The whole brouhaha started when, earlier this year, a growing number of men began to just go nude when walking around the streets of the Castro District (the city’s main gay neighborhood), as seen here.
Some locals began to complain to the police and politicians, but it was discovered that San Francisco doesn’t actually have a ban against plain ol’ nudity — only a ban on obvious sexual excitement (i.e. having an exposed erection) in public. And so the complainers turned the issue around, and made it instead about sanitation, not sex: concerned citizens said it was patently unhygienic for people with uncovered anuses to sit in restaurants and public benches. So Scott Wiener successfully passed what became known as the “towel law,” requiring nudists to sit on towels in San Francisco restaurants. But the towel law didn’t have the intended effect of stopping the nudists; if anything, it seemed to piss them off even more, and the public nudity problem only accelerated in the ensuing months. Leading to scenes like this, and today’s protest.
The situation has become further exacerbated by the increased use of various sexual aids, which sort of simulate having an erection without quite violating the law, as this editorial supporting Wiener’s new law explains:
Since then, however, the nudists have gone too far. They have become more aggressive in the Castro. Some don cock rings – euphemistically referred to as “genital jewelry” – to simulate an erection. Others, according to witnesses, shake their dicks at oncoming traffic, obviously seeking a reaction. They seek attention by parading up and down Castro Street and have taken over Jane Warner Plaza to the point that other residents can’t enjoy it. Many families with children avoid the Castro, and it’s having a negative effect on businesses who are struggling enough already in this economy. It’s clear that the towel ordinance wasn’t enough and Wiener has now introduced legislation that would ban nudity in San Francisco.
In this photo, a protester once again sidesteps the new public disapproval of cock rings by instead tightly wrapping a necktie around his genitals — essentially producing the same half-erect appearance produced by a cock ring without actually using one.
Another salient point undermining the nudists’ claim that their movement in not about sex but instead is solely a civil rights issue: These protests are supported by a fetish Web site called “Buck Naked in Public,” as this protest leader’s shirt reveals. The people who run and frequent the bucknakedinpublic.com site are unabashed exhibitionists: they get sexual thrills from exposing themselves in public. (Visit the site if you dare: you have been warned.) The activists’ claim that their public nudity serves no sexual purpose is simply not credible.
Which brings us to the touchiest issue of all: children. Although the Castro may be a gay mecca, it is not exclusively populated by single gay men, nor are the surrounding neighborhoods gay. Many families with children live in and around the Castro, which means that children are out in public, occasionally encountering the nudists. In fact during the protest itself, as you can see here, families with children needed to get from Point A to Point B along Market Street, and had no choice but to navigate their way through the crowd of naked penises.
Try as you might to hustle your five-year-old as quickly as possible through a cluster of nudists…
…you can’t stop him from craning his neck in curiosity.
Although some parents gave the protest as wide a berth as possible…
…others nonchalantly stopped and watched the rally along with their children.
Whenever there is an article about the nudists in the local newspapers, there are always a flurry of rival comments, half from parents expressing outrage that their kids are exposed to unwanted nudity, and half from parents who say they’re glad that their kids are exposed to bodies in a natural and casual setting like this, to help them get over their “body shame.” Takes all kinds, I guess (and I don’t presume to know what the parents depicted in the photos above are thinking). This is San Francisco, after all.