In a somewhat sad turn of events, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has voted to ban public nudity.
Yeah, I can understand the sentiment behind the ban. The number of people who are grossed out or who find public nudity disturbing far outweigh people like myself, who find it mildly amusing at best. I always giggled a little when I saw our resident nudists in the Castro, and I found it outright hilarious when one of the gentlemen decided to go to Fisherman’s Wharf and give the tourists an eyeful. There were three women who were running from him and screaming while laughing. I’m sure they will be regaling their friends back home with the story of “that weird naked guy” they saw in San Francisco for years to come.
San Francisco has always been the place to go to push the envelope and challenge the status quo. From the Summer of Love in 1969, to Harvey Milk, to the Pride Parade, to Folsom Street Fair (don’t google that at work, please), we are a haven for those who don’t fit in with mainstream society. The nudists were part of that push against normalcy.
As a part of our mainstream society, it seems that people automatically equate nudity with sexuality. Naked bodies mean sex in popular culture. If you are a parent taking an adorable picture of your child in the bathtub, you’re suspected of child pornography, not thinking your child’s chubby thighs are cute.
If you want to sit outside and sip your coffee while naked, then you’re assumed to find the idea that someone is looking at you arousing. But that’s not what nudity is about. Just like any other subculture there are cultural rules, like putting down a towel before you sit down somewhere, and becoming visibly aroused is explicitly within the realm of Not Okay for nudists. It is about being free from clothing, not exhibitionism or voyeurism. It has absolutely nothing to do with sex, and I really think that is what the general population doesn’t understand.
I find it sad that the Board of Supervisors have banned public nudity. It seems like a cultural step backwards for San Francisco, especially considering the city’s rich history of being socially progressive. No one was being harmed by the city’s nudists. In fact, it forced me to re-think my attitude about nudity, and come to the conclusion that my initial feelings of “ewwww” were due to cultural conditioning.
There is nothing gross about the human body. It’s a pity that we can’t all just grow up and say, “If you don’t like it, don’t look!”