San Francisco

San Francisco Bans Public Nudity; "When Will They Ever Learn?"


The invisible walls on the open-air prison that is America get tighter as San Francisco's Board of Supervisors votes (by a skin-thin margin) to ban public nudity in its city--joining repressive brethren such as San Jose and even (now is the time for your tears) Berkeley.

This is the kind of thing I'm socialized to believe is already illegal everywhere; while aware people do sometimes walk naked on the streets of everyone's favorite city by the Ba-aay, I never assumed it was actually legal.

Apparently it was, and some defiant folk intend to make sure it stays that way, says the San Francisco Chronicle's account:

Attorney Christina DiEdoardo, who is representing several people opposed to the ban, said a federal judge could order an injunction to stop the law from taking effect during a hearing scheduled for Jan. 17.

DiEdoardo said the surprisingly close vote gave her hope that one supervisor could switch his or her vote before the second reading of the bill.

"We only need one person to change their mind," she said. "It's a completely unjustified restraint on free speech."

The mayor hasn't signed the bill yet, and a second vote by the Board is necessary before it goes to him, so the naked truth may still win out. Even if passed, the new law is but light drapery, not a heavy burqa. It 

exempts nudity at private beaches, private property and permitted special events - like Bay to Breakers or the Folsom Street Fair - and doesn't apply to children under 5 years old. Violators would be fined $100 for the first offense and $200 for the second in a 12-month period. Convictions under the proposed law wouldn't result in a sex offense, but a third offense could bring a $500 fine or a misdemeanor.

Sure, one probably wants a little something to ward off the cold in those brutal San Francisco summers. But even on a warm San Franciscan night? When will they ever learn?

I wrote back in April 2001 about the eternal evolution of lifeways and mores in San Francisco; Tim Cavanaugh wrote recently about the city's dark 1970s.

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  1. This demands alt-text. For shame, Doherty, for shame.

  2. Thank God I didn't run into this protest on my trip there over the weekend.

  3. Turns out, the people most interested in being naked are middle aged men.
    Sitting on a park bench
    eyeing little girls with bad intent.
    Snot running down his nose
    greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.
    Drying in the cold sun
    Watching as the frilly panties run.
    Feeling like a dead duck
    spitting out pieces of his broken luck.

    1. Yeah, but not men who eye little girls with bad intent.

    2. Turns out, that members of the anti-nudity brigade seem to have difficulty coming up with any actual reasons why nudity is bad.

      So instead we get -- for example -- a poem that describes nude people in distasteful terms and implies they are child molesters.

  4. Convictions under the proposed law wouldn't result in a sex offense...

    This is an outrage. Everyone knows that nudity automatically has a sexual component. Possibly if enough people eat the fines and still go bareass, then maybe they'll up the punishment to sex offender registration and my goal of seeing every single person in America on that list will be a little closer to reality.

      1. I wonder what they would say if this was a breast-feeding ban we were talking about.

        1. War on wimminz, duh.

        2. interesting you bring that up as it became a cause celeb a few years back when I was living in Asheville, NC which shares some demographic similarities with SF. The crux of the matter was a woman at odds with a local Denny's because the restaurant thought she could either move the feeding out of the dining room or do a better job of concealing it. My guess is the Jezebellians would favor the mother using the argument that breast feeding is natural.

          1. Partial list of things that are natural that shouldn't be done in the Denny's dining room:

            1) defecation
            2) urination
            3) copulation
            4) masturbation
            5) giving birth
            6) bathing
            7) vomitting (well, it is Denny's)
            8) flatulation
            9) flossing
            10) wailing in grief over the loss of a loved one.

            You have an uncontrollable urge to do any of that crap? Take it elsewhere.

            "It's Natural" is no better an argument than "FU that's why". If one wants to argue that society should get over its hangups and have no problem with public breastfeeding, then there's more work to be done than to simply declare that it's natural.

            1. Partial list of things that are natural that shouldn't be done in the Denny's dining room

              Well, that's up to Denny's whether they want to allow those things or not.

              1. Juice:

                If you have to vomit, try to make it out of the dining room and into the restroom, whatever rules Denny's has.

            2. Here's another item to add to your list of things that are natural but shouldn't be done at Denny's (or out on the public street):

              11) Letting your personal aesthetic taste or sexual hangups turn you into a bully who tries to use the guns of government to criminalize people who behave in a way that you don't personally like but which does not involve aggression or violating anyone else's rights

        3. It's the old "I have a right to a society free of anything that I don't like" argument. People who use that argument never stop to think that it can ever be turned against them.

        4. What, like it's supposed to be logical?

          It would be easy for nudists to borrow the arguments of the LGBTQ communities and rebute with an "If you don't like it, don't look" or a call to respect different lifestyle choices. There is, however, a major difference between this and the fight for equal LGBTQ rights. No one has ever been physical hurt by seeing two women hold hands. The sight of two men kissing does not effect anyone else's autonomy or right to make choices. Countless people, on the other hand, have been flashed, groped or sexually assaulted in public spaces. Being forced to stand pressed up against a naked person on a crowded bus is a legitimate threat to your physical and emotional well-being. A blanket allowance for public displays of nudity, while protecting the rights of some, takes away the right of many.

          Free speech/nudity for me, but not for thee. The commenters actually surprised me with their retardation: breasts are not genitals; breast-feeding, unlike dick-waving, is a "necessity"; and they just can't believe you would even compare the two (especially when the law still allowed for bared breasts/chests).

          1. My favorite so far: "What about the rights of the people who don't want to see these people?

            "Your expression is my oppression."

          2. Countless people, on the other hand, have been flashed, groped or sexually assaulted in public spaces.

            maybe I am overthinking this, but doesn't the preceding kill the Jez argument? All this groping and flashing has gone on while people were dressed. This seem akin to believing that people who ignore laws against murder and mayhem will be snapped into order by a law banning gun possession.

            Last I checked, no one is "forced" to stand pressed up next to naked people. Wait for the next bus, take a cab, drive yourself, or walk. I will reluctantly agree with the "don't look" part of the argument. Is it too much to ask that if you are naked, you are at least worthy of the attention you are certain to receive?

          3. So because perverts grope people sometimes, other people can't be naked in public? How does this dumb cunt think B follows A?

            1. I don't think she knows what "follows" means.

              Seriously though the logical contortions in that paragraph hurt my brain every time I read it. Every time.

              1. Maybe if she had used more exclamation points, CAPITALIZATION and animated gifs, I would understand. She did a terrible job mansplaining it to me.

              2. nicole| 11.21.12 @ 11:52AM |#

                Seriously though the logical contortions in that paragraph hurt my brain every time I read it

                *Logical* contortions?


                .... you're approaching it entirely the wrong way.

                I want to do the mythbusters auto-mechanic-schtick and be like, "Well... *now *there's* your problem!"

          4. as a man i must concur: tits arent genitals. they are simply beauty accessories

        5. They actually addressed that (I am ashamed to admit i read the thing at all)

          And the comment was intelligent (!?!?!)

          They pointed out that the author's reaction was equivilent (more or less) to the Taliban being 'outraged and offended' by a woman without a bag over her.

          i.e. There is no 'Freedom FROM...'

          You have no right to never be offended or made uncomfortable. Well, if you're a woman I guess you do (according to Jez-bell) Anyone who finds breastfeeding unsightly is a cretin and uncelebratory of the wonders of life.

          Anyone who lets their dick hang out is a criminal.

          Its simple

          1. get it... "ad'dressed' it"??

            har har haw har puke

  5. Someone has to say it: If it's so natural to be naked, why weren't we born that way? Seriously, it's as though someone had said, "California offers more individual liberty on this issue than do most other places, and we can't have that."

  6. I'm not really sure where to go with this. Are these folks so starved for attention that this is their new avenue? And is it unreasonable to say that while nudity in and of itself is not explicitly sexual, we're talking SF; how long before the next bridge is crossed?

    1. "how long before the next bridge is crossed?"
      When it is, then SF can deal with that.

    2. Not sure what you mean by "new avenue." Public nudity is/was already legal in SF. Folks now want to/have made it illegal.

    3. What is the next bridge, and why should it not be crossed?

      1. wondering what this has to do with speech. Mine is a passing interest only. I don't see the point but I'm also not asking govt to enforce my view on everyone else.

        I think the next bridge is obvious and probably happens as it is. It's SF; my outrage meter needs more stimulation to get excited over this one.

  7. I'm siding with the ugly, naked guys on this. If clothing (or lack thereof) isn't speech, the SCOTUS has blown it several times.

    1. the SCOTUS has blown it several times.

      I see what you did there.

    2. Clothing is speech and naked people in public places is icky. Solution: Get rid of public places.

  8. somethings on God's green earth were not mean to be seen.

    1. Which ones, and why, in your opinion? And does "not meant to be seen" mean that you think taxpayers should be forced to pay to enforce your opinion?

  9. I'd like to see a single documented case of a person being traumatized by nudity.

    1. Strip down, walk outside, and take notes. Voila! Documented cases, Tony, just for you.

    2. Re: Tony,

      I'd like to see a single documented case of a person being traumatized by nudity.

      I don't know about that; I did feel especially traumatized by the pungent smell released by the Pink Lady who strolls around in downtown Santa Cruz, clearly someone that has not enjoyed a good relationship with soap or body wash.

      I still have nightmares...

  10. Alt Text: "San Francisco Show and Tell"

  11. Don't mind if I put a napkin over my coffee as I sit in one of your sidewalk cafes, SF.

  12. No more rocking out with your cock out in SF? Oh, wait, be as nude as you want on public property.

    I think (and can't be arsed to look it up) that the Texas statute requires that your nudity be visible (or potentially visisble) from a public roadway in order to be an offense. That's why Janet Jackson didn't get any prosecution for the nip slip from the state.

    Some people were outraged and demanded the law be changed, but it's Texas. By the time the Lege rolled around again, the outrage had gone cold.

    1. That kind of gives me an idea for a Constitutional amendment:

      "Congress shall not be in session for more than 10 days per calendar year"

      Now obviously they'd monkey-fuck around with what it means to be 'in session' or whatevs so we'd have to work on the language, but still, seems promising.

      1. There are a few things that Texas has managed to get right. The hard limits on the Lege is definitely one of them. 120 days, every two years. You can have an additional session, but it has to be called by the Governor and can only consider those matters the Governor places before the session. Last one was school finance, IIRC.

        Every so often, some nimrod tries to change the limits and it gets shot down in flames.

        1. The Kentucky legislature only met every two years. But then they convinced the sheep that the people's business wasn't getting done and we had too many special sessions called. So the voters gave them a short session in odd years. Of course now that isn't long enough and we have just as many special sessions called as before.

          1. If Chris Mallory is Kentuckian, I am ashamed to be one as well.

    2. Hippie Hollow is disappointing, but in no way offensive.

  13. "It's a completely unjustified restraint on free speech"
    No, it's not. A public space, public streets, public beaches, public sidewalks, can have laws made to regulate it by the public. I'm not talking about federal or even state powers, this is a local thing. If people want to be nude on their own property than that's their right to do so. I hope libertarians here aren't fooled by these people. These are the same people who favor 75% tax rates, "speech codes" on college campases, gun control, prostitution laws, and the list goes on and on. And they are the ones crying about "free speech."

    1. So if everything's public the government can pretty much do whatever they want and it's all good?

      1. "if everything's public"
        What's PUBLIC is public. You're the reason I specifically said that "If people want to be nude on their own property than that's their right to do so." Nice to know I wasted my time.

        1. What good is it to have public property if people can't exercise their most basic rights there?

          What if the majority doesn't want you to keep and bear arms in public either?

          Or doesn't want you to wear a beard? Or insists you wear a beard?

          I don't think you have any philosophical basis for your anti-nudity standard.

          You think that it's justified to take away people's freedoms just because they happen to hold some statist ideas on other topics?

          I can just see the real statists in Washington rubbing their hands in anticipation at using *that* theory. Why, they could justify taking whatever freedoms they wanted to away from 95% or more of the public!

  14. I had to google a bit to find this, but it was seared into my brain from 7 years ago. A Zombietime photo from the Anarchists Bookfair. Go to the sixth photo if you dare.

    WARNING: NSFAnybody!

    1. The Queers for Palestine contingent at the anti-war rally on September 24, 2005

      LOL wut?!

      Anyway, now my brain is seared too. Spread the love!

  15. I was at a meeting of the SF Libertarian Party once. This dude, Starchild (some people familiar with the LP will know of him) argued for nudity rights. I've always wondered how that squares with other libertarian beliefs. If we manage to get a Libertopia where public property basically doesn't exist (or is extremely minimal), it seems that clothing standards would be up to whichever person owns the property you happen to be on. I'd assume that the vast majority of property owners would demand that people wear clothing while on their property. So, where is the libertarian right to nudity?

    1. Re: DJK,

      So, where is the libertarian right to nudity?

      Your body is yours, right? YOU decide what to cover it with, don't you? So, you have a right to go nude.

      What you DON'T have a right to is courteous service by private individuals or entry to people's private property even when they don't agree with your lack of apparel.

      However, this is not the philosophy by which the good councilmembers of SF base their decisions; they mostly feel they can decide for others whatever the former believe is good for the latter. I am sure that if they allowed nudity as a right, it would be one above the property rights of everybody else; I am sure the good councilmembers would not tolerate people denying courteous service or access to property owned by those that don't agree with the nudits' lack of apparel.

      1. I agree with you about the right to nudity. Perhaps I phrased it incorrectly. Where's libertarian right to public nudity that people like Starchild are so incensed about?

        In Libertopia, you would certainly have the right to be nude on your own property, as you basically have right now (I know some places have voyeur laws where you can't be nude on your own property if you can be seen by outsiders, but I'll ignore that). But there would be no public nudity right as almost all property would be privately owned.

        I'm not interested in the SF city council's thoughts on the matter. I'm interested in what this self-described libertarian thinks would be the case under the logical ends of his own system of political philosophy. My thought is that it wouldn't look all that different from the status quo.

        1. Standard disclaimer - I don't claim that the ends justify the means or that if two policies have the same outcome they are morally equivalent. I just think it's interesting to reason about what the outcome would be under a particular policy preference.

        2. I believe in a certain amount of state and local government. I don't knoe how well privately owned roads would work. What's to prevent the road owners from jacking up their rates? So as long as local government exists I would defend it's right to make laws about it's own property that are in the intrests of the people who live there. This Starchild guy sounds like one of the LPs usefull idiots, take his money and vote but confine him to the Castro district, the more trouble he causes there, the better. Some people see little difference between libertarianism and libertinism.

    2. As the Starchild you're referring to, it seems appropriate for me to respond to your comment. 🙂 Are you David Kennerly, perhaps?

      Anyway, you raise a valid and interesting question. It is in fact questions like the one you raise which, after my initial libertarian enlightenment, eventually caused me to reevaluate the philosophical tenet that all property should be privately owned.

      While I still do believe strongly in the rights of property owners, I've also come to believe in the importance for a free society of a "commons". Public places where people can meet and gather on neutral ground, not subject to the whims of any property owner, places where basic human rights are guaranteed -- the right to free speech, to keep and bear arms, to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, to freedom of expression, including the freedom to wear (or not wear) the garments of one's choice, etc. Even our living and working spaces recognize the importance of a shared commons. Homes typically have private bedrooms and sometimes personal office spaces or bathrooms, but they also typically have common living rooms, kitchens, shared bathrooms, and so on. Commercial workplaces may have private offices and cubicles, but they also typically have shared break areas, places to gather around the proverbial water cooler, etc.

    3. (Part 2, continued from previous comment)

      These shared public spaces would not necessarily have to be owned and controlled by government as they are now, but if privately owned they would (at least in my vision of Libertopia) carry heavy use restrictions guaranteeing their use as public spaces where basic human and civil rights could not be abridged. Perhaps there could be provisions allowing for an owner to have the restrictions removed from a piece of land and make it truly private by paying a sum over and above the market value of the land to be divided among each member of the community to compensate them for the loss of public space, or by donating "as much and as good" land elsewhere to serve as public space in lieu of the land being removed from the commons.

      I envision most of the public streets, parks, plazas, historic buildings and public facilities in the communities where we live becoming such "commons" spaces in a libertarian society, while those tracts of land, buildings, and other government assets less socially useful or prized by a community could be privatized outright in the traditional libertarian sense of being sold by competitive bidding to the highest bidder.

    4. (Part 3 - Continued from previous comment)

      Just as nudists have no right to force others in the commons to disrobe, those who prefer to go clothed have no right to insist that nudists cover up. It doesn't matter how much a majority prefers they cover up, the majority has no right to compel such behavior through force of law. Even if a minority were to completely disregard the mores and norms of modern human civilization, and start having sex in the streets, even in full view of busloads of schoolchildren out on a field trip to the zoo, none of us have the right to physically stop them, so long as they are not initiating force or fraud against others.

      We would however have the right to refuse to serve them in our businesses, to publicly ostracize them and ban them from clubs and associations, to boycott their businesses, to hold protests outside their homes, etc. -- in short to make their lives uncomfortable enough that they would probably choose to voluntarily comply with certain norms, or they would move somewhere that people felt less strongly opposed to public-street-sex.

    5. (Part 4 - continued from previous comment)

      Of course this ostracizing, protesting, boycotting, and so on takes a certain amount of work and commitment. It's a natural system of checks and balances, because unless people feel really outraged by some behavior, they're not likely to want to endure the social awkwardness and undergo the effort, just as people are unlikely to risk incurring social unpleasantness and inconvenience in order to exercise a right the larger community generally disapproves of unless it's *really* important to them.

      It's so much easier, in our society, to take the lazy, cowardly route and simply have government ban stuff we don't like. That way we don't have to take responsibility for the costs of our own prejudices, but can pass them off onto others.

      If nudity is banned in San Francisco, it won't just be the anti-naturist bigots who pay the economic cost of having officers write tickets, make arrests, and so on -- these costs will be borne by the populace as a whole, including those like myself who aren't nudists and have no interest in going nude on public streets, but have no problem with those who do. And not just the direct costs, but as Supervisor Campos alluded to in debate on the topic at City Hall, the indirect costs of diverting law enforcement time and resources away from actual, violent crime like murder and robbery, and real property crimes like burglaries and auto break-ins.

    6. (Part 5 - continued from previous comment)

      I think most of the laws on the books today would be gone if those who wanted those laws enforced were required to pay for the costs of that enforcement directly themselves instead of passing them off onto the entire community. In California, I've read it costs about $42,000 a year to keep someone incarcerated.

      So in a hypothetical town of 42,000, keeping one individual jailed might cost $1 per person per year, if every other resident wanted that person jailed. If only half the town's population wanted the person jailed however, then it would cost that half of the population $2 per year. Of course there are many other costs associated with law enforcement and criminal justice. I propose estimating the cost of each statute, then listing them all and putting it to a vote. Everyone voting to keep a particular statute on the books would be assessed a tax or fee proportional to their share of the funds required to enforce that law, based on how many other people want it enforced.

      That cost could be estimated in advance by doing straw polls, so that before voting on your checklist of laws, you could be aware that, say, supporting a law against meth labs might cost you $15 a year, whereas supporting a much less popular law against marijuana use might cost you $500 a year. Then let people decide how much their prejudices, aesthetic tastes, desires for public safety and so on are worth to them.

    7. (Part 6 - continued from previous comment)

      Here's a final thought: We should only pass laws we are willing to kill people in order to enforce. I don't mean capital punishment, just ordinary law enforcement procedure.

      For instance if this anti-nudity ordinance passes in San Francisco, a first offense will be a $100 fine, second offense $200, third offense $500 or a misdemeanor. So what happens if someone is cited and doesn't pay? Maybe nothing at first, but if a person racks up enough fines or gets to the misdemeanor stage, an arrest warrant will presumably be issued or an arrest made, meaning the person will be subject to being hauled off to jail.

      But what if he or she effectively resists going? Say with a firearm, or other deterrent strong enough to prevent one being hauled off against one's will? We all know what would happen in such a case, don't we? The police would employ lethal force themselves, and either the person would be forced to comply, or would be killed.

      The only reason most arrests don't reach that stage is because most people are bullied into submission. But the guns of the State are always there, whether they're used in a particular case or not. If you pass a law, you are basically giving police a license to kill anyone who breaks that law and refuses to accept punishment for breaking it.

      Is stopping public nudity so important to you that you are willing to have people who refuse to be bullied into submission killed over it? Something to think about.

  16. San Francisco Bans Public Nudity

    Outrageous! Simply outrageous! This should not stand!

    They should've only banned nudity for flabby people, but leave the firm alone!

  17. Too bad they don't get this upset over having their legal medical MJ shops raided.

  18. Where are John Carpenter and Kurt Russell when we need them? Forget the EfNY remake/reboot! Time for the third chapter in the original "Escape" Trilogy: "Escape from Frisco!"

    If Russell is no longer available, they producers could simply recast -- say, Samuel L. Jackson? "Just call me mf'ng 'Snake' on this mf'ng plane!"

  19. I'm surprised -- San Fran. of all places. Anyone else here surprised?

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