Conor Friedersdorf makes the liberal case against San Francisco’s new ban:
There are rational public-health reasons to prohibit nudity in restaurants or on buses. Naked kids in public schools would be a distraction that harmed the learning environment. But a blanket ban that extends to all city streets, parks, and beaches? People who value freedom and pluralism ought to oppose it, especially if the given rationale is a government duty to “protect” the public from what it “does not wish” to see. I do not wish to see pigeons. I do not wish to see advertisements. I do not wish to see the subset of tattoos that depict dolphins leaping from the ocean. Tough luck for me! I’d rather not see a naked, obese octogenarian tanning in Golden Gate Park either, but if it makes her happy I can get over my shallow aesthetic preference. Like the cities that ticket youths whose sagging pants leave their underwear exposed, blanket bans on nudity are motivated mostly by a majority’s desire to enforce its aesthetic preference on a minority, and to establish in law certain notions of what is moral and proper.
I’ve defended this line – and the even more radical position that public sex acts should often be legal – before.
I remember last year when I plucked up the courage to ask one of my political theory professors at undergraduate level how far the implications of liberalism should go. He asked what I meant, and I just said ‘well, how about public masturbation?’ He laughed, but quickly nodded, and agreed that there are rarely good reasons for a liberal state to ban these sorts of things.