Much ado about nudity

Is this really a crime (other than the coconut juice in a can)? Photo by Mike Koozmn, SF Newpsaper Co.

There was no public outcry when Pedro Villamore, a 44-year-old homeless gay man, was found dead in a doorway in the 500 block of Castro Street last December, a couple of weeks before Christmas and across the street from the holiday tree that the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro puts up every year to welcome big spenders into the neighborhood.

MUMC, which in years past opposed three homeless queer youth shelters and a free meals program at a local gay church, did not decry the fact that a member of our community died on the street -- and where were the city’s homeless outreach teams? Nor did any of the residents of the neighborhood express any concern that others who have a problem with methamphetamine, the area’s drug of choice, might meet a similar fate -- and shouldn’t the community be doing something about it?

Of course, if he had been one of the nudists who hang out naked in the Castro these days Villamore would’ve found himself on the front-page of Bay Area Reporter, the city’s gay weekly, while he was still alive. Not to mention the target of diatribes from the SF Chronicle’s chronically right-wing columnist C.W. Nevius.  

Sadly enough, a neighborhood that once stood for sexual and personal freedom has succumbed to anti-nudism hysteria, even to the point of echoing Anita Bryant’s old rallying cry, “Save the children!”

Hysteria it is, of epic proportions. Some Castro residents and MUMC merchants actually persuaded their elected official, Supervisor Scott Wiener, to introduce anti-nudism legislation because a few naked men prance around the hood au natural, even sometimes sporting (horrors!) cock rings on their dicks. In a neighborhood where there’s no dearth of cock rings or any other sex toy, not to mention every variety of gay porn imaginable, and where guys walk around bars in underwear, residents don’t want public nudity. Huh? The neighborhood’s historic live-and-let-live attitude has obviously gone the way of Halloween and being able to walk into Pink Saturday without being scanned by a metal detector.

Has gay marriage and the freedom to “be all that you can be” in the military afflicted residents of the Castro with assimilation fever? What’s next -- fundraising parties for Mitt Romney or a Castro chapter of the Moral Majority?

In a community that, according to a recent Williams Institute study, is rampant with poverty and suffers a serious lack of full-time employment for transgender people (75%, according to a report from this paper and the Transgender Law Center), not to mention a major drug and alcohol problem that makes gay men easy targets for muggings as they leave the bars at night, you’d think that public nudity would the last thing on anyone’s mind.  

People with AIDS continue to be pushed out of apartments in the Castro so that landlords and realtors can make tons of dough and LGBT seniors are forced to live with little economic or social support, regular cuts to services and benefits, and discrimination and isolation in nursing care facilities.

Yet from the volume of letters in the BAR and the number of calls Wiener says he’s received, you’d think that public nudity is the biggest problem in the world.

Pedro Villamore might disagree with that.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca has been a queer activist for the past 42 years, and a Castro resident for 20. He is editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: the early years of gay liberation (City Lights).


public nudity serves no public purpose. Most of us prefer not to have to see some sad old queen flopping his dick around, in the Castro or anywhere else. And yes, the Castro has changed since the 70s. Either get over it or get used to being arrested for exposing your cock ring to little kids.

Posted by Ruth Bladder Ginsu on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 11:50 am

Listen to yourself. Since when must every individual lifestyle choice serve a "public purpose?" Most of us prefer to not have to deal with a million a things we deal with in our daily lives. Does that mean that all of those annoyances should be made illegal?

Reality check. Just because you don't like something doesn't mean you get to eliminate it from existing in public. I know you don't see it that way and that's, in all sincerity, precisely why you'd be happier living in Walnut Creek than a city like SF with strangers who look differently, live differently and see the world differently than you.

Incidentally, virtually every single argument being made against being nude in public was once (or still is in some places) made against people being openly gay in public.

But whatever. You prudes will likely win this at the Board of Supes and we'll be one step close to making this city a wholly sanitized, mean, and boring ass city. Sadly, I doubt this bothers you.

Posted by Andy Blue on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

It's not about annoyance or legality; it's about aesthetics.

Posted by Chromefields on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

what on Earth are you doing legislating aesthetics then? It is a banal exercise of abhorrent morals and mistaken philosophy.

Posted by Sister Unity on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 10:11 pm

I have no idea what that means.

Posted by Chromefields on Oct. 05, 2012 @ 6:09 am

The notion that the naked human body is inherently aesthetically unpleasing is a medieval concept derived from the moral philosophy of Natural Law. Aquinas’s theory proceeds from a priori principles that assume biblical revelation has an inherent truth value. In other words, it is a moral theory that dates from a period in human history where the bible was assumed to be true. The truth of religious scripture is a foundational assumption of the theory and the whole theory proceeds via Aristotelian syllogistic logic from these assumed premises. The prevailing view of the body as being somehow, dirty, corrupted, sinful, etc., is derived from this outdated moral paradigm ( a rather banal one, given that views derived from outdated religious thinking are commonplace) and these philosophical underpinnings act as the principle driver of the aesthetic valuation of nudity you espouse. It is worth noting, that this same moral theory is the theory invoked by the Catholic Church to explain its stance on abortion and homosexuality. I would say that this moral theory is “abhorrent” to most San Franciscans (given San Francisco’s support for GLBT community), and most contemporary ethicists would characterize this theory as “mistaken” as it is generally considered anachronistic if not outright oppressive. I doubt you have St. Thomas or St. Augustine in mind when you make your aesthetic appraisal of nudity, but ideas derived from the philosophical work of church fathers have been ingrained in society’s collective unconscious for hundreds years. Furthermore, classical political theory assumes that political decisions are inherently moral decisions. In academic circles political philosophy is often understood to be an area of applied ethics, so the paradigm one chooses when deciding to legislate is a valid concern. Please don’t read this as me saying you can’t hold your views about the aesthetics of nudity, or that I am picking an argument with anyone, I am just saying that Sister Unity’s comment is not empty gobbledygook. I’m not coming down on one side or another; I am just trying to explain Sister Unity’s statement as I understand it. I believe she is challenging the intellectual basis for your belief, and she is skeptical of the value of future legislative outcomes derived from your line thinking.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2012 @ 10:20 am

And in some ways, it isn't. The moral of the story is a matter of relativity for the sake of perspective. I went to San Fran a few months ago with my now-fiance. We did a whole US tour, which included Dallas, Orlando, New York, and LA. And while San Francisco was a beautiful city, the one thing we noticed was the enormous social divide that existed between the better-off and the destitute - wider than any other city we'd been to that month. Yes, there are some people that choose to not wear clothing in public, and I personally don't get it. Ignoring the fact that there's nowhere to keep your personal affects (unless you wear that greatest sin of humanity, the fanny pack), it's confusing that such, shall we say, delicate parts are left exposed to the elements. But at least they have the choice to do so. At least they can choose to leave all their clothes at home, instead of having to wear and carry all of their clothes at once because they have no home in which to leave them.

And that's the point of this article, which I feel is being missed in the outrage. It's not an article saying "this is good and everyone should adopt it." It's an article making the point that there is public outcry over the wrong thing. There's outrage over being nude in public, there's outrage over why it should be allowed, there's outrage over other people's outrage. But take a moment to measure yourselves and give the article a second reading, really taking in the fact that there is no advocacy for the practice beyond demonstrating its relative lack of injury to the public as compared to the actual hardships others must endure.

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Posted by whites mxt 300 metal detector on Oct. 14, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

But it is completely unrelated to the nude losers in the Castro.

Those men come to the neighborhood simply to get off on walking around naked and making people look at their junk. Are there bigger problems in the city and elsewhere that need to be addressed?- certainly- but that does not mean this is not a valid issue that people have a right to be upset about.

Posted by D. Native on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

Nudity is natural, and little exposure never hurt anybody, and if you want to shelter your little children move to the burbs. I absolutely agree with the author here, the conversation should be about the meth epidemic here in sf especially in the queer community, and about homelessness, the displaced seniors and youth without resources and services in a city, which is suppose to be the most liberal and progressive place in america? Let us get away from the hysterics and into some real problems please.

Posted by Emma on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

I see. So a Castro gay couple who decides to have a baby should be forced to leave the neighborhood if they don't want their small child exposed to nude genitals?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

Their baby will survive seeing a few naked people. I'd rather have kids see naked people than see tobacco billboards. The latter can actually harm them, unlike the former.

True, some parents don't want their kids to see naked people. That sux. I feel for their kids. Some parents also don't want their kids to see gay people in public. Do we need to accommodate them too?

Posted by Greg on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

no one really cares about the meth epidemic in the queer community, and that's not what the article's about. Focus, Emma, focus.

Posted by Orwell's Uterus on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 1:33 pm

Frankly, given the demographic of the nudists (non-young, non-disadvantaged white men, many of whom are straight -- and who thus don't belong to any of the designated SFBG victim groups), I'm surprised to see the Bay Guardian Politburo defending them. Poor queer people of color don't spend their days hanging out naked in Jane Warner Plaza. Why is that?

When a few of the nudists showed up in the Mission recently, they were copiously bashed (and threatened) online by Mission residents pointing out that they represent the very worst aspects of white privilege.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

Isn't being online still somewhat of an aspect of white privilege?

Posted by marcos on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

Marcos, of course, because almost no person of color has even seen such an exotic and new-fangled thing as a computer. It's not like they would have access to one connected to the Internet in a school, a library, a community center, a Kinkos, or, gasp, their own homes (it would be just inconceivable that persons of colors might be able to purchase, or even receive as a gift or hand-me-down, a luxury item like a computer, television, or even a cell phone).

I am sure that the few persons of color who have ever seen a computer have only done so because some generous white person out of a sense of noblesse oblige graciously let them borrow one for a few glorious minutes that they will now remember for the rest of their simple lives.

Posted by Chris on Oct. 05, 2012 @ 12:20 am

It is simply a fact that the more individual freedoms we roll back and the more people we make feel unwelcome in San Francisco, the more mainstream, sanitized, boring, conservative, irrelevant, and heartless this city will become.

This stuff matters. It really does.

Public nudity may not be your thing--it doesn't happen to be mine--but it's harmless and, in some small way (no snickering!) is part of what makes San Francisco a more free and inclusive city than most. Without freedom and inclusiveness, San Francisco won't be San Francisco anymore. If all you care about is real estate prices, than maybe this doesn't bother you. But if you do care about maintaining this city as a beacon of free and independent thought and as an incubator of progressive and humanist ideas and movements, than you should definitely care every time Chuck Nevius, Scott Weiner, etc. try to roll back our rights and exclude more people from our community.

Posted by Andy Blue on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

is a place of free and open thought?

Posted by matlock on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

if it happens to be the right way of thinking and speaking.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

For Christ Sake this is San Francisco. If Scott Dick does not like it move to East Bay.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 1:39 pm

Nudity is natural, and little exposure never hurt anybody, and if you want to shelter your little children move to the burbs. I absolutely agree with the author here, the conversation should be about the meth epidemic here in sf especially in the queer community, and about homelessness, the displaced seniors and youth without resources and services in a city, which is suppose to be the most liberal and progressive place in america? Let us get away from the hysterics and into some real problems please.

Posted by Emma on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

Which has escalated from the desire to simply be nude, to then wanting to wear cock rings, to now explaining to the prudish masses that the inevitable hard-ons which come with cock rings are "natural" and that if you don't like to see naked men with erections in a public space then you're clearly uptight. People are sick of it - this isn't an issue of "weirdness" or freedom - it's one group literally shoving itself in everyone else's faces with greater and greater demands which infringe on the right of other people to be comfortable in public spaces.

Tommy's tune is out-of-date. Like Tommy.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

Why you feel it necessary to add the mean-spirited personal insult, all the while hiding behind your cowardly anonymous screen name? Did you think this might make your argument more effective (guess what? it doesn't) or do you just take personal satisfaction out of being rude?

While I don't see this as at all limited to being a gay issue, the irony is that virtually every argument being made against public nudity has been (and still is in many places) made against people being openly homosexual. Don't believe me? Let's try it out on your comment.

"People are sick of it - this isn't an issue of "weirdness" or freedom - it's one group literally shoving itself in everyone else's faces with greater and greater demands which infringe on the right of other people to be comfortable in public spaces."

This is exactly what a homophobe would say about homosexuals holding hand or kissing in public. Yep, exactly.

Posted by Andy Blue on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

Public erections are not the same as GLBT people holding hands and the desire to wear cockrings and display one's genitals to the masses is not the same as open homosexuality - as a gay man I know the difference, you appear not too. The fact that you cannot tell the difference between the two indicates that you have serious problems with both your level of sexual development and emotional maturity. You may want to get help - you clearly need it.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

says. There is absolutely no connection between what Troll II says and facts except perhaps on occasion as anomaly.

Why would someone name themselves "Troll"? Why is a troll a troll?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

"Public erections are not the same as GLBT people holding hands and the desire to wear cockrings and display one's genitals to the masses is not the same as open homosexuality."

No one said they were, idiot. Did you actually read the comment you think you responded to?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 9:15 pm

Lets try...

The anti public nudity people are just like pro-lifers who complain that abortions are bloody. Being against public nudity is like being opposed to abortion because it is ugly.

Quite easy to string this non sense out.

Posted by matlock on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

dude, you're not a very good writer.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

Troll 11 Lighten up stop beinf a prude and get a life, There are much more serious things to worry about.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

There is no real problem with nudity and it doesn't really bother me to see a nude person on the street. If children are around just explain it to them. And, remember if you ignore it--it just might go away!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

But you see, that would be using common sense and taking simple responsibility. And uptight yuppies will NEVER do that. It's always somebody else's problem. And now the goal is (as usual), to strip more people of their basic rights and freedoms and replace them with buttoned-up carbon-copy clones of themselves... polo shirts, khakis and all.

"But what about the children?!?!?" scream the yuppies.

Children don't see anything wrong with nudity - until their uptight yuppie parents tell them there's something wrong with nudity. A culture of repression just leads to more repression (and leads to perversion as well).

Really, the "children" argument is old, and it's utter B.S. in this case.

And as for the cock rings, erections, etc... well, for one, I haven't seen any of this personally, but that much aside, if we're going to ban cock rings and natural bodily functions, then we must also ban women from wearing visible nipple rings, clit piercings, etc..., and a woman walking around braless with erect nipples should be arrested. "What about the children?!?!?", right?

Posted by Guest on Oct. 05, 2012 @ 11:42 am

There is no real problem with nudity and it doesn't really bother me to see a nude person on the street. If children are around just explain it to them. And, remember if you ignore it--it just might go away!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 4:19 pm

Don't like 2/5 of all families living on earth do so in a single room domicile, as in everyone sees everyone doing everything? This notion that seeing naked people harms children is unsubstantiated.

Existing laws can handle cock rings and lewd conduct in neighborhood commercial districts.

Posted by marcos on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

...some realtors are having an awkward time showing properties thereabouts.

Posted by Chard on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 6:15 pm

this issue is not about penises, as the media would suggest or a dispute between puritanical values and free speech. It's an issue of rape - the rape of a community and all that it represents, the rape of the residents of that community and the rape of the gblbt movement. a small group of old, white males, gay and straight, have decided to create a clothing-free community in my neighborhood, the historic castro neighborhood and, as a result, this scenario has attracted more and more old, white men coming from further away just to wave their penises at anyone and everyone. it's gotten so bad, on some days there is hardly a child or old person to be seen in my streets; only more old, naked white men showing their penises to my neighbors and I . This phenomen has to be understood in the context of San Francisco today. There is a fear the straights are taking over the Castro, and for some of these exhbitionists, it’s a way of marking the terrority and sending a message to all those babystrollers that up until recently have also taken over the neighborhood. Several of these naked men are clearly just perverts and I have found myself stunned by what I see some days just when I walk to the grocery store. The situation however has really jarred a lot of people… seeing a large contingency of old, naked white men everyday. The other day I saw a naked man in the plaza all by himself who must have been near hundred years of age, stark naked . I had to ask myself if I really really offended because I knew that was me some day. I don't know what all this means. Is the GLBT movement dead? Is San Francisco about to become a bastion of conservatism? All I know is that I have a greater appreciation for clothes these days. also, it seems strange to me that there are "liberals" justifying the rape of my neighborhood and stating that it's not big thing that I have been made me a non-consentual partner to other men's sexual fantasies. weird. very wierd

Posted by Martin on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

Why stop there? Why not just go straight to "holocaust?"

Here, I'll do it for you:

"Nudity in the Castro is like the holocaust and all the naked dudes are like cock-ring wielding Hitlers."

Posted by Brenden on Oct. 05, 2012 @ 12:53 am

I've found the Nude Beach Rule generally true: the less attractive the body, the more is shown. I used to take my nieces to see breeding seals near a gay nude beach. I'd lead elaborately across the beach to avoid any nudity. Adults now, the girls laugh and said they'd have distracted themselves if I saw a cute guy to go talk too. One's an assistant in Congress, one a medical professional; in short it didn't warp or pervert their minds or anything.
Let the sad old queens dangle. I'd rather use other talents to impress- and do we really NEED more laws. Then SF is as bad as the Conservatives without power in the state, lonely and powerless.

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Posted by small business accounting software on Jun. 13, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

Are any of the Castro nudists children or teenagers? I know nudist families (including children and teens) can be found in designated nude sections of beaches. Nudity doesn't have to be about sex. It's natural, as many point out. But if people who advocate freedom for public nudity in the Castro don't extend that freedom to children and teens, then your position of naturalism and freedom doesn't hold up. Tommi and others supporting nudity freedom, I assume you extend this freedom to humans of all ages. As long as the child's parents don't object (or maybe even if they do...) I'm assuming Tommi and other pro-nudity advocates have no problem with a 14-year-old boy or girl walking naked in the Castro.

Posted by Guest Kent V on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

Just like it had to when the anti-circumcision extremists decided they were going to infringe on the rights of parents, Jews, Muslims and Sikhs with their stupid little scheme. If local PC paralysis means nothing gets done then the State can and should happily force their hand.

Yes, that route is sounding better and better all the time...

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

Every culture has a prohibition against showing genitals in mixed company. These folks are undressing to make others squirm, and they have obviously succeeded. But have they made public nudity more acceptable and normal? Apparently not. Lets just admit that its polite to cover your bits when in public, the bits aren't really naughty, just private; the exhibitionists aren't really liberated, just rude.

Posted by CityTrucker on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 9:44 pm

I think if you research the topic in depth, you'll find it isn't quite as cut-and-dried as you suppose. Remember Greek athletes competed naked and nudity is common in varying degrees in some cultures to this day. I have mixed feelings; I don't really care for it, but view the agitation against it with far greater suspicion.

I recognize your handle from SFGate and remember your avatar with the holed tire... and occasionally finding reasons to agree with your opinions, though perhaps more often not. For what its worth coming from me, welcome!

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 03, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

"Greek athletes competed naked" -- and women were not allowed to attend those events.

With the exception of a very few small tribes in southern Ethiopia and elsewhere, every culture on Earth practices clothes-wearing. Even those in hot countries (go to Thailand, the only nude people are Germans on the beach). Even those that have never heard of Adam or Eve.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

too. Are those practices we need to pick up again?

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and await your providing a citation to prove that only women attended the Greek games.


Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

But in case you wanted to know- It was unmarried women who were allowed to attend the games, and married women were not. Google is your friend.

Or is the official Olympic website not authoritative enough for you?

Posted by D. Native on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

but that's certainly better than "Wiki Facts" -- and I see I was right to question an unsubstantiated claim... as usual.

Also, while clothes wearing is practiced widely, so is nudity. As for Troll II's comments... no reaction is intended or deserved.

Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

Because, of course, it's true. So there is no reaction necessary.

I understand why you so vociferously defend public nudity lils - because you know what it's like to be exposed. You're exposed as a food here each and every day.

Posted by Troll II on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

Actually, T-II, anybody can look at my only other comment posted to this story -- just up this very thread four spots -- and see that you are once again proving yourself to be a lying jackass.


Posted by lillipublicans on Oct. 04, 2012 @ 5:17 pm