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September 2006. Burning Man, ( ) , is an alternative arts festival in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, 127 miles northeast of Reno. It is a festival of radical self-expression, with a philosophy of no spectators - everyone contributes something (we contribute medical care), leave no trace, no commerce (you give things away), dedicated to transient art, most of which is burned on the final two days. It is clothing optional. Most people wear clothes most of the time, although a number of events, like the human carcass wash, are nude.

An art piece, the dancer, nude, with two umbrellas in the blazing sun.

The human carcass wash is an exercise in boundary establishement. The idea is to wash other people and get washed yourself. People get soaped, scrubbed, rinsed, and the rinsewater pushed off by other people. You start by pushing the water on the rinsed person to the floor. You ask the person what is his/her boundaries, so you can touch what he/she wants to touch and not touch what he/she does not wanted touched.

You work your way up to the line, so when you have done soaping you enter the wash yourself, and get soaped, scrubbed, rinsed, and the rinsewater pushed off. At every stage you ascertain what the other personís boundaries are. They go from no genital contact to donít forget to wash around my foreskin. For most people it is not sexual, although I suspect some people like stroking strangersí genitalia very much.

However, the key thing is that nudity is ordinary. People can be nude or clothed. It doesnít make any difference. People take sunshowers in the open. Topfree is unremarkable and extremely common (probably 30% of the women are topfree for a significant period of time). Total nudity is less common, but the key thing is that it is accepted. No one notices. Burning Man is the Nirvana of naturism - to be naked when no one notices that you are nude! No rules except to respect other peopleís boundaries.

A nude guy at a bar, not differentiated because of his nudity. (all drinks at the bars are free). No one notices.

If only New York City worked that way!


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