The Hum of Intellectuals
Friday Ephemera

You’ll Notice They All Wear Shoes

Or, “Mommy, What’s a Cock Ring?”

Further to this comedic excursion from September last year, Zombie visits San Francisco’s latest radical nude-in, where a coalition of “nudists and leather folk” unveil their big ambitions

From the Castro District they seek to expand the nudity zone outward to all of San Francisco; if the movement gains momentum, could it expand to all of California, and then eventually nationwide?

Viewer discretion advised. 


In the comments, David Gillies captures the protest’s essential neediness: “Look how transgressive I am!” We can, I think, assume that the ‘activists’ aren’t trying to share a glorious aesthetic experience. Even many of the locals, who I’d guess are fairly accustomed to juvenile displays, are finding the ‘activism’ a little intrusive and annoying. Zombie cites an article in the Bay Area Reporter, in which the protestors’ need for attention and provocation is pretty obvious, if not actually pretty:

They have become more aggressive in the Castro. Some don cock rings – euphemistically referred to as ‘genital jewellery’ – to simulate an erection. Others, according to witnesses, shake their dicks at oncoming traffic, obviously seeking a reaction.

Unsurprisingly, local businesses and other residents, especially those with children, aren’t terribly impressed. As Zombie says,

Although the Castro may be a gay mecca, it is not exclusively populated by single gay men, nor are the surrounding neighbourhoods gay. Many families with children live in and around the Castro, which means that children are out in public, occasionally encountering the nudists. In fact during the protest itself families with children needed to get from Point A to Point B along Market Street, and had no choice but to navigate their way through the crowd of naked penises.

Which may strike some as funny, at least initially and from a distance. But imagine you’re out shopping with the kids in tow and having to weave your way through large groups of unattractive men waving their tackle at you. And the standard blather about “civil rights” and “body image” isn’t very convincing. One doesn’t have to have “unrealistic issues of body shame” to find the exhibitionism tiresome or inappropriate. And the denials of any sexual aspect are also unconvincing, especially given that so many of the participants are enthusiasts of fetish clubs and websites catering to people who like public sex and scandalising others, and for whom the whole point is to have an audience, whether titillated or repelled. It’s rather like how the people at last year’s ‘protest’ claimed they just wanted to be left alone - while squealing for attention on a traffic island in the middle of a busy intersection.

A supporter of the exhibitionists pops up, as it were, in the comments at Zombie’s place and insists,

It’s only your selfish control freak streak that wants to dictate what other people wear; your disrespect for the opinions and lifestyles of anyone whose opinion and lifestyle doesn’t match what you consider ‘proper’… Your statement reminds me of how selfish, childish and disdainful of anyone else’s rights so-called ‘conservatives’ are

It seems to me this is more than a little dishonest. Setting aside the issues of exposing oneself to children, the impact on local businesses, etc., I think what’s objectionable is that random people are being made participants in the exhibitionists’ psychodrama, whether they wish to be or not. For many, if not most, of the ‘activists’, this isn’t even about an enjoyment of being naked per se. It’s about confronting other people with unsolicited nakedness. That’s the enjoyment – it’s a juvenile kink. Being nude in private or among consenting nudists in dedicated bars, clubs, spas, on nature trails, at specialist beaches, etc., of which San Francisco has plenty, doesn’t give the ‘activists’ enough of a thrill. Because the people there are willing. Hence the demand to display their genitals in front of random passers-by. An audience is required in order to feel transgressive and it’s pretty obvious that’s what matters. They want to be naked near you. They want you to witness their daring. It’s essentially a kind of challenge - an imposition on others, and the act of imposition is, for some, the whole point. And so the source of the “selfishness,” “childishness” and “disrespect” is also pretty clear.