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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 12, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 41
Jesse's Journal: San Francisco: the real naked city
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Jesse's Journal: San Francisco: the real naked city

by Jesse Monteagudo - SGN Contributing Writer

The City of San Francisco, ahead of its time in so many ways, is the most liberal place in America with regard to public nudity. Being naked in public is allowed there as long as there is no 'sexual intent' or 'sexual gratification' involved - in other words, simply being nude is OK, but being nude with an erection is forbidden. There are many clothing-optional events in the City by the Bay, including Saint Stupid's Day Parade on April 1, the Bay to Breakers race in May, the World Naked Bike Ride and Gay Pride Weekend in June, Dore Alley in July, the Folsom Street Fair in September, and, of course, Halloween. For the past few years, nudists of all sexual orientations and gender identities have gathered at Jane Warner Plaza in the Castro for the annual Nude In and other events. In fact, nudity at the Plaza has become so common that locals affectionately call it the 'Buff Stop.' Gay porn star Marc Dylan recently brought major attention to public nudity in the Castro when he toured that famous Gayborhood wearing nothing but a hat, shoes, and socks. Only Seattle has a nude social scene that even approaches that of San Francisco.

THE COCK RING CONUNDRUM
Alas, even San Francisco has people who do not approve of their city's 'in your face' nude aesthetic. One of its leading opponents is City Supervisor Scott Wiener[!], an openly Gay man who coincidentally represents the Castro district. (Harvey Milk must be spinning in his grave.) Last year, Supervisor Wiener pushed through a law that requires nudists to place a cloth between their bare buns and public seats. This year Wiener was moved to greater action by the appearance of cock rings on some of the nudes - accoutrements that he considers erotic. 'People can have whatever view they want to have on public nudity in general. But to be walking around with a cock ring on or something similar is just not acceptable [or] responsible behavior,' Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter. Wiener disagrees with naturists who argue that cock rings are jewelry, like bracelets or earrings. 'The whole purpose of a cock ring is to draw attention to [the genital] area,' he said. 'People are absolutely repulsed by it.'

It should be noted that public nudity in San Francisco is not an LGBT issue per se. There are, after all, many straight nudists, and Supervisor Wiener himself, as I mentioned earlier, is openly Gay. And Wiener was quick to add that many prominent LGBT individuals support increased restrictions on public nudity. 'The Castro is not about a group of men exposing themselves every day,' he said.

A NAKED POWER PLAY?
On October 2, Wiener introduced legislation that would severely restrict public nudity in San Francisco. His proposal would expand current bans on nudity in the City's parks and in the Port of San Francisco to include sidewalks, plazas, 'parklets,' and public transit. The law would still allow social nudity at parades and major events, which means the World Naked Bike Ride, Bay to Breakers race, Folsom Street Fair, et al., will continue to bring in the tourist dollars. It would impose a fine of $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second offense within a year.

I hope this doesn't pass. Though the odds of my getting naked in San Francisco anytime soon are just about zilch, I like the fact that there is a place in this still largely Puritan country where those who are so inclined can get naked somewhere other than in private homes or at nude beaches, nudist camps, guest houses, or private clubs. And while Wiener doesn't say so, I presume that there is more behind his proposal than merely an aversion to cock rings. To a large extent, public nudity in San Francisco is practiced (out of necessity) by the homeless, a class of people that is not well loved by that city's establishment. And, unfortunately, not everyone who gets naked in the Castro looks like Marc Dylan. Most people who parade in the buff at Jane Warner Plaza and elsewhere are old, fat, ugly, dirty, or a combination thereof - qualities that would not endear them to politicians or business owners seeking to attract tourists or investors to the City by the Bay.

NO NUDES NOT GOOD NEWS
Naturist activists, needless to say, are appalled by Wiener's proposal. One of them is my friend Paul D. Cain, award-winning writer and Mr. CMEN (California Men Enjoying Naturism) 2008: 'I came to social nudity fairly late in my life, at about age 35. Nudism enabled me to realize that my body is something in which I can take pride, not shame. I have had the pleasure of being publicly naked in San Francisco several times - at Folsom Street Fair, at Bay to Breakers, and in the Castro with friends. With the sole exception of some drunken rowdies at Bay to Breakers one year, I have always been treated with utmost respect.

'My nudity,' Cain continues, 'is not a threat to anyone. The idea that the wide-open town that San Francisco has always been is now considering such nonsensical laws about public nudity baffles and disappoints me. No one is forcing anyone to be naked in public. If someone can do so responsibly - and I have never seen a public nudist in San Francisco act in any other way - I see no need for the unnecessarily restrictive law Supervisor Wiener is proposing. If someone is offended by someone else's public nudity, then she or he can simply look away. I hope San Francisco's voters will realize that the proposed anti-nudity ban would unnecessarily remove one of the civic qualities that makes the City the great place that it is.' To which I can only add, Amen!

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