Amanda Palmer Gets Naked in Boston (And She Isn't Alone)

Last week, as singer Amanda Palmer was viewing the exhibition of Degas nudes at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Palmer (a former artist’s model) was apparently inspired to strip down and get her husband, Neil Gaiman, to sketch her. Having seen the Degas exhibition myself, I’m rather tempted to join her. From unabashed, nude prostitutes to the painter’s later, more stylized beauties, Degas painted a wealth of female forms — and the display reminds us that notions of “beauty” shift with time.

Palmer’s gesture gets a wild “Woohoo!” from yours truly, but of course, who wouldn’t want to get naked in Boston? Look at Rogue Burlesque’s introductory class “Burlesque for Beginners” for example, where students of striptease are taught that they are sexy. Rogue encourage students to be kind to themselves by accentuating aspects they feel proud of — a shimmying, sequined bum will draw gazes away from other parts we aren’t ready to flaunt, liberating us to be sassy.

Also, until you’ve seen bare beauties reading sci-fi on stage, you’ve been missing a treat. At the “Naked Girls Reading” series, I’ve seen Miss Mina from the Boston Babydolls present butt-naked women reading their favorite excerpts to an enchanted audience. I’ll admit, some of the Naked Girls have proven better readers than others. Though I adore the different body shapes (and grooming habits, too), I find butt-naked becomes less sexy when coupled with dicey reading! Proof, perhaps, that desire is about far more than the body.

Getting naked can carry important political statements, too, notably when gender identity differs from what social conditioning might lead us to expect. The Notorious OMG, for instance, who recently performed at Boston’s Femme Show, arrived in crimson drag then stripped to next-to-naked. Between each brazen removal, OMG passionately recited what “femme” means to hir, making for a performance that was, by turns, deep and delightful, and beautifully asserted OMG’s trans identity. Never let it be said that drag can’t be serious. In a world where arbitrary clothing “rules” are too often restrictive, the sight of someone breaking that mold can be powerful … and hot.

But what holds these naked acts together is the knowledge that true bodily beauty isn’t restricted by fads or eras. Nakedness demands attention and gives intolerance the finger. And considering the amount of hot stripping we’re seeing in the city, those who call Boston repressed should take another look.