letters to the editor:A Yalie's stance on nude photographs

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The Independent Online
From Professor Richard Beacham Sir: Your article detailing the curious practice some years back of routinely preparing nude photographs of students at many of America's elite universities ("Even the wife of the President of the United States sometimes had to stand naked", 21 January) reminded this former Yalie (Class of 1968) that he, too, had experienced this during his "bright college years".

Early in the autumn of my freshman year, together with all the rest of my classmates, I had to present myself at the massive Payne Whitney gymnasium, for a series of "fitness tests", to determine what form of obligatory athletic activity I would pursue during the academic year. All of us were aware of the nature of the photographic experience it included, but in consulting my diary from that time, I find that apart from jocular discussion with fellow students about the possibility of obtaining suitable wallet-sized copies and (in reference to the rods attached to one's body) sharing various ribald verses, our chief concern was to avoid being placed in "remedial posture classes" should we "fail" the photographic analysis. The conventional wisdom was that this could be avoided if one remembered - just before the "flash" - to roll the pelvis slightly forward and thus produce an image of what was favoured as acceptable posture.

Although we viewed the whole thing as somewhat droll, I don't recall any expression of protest or resentment at all. Yale was then an all-male institution, and women were allowed only on the ground floor of the multi-storey gymnasium. Elsewhere in the building, nudity was commonplace, with clothing optional for most activities, and banned from many, eg, swimming and the dreaded posture classes. This undoubtedly helped to render the photography which now seems to many so "shocking" less remarkable.

Sincerely yours, RICHARD BEACHAM Leamington Spa, Warwickshire 23 January