Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Freedom of Diversity

It occurs to me, that in the spirit of freedom that these United States of America were built on, and the celebrated diversity that makes up our constitution (lowercase "c") as a nation, there should be at least one city in this country that permits reasonable nudity in public. And by reasonable I don't mean everybody goes naked all the time. I don't mean that all the business establishments have to serve naked people (or employ naked people). I mean that if somebody decides to walk down the middle of main street, in the center of downtown, completely bare-ass naked, that this particular city would defend that. People might look, even stare, some might like it, and others might not - but the bottom line is that the local police would defend that person's right to be naked on communal public property, and the majority of the people living there would be of an understanding that that's the way that city was, and would tolerate it if not enthusiastically support it. The people who really didn't like it would move elsewhere. You would think, as free and as diverse as this country is, there'd be at least one medium to large sized city located somewhere between the shining seas, where this kind of thing was accepted.

This kind of thing.

I say this because, jealous of the naked people that turn up in pictures and videos of various events (particularly the Bay To Breakers race) in San Francisco, I've tried to find out what kind of rules there are about public nudity in downtown SF - which, of all places, you would think would be the one major city where this might fly - and results are inconclusive, but not entirely encouraging. I've heard anything from, "there's no law against public nudity", to, "it's just like anyplace else", and I'm not quite sure what's correct.* But in most places, there doesn't have to be a specific law against public nudity; it's a sort of unspoken community standard - that people don't go naked in public - which is covered under other vague laws like "indecent exposure" or "public lewdness". SF may be more lenient/forgiving/accepting of public nudity than other places (maybe - and I doubt the city council would want to promote that image), but as long as it's not strictly protected, there's always that risk. That knowledge that you can try to get away with it, but if you're caught, you have noone to blame but yourself.

Lewd? Indecent? Or decent and proper?

And some people like the risk - let them have it. But my point is that there should be at least one place where that risk is absent. At least one place where the community standards include public nudity. Of all the people in this country, of all the settlements we've settled, there should be at least one for people who like to go naked in public. I've heard of a naked city in France, but even worldwide, places like that are rare. Most of the best places do not explicitly defend nudity, but merely tacitly tolerate it. There are, of course, isolated resorts and beaches all over the world where this kind of thing is celebrated - but a resort is a resort. A beach is a beach. (And with all due respect to the nudist community, they are far too uptight about photography in this nation). You'd think there'd be at least one city - and again, I'm not saying everybody would be nude all the time, they would just not consider the people who are naked to be out of the ordinary. At least one place. Just one. Is that asking too much? Am I dreaming?

A place where this would not raise alarms.

Of course, you could argue, that a city like that would attract all sorts of freaks and weirdos. But unless they're hurting people, so what? The existence of a city like this would not be a demonstration that the world has gone down the moral shithole. People walking around naked in public is not comparable to a city of sin where sadomasochistic strangers rape each other all day long, everywhere you go. Would you argue that mankind does not have the ability to endure the sight of naked flesh without transforming into unthinking predators with an insatiable physical hunger?

If this sight gives you an uncontrollable
urge to rape, you need serious help.
(Being turned on, on the other hand,
is not a public health crisis)

Even though naked people do tend to gather a lot of attention (either of the negative kind, or - if they're attractive - of the positive kind), this would lessen if it became more of a normal occurrence. Wouldn't you be less distracted by naked people if you could see them at anytime - if it wasn't a rare opportunity to make the most of? And the people who would complain about being desensitized to nudity - they would either find their predictions proven wrong, or otherwise, they could live somewhere else where nudity is not tolerated in public. The bottom line is diversity - freedom of choice. Maybe there are people out there who couldn't handle living in a public nudity-tolerant city without losing their civility, but why should that fact prevent the ones who are from indulging in it? We can't let the bad seeds ruin it for the rest of us.

All photos by nudeinsf.com. I would have loved to have illustrated this post with my own photography, but I am not much of a risk-taker. You can blame society's intolerance of public nudity.

* If anyone reading this happens to live or has spent some time in San Francisco, I would appreciate your insider's insight on how public nudity is dealt with in the city.


  1. This article is relevant to the question of the legality of public nudity in San Francisco.

  2. The problem with public nudity is that it can't be limited to (mostly) young people with attractive bodies. How many innocent bystanders really want to see a bunch of grotesquely out-of-shape men and women wandering around in the altogether :)?

  3. I've been in the company of what some would describe as "grotesquely" out-of-shape men and women (who were "in the altogether"), and in my experience, it's not that big a deal.

    We could try to craft a law that allows only attractive people to be nude in public; but not only is beauty a subjective quality, but such a law would hardly be fair and non-discriminatory. It's either all or none. And there are plenty of cities that have gone the "none" route, there should be at least one willing to try "all".

    I honestly don't mind seeing unattractive people naked if it means I can be naked; and if I get to see some attractive people naked, too, that's even better. For anyone who doesn't want to see that, there are plenty of other cities to live in. Thankfully, not everybody shares your opinion in this respect, even if it is the popular one to hold.

  4. I was trying to be facetious. Obviously it's perfectly legal for people to wear hideously ill-fitting clothes, to have disastrous hairstyles, or to be stuck with awful facial features and still roam the streets. The fact that i don't find grossly out-of-shape bodies aesthetically pleasing has no bearing on whether public nudity should or shouldn't be legal.

  5. Quite right. Sorry for misreading your comment, but so many people do use that as an argument against public nudity and nudism in general (if only they were all being facetious). "It's never the people you want to see naked." (Which is fortunately not always the case). Well, to that I say, if you want to see attractive people naked, you better vote in favor of nudity then! You gotta take the bad with the good.