Why Wiener’s Nudity Ban Is Bad for Everybody

Written by Andrew "Ellard" Resignato. Posted in Culture, Opinion, Politics

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Published on December 02, 2012 with 47 Comments

Scott Wiener

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener is the sponsor of legislation that aims to ban public nudity in San Francisco. File photo by Luke Thomas.

By Andrew “Ellard” Resignato, guest contribution

December 2, 2012

“Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character had abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and courage which it contained.”  – John Stuart Mill

The final vote on San Francisco’s nudity ban is this upcoming Tuesday, December 4. This draconian law represents a serious failure of leadership on the part of Supervisor Scott Wiener and brings up many interesting questions about this issue and the direction of our city.

First, if there is sexual and lewd conduct going on in Jane Warner Plaza then why is the current law section 314 of the CA penal code, which covers lewd behavior in public, not enforced?  Why is such a broad ban needed for a problem that could be solved by applying the laws on the books? Why haven’t some of the solutions to the issue offered by the nudist themselves been explored by Wiener? Do we really need to limit personal freedoms on this level for this problem?

I think the answers have less to do with alleged lewd behavior or exhibitionism and more to do with the ‘c’ word. Yes, ‘c’ for conservative. It seems the sterility that befell Manhattan is creeping into our city and Wiener is looking more and more like the San Francisco version of Rudolf Giuliani.

San Francisco has always led the way in important fights that challenge the current social paradigms. We constantly pat ourselves on the back about this, as we should.  This fight over a nudity ban is no different. Nudity offends ‘some’ people – but should we ban things in our society and especially our city because they offend ‘some’ people? If this were the way we operated, think about how different our city would be. I’m sure there have been many people who want to ban the Folsom Street Fair, but San Francisco has been a leader in pushing back against the conservative, repressive, tendencies of our society. It is almost our responsibility to be more open and tolerant.

Walt Whitman said, “Is not nakedness indecent? No, not inherently. It is your thought, your sophistication, your fear, your respectability, that is indecent. There come moods when these clothes of ours are not only too irksome to wear, but are themselves indecent.”

Lewd behavior in public is and should be against the law, but nude is not lewd. The body is natural and banning nudity in public sends a signal that nudity is bad. Children are not harmed or traumatized by seeing nude people. Sure they might have questions about it but the honest answers to those questions are important to the healthy development of that child. Children are more harmed by the violence and limited body images that they are exposed to everyday in the media.  They are more harmed by sexual repression or our society’s failure to prioritize education. The list goes on.

One important tenet of nudism is a taking back of what profiteers and social conservatives have stolen – love for our bodies. Nudism, or the ‘body freedom movement,’ is springing from the need for our society to come to grips with some of the warped feelings we have around body image and sexuality. It is not surprising that San Francisco is at the front lines of this fight.

Many people feel that the nudity ban isn’t an important concern compared with the many other important problems facing our city – and they may be right. However, I do believe there are deeper issues at play here. This law is discriminatory by exempting some permitted events while excluding other events that do not have costly permits and might want to use nudity as a convention.  Also at issue is the idea that nudity is a form of political speech. Examples are plentiful. Lastly, is this the new way we deal with acomplex issue in our city, with overreaching laws that limit freedom? That is not my San Francisco.

Unless Board President David Chiu changes his vote and votes for what is best for San Francisco instead of for his political ambitions to run for the State Assembly, it looks as if the 6-5 vote will hold up and another ‘only in San Francisco’ phenomenon will be gone. There are cities, in fact all of them, where there are no nude people hanging out in plazas, riding bikes, walking down the street, or running in marathons.  The naked truth is that the loss of the eccentric things that make our city a unique and important antidote to the status quo is a loss for everybody.

Andrew “Ellard” Resignato was born in Brooklyn, NY, and educated in the New Jersey public school system. He is an East Coast refugee who enjoys SF culture, people and waves.

Andrew "Ellard" Resignato

Andrew “Ellard” Resignato was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey. A public health advocate, economist, musician, filmmaker, foodie, and part-time philosopher - he moved to San Francisco 10 years ago and currently resides in Japantown. He ran for Supervisor of District 5 in 2012.

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Comments for Why Wiener’s Nudity Ban Is Bad for Everybody are now closed.

  1. The Constitution is THE DECIDER, NOT us, @1d65332e78280c83ee711af540f81a1a:disqus. Bans on public nudity – especially in California (which legalized public breastfeeding) – do NOT pass the Constitutionality test. This ban on public nudity violates the 1st, 9th, 13th and 14th Amendments – AT LEAST.

  2. Huh ?
    WHO made you ‘the Decider’ of San Francisco ??
    Have you been elected in your homeless shelter?
    At least you still have your freedom to be intolerant
    (and mentally challenged)

    Public nudity has never been allowed in SF until last few yeears

  3. I don’t understand why anyone who has a problem with public nudity would live in San Francisco in the first place.  Your kind is not really welcome here, as if it wasn’t obvious. If you have children with sensitive eyes, why not move to the burbs? Thanks for instead choosing to strip away more of our freedoms. Thanks for nothing.

    • When exactly has there ever been a right to be naked in public? At certain special events in the city, it’s tolerated, more or less. Like Critical Mass, if this creepy cause ever gets on the ballot, it will lose decisively.

    •  I came here in 1976
      There was little or no public nudity in 1976
      Very FEW San Franciscans participate jn public nudity
      Primarily they are exhibitionists
      People who can’t get attention any other way
      Sad, pathetic losers

      • Breastfeeding was not allowed in SF in 1976, either. Nor was gay marriage. And abortion would’ve still been banned had it not been for Roe v. Wade.

        A lot has changed in the nearly 37 years you came to the city. And the bans on public nudity need to go the way of all other anti-freedom laws that originated from the slavery South.

        •  There’s a difference between breast feeding and full nudity
          If you think San Franciscans will support public nudity, circulate a petition
          Put it on the ballot
          I doubt that you’ll get many signatures

          • Prop 8 didn’t get many signatures either and you know how that went.

    •  How often do You walk around nude in San Francisco
      You’d be pretty hypocritical if you defend it so strongly and don’t participate
      Public Nudity – GO FOR IT, Michael  !!

    • The answer to all things, “if you dont like it move to the suburbs”.  Boy that gets so tiring.  Well how about this one, you have all the rights to do whatever you want, but “The Right To Swing Your Fist Ends Where My Nose Begins”… perhaps other people do not want to see these individuals.  How about being naked in your apartment and then invite over all your friends.

  4. I’m one of Scott Weiner’s constituents
    I took my wife a college age daughters to Canelas tapas bar on Market Street near Sanchez
    We parked on 16th Street and promptly passed a group of four naked old men
    I don’t want to see that
    Neither did my wife or daughters
    I wrote Supervisor Wiener complaining about public nudity
    I also told him we’d never return to Upper Market Street as long as nudity was permitted
    WHO wants to see a bunch of Ugly old naked men ?
    Exhibitionism is not freedom
    Find another way to get attention

    • And if they were hot sexy woman topless, I doubt your sensibilities would have been so disturbed! Your moral approach to protecting your family against “ugly old men” says more about you and your prejudice, than it does about a few nude people in a massive city!

  5. This is a distraction issue.  A true red herring if there ever was one.  Meanwhile, major changes are afoot in our city’s planning code and serious threats challenge the city we now know and love – as it shifts to become an upper income only enclave – a place where apartments are converted into tourist hotels and those few that remain are priced in the two to five thousand dollar per month range.   Wake up and smell the change.  The real issues are about changes in our urban planning, codes and enforcement.

  6. Oh I do so agree that this supervisor is responding to his constituents, which are the conservative merchants group, conservative business district group and rabid residents (including those who hate on the homeless and street people of the Castro) and who have directed nothing but hate and bullying towards the few naked guys.  This is the same conservative supervisor who hates homeless and street people and campaigned for sit-lie (Prop L) and then created a second version of it for the Milk and Warner Plazas.   We need a city-wide ban for up to 10 people in one small area of one neighborhood?  Loco.  I’m in this guy’s district and he certainly doesn’t respond to my concerns as “his constituents.”  He ignores them because he has an agenda.  He’s been unofficially running for mayor since he became a supervisor.  Many people these days are so willing and quick to give up any and all rights in the name of newspeak terminology.  They claim there are exceptions to this ban.  Well how the hell will one get to those events when one can’t be nude on the metro, for example, because of the city-wide ban still in effect?  That would force one to take a private vehicle or taxi to those events.  How progressive!  How liberal! How green!  What nonsense!  How about let’s turning San Francisco back into the accepting, progressive community it used to be.  From my understanding due to the lawsuit, the ban would not go into effect until February 2013, if at all (due to the lawsuit).  If one has a problem with nudity, google Gymnophobia.

    • No, it’s not just “conservative merchants” who object to the militant nudists. I for example am a more or less liberal Democrat and an Obama supporter, and I object. In fact Wiener failed in his first attempt at dealing with this issue, with his silly napkin proposal. As if what we have is a public health issue. Instead this is about a militant minority trying to bully the majority. Nor do I know of any evidence that Wiener “hates” homeless people. He supports sit-lie? So do I. The street punks of Haight Street—along with the nudists, of course—are also freedom fighters?

      Wiener will have a hard time getting elected mayor, especially with his poorly-conceived proposal to limit initiatives and making CEQA more difficult for the public to use to resist City Hall projects. As a center-left Democrat, I would never support Wiener.

      • “I for example am a more or less liberal Democrat and an Obama supporter…”

        Well that doesn’t mean anything these days.

        “LIberal Democrat” and “center-left” and other “left” bull shit labels have become meaningless considering most of Obama’s policies are to the right of Republican George W. Bush.  It merely shows how low and gutter-based the “Democratic” Obama supporters and so-called “liberal Democrats” have lowered themselves to and have become in order to support a politician to the right of Bush calling himself a “Democrat.”  The hypocrites would never have voted for Bush (I couldn’t stand Bush), yet support and vote for the same policies from Mr Drone/Obama.  What blatant hypocrites!

        A “to kill” list anyone?

        • That is almost as bad as the bullshit of being called a “progressive” which is a code word for Communist.  Folks who support Hugo Chavez, David Campos and the like.  Free shit for me, and have someone else pay for it.  Open the borders.  Nationalize businesses.  And they are more than willing to take Democratic endorsements and money (Campos, Mar) to keep their government jobs.  That’s also hypocracy.  

      • If you support sit/lie, you are disqualified to talk about freedom.
        What freedom could be more important than the right to rest and sleep?
        Most of the homeless are to exuasted to think coherently about politics.  But a few  some of them actualy are
        freedom fighters.

  7. Let’s be fair to Supervisor Wiener.  He is responding to his constitutents’ concerns.  That’s what supervisors do.  Draconian means severe, oppressive.  As I understand Wiener’s proposed anti-nudity law, nudity would still be allowed at San Francisco’s street fairs, festivals, the gay parade and beaches (which are under federal control).  That way if someone attends the Folsom Fair or gay parade, they are forewarned that they might encounter nudity.   To me, that is certainly not draconian or conservative.  Rather, it is a balance between a total ban on nudity in public places and no law at all.  For example, Berkeley — that bastion of conservatism — has a law saying it is against the law “for any person to appear nude in any place open to the public or any place visible from a place open to the public.”  San Jose has a similar law.   By the way, proving “sexual or lewd” conduct under the penal code is difficult.  There may be a First Amendment issue here.  But the First Amendment is not absolute.  San Francisco has the right to adopt laws concerning a “public nuisance” as long as the laws are not unreasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.  Guess the court will decide whether public nudity is a public nuisance and whether the partial ban is reasonable.I note that the Naked Cowboy who hangs out in New York City’s Times Square wears briefs.

  8. “It’s just another lifestyle and I want respect for it.”!!!
    Dont forbid us too do what we believe in just because sensitive people cant handle our livity.

    I am against religions and I believe there should be no signs of religions in our society but i am not able to ban or stop it, therefore dont try to ban us nudists from living how we want to live

    we dont rape, we dont kill, we dont steal, we do no harm, we simplay want to feel free and be the way god made us

    • You are a slut any way Daria ! You half-breed-hooker

  9. Miss Victoria N Era–crass potitical opprotunist is sefl combusting

  10. fight for the right of being nude

  11. And then comes along those who will INSIST that ALL nudity be banned and that will include ALL of the arts…Seriously, SF, what are thinking???  How draconian are you going to become? Close the museums? Close the libraries?  Ban movies that are anything by G?  OR is this simply to prevent women from breast-feeding in public?  What rock are you trying to climb back under and drag the rest of us with you??

  12. The people of San Francisco have for years been telling city progressives that they don’t want to live in their world—of a do-nothing policy on homelessness, of graffiti/tagging vandalism as a cool art genre, of street punks dominating Haight Street (sit-lie), of no JROTC in public schools, of public power, of legalized prostitution, and now of nudism!

    And does anyone doubt that city voters would reject Critical Mass, another annoying prog demo, if it was on the ballot?

    San Francisco progressives are beginning to parody themselves. If I didn’t already know Resignato from his recent vacuous political campaign in District 5, I would suspect that he’s a satirist.

    • You’re as obsessed with bikes as Weiner is with naked children.  What do you think of the nudity ban?  Are you on the pro-family side, or the pro-pedophile side?

      • It should be obvious that I support the ban. And you ignore the six other issues I mention along with Critical Mass. Nor is this a matter of family verus pedophiles. There’s just no sensible jusitifcation for allowing people to go naked in the city, with certain events excepted, like the Fulton Street fair and Bay to Breakers when the exhibitionists can exercise their bogus right to go without clothing.

        • An 8-year old showing too much butt on the playground is an “exhibitionist?”  Regardless of your opinions on graffiti and public power, it’s not OK to sexualize young kids.  These conservative supervisors are determined to drive families out of SF to make more room for their rich, single techie constituents.

          • Who is talking about 8-year-old children? And I really doubt that working people in SF support this creepy exhibitionism.

            • You should read the legislation before supporting it–it applies to kids as young as five.  If you think a naked five year old is a “creepy exhibitionist” you might have a career as a Moderate supervisor!

        •  I love the Fulton Street Fair – every year it just gets more WILD!!

          • Okay, but the issue here is whether we should turn every day and every neighborhood into something like the Fulton Street Fair.

    • I notice that you never let the facts get in your way.

      The more objective and complete story is that sit-lie lost in the Haight where the measure began:

      Sit/Lie Lost In Haight, Won In Pac Heights, Seacliff, West of Twin Peaks
      Haight Voters Rejected Sit/Lie: But Money and Votes from City’s
      Richest Hoods — Pacific Heights, Seacliff, West of Twin Peaks — Made
      for Successful Measure L


      • That link takes us to a piece by Chris Roberts that tells us sit-lie lost by less than 200 votes in the Haight, not exactly a landslide. The main reason the sit-lie problem is worse in the Haight than in other neighborhoods is that these folks would sleep in nearby Golden Gate Park and then bring their pit bulls over to Haight Street to panhandle enough money to buy drugs and food. Which wouldn’t have been so bad except for the obnoxious, bullying behavior. 

        • Well regardless of what you call yourself, your reactions are very right-wing.  Of course you wouldn’t like the link source!  From my experience with the right-wing, no link I provide is ever sufficient for them, they never like the linked source/article, regardless of the source, (excluding Faux News).  Regardless of how much sit-lie lost by in the Haight, my point was that it lost in the Haight and “Haight (sit-lie)” is often touted by the right-wing as you did and I quote, “of street punks [sic] dominating Haight Street (sit-lie).” 

          And no need to hate on people by referring to other human beings by the pejorative word, “punks.”

          • Your attempt at defining local issues in national political terms is unsuccessful. Obama and Bush are similar politically? That’s fringe-left nonsense. No one hates the naked guys—and why is it mostlhy guys? We just want them to keep their clothes on. The reality is that street punks—and that’s the right word—were a nuisance on Haight. Yes, punks are in fact human beings, more or less.

            • “Obama and Bush are similar politically?”

              In reality, overall Obama is to the right of Bush and most people who have been paying close attention to Obama’s record since he took office already know that.  I would give you credible links to support that, but I know you would automatically dismiss the links.  Mr Drone’s (Obama’s) disciples make excuses for him but the same people would have been in the streets protesting Bush for the same policies.  Where are they today?  Silent or making excuses for their Obama, living in Denial and the ubiquitous Attack the Messenger™ routine by calling someone’s post “fringe left nonsense.”

              • I’d like to hear some specifics on how Obama is to the right of Bush. I understand why you don’t want to provide links in support of that fanciful notion. The last link you provided wasn’t very helpful for your argument.

                •  I guess neither endorse public nudity or legalized weed
                  WOW !!
                  The so-called ‘Left’ in the Bay Area is really goofy

  13. The bill should be amended to only apply to where there is a problem, the Castro and Upper Market Neighborhood Commercial Districts to send a strong message that compulsive, creepy exhibitionism every sunny afternoon is not a good idea in an NCD.  That will put pressure on the urban nudists to change their conduct or else see a total ban on nudity citywide.  Folks don’t have a problem with casual, occasional nudity.  It is the creepy, compussive “intententional nudity” that creeps people out. 

    The SFPD often does not enforce state law if it wants to see a reaction that creates a conservative backlash in local law.  It is my read that they are not enforcing 314 for this reason.

  14. What’s especially weird about the legislation is that it applies to children as young as five.  If the problem is lewd and sexual conduct, it isn’t pre-adolescent kids who are committing it.  Why are Weiner and the other conservative supervisors so obsessed with naked kids?

  15. Weiner represents the America that we DO NOT want. Bans on public nudity are just what the terrorists want, so they can claim victory.

    •  Then, how did he get elected Supervisor ?
      If your position is so popular, RUN against Weiner !!

      Maybe you could campaigh Nude

  16. He actually makes some good points. Why not just in force existing laws against lewd behavior.

  17. I wouldn’t call the ban bad, maybe just a little cockeyed?