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. In San Francisco, public nudity is allowed just as long as there is no sexual intent or sexual gratification - in other words, simple nudity is OK but erections are 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 brought attention to public nudity in the Castro when he toured that gayborhood wearing nothing but a hat, shoes and socks. Only Seattle has a nude social scene that is anywhere near that of San Francisco.
Alas, even San Francisco has people who do not approve of their city's "in your face" nude social scene. One of its opponents is City Supervisor Scott Wiener, an openly-gay man who coincidentally represents the City's Castro District. (Harvey Milk must be spinning in his grave).
Last year, Supervisor Wiener pushed 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 - accouterments that he considers to be 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 that area" [the genitals], he said. "People are absolutely repulsed by it."
It should be noted that public nudity in San Francisco is not an LGBT issue. There are, after all, many straight nudists. Supervisor Wiener himself, as I pointed out, 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.
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 my chances of getting naked in San Francisco are currently zilch, I like the fact that there is a place in this puritan country where those of us who are nudists can get naked in places other than private homes, 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 aversion to cock rings.
To a large extent, public nudity in San Francisco is practiced by the homeless, a class of people that is not particularly liked by that city's establishment. And, unfortunately, not everyone who gets naked in the Castro looks like Marc Dylan. Most of the people who parade in the buff at Jane Warner Plaza and elsewhere are old, fat, bald, ugly, dirty or a combination of the above, qualities that would not endear them to politicians or business owners that seek to attract tourists and investors to the City by the Bay.
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 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 s/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!