White Male Privilege: Why We Can't Have Nice Things (Like Public Nudity)

White Male Privilege

Y’all I gotta bone to pick (or in this case, a bone-r).

The other day I was hungover. Unlike 99% of my other hungover Sundays in Berlin, this Sunday happened to be both sunny and hot. Not wanting to waste the schönes wetter, I decided to set off on a solo bike journey to a nearby lake (I use the term “nearby” very loosely considering it takes one hour to get there.)

Amongst all the available lakes in Berlin, I opted for Teufelsee since 1. I thought there’d be fewer tourists 2. I loved that there was a huge meadow of tall grass to lay in that was just a few meters away from the lake. and 3. about half of the people that hang out there also happen to be nude. 

Now, before you call me a pervert, I want to explain to you why I love public nudity so much. 

1. I’m an American (AKA a big fucking prude). I’m not going to tell you how shocked I was to see a nude model on the cover of Cosmopolitan in a German train station for the first time. Nor am I going to explain to you how far my jaw dropped when I first saw a topless actress on a public German television station (after 9 pm of course). Don’t even get me started on how awkward I felt entering a German spa for the first time where nudity wasn’t optional, it was mandatory. By the time a man at Berghain approached me wearing only a chest harness and some tennis shoes, I wasn’t just comfortable with public nudity, I was the biggest fan of it.

2. I love that the naked bodies you see at the lake or in the spa aren’t typically those belonging to “pretty people.” There is something so magical about all those misshapen boobies, funny fur patches, and shy Vienna Sausages frolicking together out in the open. I can’t help but smile when I see all that saggy skin strutting around with zero fucks given. It also helps me come to terms with my own imperfections. “Hell, if this grandma has the confidence to let her Humpty Dumplings swing freely from side to side, then I can certainly show my naked body a bit more kindness when I’m in front of the mirror.”

Now, just because I appreciate public nudity, doesn’t mean I’m a full blown nudist. A puritanical upbringing doesn’t just go away over night even if you frequent Kit Kat Klub regularly (for the record, I only went once.) After what happened to me at the lake the other day, however, I’m not sure I’ll ever have the cajones to prance around pantyless in front of a bunch of strangers. 

Let me explain. 

I finally arrived at the lake and it’s, surprise, surprise, packed to the brim. There is barely any room on the grass for little old me so I awkwardly set up camp next to a cuddly couple. 

“Ew”, I think, as I struggle to unfold my blanket. Needless to say, realizing that I was not only the third wheel to their smooch fest, but that I had also positioned myself directly in the sun’s rays, put me in a grumpy mood. At this point, however, I was way too hungry to care. I began to devour my sandwich while simultaneously trying to ignore the canoodlers to my left. Stuffing my face with meat and bread didn’t stop my judgy wheels from turning.

“God, does she really have to sit directly on top of him, doesn’t that hurt her knees?”

“Doesn’t her boney ass hurt him?”

“Ok, I get it. You’re in love, but please take that shit somewhere else.”

As much as I was judging them I couldn’t help but feel like they were also judging me back; something about the way their eyes kept dissecting my every bite.

Needless to say, when the people behind me left, I scooted my blanket back a bit. Not only was I now in the shade but I could finally finish my sandwich in peace (or so, I thought). But that’s when I saw him…the chronic masturbator. 

A white male (yes, this is important) in his 50s or 60s was laying on a blanket about 3 meters away from mine, completely nude. 

But Nicole, you said you were at a nude lake. That shouldn’t be a big deal, right? WRONG. 

At first, I thought he was just adjusting himself. I am all too familiar with the fondness that men have for their dicks. If men showed women half the attention, affection, and respect that they showed their dicks, the world would be a much better place indeed, but that’s beside the point. Trying to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, I filed his behavior away as ‘awkward’ but not ‘offensive’…yet.

But then, he continued. 

After finishing my sandwich, I attempted to read my book. No matter how hard I tried, my eyes kept zoning in on this circus monkey’s lewd behavior. He would stroke himself for a few seconds and then pause before continuing again. At one point he laid on his back, while his penis flopped to his side. Two seconds later, however, he began to stroke it again. His penis wasn’t hard by any means (more like half mast), but it certainly wasn’t flaccid like a penis should be while innocently sunbathing naked amongst strangers.

For the next while, I tried putting myself at ease with the most outlandish of excuses. 

Maybe this is normal German behavior. No one around me seems shocked or appalled. 

Maybe he’s a “grower” not a “shower” and is ashamed of his tiny penis, therefore he has to keep stroking it. 

No matter which excuses I fed myself, the truth kept surfacing…he’s just a big fucking pervert. 

If there had been kids around, I would have yelled at him. Or maybe I wouldn’t have. Who knows. All I know is how uncomfortable I felt in that moment. It’s one thing to let your twig and berries get a little fresh air now and then, it’s another to be openly yanking your chain in public. The longer I sat there, the redder I felt inside. 

Can you imagine a woman sitting there on a blanket nonchalantly massaging her clam? No, you can’t. Because a woman is hyper aware that this action would evoke an unwarranted sexual response from a man, and thus put her in danger of being assaulted.  

Can you imagine a Black, Arab, or Hispanic man casually stroking his canon by a family lake? No, you can’t. Because if he did, he would be either publicly chastised, harassed, arrested, or, if he was in America, shot. 

So then tell me why this WHITE middle aged man feels totally comfortable blurring this line between innocent public nudity and twisted sexual fantasy? If these two disenfranchised groups, women and minority men, can control their urges to stroke their genitals in public, why shouldn’t he be able to? Everyone knows that sexual organs become aroused when you touch them repeatedly, so then why did this man blatantly choose to do so anyway?

Ladies and gentlemen welcome to this week’s edition of WHITE MALE PRIVILEGE.

Naked bodies are beautiful. Having consensual sex or masturbating are two of the closest things to heaven on earth. Being able to prance around butt naked in a grassy meadow or swim nude in a frigid lake, if you want to, is a God(dess)-given right. However, doing any of those things at the expense of someone else’s safety or comfort is not OK and it’s time we start calling it exactly what it is --- sexual assault. 

Next time, I’m going to say something

*image by Antonina Bukowska

Like this story? Thank Nicole. 

Screen Shot 2017-05-23 at 21.18.36.png

Nicole Paulus is a Berlin based bozo from the States. When she’s not dancing like a maniac, drinking beers at Tempelhof, or eating shawarma at Maroush, she’s busy running her own digital marketing company Nico New Media. You can read about her adventures on her blog.