De-Nudifying San Francisco

Nude is art

Nude is art (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It seems that the issue of nudity has reached such clandestinely extreme levels that San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener has introduced legislation to regulate it. According to the news, the legislation proposes to “make it illegal to walk around nude on San Francisco streets.”

The news further explained that San Francisco currently allows nudity except in parks, on port property and in restaurants. The current law also places an exception when the naked person is sexually aroused. The State of California does not specifically ban nudity. However it does have a clear statement against “lewd acts.”

Mr. Wiener’s legislation would add city plazas, small parks, sidewalks, streets and public transit to the ban. It would, however, allow nudity at parades, street festivals, nude beaches, and private property. (He had previously proposed that nudists put a cloth under their bottoms if they take a seat in public.)

English: A rainbow flag affixed to a lightpole...

English: A rainbow flag affixed to a lightpole in the Castro district of San Francisco, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The public ballyhoo has not died down since the introduction of the bill early in October. When I first read about this, I thought to myself, “Yup. Only in San Francisco,” as I smile knowingly to myself. But when I read further and I went into some chats, I found that there is more to this than meets the eye.

San Francisco, and most of the state of California for that matter, has always been about tolerance and inclusiveness. San Francisco has always been ground-zero for the hipsters, the trend-setters, the unconventional, the progressive liberals. It is no surprise that it has always had strong movements putting forward gay-lesbian rights, animal rights, the environment, and yes, nudity as self-expression.

It appears that all the fuss boils down to a small segment of the city, somewhere near Castro and Market, and more specifically a small centrally located park named Jane Warner Plaza, where, for years, a small group of sun-revelers in their birthday suits have sat on benches or roamed the vicinity. People walk past them day in and day out. Everyone minds his/her own business. So, what’s the harm there, you might ask? Here are a few of the observations/opinions I have heard:

There are those who insist that this is all emotionally traumatizing to young children who live in the neighborhood and who may encounter these adults “Au naturel.” One can argue that children often take cues from their parents. And so, a mortified reaction from a parent could send a message to the child that there is something very wrong with this scene. Some equal rights activists argue that people uncomfortable with nudity, whether in media or in public tend to have issues with their sexuality and the whole issue of nudity. These same people would be transferring their insecurities to their children, they argue. One observer who grew up in the Castro opined that her parents had often told her very casually, as she was growing up that, “when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” In short, no big deal. This is the Castro. Public sexuality will be parlayed, irreverently at times.

There was also the defense that this is all about gay rights and it should be left alone. However, many gay and lesbian SF natives have loudly responded that nudity is not solely a gay rights issue. In fact, a lot of nudists are not gay. To say that one is the exclusive domain of the other is a very narrow viewpoint and bespeaks of a very limited understanding of both.

Then there are the angry and frustrated but peace-loving local residents who claim that they are sick and tired of having their eyeballs gouged by the in-your-face assault by naked adults who go out of their way to display themselves in a sexually aroused state in public and in broad daylight. There have been accounts that a handful of these nudists admitted to ingesting performance-enhancing drugs like Cialis to ensure that they have an erection in public. Some have even been seen to don decorative jewelry to deliberately draw attention to their upright members.

Nude art, model in most poses is Miss Dorothy Lees

Nude art, model in most poses is Miss Dorothy Lees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is easy to glean that this goes beyond the desire for freedom of expression or the sheer love for not wearing clothes. This is exhibitionism disguised as a civil rights claim. It is lewd behavior and from what I understand, is an offense in the State of California. So, why are they not being arrested? Why is law enforcement not being directed to enforce an existing state law? Why do we need another law?

In as much as I understand and support freedoms of expression, I am also one to temper its extreme interpretations and abuses with a sense of moderation and mindfulness of other people around me.  The community as a whole goes about its day clothed and covered. This city has a world-recognized skyline and respected for its character. It is not some hick little out-of-the-way town of a few hundreds in some back road.  Yes, we recognize that there are people who can’t stand the notion of being clothed. But when should the rights of a few prevail over the majority? And now, we have to enact even more laws to address the abuses of a small minority?  I really understand the phrase, “the tyranny of the few.”

How far will we go with legislation? Will it be necessary in the future to provide much technical detail to ensure implementation?  Seriously, we  have more pressing problems such as hunger and poverty to solve.  Would we see one day such specific rules like, “it’s allowable if the genitalia are not over 30 degrees erect and half a breast is allowable but both breasts exposed would be a violation.” And so on and so forth? I wonder too if the Seinfeldian discussion of “shrinkage” affects exposure of the offending body parts.

I guess we will find out in two days.  I can only hope that common sense will prevail.

This entry was posted in Califorina, Castro District, Culture, Equality, First Amendment Rights, Freedom of Expression, gays and lesbians, Nudity, San Francisco, Sex, social issues and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to De-Nudifying San Francisco

  1. Writerlious says:

    I know this is beyond juvenile, but I just can’t get over the fact that the politician introducing the “naked” legislation, has the last name “Weiner.”

    But on a more serious note, *stifles chuckles*, I totally agree with you. I hope common sense prevails too!


  2. munchow says:

    Not being US American I have always look with amazement upon this country’s relationship to nudity. It seems to me that many – or most? – Americans have coercive thoughts about this most human naturalness. This said I agree with you, that it’s also a matter of tactfulness, and strolling around naked in a big city might not be the best way to express this. So, yes, some common sense would not be out of the way in this case.


    • likeitiz says:

      It’s interesting how there are still these pockets (and they have been loud!) here in this country that have clung to really antiquated extreme puritanical beliefs, not unlike the radically conservative evangelical craziness that made Europe and the UK reject their ancestors, so much so that they had to leave and set sail to a “new frontier” called the Americas. That was how many centuries ago? It’s also interesting that it’s similar people who cannot seem to accept many things, such as an African American president, no matter that he’s brilliant, talented,and has done a good job considering the economic holocaust he inherited and an extremely dysfunctional and partisan government he has to work with.


  3. Hmm…this is a hot topic…I mean like sizzling enough I don’t want to be in between the two opposing extremes. Personally, I think as long as they are not doing harm and holds the nudity in a place where everyone is a “mature” audience/participants, that is their right to express. My friend showed me a picture he took several years ago and I was like, “For real?” I thought it was entertaining. And I agree, we have bigger problems to solve.


  4. lidipiri says:

    Common sense is not than common any more but I too hope it prevails!


  5. eof737 says:

    I too hope common sense prevails. Oy vey!


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