
Goldstein: That was terrific as well, actually fantastic.
Daily: How so?
Goldstein: I was not very experience with male nudity, and I had to overcome some hang-ups. I was thrilled and horrified when I first learned that my partner would be naked. The real struggle was between wanting to and not wanting to look at his equipment, if I can put it that way.
Daily: Please say more.
Goldstein: I knew that you would ask that. It's difficult to express. This may help. On the second day of rehearsal—the first day had its own problems—Julie had each of the women go up to Jonathan, one at a time, and say, "Jonathan, I want to see your penis." She then took Jonathan into another room and disrobed him and brought him out. He stood before us and we all got a good look. Nothing was new after that. She then took me aside and told me that I need to do research on CFNM. I said, what?! She said find out.
I looked it up on the web, and there was more than you might like, most of it not very appealing, if not gross. It means Clothed Female Nude Male, and this was, in fact, what our scene was about in its structure. The next day, she asked for a report. I said that it was mostly about domination and that I didn't find that appealing. She said right, but what might be appealing to me? Something more appreciative, more sensitive. Start there, she said, and I did. I came to appreciate the risk of his nudity verses the safety of my clothing. I was sensitive to the openness of his nakedness verses the protectiveness of my covering. Yes it was looking at him in a certain kind of fullness, but it was also an awareness of how he was putting himself out for me. It was fun and a bit exciting.
Daily: What did you find most interesting in your relationship with Jonathan?
Goldstein: Oh, me. Well, for start, what a fascinating little instrument a penis is.
Daily: Won't you say more?
You don't stop, do you? Okay, it shows, not completely and not always accurately, but it give a good read of what is going on with him. If he is cold, it shrinks. If he is anxious, it shrivels. If he has work to do it gets small and gets out of the way. If he is relaxed and warm, it lounges and becomes longer. If he is aroused, well, you know. I found it interesting that an erection doesn't necessarily means arousal, but arousal always produces an erection. Things like that. Now let's move on.
No, I will share one other thing. Being Jewish, I was interested his circumcision. Although I knew what it was, I didn't really know it actually was in detail. I was always taught that the foreskin was just some skin that no one really needed anyway. Jonathan, being half Jewish, his mother is Jewish, was circumcised. I don't think I am giving away trade secrets here since almost everyone knows by now or they should. What I didn't know was how erotic it was to have the penis head more or less permanently exposed. I don't think that they are ever going to teach that in Sunday School. Jewish teaching says that it is opening your heart to God. Well, it's opening something to someone alright. That much is clear.
Daily: Who was it that suggested that you hang out with him in the buff?
Goldstein: I think it was me who suggested that we spend Saturday together with him nude.
Daily: What did you learn or enjoy the most during these hang times?
Goldstein: Okay, I know what you are after. Everybody's been talking about it since Jonathan's interview ran last week. Last and final question on this, period. Yes, I got well versed on the male orgasm. What enjoyed was seeing and feeling the sexual response all the way from a flaccid state, through erection, and finally ejaculation. And then feeling the process reverse. The eruption felt in my hand like an explosion. I liked the drama, and it was dramatic! This isn't quite how I experience my own orgasms. I could tell you more, but I won't. And no I didn't let him do me. It was a one way street. He has a girlfriend, and I didn't want to become more of a problem than I already was. Okay, that's it on this subject.
Daily: Let's move on then. What if the roles were reversed? Would you perform nude?
Goldstein: Probably not. I would want to and I would be drawn to it, but I don't think I could pull it off in the end. I did ask myself this question often over the past few weeks. Part of the allure of male nudity is that it is unexpected and part is that it is more vivid. Female nudity is more common place in our culture. Male nudity is more of an event. And as Jonathan proved, a lot of thing can happen that you might not expect and might not want. Would I perform with another nude male actor? Tomorrow. Jonathan hooked me on that.
Daily: Thank you
Over the past week, our inbox at the Daily has been full of emails commenting on Clothed Female Nude Male, or CFNM, in response to our interviews with Jonathan Creighton and Miriam Goldstein. We asked both Jonathan and Miriam back for one final follow-up interview. Miriam suggested that we also invite her advisor, Dr. Judith Meyer from the Classics Department, to join us. Dr. Meyer teaches a course entitled Eros and Ancient Greek Festivals.
Daily: Let's start with a general question. What are your views on CFNM?
Goldstein: I would like to begin. I first want to say as emphatically as possible that I found most CFNM on the web horrific. It was mostly about either dominating men or humiliating them. I am not into that at all.
Creighton: Me, neither. But let me add that I never felt that with Miriam. Never. With her, our relationship was always sensitive and appreciative.
Meyer: I assume my role here is to lift the discussion out of the gutter. I do not practice CFNM or anything like it. What I do bring to this discussion is an awareness of something that many of our students may find shocking. Nudity, and particularly male nudity, played a significant and crucial role in ancient Greek festivals and initiation rites. I think this theme may shed some light on the place of nudity in performances like The Dance of Darkness.
Daily: Okay, let's start there. What was the significance of nudity in Greek festivals?
Meyer: First of all, it is important to know that the ancient Greeks thought of nudity as a costume that you put on. The same as you might but on a special dress for a party or a suit for dinner, they put on nudity for special occasions. Also, in the same way that you might purchase something spectacular to wear, perhaps even slightly sexy, they exercised to perfect their bodies so that they would appear beautiful and sexy. The difference may have been that they tried to be erotic in a more direct and intentional way.
Daily: This is fascinating. You mean that they thought about nudity as we might think of a t-shirt?
Meyer: Yes and no. Nudity was primarily about appearance. But in public, it was not casual attire. It was the dress for public events and occasions. It was business formal in our lexicon.
Daily: Please say more.
Meyer: Well, it may be best to offer an example. Since male nudity was more prevalent, and male nudity is what we are concerned with here, let's start with an initiation rite called the Festival of the Undressing. When boys came of age, they went through a sort of unveiling. They had been working out in the gymnasium – the Greek word gymnos means naked – to build and perfect their bodies. At the start of the festival, they would parade nude through the streets to a cheering crowd of women, girls, and older men. This parade was their introduction to manhood. From then on, they would conduct all important business in the nude.
There is also Sparta's gymnopaedia, which translated as nude play. Naked boys would dance before audiences of mostly clothed women and girls. No female was excluded. The expressed purpose of Gymnopaedia's was to allow women and girls to view naked young men. Rarely is the sexual element made so explicit. We tend to discount or suppress these accounts from ancient Greece because they go against our cultural norms. But they did happen. We have thousands of vases painted with nude young men and clothed young women in erotic encounters. How do we know that they were erotic encounters? I leave it to your imagination, but I think that no one would have a hard time guessing.
It is ironic that Greek men may have clothed themselves at home or in private. Nudity was for public occasions. No self-respecting man would appear in anything but his nude costume. It was important to have everyone see him fully. There may be some debate on this, but I think that the literature and the cultural evidence is overwhelming even if it hard for us to imagine. To know and trust you, I had to see your intimate parts and, perhaps more importantly, how your manhood fit with your body. I needed to be familiar with your penis, to put it crudely, because it was part of your public persona. There is no depiction of a Greek hero that does not show his penis. If you don't see a penis on a male, that person is a slave. I can't emphasize how important it was to ancient Greeks to see a man unadorned, which really meant, I am so indelicate sometimes, seeing his penis. It had to do with his character. It was his uniform of honor.
When putting on their nude costume, the Greeks were mimicking the Greek gods. Gods wore no clothing because they had no need to, they needed to hide nothing. They were invulnerable both physically and mentally, and a Greek man imitated the gods to the extent he could. You may remember Dr. Manhattan in the movie called The Watchmen. He was portrayed nude because he was advance to the point of not caring. Let me also note that Plato advocated that, in an ideal world, women would also exercise nude and participate in a similar initiation into womanhood.
Most scholars of antiquity are male and either fail to see or choose not to see what is clearly before their eyes. They don't quite get that women might not experience these festival and initiation rites in the same manner as males do a locker room. They dismiss public nudity as too outlandish to take seriously, but on what evidence? The evidence is everywhere, overwhelmingly in support of the female gaze on male nudity. They never fail to notice when a woman is naked or erotically presented. But a nude, erotic man, it could have no possible significance whatsoever. A woman would never even notice, much less find it erotic! The blindness of these scholars is astonishing! They refuse an understanding of the body and its public presentation that is radically different from their own.