This Is What a Blue State Looks Like: Rally for Nudity in SF
[To ensure that this post is work-safe, family-friendly, and legal, all photos below have the following parts blurred out:
- exposed genitals
- exposed butt-cracks
- female breasts
- the faces of children or anyone who appears to be a minor
- the faces of passersby who may not wish to be associated with the protest.
If you instead wish to see the unexpurgated NSFW edition, click HERE to view the unblurred zombietime version of this same essay.]
All trends start in California, they say — and all California trends start in San Francisco. That's why everyone, no matter where you live, should take note of a rally just held in SF to support a growing political movement: the legalization of public nudity.
The "Rally for Nudity," as it was called, took place in the city's Castro District on Saturday, October 20, drawing over a hundred mostly naked protesters fighting against a proposed new law that would criminalize nudity in San Francisco. That's right — probably because no one ever thought such a law was necessary in chilly San Francisco, the city government has never bothered to pass a law forbidding public nudity, and recently a large group of dedicated nudists and exhibitionists have taken advantage of this legal loophole, parading around naked in public on a daily basis, mostly in the Castro District.
Now, responding to complaints from local businesses and clothed neighbors, the area's City Supervisor — the perfectly named Scott Wiener (no joke) — has proposed a new ordinance banning public nudity in San Francisco. That was the final straw for the naked activists, who announced a clothing-optional public protest against the law on Saturday in Jane Warner Plaza, at the intersection of Castro and Market streets, a busy corner that has become the prime rendezvous spot for the city's nudists.
From the Castro District they seek to expand the nudity zone outward to all of San Francisco; if the movement gains momentum, could it expand to all of California, and then eventually nationwide?
The protest was both lighthearted and serious at the same time. One protester held a sign saying "No to Scott. Yes to Weiner!" which, despite misspelling "Wiener," was pretty funny.
The organizers handed out a list of demands, which included not only creating nude areas in all city parks, but also insisted on an apology from Scott Wiener "for starting a witch-hunt against nudists and leather-folk."
The crowd of protesters swelled to over 100 as the afternoon wore on, with at least as many rubberneckers on the surrounding sidewalks. (The rally didn't quite reach the 200 attendees who vowed on Facebook to show up, but 100 isn't half bad.)
The protesters tried to frame the issue as a civil rights and libertarian cause, but look at this sign specifying the rules for Jane Warner Plaza, where the protest was held: According to city ordinances, in the plaza it is illegal to smoke, sell things, sleep, camp, do landscaping or gardening, drink alcohol, and (not mentioned on the sign but still illegal) block the adjacent trolley tracks, have unleashed dogs, and disrupt traffic, among numerous other taboo behaviors. If the protesters were (as they claim to be) resisting on general principles any government restrictions on public freedoms, then why focus on nudity and none of these other oppressive laws? Where is the Rally for Public Gardening?
My God, that man is breaking the law — he's drinking alcohol in Jane Warner Plaza!
This being an election season, the lure of several hundred politically involved citizens gathering in one place was too great for the Democratic Party to resist. Members of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, the local branch of the Democratic Party, showed up to ply the crowd with voting slate brochures.
This volunteer handed a voting slate to a young child in the crowd. Well, seeing as no one ever checks voter IDs in San Francisco polling places, this may not be as pointless as it seems!
But surely the Democratic Party volunteers weren't themselves naked — oh. I see.
Actually, being naked was a smart move -- the unclothed canvassers had much more success handing out the slate cards than the clothed canvassers did.
"Make sure to vote Democrat on November 6!" A jolly time was had by all.
And the rally was definitely Democrat Country. This is Nancy Pelosi's district, after all. In fact, a steady stream of Obama supporters walked through the protest.
Most of them seemed to be just passersby...
...but others stopped to soak in the carnival atmosphere.
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.
See anything shocking in this picture?
That's correct — what's shocking are the gas prices at the Chevron station behind the plaza. $4.89/gallon is now the going price for gas in many California cities. If there's any political issue people should be worked up over, it should be the price of gas, not the lack of clothing!
The protest was not exclusively all-male, as you might presume. There were at least five or six (and possibly as many as ten) naked female protesters as well, ranging from...
...the decidedly zaftig...
...to the slender. Note her complete absence of tan lines, suggesting that outdoor nudity is an ongoing state of affairs for her, not a one-time-only political statement.
At one point a cluster of the 40 or 50 most dedicated activists went on a protest march through the streets of the city.
Well, not the whole "city," actually. They kept it reasonable and stayed entirely in the Castro District. Baby steps.
Slogans were shouted. Heads were turned.
In the windows overlooking Castro Street, sympathetic citizens (and Obama supporters) cheered them on and snapped souvenir photos to record this historical moment when nudism came out of the closet.
They walked past the famous Castro Theater, which was advertising a performance by Peaches Christ, a popular local drag queen and "emcee, actress, producer, and part-time cult-leader."
Along the route, Café Mystique offered a "Bottomless Mimosa" — unfortunate coincidence, or political statement? Or do you only get free mimosas if you come into the café without pants?
You may have noticed that some protesters seem to be wearing what looks like a red cross; it's actually a sticker that says "No Nudity Ban."
Every now and then the activists would consent to gather in a circle to hear political diatribes against our clothed oppressors.
But mostly it was just about hanging out and having a good time.
Frustratingly for the rubberneckers, many of the protesters tended to face inward to entertain each other, rather than turn outward to entertain the crowd. The end result was that most passersby saw nothing but a lot of butts.
The most intriguing sight was this: Despite a huge naked protest being held just a few yards away, some of the most well-known and dedicated nudists stood off by themselves on Market Street, casually sipping coffee, as if it was just another unremarkable day in the Castro. They're so cool, they can't even be induced to join a rally celebrating their coolness! (Actually, I think these three were secretly the "guys behind the guys behind the guys," the consiglieri orchestrating the whole thing!)
Taking faaaaaabulousness to the next level.
An advertisement for Puma tighty-pinkies?
One protester had a bizarre costume covered with naked baby-dolls.
The backside said "Get natural, get naked," even though it was a flesh-colored body-suit and as a result he was one of the few protesters there fully covered!
One of the naked protesters suddenly realized he was late for something, and abruptly took off running across the street into a clothed city.
And finally, six more photos of happy-go-lucky naked activists. Remember: It's a naked world -- we only live in it!
(Thanks to Chicken Kiev and Juklux for contributing to this essay; thanks to MikalM for the tip!]
(One final reminder: if you want to see the unblurred, unexpurgated versions of these photos, click on over to zombietime, and you can still come back here to leave comments.)