With the Board of Supervisors set to vote on a comprehensive ban on public nudity tomorrow, the national news media has turned their attention to San Francisco's City Hall hoping to expose a titillating story shrouded in a debate about the city's moral character. Or maybe everyone just wants to see some skin.
The issue has been brewing in the Castro District for years now, but it made national waves after an AP report hit news outlets from New York and DC to the UK. Back here on the steps of City Hall, however, nude activists and other assorted naked people feel that the increased scrutiny on their lifestyle is stripping the city of its freeballing reputation.
The actual text of the law would make it illegal for anyone over the age of five to "expose his or her genitals, perineum or anal region on any public street, sidewalk, street median, parklet or plaza" or while riding public transit. (Children ages four and under: you're still free to frolic naked as a jaybird, by the way.) The ban's author, Supervisor Scott Wiener, defended his legislation recently, saying "I don't think having some guys taking their clothes off and hanging out seven days a week at Castro and Market Street is really what San Francisco is about. I think it's a caricature of what San Francisco is about."
As if playing to the stereotype, nude activist Gypsy Taub — who runs an amateur porn site and an interviews-in-the-nude public access TV show — slipped off her dress in City Hall during a committee hearing on the proposed legislation earlier this month. Taub, who was escorted out of the building by Sheriff's deputies, told the Board committee that the proposed legislation would infringe on people's god-given right to show off their bathing suit area without anyone else's permission.
During one of several nude-ins last week, another activist tried to introduce some nuance into Supervisor Wiener's firm stance. Referring to the controversy over cock rings and piercings preferred by some of the Castro nudists, 37-year-old McCray Winpsett told the AP: "A few lewd exhibitionists are really ruining it for the rest of us. It's my time to come out now to present myself in a light and show what true nudity is all about so people can separate the difference between what a nudist is and an exhibitionist is." At the time, Winpsett was wearing nothing more than sunglasses and a pair of hiking boots. Now that the story has broken wide, he and his compatriots have gotten far more exposure than they would have sitting au naturale and unmolested on a plaza in the Castro.
In addition to the naked time, Team Nudism has also taken a more buttoned-up approach to fighting the proposed ban. Last week, San Francisco lawyer Christina DiEdoardo filed a federal lawsuit claiming the ban would infringe on the nudists' right to free speech.
Meanwhile, the ban's supporters say they're tired of being visually assaulted in their own neighborhood. As one woman and Castro resident told the Supervisors committee earlier this month, "I would just like to be able to walk down the street and buy a carton of milk without seeing someone’s penis."
Last week, some 2,200 middle and high school students also got an eyeful during a field trip to the War Memorial Opera house across Van Ness Avenue from City Hall. While marching nude around City Hall, a group of the protestors brought their naked parade right past the wide-eyed youngsters waiting with their teachers and chaperones to catch a performance of "Tosca." The flap happened, "right before we opened the doors," Dolores DeStefano of the Opera's education office told the Chronicle. "So the kids got a good look at them."
The Board of Supervisors is expected to support the ban when it goes up for a vote during tomorrow's meeting. We also expect more than one activist will get escorted out of City Hall where proper attire (or any attire, for that matter) is mandatory.
Previously: Lady Activist Strips Naked During Committee Meeting, Calls Wiener 'Fascist' [NSFW]
All Public Nudity Coverage on SFist
[AP via KTVU]