The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

The naked party uncovered

The unorthodox party shows that new traditions still follow established patterns of student life

<p>Students may have initially gone to the naked party for the thrill of it, but many return each semester for its encouragement of body positivity.&nbsp;</p>

Students may have initially gone to the naked party for the thrill of it, but many return each semester for its encouragement of body positivity. 

In a university steeped in old traditions, few students witness the rise of a new one during their time on Grounds. From Lighting of the Lawn to Block Party, many students adopt University traditions that have been passed down from one generation to the next. But, for the past five semesters, some students have experienced the creation of a new tradition — the naked party.

On the last day of classes, students crowd into a dimly lit house behind the Corner as organizers check their names off a guest list. After signing a tablecloth agreeing to the party’s guidelines, students enter the kitchen where they stuff their clothes into bags, grab hold of their friends and hit the dance floor in nothing but their underwear.

The naked party, founded by fourth-year Architecture student Wells Woolcott, is the first of its kind at the University in recent memory. An enthusiastic creator, a nightlife in need of a revival and a willing crowd created the perfect storm for the naked party to enter student life. Yet, alongside the party’s fresh twist, a step back reveals how Woolcott’s creation is also rooted in decades-old University traditions.

A few months before he hosted the first naked party, Woolcott was contemplating ways to get over a breakup. His ex-boyfriend had a notable history of streaking across Grounds, and Woolcott, a first-year at the time, was determined to go tit for tat.

“I was in kind of a nudist era,” Woolcott said. “It was, in many ways, in protest to a self-identified nudist who had broken up with me. I was like, ‘I’m going to get him back by just getting naked in places.’”

As Woolcott further developed this “nudist philosophy” during his second year, he began seeking more unorthodox parties when the normal night out was not cutting it. He found himself brainstorming party ideas with a friend one night and, having heard about a naked party at Yale University, saw an opportunity to host a similar gathering for University students.

“I just started asking people in my life who I thought would be interested,” Woolcott said. “No one really knew what was going to happen.”

Woolcott and his friend invited around 35 interested peers to the first naked party. Before then, nudism had been largely an individual experience for Woolcott. But, by the end of the night, a new philosophy had emerged — Woolcott said that nudity became a shared experience among partygoers.

“So many people came up to me afterward and either [said], ‘This is the best time [I’ve had] in college’ or ‘I feel so much more comfortable in my body now,’” Woolcott said.

The seemingly outlandish concept struck gold. At the naked party, students found a fresh take on socializing and gained more confidence in their bodies. Their receptiveness to Woolcott’s vision may signal a new period in student life focused on intentional interactions and cultivating a positive relationship with their own bodies.

“Being in a public atmosphere and being naked and being in my body — it's like, I'm allowed to be naked in front of other people,” said a student who agreed to talk anonymously to The Cavalier Daily. “There's no self-criticism in that space.”

Students may have initially entered the naked party for the thrill of it, but many return each semester for its encouragement of body positivity. Their favorable reception of the naked party highlights changing attitudes among the student body about self-image, as well as marks a shift toward more deliberate, open-minded socializing intended to foster community and mutual respect. 

But, in many ways, the naked party is also an old tune. From the thrill of nudity to the stealthy dispatch of the party’s invitations, naked party draws on elements from long-established patterns in student life.

The naked party’s guest list — a screening measure implemented to prevent strangers from entering the crowd — has given the party an element of mystery, according to Woolcott. He said he and his co-organizers work through networks of friends, gauging interest among trusted individuals as opposed to posting a mass invitation online.

“It's kind of an odd balance to strike,” Woolcott said. “I continuously want anyone who wants to go for the right reasons to be able to go, but I also want it to be a safe environment.”

The act of using a guest list, while a safety measure for the naked party, mirrors the traditional exclusivity of older social organizations, such as Greek Life and secret societies. The effort it takes to get on the list may have ironically given the naked party some appeal, according to Woolcott.

“It's funny — I'll hear from other people these rumors that they’ve heard about the naked party, and I've heard that it's run by a certain frat or that it's a secret society thing,” Woolcott said. “We have the whole secret society element where people [send] a sneaky invite.”

Perhaps the naked party’s most obvious connection to University traditions is with streaking the Lawn. A time-honored tradition among students, nude sprints from the Rotunda to the Homer statue and back have proven that nudity is nothing new among students. The naked party may, in turn, offer a continuation of this tradition for thrill-seeking students.

“Streaking is such a core activity that everyone wants to do before they graduate — the nudity element is there [in the naked party],” Woolcott said.

Even Woolcott’s story itself may sound familiar to many students — that of a first-year venturing out of his comfort zone in college and adopting the customs of older students.

“I was living up to some kind of perceived image of who I should be,” Woolcott said. “I was a first-year and pretty much stepping into myself, and I was adopting that nudist philosophy but also a general era of impulsiveness.”

Woolcott is now continuing that cycle, passing down the hosting responsibilities of the naked party to younger students. He said he trusts the next generation of University students to carry on the tradition after he walks down the Lawn for Final Exercises this weekend.

“I do think it's going to live on,” Woolcott said. “I've talked to two people about it, and they both [said], ‘I would love to carry this on, and I feel like it's something that's needed at U.Va.’ So I feel quite confident that it's going to keep going.”


Latest Podcast

Today, we sit down with both the president and treasurer of the Virginia women's club basketball team to discuss everything from making free throws to recent increased viewership in women's basketball.