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Nudity Ban Would Exclude Parades, Fairs

by Matthew S. Bajko
Friday Sep 21, 2012
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Should District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener move forward with legislation to ban public nudity in San Francisco, the city’s parades and street fairs would be exempted under any such regulation.

The Bay Area Reporter broke the news last week that Wiener, a gay man who represents the Castro neighborhood where nudists congregate, is amenable to introducing a citywide public nudity ban at the board. A proliferation of naked men wearing cock rings in the city’s LGBT neighborhood, which Wiener says has generated numerous complaints, has led him to consider the need for a ban.

The legislation has yet to be drafted, insists Wiener, and he continues to say he has yet to make up his mind on if he will introduce it.

After last week’s story was published, Wiener contacted the B.A.R. to clarify that if he does submit a public nudity ban it would only apply to "streets, sidewalks, and public plazas." It would exempt such public gatherings as this Sunday’s Folsom Street Fair and the annual LGBT Pride celebration.

"Anything I would propose would not apply to parades and street festivals," said Wiener.

Technically, under the current rules, anyone can be naked on the streets of San Francisco as long as they are not aroused. While there is no written rule banning the wearing of cock rings, the police have been informing male nudists in the Castro not to sport the genital jewelry as doing so crosses the line into indecent behavior that is citable.

The city’s parks code does outlaw nudity for anyone over the age of 5. Section 4.01 lists what constitutes "disorderly conduct" in the parks, and specifies that includes a person exposing "his or her genitals, pubic hair, buttocks, perineum, anal region or pubic hair region or any portion of the female breast at or below the areola ..."

The argument over banning public displays of genitalia has been waging since 2011 due to press coverage of the nudists staking claim to Jane Warner Plaza at Castro and Market streets. A record crowd is expected at Saturday’s Nude-In at noon at the Castro parklet due to renewed media attention on the issue.

Several news outlets and websites picked up the B.A.R. ’s September 13 article, from local micro-blog SFist.com to the Village Voice’s gay chronicler of New York nightlife Michael Musto. San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius weighed in over the weekend and urged Wiener to submit the legislation at City Hall.

Comments posted online varied with people expressing support for a ban to those feeling it would be a waste of the supervisors’ time.

"Seems like a classic case of making a mountain out of a molehill which then increases its size accordingly," commented Lower Haight resident Thea Selby, who is running to be District 5 supervisor. "And, as a mom with two kids, I don’t think it’s freaky for kids to see naked people. Don’t look if you don’t like it."

Local gay artist princeHerman, who plans to be naked wearing a cock ring at his booth during Sunday’s Folsom fair, wrote a lengthy letter to the B.A.R. to explain why nudity should be tolerated.

"For the tourists, nudity needs to be protected as its one of the elements that creates the free spirit character of this city," wrote princeHerman, whose real name is Ronald Herman Symansky. "Responsible public nudity should be seen as an opportunity to embrace the diversity of values that exist in the world. It is a teaching opportunity about moral values with which an individual may agree or disagree."

Expressing the opposite view was Keith Folger, who has lived in the Castro for 23 years. He encouraged Wiener to push forward with a nudity ban.

"The majority of my friends who live on the street find it offensive and wish the guys would do it in the neighborhoods they live in, not come to the liberal Castro where they feel like they can do whatever they want," wrote Folger. "So what if a couple Japanese tourists want to get their picture taken with the nude men, it is not increasing the business in the neighborhood one bit. Those people taking pictures are getting right back on the F line and going back downtown."

Peter Hartikka suggested that the city designate Jane Warner Plaza a public park, "which would automatically outlaw nudity there. If people still feel a need to display their genitals in public, they can go to Baker Beach."

The debate will have its theatrical debut Friday night with the opening of the Left Coast Theatre Company’s show Family Programming. The collection of seven short plays includes the 10-minute comedy The Buck Naked Church of Truth.

Written by local gay playwright James A. Martin, the vignette centers on a father encountering his young son and a friend sans clothing in the Castro. It is inspired by the ongoing debate about the neighborhood’s real life nudists.

"I noticed that a lot of my friends [both gay and straight] were talking about it. It was a really divisive topic," said Martin. "It pushed people’s buttons."

His play, which features full frontal nudity, doesn’t take a side on the issue, said Martin.

"I felt both sides had a valid argument. I want the audience afterwards to kind of go out and discuss where they are on the topic," he said.

The show opens September 21 and runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights through October 13 at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter Street in San Francisco. For tickets visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/260482.

Copyright Bay Area Reporter. For more articles from San Francisco's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.ebar.com

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