Stripping down with Columbae: A conversation with a body painter

Oct. 23, 2013, 4:07 a.m.

Full Moon on the Quad (FMOTQ) is a tradition that has students worrying. Some students worry about being awkward, some about mono and some about what clothing to wear—or the lack thereof.

To shed light on nudity at FMOTQ, The Daily spoke with Alec Wilkens ‘14, community manager at Columbae, a co-op house that traditionally attends FMOTQ with a group of body painters.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): Has there ever been concern about students, especially freshmen, who feel uncomfortable because of the nudity? If so, how has Columbae addressed this?

Alec Wilkens (AW): Honestly I think that once you’re no longer a freshman, you realize that Full Moon is a pretty absurd event. It’s not a natural environment—people don’t just get together and make out for no reason. We don’t spend time thinking, ‘Oh, are we going to make people feel uncomfortable in an already weird and uncomfortable environment?’ It’s kind of like a way for us to go hard at the event and a way to make people see that it’s a pretty silly thing and that they shouldn’t be taking anything too seriously.

I think we do realize people are uncomfortable with nudity, including people in our own house. It’s a bit of a challenge because we do have the tradition of going nude or partially nude and the body painting and it’s hard for us to cancel the event just because it would make someone uncomfortable. This year there are a number of people not attending the event because they are uncomfortable with being around naked people and being nude themselves. That’s something we’ve tried to address in terms of just telling people the reason why we get naked and why we body paint and everything, which is basically just to have fun. And if it’s not for you, then there’s no point to do it. There’s no pressure with that.

TSD: At FMOTQ, there are hygiene concerns for attendees who share kisses. What, if any, are some hygiene concerns for body painters?

AW: I don’t think there’s any concerns or differences than people that are fully clothed. I know when I was a freshman I definitely wanted to kiss a naked person covered in paint. So you might get kissed more often, but other than that, I don’t think there are any specific hygiene concerns.

TSD: Can you walk me through how Columbae preps for FMOTQ? Any collaboration with Synergy?

AW: We’ve been doing a lot of shopping lately like buying plastic to cover the walls. We’ve purchased alcohol and body paint and special face paint. Synergy’s coming a bit earlier so we can party a bit beforehand. We also have a little talk with the house about being safe and how to not make people feel uncomfortable and education about what’s the point of getting naked and getting covered in paint. A, it’s really, really fun, and B, it’s a good way to start working on the body image that we have. I think especially at Stanford there are many people who have impressive bodies and it makes people who are more average feel more self-conscious. Being outside with all your friends with all your clothes off is a bit more equalizing and helps people start to realize it’s not a big deal if they don’t have a perfect body.

   TSD: Last year The Daily reported on how Stanford police and librarians barred Columbae residents from performing their traditional Dead Day streak through Green Library. How have interactions between University officials changed over the years on the issue of nudity?

AW: The University has been fairly supportive. We’ve gotten multiple emails from various people from different positions of administration and student government to make sure that our residents are safe and don’t feel objectified or picked on by other people at Full Moon and making sure people can overcome seeing people naked so that they can go out with their friends. I don’t think they’re particularly in opposition to nudity. They just want us to be safe with minimal amount of bad consequences.

Everybody recognizes that it’s a tradition that’s not going to not happen. So they might as well help us do it in a safe way, which we really appreciate.

TSD: What memories can you share about your freshman year FMOTQ? Do you remember seeing the Columbae body painters then?

AW: Freshman year FMOTQ was pretty boring. I think I was way too sober and it was kind of awkward. I made out with a couple people and then stood around. I did kiss a Columbae body painter but I didn’t know anything at the time—I thought they were just weirdos with body paint.


Catherine Zaw contributed to this article.

Contact Helin Gao at helingao ‘at’

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