A Ban on Public Nudity? In San Francisco? Really?

SAN FRANCISCO—Considering that San Francisco and the entire Bay Area was the preferred destination for hundreds of thousands of counter-culture "hippies" in the late '60s, and saw the beginning of topless "go-go" dancing by stripper Carol Doda at the Condor Night Club in North Beach in 1964, one has to wonder why City Supervisor Scott Weiner, who represents the world-famous Castro District, thought he could get his anti-public-nudity measure past the electorate without a fight.

To be fair, Wiener's proposed law would only criminalize the exposure of genitals and buttocks (though not simply bare tits) on city sidewalks, streets, public transportation, plazas and "parklets," leaving citizens free to let it all hang out on public beaches, in parades and at street fairs and festivals, plus on anybody's private property—but the mere idea that nudity could be banned anywhere in the city was more than the area's many sun worshippers, sex-positive activists and remnants of the hippie movement could take.

"I grew up in communist Russia and know first-hand the tyranny of body and sexual taboos, the tyranny of shame and fear that lie at the core of those taboos, the tyranny of having to hide my thoughts and feelings about my own body and the bodies of others, the tyranny of self-hate that inevitably follows such upbringing," stated pro-nudity activist Gypsy Taub, who organized a protest at San Francisco's City Hall on Wednesday. "This legislation that would criminalize nudity in our city is nothing short of a cultural and spiritual coup d’etat by a self-proclaimed ignorant and blind man who is using the shame and darkness that haven’t yet been healed in our society to gain very intimate power over our bodies and spirits."

Wiener claims that his proposed legislation was in response to several Castro residents who claim to have been scandalized for months by "men who take their clothes off and hang out every day of the week, and that has caused a lot of anger and frustration in the neighborhood," as Wiener told The New York Times.

"Over the past two years, the situation on our streets and particularly in the Castro has changed," Wiener said. "Public nudity is no longer random and sporadic; it's no longer an occasional quirky part of San Francisco."

Weiner's no stranger to laws targeting nudity. Last year, he got a measure passed that would require men who used shared seating on park benches and similar spots to put a towel or some similar barrier between their buttocks and the seat, and also banned nudity in restaurants.

Wiener, whose current measure would fine public nudists (except children under 5) up to $100 for the first offense, $200 for a second offense and a $500 fine or up to one year in prison for a third violation, has the support of the Bay Area Reporter,  a tabloid whose motto is "Serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities since 1971."

"We support the nudity ordinance," a Reporter editorial stated. "We did not arrive at our decision lightly. We are well aware that gay men used to be subject to sting operations and other harassment from law enforcement; sometimes, they still are. But given the no-holds barred actions of the nudists, we say enough is enough. It's time for everyone to enjoy the Castro, including its parklets, plazas, and businesses. We don't think the Castro nudists are exercising the judgment expected among naturist groups themselves, such as respect and decorum. Wiener's legislation is reasonable regulation and doesn't come with onerous consequences, such as sex offender registration, for those convicted of violating it."

Many beg to differ.

"The city is trying to legislate against the naturalness of the naked body, and that is wrong," said George Davis, 66, who manages a Web site for "urban nudists." "Nude is not lewd—that is our mantra."

"In the '60s San Francisco gave birth to the new paradigm, to the paradigm of peace, love, freedom, unity and celebration of life," Taub said. "Many have embraced a new vision of the future that would celebrate the beauty of human spirit. Today that future is under attack. This proposed nudity ban is a backlash against the growing liberation of body and spirit in San Fransisco. This is an attempt to crush and eradicate that liberation. Caught in their own shame and fear some of our public officials are willing to go along with this disgraceful move... You can't stop progress, you can only delay it temporarily. Going back to the Dark Ages of body shame and sexual repression is not possible, no matter how hard some of us may try."

And so they protested... and are planning to file a lawsuit.

"This is analogous to the city saying, ‘Well, in order to support our favorite team, we're going to mandate the only colors that can be worn in October are black and orange,'" said Christine DiEdoardo, the attorney selected by the protesters to file a class action suit on their behalf against the measure. "Clearly, that would be ridiculous, but that's the same thing that's happening here... Part of what living in a big city is all about is we have to come to terms with the fact that we will often encounter things that are different to our experience or even offensive to our experience. You suck it up and move on."

The lawsuit was scheduled to be filed today, so check back with AVN.com for its contents and official reactions to it.