Adults at Play at Hedonism

By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 15, 2001

Sodom is in full bloom.

The palms dance over the beach in necklaces of bougainvillea and hibiscus. The garden walls are capstoned with Technicolor blossoms, any one of which would look at home on a glass of rum punch. The air over the sand is shot through with white morning sun, but under the trees it is dappled and cool. It's a garden of earthly delights, this whispering cove on Jamaica's western tip. Every vine is lush, every breeze a caress, every bloom a new waft of tropical perfume.

It's mellow. And I'm just beginning to think that the Hedonism II resort is more lovely than lively when the lady in the uniform tells me to take my pants off.

"Uhhhhhh," I stammer.

"Come on, mon," says the woman, a smiling but earnest young Jamaican dressed in staff whites. "This is not aclothing-optional beach. This is a nude beach and if you're going to be here, you've got to remove your trunks.

I repeat myself, just to be clear: "Uhhhhhh."

I've faced down a few authoritarian figures in my career. But somehow, being told to strip nekkid by the hotel management is more unnerving than any of the police or border guards I've met from Cuba to Cambodia. I mumble some arguments: I'm worried about unprecedented exposure to the sun. I've fallen behind on my push-ups. I won't have any place to keep my spare pen. Please, lady, I'm a working journalist here!

She crosses her arms.

And so, with muttered curses at the editor who sent me, I drop my objections . . . and my shorts. Protected from the tropical sun by nothing but a notebook, the First Amendment and half a bottle of No. 1 Million sun block, I set out to conduct my first-ever textile-free interviews.

My assignment: First, find out if Hedonism II -- the Caribbean's reputed seat of hard-drinking, anything-goes, sex-drugs-and-reggae wickedness -- is really as risque as they say. Second, make sure my mother-in-law never, ever sees this article.

I had never heard of Hedonism before a press release from the resort crossed my desk a few months ago. Its slogan -- "Be Wicked for a Week" -- seemed a little more pointed than the usual "Let-the-Waves-Sooth-Your-Soul" boilerplate of most hotels, so I asked around. It turned out that Hedonism is a resort with a rep: a sort of all-inclusive Roman orgy, where the people are naked, the drugs ubiquitous and Sex-on-the-Beach is more than the name of a cocktail. The place has such a bad rap that some travel agents reportedly will not even book clients there.

"It can't be all that bad," said I. "Go find out," said the editor.

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