Friday Ephemera
Friday Ephemera

Militantly Nude

Zombie pays a visit to a San Francisco “nude-in” and isn’t impressed by what he sees:

Yet no matter how successful they are in smashing cultural norms, they still can’t escape the general consensus that day-to-day urban nudity has public health consequences. The nudists’ reply is that the public health argument is merely a smokescreen to justify puritanical repression. The anti-nudity advocates are being dishonest, the protesters argue; opposition to public nakedness is not based on concern about transmissible diseases, but rather on old-fashioned prudery. While that may be true, I counter with this: The San Francisco public nudists are also being dishonest; there is indeed a sexual component to their behaviour, and they are exhibitionists using politics to justify their thrill-seeking.

Readers of a delicate constitution should note that Zombie’s report contains photos of unattractive middle-aged men in a state of militant undress (boots, cockrings and bandanas notwithstanding). And I suspect most will come to appreciate why it is that attractive people get paid to take their clothes off, while fat ageing hippies and saggy-titted old queens generally don’t.

Some of you may also register a whiff of disingenuousness in exhibitionists accusing their critics of being repressive and stuffy. Exhibitionists may be eager to dispense with clothing in incongruous locations – say, a traffic island in the middle of a busy intersection - but they desperately need an audience, preferably a clothed one, and preferably one that’s embarrassed, inconvenienced and unwilling. San Francisco is remarkably well-equipped in terms of nude-friendly laws, clubs and amenities, including a nude beach and nearby nudist colonies. As Zombie notes, what’s revealing is that such venues weren’t deemed sufficient for our wrinkly radicals: 

These protesters and urban nudists don’t simply want to be naked in private or be naked around other naked people; they want to be naked around clothed people. Because that’s where the sexual thrill originates; violating a taboo. Being naked where nakedness is normal doesn’t count; eliciting shock or interest from unwitting strangers is the whole point.

Quite. Those indulging in their kink for being noticed are, in effect, saying: “Hey, you. Look at my bollocks. I SAID, LOOK AT MY BOLLOCKS RIGHT NOW, YOU UPTIGHT CONSERVATIVE PRUDES!” And while I doubt many readers here are prone to fainting at the sight of withered genitals and subsiding buttocks, they may conceivably object to being made an accomplice to someone else’s psychodrama. As one young lady points out, “Unwanted exposure to scrotum is never okay.”

Update, via the comments:

Writing in the Bay Guardian, Tim Redmond dismissed as “shit” the idea that parents taking their kids to school may not appreciate walking past groups of old men displaying their genitals: “I’ve often walked my daughter to school along Castro Street, and I don’t care whether people are naked or not. Neither does she. My kids are San Francisco city kids; it’s all a big Whatever.” Bay Guardian readers obliged by adding the inevitable accusations of “rightwing hatred.” Because parents who don’t want to have to walk their children past creepy naked guys are obviously just full of that hateful rightwing hateyness.

But I don’t think you have to be prudish - or worse, “rightwing” - to object to fetishistic public nudity. Setting aside modesty and mutual respect - and small children asking what cockrings are - there are some basic hygiene issues. Think how some people feel about public toilet seats and then extend that to café seats, clothes shops, public transport, etc. Imagine you’re in a supermarket queue with a basket of groceries. Is the thought of some old bloke’s tackle hovering near your lettuce or freshly baked baguette a pleasing one? And isn’t that the whole point of “radical” exhibitionism - to shock, to transgress - to make others feel uncomfortable?