The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 24, 2012

Ojanpa: In-the-buff ban gets it right

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

—  On a one-to-10 personal eccentricity scale, San Francisco harbors a lot of 12s. It’s a city that has always prided itself on accommodating idiosyncratic behaviors.

But sometimes, even in San Francisco, enough is enough.

The city’s Board of Supervisors this week banned public nudity, a move that probably came as a surprise to most of us in the hinterlands who assumed it wasn’t legal in the first place.

It seems that the city has long tolerated people sashaying around in the buff, an activity that historically has been largely confined to men in the gay Castro district.

However, a city supervisor with the ironic name of Scott Wiener led the effort to nix nakedness that, he and others say, had slopped over into other neighborhoods and produced a slew of complaints.

In most of our nation’s locales, a law prohibiting people from running around naked would be regarded as eminently reasonable. But this is San Francisco, where reasonable behavior is pretty much whatever you think it is.

First off, supervisors were divided on the ban, which barely passed 6-5.

Then there were the protesting nudists, who descended upon City Hall and, upon hearing the vote, promptly disrobed in anger.

One woman sputtered her rage.

“It’s not a government, it’s a whorehouse,” said Gypsy Taub, who then took off all her clothes, unknowingly showing what a woman working in such a house looks like.

George Davis, a 66-year-old who likes to loll around a public plaza naked, took logic and ran it right off the rails.

His reasons why public nudity should be allowed: His parents and sisters walked around in the nude, the Tennessee hillbillies of his youth went skinny dipping and thought nothing of it, ancient Greek and Roman soldiers often fought battles naked, and because new humans are born naked it should follow that old humans should be allowed to follow suit wherever. 

The supervisors who opposed the ban weighed in by saying that allowing public nudity is a sign of progressive governance. I suppose that’s true, if one’s idea of progressiveness is to sanction the undress code of Stone Age people.

And this from a guy named Stardust, who said the legislation sends the wrong message because “it’s telling people they should be ashamed to be naked, and that’s totally wrong.”

Memo to Stardust: If you want to be taken seriously, your first order of business is to stop calling yourself Stardust.

Other people argued that banning public nudity is a restriction of personal freedom of expression.

To be clear: Brandishing purple hair is personal expression; brandishing pubic hair is not.   

Though the new ordinance prohibits public nudity for anyone over 5, it does stipulate that naked breasts for any age or sex are still OK.

Which reminds this guy of an incident in Mankato circa 1985, when two young women failed miserably to bring a little bit of San Francisco to town.

The guy looked out the front window of his house one day and saw the pair playing Frisbee in the downtown-area Washington Park. Topless Frisbee.

They flung that disc around for 10, 15 minutes as people walked by the park and cars drove past, including a police car that didn’t break stride.

All were oblivious to what was going on, including an older guy walking through the park who strolled right between the two women and was only concerned about not getting hit by the Frisbee.

I learned later from a co-worker acquainted with the women that they had staged their little act to publicize their quest: That women be granted the same topless-in-public rights as men.

But alas, their waist-up nakedness couldn’t even get them noticed, let alone arrested. What a crushing ego blow that must have been.


Brian Ojanpa is a Free Press staff writer. Call him at 344-6316 or email