(Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/Getty Images)

When nudity became an everyday occurrence at the Castro’s Jane Warner Plaza, San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener felt the situation had gotten out of hand. Now, he has proposed legislation requiring people to wear clothing most places in the city, or pay a fine. Is the proposal simply common sense, as supporters argue? Or does it criminalize nudity and hamper freedom of expression?[View the story “Bay Area Residents React to Proposed SF Nudity Ban” on Storify]

Bay Area Residents React to Proposed SF Nudity Ban

Has nudity become so out of control in San Francisco that it needs to be banned? That was the topic of our show on Thursday, October 18. We heard from the city supervisor who sponsored the ban, nudist activists, business owners and parents. Here’s a sample of what they said.

Storified by · Thu, Oct 18 2012 16:48:32

First, here are the facts on what’s being proposed as reported by the AP:

San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener has introduced legislation “that would make it illegal to walk around nude on San Francisco streets. The city currently allows nudity except in parks, on port property and in restaurants. Wiener’s legislation would add city plazas, parklets, sidewalks, streets and public transit to the ban. It would, however, allow nudity at parades and street festivals.  Wiener previously proposed that nudists put a cloth under their bottoms if they take a seat in public. But he says the nudity situation has gotten `more extreme.'” 

Wiener has come under attack for catering to a new demographic (read: straight) in his district. 
Gay people are good enough to fix up a neighborhood so that you can move into it. But then you expect Gays to conform once you move in….Noel Mulet
Wiener said during the show that is not the case and in fact, many of the people who have complained to him about the nudity are gay men who live in the Castro. 
The concept of nudity as a protected right came up several times during the show:
What about nudity being protected as free speech?Karuna Gerstein
So did nudity as part of the character of San Francisco and the Castro district in particular. 
@KQEDForum when I was a kid my mom said "if you’ve seen 1 you’ve seen them all". This is sf. Let naked be naked.improvactor
One caller stated that the Castro has always been “an adult” neighborhood.  Comments about the age and body type of the nudists were mentioned both on-air and online. Here are responses to our tweet: “Yes or no: public nudity should be banned in San Francisco?”
@KQEDForum only for ugly people.Charles the Yang
Only if you’re not hot. RT @KQED: Should nudity be banned in San Francisco? @KQEDforum, 9am: http://ht.ly/eA20PDapper Diner
Several commenters took issue with that argument and suggested that fear of nudity is related to one’s negative body image  and sexuality.
I currently live in LA, but lived the majority of my life in the Castro. I moved to LA 5 years ago. To me this sounds more like folk have issues with male nudity not nudity in of itself. It seems there is an underlying misandry. The comments about "ugly old men" are very telling. Why is the penis so threatening to people?Neil R. Rasmussen
But the crux of the issue seemed to boil down to a few points: a claim of the nudity being un-family friendly and an individual’s right to be nude in public versus an individual’s right to not have to see that nudity.
I’ve been listening to this program and so far what I hear is a lot of people complaining that nudity offends them and makes them uncomfortable. But so far I haven’t heard, just as the nudity activist you had on a moment ago said, give your listeners an argument over exactly how public nudity is violating anybody else’s rights. Offense, irritation, aversion: these things are not themselves reason to restrict other people’s civil rights. Without a clear, specific description of how public nudity is harmful, these complaints sound to me like a bunch of people projecting their own feelings of body shame onto others.Joshua Jendryka
Sofie commented on our website:

I grew up in San Francisco and was raised within a community of hippies, gay and lesbian, nudists, and “counterculturists”. While I do not prefer to go nude in public, I recognize that some people do and that their motivatons are in no way sexual or perverse. However, the plaza in question is very centrally located. Whether these gentlemen want to express themselves thru public nudity says nothing of the freedom of choice of other members of the public. Comfort with nudity is cultural. San Francisco is an all inclusive city, which means that we have citizens from around the world, some from more liberal cultures and others from more traditional cultures. There are areas of the city where nudity is acceptable- go to Baker Beach, start a club, strike an agreement with a local establishment to host nude people. More than anything, this is a matter of respect for individuality and choice for all involved. 

The question of individual freedom isn’t an easy one to answer… perhaps it’s one that will make it’s way onto the state ballot soon enough. We are the land of direct democracy, after all.
@KQEDForum Why isn’t there a state law about about nudity?Armin Sohrabi

Guests:
Scott Wiener, San Francisco supervisor for District 8
George Davis, nudist activist who ran for mayor of San Francisco four times, and has been affectionately dubbed "Nude Yoga Guy" by the media
Dan Schreiber, staff writer for the San Francisco Examiner
Daniel Bergerac, Castro district business owner

  • OldVet

    There are exhibitionists and there are nudists. On the Mayflower there were Puritans and Leiden Separatists. The beat goes on. Nudists think what we are actually created with is good. I tend to agree.

    One of the most sacred and mind blowing moments was when I decided to go up on Mt Tamalpias one sunrise and to my astonishment there was a hundred naked hippies up there! It was a meeting of the Monday Night Class and was positively transcendental. No drugs necessary. We all belonged, under those glinting rays of the sun.

    On the paved street, that might be more of an existential statement. But to deny the innocence and purity of nudists, which I know offends some folks, is, well, diversionary.

    Better to focus on stopping agents from profiting on foreclosures than a variation on crotch politics. America, we are in this collapse together and all these gestures to divide us are….. efforts to divide.

    • PDo1

      You might want to look at Mr. Weiner’s real estate influences and background in SF. You just opened an interesting docket.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    I am no prude and have no problem with authentic nudists who don’t seek to shock people but are nudists often for health reasons. And most nudist areas are well known so those who don’t want to be around nudists can avoid the area.And none that I have encountered have ever been in your face nudists.

    What I find interesting about the naked folks in Castro’s Jane Warner Plaza in San Francisco is they all are men, no women, and I have yet to find any city flier that lets visitors know that naked men are found in the one area so they can avoid the area. Nor have I been able to find anything about why these men feel the need to be in your face naked.

  • Fred

    Only good-looking, physically fit people should be allowed to go nude.
    Period. No fat chicks. No dotcom geeks. No senior citizens.

    • Guest

      I find comments like this much more offensive than *anyone* being naked anywhere. This is an unbelievably shallow and prejudicial perspective. The world is not a magazine.

      • Todd

        Pretty sure Fred was just having a little fun, Christine 🙂

        • Guest

          Not amused.

  • Desmond Perrotto

    The ban is a pick and choose law. It is in writing however as Scott said it will only be enforced if its needed and enforced towards certain individuals. We already have a lewd in public law which covers what he is trying to do and *that* is not enforced. Why create a 2nd law only to have 2 laws on the books that only get enforced on special occasions. This new proposed ban hurts a larger community. Saturday in Jane Warner Plaza you will see various groups who are against the ban including the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and upstanding people from the Leather Community. Its not just about the nudity.

    Furthermore, every argument Scott has provided for having this law, I have personally chopped down. He stands by his words (because at this point he has no choice but to lay in his own filth). Truth is there are far more eye sores in the Castro from meth heads tweaking every morning (despite the nice days or not). Homeless urinating daily on our streets for everyone to see, porn shops, smoke shops, drunk gay boys, drunk straight girls, and people practically sexing it up outside our bars.

    Weiner says the majority in the plaza are nudists. Thats all he see’s is the nudity and not the rest of the people in the plaza. When you can only see one thing in front of you, we call that tunnel vision.

  • John

    These people are nothing but perverts and exhibitionists. We shouldn’t be forced to participate in their kink just by virtue of walking down a public sidewalk.

  • Frank

    When ugly and misshapen people go nude in public, it’s revolting. There’s also a possibly related movement or meme in which ugliness is promoted for its shock value and to revolt people. I’ve seen it in galleries where art that is made ugly on purpose sells for large sums. I wonder what overlap there is between the nudist community and this ugly-centric movement.

    • feens

      I have to hope that you will understand that I find your comment to be revolting. People simply are people. Your mind adds the adjective.

    • PDo1

      Some would argue that the naked body is always ugly, shameful,
      to be hidden. At the opposite pole, you’d find all shapes, ages and sizes of people accepted at a nudist resort. At World Naked
      Bike Ride events you’d see a fairly fit group, mostly younger. In
      San Francisco at the JW Plaza, you’d expect mostly retired men, because they don’t care if they appear in the news, no reputation to lose. Younger people are busy with families, working 2 jobs, putting kids through college, no time left over for fun.

  • Banning people because some other people find them offensive is wrong. Should we ban all offensive people? Just a few years ago people felt gay people should not hold hands in public or kiss in public because they thought it was disgusting. Should they have banned these activities because some people thought them offensive?

    • Desmond94114

      Exactly! ban those girls who are puking on the corners because they drank too much for bottomless mimosas.

  • Stop parading out the issue of CHILDREN. Shame is an attitude that is taught, and what is being prescribed here by exclaiming “What about the Children!?” is that shame is being equated with modesty. It is shame. Children are born without clothes. Young children’s behavior includes enjoying their own nudity. We are taught shame, and this is all about shaming everyone. If you don’t like it, then don’t look. If you can’t help looking, that says more about you than someone who enjoys being nude.

    • Let me add, I have lived in the Castro for over 40 years. Along with my late lover (that’s the phrase we used in the long long ago) we raised 2 wonderful children. I now have 3 grandchildren who visit fairly often. I never feel uncomfortable because we raised our children to have open minds and to not be ashamed of the human body. It behooves me to hear all the newbie residents of this neighborhood to say they’re fed up with it. It has been this way all along. What they would have said in the 70’s is beyond me. It was, and has been, the place where people are free to be who they are. It allowed me to raise a wonderful family with the man I love, and we would have been shunned in other neighborhoods in SF back then (and often were just over the hill in the Haight of all places.) If we want the Castro to be for all then we must live with this and smile that it makes our beautiful neighborhood so unique. Shame on Cleve Jones.

      And by the way, ironically, I work in the garment industry.

      • Nicole

        I choose not to go to the Castro when my kids are with me. Mainly because of the shop windows, but also the nudity. I choose not to open my children’s eyes to hyper sexuality such as porn S&M, and nudity. If people want to walk around naked in the Castro, so be it. Don’t take your kids if you don’t want them to see. There are many wonderful family friendly places to visit in the city. I will add two of my kids father is transgender, and she herself wont let our children be subjected to sexually explicit subjects. That is how we chose to raise our children, and it doesn’t mean we teach our kids shame, FYI.

    • Adam

      Ridiculous. What gives you the right to specialize other people’s children?

      • Adam

        Damn auto correct. What gives you the right to sexualize other people’s children???

        • feens

          Ignorance is bliss. Sexualization starts the first time somebody, anybody asks if it’s a boy or a girl.

  • moderniste

    The whole defense I keep hearing about the incredibly fragile eyes of THE CHILDREN rings quite false to me. I grew up with parents who had a large group of friends who all had hot tubs, and after dinner parties,would disrobe and hang out for hours–and we kids saw everything and nary batted an eye. If you tell a child that nudity is sinful and terrible and will make God angry and spiteful, then yes, you might get some damaged kids. But none of my mates from childhood seemed very bothered by the whole thing.

  • Forum Producer

    Here’s the website that George Davis mentioned in reference to essay submissions: http://bit.ly/Ty7ynb

  • $11165038

    The fact of the matter, we don’t exist in our own individual bubbles where we can do what we want whenever we want. We have to exist with each other and there are times when nudity is appropriate and times when it is not. I think the average nudist know when they should be wearing clothes and when they do not have to but you have the extremist in every group who insist that their way is correct and everyone who disagrees is wrong. Unfortunately, the extremist give the more respectful and common sense in their group a bad name.

    • PDo1

      And then there’s Stephen Gough, the “Naked Rambler” who went to jail for 6 years in Scotland. He started out with one nude hike in Vancouver, B.C. and something clicked. “I love this so much, this will be my cause this lifetime, a personal freedom issue”. He remained naked all that time at the prison, and walked out the gate upon release, naked.

      His cause was not to offend anybody, only to be able to practice his personal freedom. I;ll paraphrase: “If you compromise with your integrity, then your psyche is split”.

  • Alicia

    Perhaps it is warmer in the Castro than it is here in the Richmond, but honestly how many days a year is it really warm enough to go nude in San Francisco? Most days I would think that the “offending portions” would be… er… minimized. I think Seinfeld referred to “shrinkage.” Most of the year I have nothing but a bit of grudging respect for anyone who goes nude in fog city. Brrrr….

    • PDo1

      Cool, indeed. I’ve heard it’s much warmer in Hayward, in fact most anywhere else in the Bay Area. But the laws are much tighter there.

  • Katherine

    If the nudists have become lewd to people, does that make it an enforcement issue?

  • Brian

    Hear, hear! While we’re at it, let’s ban short skirts; tank tops; skinny jeans; plunging necklines; low-rise jeans; and, especially, shirts that expose mid-riffs. Many current fashion choices leave little to the imagination already, how does it help to target nudity. At least they’re not being coy about it.

  • Elijah

    I live in the Castro, and have small children who have grown up here. My son was born at home in this neighborhood and is now at Harvey Milk elementary in the Castro. Nude guys don’t bother me. It doesn’t make me walk a different way to the library so I won’t pass the plaza. The porn shops and penis cookies at Hot Cookie don’t bother me.

    But I do think that these guys thrive in some way on being able to flaunt the traditional rules of behavior. There is one guy I regularly see who is not fully nude, usually wearing a shirt and no pants. I don’t think he is there to soak up the sun, I think that’s just trying to bask in attention.

  • Dg

    I’m an ACLU member who supports free speech. Some events are known for public nudity, and I’m glad they exist. Dog owners agree to limits on where their pets can run free…why not a dong park, which has signage letting the public know what they might see? Do we really need to display our genitals everywhere?

  • vik

    I tend to be pro-nudity in general, but I wonder: is there any evidence of children feeling inadequate after viewing nude adults due to their own bodies being less developed?

    • PDo1

      My opinion: children observe another person (naked or dressed)
      and think, “Will I look like that when I’m fully grown up?” I recall
      changing clothes in a mens’ locker room with 3 -9 yr old boys (strangers) who stared in awe. I was skinny, 14, 6’2″, not much for eye candy. So for kids, it’s anticipation of what they might become, and comparisons of adult shapes and forms to which they might aspire.

  • Free spirit

    The distinction is when nudity becomes lewd – which happens so easily and quickly in places where all sorts of people DO like to enjoy the freedom to be nude. As a life-long seeker of natural places to sit contemplatively and be naked, I’ve encountered far too many folks that become visibly aroused and pleasure themselves (or find a friend that helps out – far too common with many men at Baker’s Beach). I’m all in favor of our right to be nude but I’m also in favor of my right to not be subjected to lewd and sexual situations and/or encounters that happen in more secluded places and now, too, in the Castro. Anyone one person’s rights end where anothers’ begin.

  • Lisa Young

    I grew up in the Bay Area. A few years ago on a Sunday morning we had a caravan of 3 cars of family and friends with small children. We were on our way to a museum and got off the freeway. A festival for gay men was occurring-it was very offensive because the men were dressed in costume” some in french maid garb and others in motorcycle leathers, all with buttocks and genitalia exposed, many with adornments of “jewelry”. They were crossing the street in front of our cars and we tried to keep the small children diverted from the scene. I felt it was very inappropriate and there was no warning or detour to take.
    Lisa

  • Linni Austin

    A few years ago I was walking along Market Street and looked up to see a man, with big, tanned buttocks, tied up with leather accessories, go prancing down the street. Arggggh. Who wants to see that?

    • Andrew M.

      Years ago I went to the Castro Street Fair and there were scores of men wearing nothing but chaps demonstrating S&M, as part of the Street Fair exhibitions. I didn’t like looking at it, but I ignored it and went to watch the comedians and the bands instead. So it seems odd that now all of a sudden this is an issue.

  • todd

    people know what the Castro district is known for. if you don’t want to see a carrot avoid the produce aisle

  • mark

    it’s rarely warm enough to walk around San Francisco in shirt sleeves let alone nude. It really cannot be comfortable. These bloated wrinkled bozos are nothing but exhibitionists.

  • Sofie

    I grew up in San Francisco and was raised within a community of hippies, gay and lesbian, nudists, and “counterculturists”. While I do not prefer to go nude in public, I recognize that some people do and that their motivatons are in no way sexual or perverse. However, the plaza in question is very centrally located. Whether these gentlemen want to express themselves thru public nudity says nothing of the freedom of choice of other members of the public. Comfort with nudity is cultural. San Francisco is an all inclusive city, which means that we have citizens from around the world, some from more liberal cultures and others from more traditional cultures. There are areas of the city where nudity is acceptable- go to Baker Beach, start a club, strike an agreement with a local establishment to host nude people. More than anything, this is a matter of respect for individuality and choice for all involved.

  • Jon Gold

    These new nudists are aggressive about it, they seem to have an agenda and it’s not so benign…please, it’s an issue of hygiene and pressing attitude. It’s lewd, exhibitionism and wrong….you know it when you see it! Go to the beach and strip down! Not to a public center, circling and ‘preying’ on responses…

    • PDo1

      Perhaps a relaxation of restrictions on “where” nudists can do their promenade, wouldn’t that take the pressure off JW Plaza?
      Walking naked is not lewd, whereas naked swordplay and sexual acts would be lewd under current law. If I were doing nudity in public, I’d want to do it playing volleyball or tennis or basketball,
      all of which would likely be available in a park. However, nudity is not permitted in parks.

  • aitch

    If Jane Warner Plaza were an internet forum, we’d call these naked attention wh-res what they are: trolls. And they’d be banned. But, since it’s apparently going to be framed as a free speech issue, let me exercise some of my own and call them exactly what they are: sad, pathetic, attention-starved losers.

  • Mike Brennan

    You have to admit. There is something hilarious about talking about a law written by Scott Wiener to protect us from all the other wieners out there.

  • James A. Martin

    As the author of a play that addresses (undresses?) the topic of public nudity in San Francisco, just want to say that this is a city of pioneers and always has been. And like it or not, the public nudity movement is another example of this. I’m not particularly fond of seeing the public nudity, I love that I live in a city where we are even discussing this.

  • Katy Dickinson

    Thanks for another interesting program. Nudity in the Castro seems like a circumstance where moderation and mutual consideration should rule. I want to address those who say that concerns with public nudity are only American or puritanical. I hosted a conservative Muslim woman from the Middle East during the last month. When I took her to a San Jose soccer game, she found the male fans tearing off their shirts very disturbing. I avoided entirely taking her to my home town of San Francisco. I also avoid taking my Midwestern conservative relatives to SF. Some tourists may come to the city because of naked guys but maybe even more people avoid it?

    • San Francisco just seems to lose sight of the fact that it isn’t a town of 250, but an international business hub thankfully visited by millions of tourists all year long. I find many of my neighbors downright oblivious to the fact that they live in a community and that their actions do affect others. The right of the ONE prevails over the rights of the community as a whole. From using the streets and parks as an open sewer to double parking and blocking traffic lanes to forcing your nudity or sexualization of such nudity on the community. I don’t see other cities struggling with this pervasive entitlement that makes people think that the voice or opinion of ONE outweighs the rights of the community as a whole. Nudity is not a human rights issue, we have organizations that will gladly provide you with clothes if you are unable to afford them yourself. San Franciscan’s have a right to preserve our beautiful city and lift it up as the beacon that it always has been to so many around the world.

    • Andrew M.

      This is San Francisco, not Mayberry. And I’m sure a conservative Muslim would find plenty to be offended by in America as would a conservative midwesterner. I can understand your personal frustration with not being to show your friends and relatives the city. However, I’m sure you could take them to North Beach for a nice meal, or the top of Twin Peaks for a great view, or the Cliff House. Not the Castro or Polk Street though, but that’s their loss for being close minded.

  • Desmond94114

    The majority of the Castro is not for this ban. I keep hearing a majority are occupying Jane Warner Plaza but again, if you take a deeper look, they are very few and with that there are more meth heads tweaking and homeless people with shopping carts. We are only seeing the nudity because they are …well…. nude

  • Aaron

    I have a friend who is a nudist and is a friend to several of the male nudists who hang out in the Castro. He told me that several of the naked men in the Castro admitted to him that they take Cialis before taking off their clothes so that they are prone to getting erections in public. It’s just wrong!

    • Alan

      Some of these guys have also admitted to my face that they take an enhancement medication. I don’t want to see a ban on nudity because of the behavior of a few bad apples.

  • Chemist150

    Why is it always “guys”?
    There is some psychology here that needs to be addressed.

    • PDo1

      Women have security issues, one being the prevailing interpretation of rape law that includes incitement by how you dress. Many women refrain from showing any wrinkles in public, so vanity is a major factor for them. I hear that on rare occasions a lady will disrobe at the JW Plaza in SF. One hetero couple comes up from Silicon Valley to mingle naked in the crowd; they get nothing but praise for it. Maybe that’s the answer to the “naked old men” problem.

      I chuckle about all this…

  • Kelsey

    I live on 18th and Delores, I’m straight woman and frequent the Castro often to go to stores and I don’t feel it’s a big enough problem to have a law passed. If you don’t want to see it, or talk to your kids about it when they see it, don’t go. There are plenty of other close neighborhoods to visit or live. A few weeks ago I saw a naked man walking down 18th St in to the mission, so to say that they only stay in the Castro isn’t true. I fear that passing this law is too strict. I do however like the law about putting a cloth in between you and your necked bottom.

  • Steve

    I am a bay area born and raised gay male who regularly visits the Castro. And most week days and all nights that I go to the Castro it is the same one or two nude males who clearly get off on the views and the fact they make other gay men unconformable. It is these two males that are the issue at hand, that their intent clearly isn’t about being nude because it comes natural to us. If they were walking home from work or going to the market it wouldn’t be an issue but since the stroll up and down Castro between the Market and 18th street intersections they aren’t about nudity for the sake of nudity. So they are forcing others to participate in their sexual acts rather then expressing their rights to be nude.

  • Sam

    What was the website that George Davis mentioned to sumbit the essay on banning nudity. I got some points to make an essay? Please post the website name here. Thanks.

  • Adam

    These creeps are borderline pedophiles in my opinion. They have to know that there is always a chance that children will see them and their d***s. The last time I was in The Castro and saw these low-lifes they were either facing the plate glass window of a restaurant full of diners trying to enjoy their meals or facing the F street car full of tourists i.e. families with kids. If this is ok then are we cool with our elementary school teachers teaching class with their penis sticking out their flies? Pant-less school bus drivers anyone? They do it because they can and because they get off on it. I used to tell visitors that The Castro was a nice neighborhood. Now I will always tell anyone I can to stay as far away as they can

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Would LOVE to see every neighborhood in San Francisco have naked out of shape men and women walking/sitting around just to see how the city as a whole would think.

  • fsharp

    Being a SWM and now father of two, I still don’t really care about seeing men with erections in public. It’s the Castro. Public sexuality happens. But the continual persistence of this behavior by these few individuals after being asked to stop by so many community members does touch on an important issue that does make me uncomfortable. San Francisco has become a city of personal entitlement. Like another listener said, there is a pervasive attitude that an individual has more rights than the community. One can double park, cut in line, interrupt a movie, throw garbage on the sidewalk, urinate in public, flip off driver or cyclists, wander about naked with cock-rings and erections when it clearly upsets some people. Continuing this is protest and a giant FU to everyone else in the community. For those of us who believe in politeness and mutual respect it is confounding that these guys can keep it up against the wishes of the community. I don’t personally feel a great annoyance with seeing erections in public, even when I have my kids with me but it’s rude to defy the wishes of the community.

  • Andrew M.

    As many in the show pointed out, the store windows in the Castro include plenty of porn, sex toys, leather fantasy products etc. It’s hilarious to hear someone say nudity in the Castro offends them while the store windows are more sexual than the nudists. Supervisor Weiner doesn’t sound very bright as to his proposal. Let the Castro be the Castro.

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