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public nudity in a restaurant
September 9, 2005 7:52 AM   Subscribe

My fiance went to the Buca Di Beppo in Orlando last night and she told me that in the women's stalls they had vintage pictures of naked ladies; her friend told her that in Chicago they even have naked men in the men's room. I think it's pretty cool, but I'm a little freaked by it, especially when I think about taking my kids in to use the lavatory. So it got me thinking....how is this legal?

Now, I'm all for it, I mean...if I don't like it, I don't have to eat there. It's a simple equation. Furthermore, I think it's neat. But seriously, I figure somebody would've complained, etc. Up until this year I took my daughter into the men's room to use the stalls there...I certainly don't want her staring at pics of naked men.
posted by taumeson to Law & Government (53 answers total)
 
It's probably legal because it isn't judged obscene. Vintage means a lot of different things, but it's possible that it wouldn't be construed as porn if it's not done in a manner to arouse prurient interest. That and the fact that the naked ladies are in the ladies' and the naked men are in the mens' probably has something to do with it. It could also be that nobody's complained about it.

On the other hand, I am a little curious about why you wouldn't want your daughter staring at pictures of naked men. Certainly she's young and there's a time and place for that kind of thing, but I don't see why it might be a problem.
posted by staresbynight at 8:00 AM on September 9, 2005


Perhaps you should start by telling us why you think it wouldn't be legal? Would it be illegal in an exhibition at a gallery? What about the washrooms of a gallery? What changed when the washroom was attached to a restaurant and not a gallery?

If you're freaked by your kids seeing vintage artistic nudity... well, I don't know where to begin. I think you nailed it with "don't have to eat there".
posted by mendel at 8:03 AM on September 9, 2005


I’ve been to Bucca di Beppo, albeit not in the men’s room, but I can assure you that what’s in the ladies’ room is not even close to porn. It’s vintage art. Would you take your kids to a museum that featured nude paintings? This is no more harmful. Think about this rationally -- it’s a chain restaurant with a family audience; why would they put porn on the walls? Seriously.
posted by boomchicka at 8:17 AM on September 9, 2005


I, too, am puzzled. Has your child never seen an adult naked? Children are far less freaked by nudity than a lot of adults.
posted by agregoli at 8:18 AM on September 9, 2005


You should really ask your child what her thoughts are. The conversation will be useful to both of you.
posted by odinsdream at 8:22 AM on September 9, 2005


Why is nakedness in any way something that kids shouldn't see?

How is it legal? The same way Boticelli's Birth of Venus is legal. Or Michaelangelo's David.
posted by Pericles at 8:27 AM on September 9, 2005


Um...did you forget where you took your daughter? The room is designated for men.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:27 AM on September 9, 2005


The last two Buca Di Beppos I have been to have had nudity free bathrooms. So, this might not be true of all BDB restaraunts.
posted by Alison at 8:28 AM on September 9, 2005


Why wouldn't it be legal? Pornography is not illegal in general, and while obscenity laws exist most pornography is not 'obscene'. Simple nudity would not be considered obscene by modern standards at all.

Obscenity laws are universal, meaning they apply everywhere equaly, and they are not enforced very often.

(in fact, I remember an interview with a DA prosecuting an obscenity case in Los Angelis against a major pornographer. In this case, he was prosecuted for making 'fisting' videos. Based on the DA's mesure, using four fingers would have been OK)
posted by delmoi at 8:29 AM on September 9, 2005


The real tragedy here is going to Bucca di Beppo. I mean come on.

The men's restrooms pictures of kids urinating are akin to those little boy fountains where piss come out of his dick (is there a better way to say it?). There's far worse out there that's borderline porn. What's that book full of naked kids that's considered art? If I remember correctly Michael Jackson or Pee Wee Herman had a copy of it. It's by a famous photographer.
posted by geoff. at 8:30 AM on September 9, 2005


You're not worried about her seeing the real penis of a man standing at a urinal, but the pictures bother you?
posted by InfidelZombie at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2005


There's old Hustlers on the walls of American Apparel stores. I have to admit that I don't shop there, but it's because their clothes fall apart in a week and a half.
posted by MarkAnd at 8:39 AM on September 9, 2005


I think you're ripping on taumeson a bit much. He clearly doesn't think it's "bad" (scare quotes intended) but was curious why he'd never heard a fuss about it.

If you have young kids, you need to go into the bathroom with them to help them out. If you're a guy, this means they come into the mens restroom, into a stall. Duh.

The photographer is probably Jock Sturges. It's good stuff.
posted by RustyBrooks at 8:47 AM on September 9, 2005


He clearly doesn't think it's "bad" (scare quotes intended) but was curious why he'd never heard a fuss about it.

Because most people don't think it's a big deal - and the comments here reflect that. Thank goodness.
posted by agregoli at 8:49 AM on September 9, 2005


It seems at times that Moral Relativism can almost be defined by certain threads here at AskMe.

Who would have ever thought people would would be asking, "What's the problem with your little daughter looking at naked men?" Times have changed so much it boggles the mind.

-
posted by Independent Scholarship at 8:57 AM on September 9, 2005


To be clear: pictures of naked people are generally not against the law. Being naked yourself might very well be against the law. Selling pornography is generally not against the law in the US but is in some areas, and under some circumstances. Having pornography is even less against the law except for certain circumstances.

So, if your naked men in the restroom were just naked, there are few places that would create a problem. If they were naked with a giant erection, there are more places that would be a problem, but still not many. If the pictures were full-on hardcore shots, people might have an issue and it's possible they might cross an obscenity line.

One of the reasons this issue is so strange is because of what we are used to seeing on tv or in the movies. With few exceptions in the US, so notable as to be memorable, you won't see a penis in an R-rated movie [except as boner-in-shorts], though you'll see plenty of tits, butts, and possibly even pubic hair and simulated sex. My feeling is that this somehow makes us in the US think that male nudity is somehow odder or more outré than the laws actually suggest.
posted by jessamyn at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2005


The Washington, DC Buca has pics in the mens room of boys and men peeing. Nothing close to porn at all. If my memory serves me right, most of the pics are from the rear, so no nudity per se, although I seem to remember a pic of a little boying peeing on the ground with his pants at his ankles, but even then, all you are seeing is a little boy's butt.
posted by juggler at 9:12 AM on September 9, 2005


Slightly OT, but the best bathroom adornment I ever saw was at Fujikyu Highland, an amusement park at the base of Mt. Fuji . The mens room had text above the urinals saying things like "She's thinks it's huge !" and other little cute sayings. My friend tells me there were quips in the similar style in the women's room.
posted by GreenTentacle at 9:13 AM on September 9, 2005


is there a better way to say it?

Manakin Pis!
posted by Rash at 9:16 AM on September 9, 2005


"The mens room had text above the urinals saying things like "She's thinks it's huge !" and other little cute sayings. My friend tells me there were quips in the similar style in the women's room."

Somehow, I don't think "He thinks it's huge" is as flattering to a woman as "She thinks it's huge" is to a man.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:06 AM on September 9, 2005


Which is why they said "similar" and not "the same."
posted by agregoli at 10:10 AM on September 9, 2005


The Chicago Buca (the Clark Street location, anyway -- can't vouch for the one downtown) has a couple nudie pix in the bathroom, but nothing that anyone other than a nun would take much offense at. Your kids' eyes and minds are safe.
posted by me3dia at 10:13 AM on September 9, 2005


Every inch of the walls of the Buca di Beppo (in San Francisco, at least) are covered in tacky photos along the lines of Zero Mostel eying Sophia Loren's cleavage. There's a Pope Room with the pope's head on a lazy susan. The restroom artwork is restrained by comparison. Plus, it helps you pee.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:34 AM on September 9, 2005


“You should really ask your child what her thoughts are. The conversation will be useful to both of you.”

Actually, I think hearing a man ask a little girl what she thinks of nude male photography in a men's lavatory would freak me out a little.
posted by skryche at 10:41 AM on September 9, 2005


Listen, folks...I take my kid to museums and I let her read through my anatomy book. Trust me, I'm not worried at all about her seeing a penis. I'm not worried about her seeing boobs and a vagina. What I'm trying to get at is it seemed a little lascivious to me, and not artsy at all. That's what made me think it's closer to obscene then artwork.

I haven't seen the photos myself, and they're old, so I don't think I'd even care that much. I'm surprised at the reactions in here.
posted by taumeson at 10:52 AM on September 9, 2005


It seemed a little lascivious to you, yet you didn't see the pictures? What was edgy about them? What made you think it would be illegal? We're still in the dark here.
posted by agregoli at 10:55 AM on September 9, 2005


Oh come on... He just wanted to know why he hadn't heard anyone complain. I think he was just explaining how, in his situation, it could be a bit more difficult to explain away than for others. Taking a little boy into the men's room and seeing naked pictures of other men is one thing. Taking your daughter into the men's room and having her stare at penises is just freaky.
posted by ajpresto at 11:27 AM on September 9, 2005


So this is really an unanswerable question then - how are we to know why no one complained? I think it's pretty obvious - because most people take it as artistic nudity instead of obscene pictures. If you think they don't have artistic merit, hey, they might not. I haven't seen them. But this isn't hardcore porn.

I also don't honestly think that the owners think that hard about things - men go in the men's room, hence they can have male pictures in there. Opposite for ladies. Done.
posted by agregoli at 11:32 AM on September 9, 2005


it seemed a little lascivious to me, and not artsy at all

But you haven't seen them. I somehow doubt you would think that if you saw what they were like. Really, they're nothing shocking.
posted by boomchicka at 11:33 AM on September 9, 2005


But you haven't seen them. I somehow doubt you would think that if you saw what they were like. Really, they're nothing shocking.

The men's room light switch in the Chicago area BDB was a naked man with the actual switch being where his penis would be, for instance. To me, that's lascivious.

And the question isn't really "Why hasn't anyone complained?" because for all I know they have...the question was "Is this legal?"

It's not be answered to my satisfaction. What I have gathered so far is that yes, it's legal, because it's not pornography...though I figured public nudity for a lewd or lascivious purpose may be illegal. We're getting bogged down by the traditional nuances of "how bad was it" and "is it obscene?" etc.
posted by taumeson at 11:41 AM on September 9, 2005


The men's room light switch in the Chicago area BDB was a naked man with the actual switch being where his penis would be, for instance. To me, that's lascivious.

Some information as to what the pictures actually WERE in the original post would have helped the responses, no?

Where is the public nudity for a lewd or lascivious purpose? Were there actual naked people in the bathroom? Because that's the only way I know for there to be an illegal action going on in the bathroom. If it's a photo, wouldn't it have to be classified as either art or pornography?
posted by agregoli at 11:51 AM on September 9, 2005


Or are you saying that these pictures could incite masturbation? I'm still not sure what you're getting at.
posted by agregoli at 11:52 AM on September 9, 2005


I feel ripped off!

The Milwaukee Buca's has nice-looking naked men in the women's washroom (from what my girl friends tell me), but hideous-looking (clothed) females in the men's room.

I think it's kind of cute.

Note: I haven't been to the Milwaukee location in about a year and a half, so my recollection is a bit fuzzy.
posted by chota at 11:56 AM on September 9, 2005


It's legal because it's not pornography, which is defined in the dictionary as "sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal."

Here's the legal test:
The term of legal significance is "obscenity", which, after struggling for many years and through many cases, the U.S. Supreme Court defined in Miller v. California in 1973. It is a three-part test, as follows:

"The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be:
(a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, Kois v. Wisconsin, supra, at 230, quoting Roth v. United States, supra, at 489;
(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value."

Note that part (a) does employ community standards. However, all three parts must be met for a work to be deemed obscene, and part (c), as the Court has held elsewhere, is a national threshold, not a community test.
I think the response to your question demonstrates that the nude photos and illustrations in Buca de Beppo's bathrooms are not considered offensive or prurient by the majority of the community.
posted by me3dia at 11:56 AM on September 9, 2005


in the Chicago area BDB was a naked man with the actual switch being where his penis would be
though I figured public nudity for a lewd or lascivious purpose may be illegal.
It's toilet humor...don't think that is considered lewd – maybe poor tastes.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2005


Thank you me3dia! Cripes.

I think that, like thomcatspike mentions, toilet humor may often be included in part "c" of the legal test, but it has to also be "patently offensive" and "appeal to the prurient interest". Now, prurient interest means:

A morbid, degrading and unhealthy interest in sex, as distinguished from a mere candid interest in sex.

which means that I find it hard to figure that anything is obscene. But things are found obscene even if they aren't morbid or degrading...so if something promotes an "unhealthy" interest in sex, it could be considered to appeal to the prurient interest.

I dunno...show some naked men to a 3-5 year old girl, you tell me if it promotes an unhealthy interest in sex. I'm not going to experiment.

So...is it sexual CONDUCT? Obviously, no. Theoretically, no matter how naked or crazy or weird, if it's not conduct then it can't be considered obscene.

Yet Jock Sturges still gets in legal trouble.

Anyway, I'll give it to me3dia for pointing me in the right direction. Thanks.
posted by taumeson at 12:09 PM on September 9, 2005


agregoli:

Some information as to what the pictures actually WERE in the original post would have helped the responses, no?

Didn't realize it was needed. When I did realize it, I added it. Please try to be more signal than noise, thanks.
posted by taumeson at 12:11 PM on September 9, 2005


public nudity for a lewd or lascivious purpose may be illegal

Correct, but there is an important legal difference between an image of a naked person and a naked person, "the map is not the territory" etc. lewd and lascivious refers to actions by a human, not images.

I dunno...show some naked men to a 3-5 year old girl, you tell me if it promotes an unhealthy interest in sex. I'm not going to experiment.

there is also contributing to the delinquency of a minor which is another way things like this get leagally dealt with. There is literature in library circles [where we deal with kids possibly looking at books with naked pictures, or seeing naked stuff on the Internet by accident] that implies that young kids, if they are exposed to material that is sort of outside of their age range [whether it be sex, drugs, "adult themes" whatever], have a tendency to ignore it and focus on things that are more appropriate age-wise. I can try to track down a cite, it's a pretty interesting result that goes against what a lot of people think kids would do.
posted by jessamyn at 12:16 PM on September 9, 2005


I hope you've learned something about making your questions on AskMe more concise!
posted by agregoli at 12:34 PM on September 9, 2005


i think people gave somewhat snarky replies because of the whole "ZOMG THINK OF THE CHILDREN" feel of the question.

thinking about relatively benign images or lightswitches being "illegal" because someone is concerned about what their 5 year old would think is the type of thing that gets my hackles up, and i imagine those of many others who also do not have children (or those that don't find those sorts of things offensive).

perhaps people equated your "is this legal?" question as more of a "shouldn't this be illegal?" statement.

that said, i'd like to return to talking about hackles. i think i am going to market a breakfast cereal called hackles. It'll be like honeycomb but with little computers and floppy disks instead of honeycombs.
posted by fishfucker at 12:43 PM on September 9, 2005


It's not lascivious; it's bawdy.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:48 PM on September 9, 2005


I'm not actually concerned about what my kid thinks about naked people in an artsy setting. Neither am I going to hide her eyes when I take her to the Bodies exhibit causing such a stir here in Tampa.

But I just know that she'd mention it to her mother and I'd have the lawyers down my throat...and when I thought about it, I couldn't really defend the practice of having naked pictures hanging up in a public restroom. I don't consider the usual types of naked images one finds outside of an art gallery to be promoting a healthy idea of what a body should look like nor what one does with it.

agregoli:

well, i don't have your experience. :)
posted by taumeson at 12:54 PM on September 9, 2005


kirkaracha:

Eh, I meant it when I wrote lascivious. But I think what you're trying to say is that the owners of the restaurant are going for the first definition of bawdy, i.e. "humorously course". I agree with that.
posted by taumeson at 12:56 PM on September 9, 2005


I think we're also suffering from the Metafilter effect here. We're all reasonably liberal and well-educated folks here...I have a feeling a much larger cross-section than the Metafilter elite may have an issue with it.

MAY.
posted by taumeson at 12:57 PM on September 9, 2005


undoubtedly.
posted by fishfucker at 2:00 PM on September 9, 2005


Yet Jock Sturges still gets in legal trouble.

He gets in trouble because of the child porn laws- I don't think his type of pictures would be obscene under the definition me3dia gave if the models were 18.
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:43 PM on September 9, 2005


"I think we're also suffering from the Metafilter effect here. We're all reasonably liberal and well-educated folks here...I have a feeling a much larger cross-section than the Metafilter elite may have an issue with it."
Bingo, taumeson. You are seeing the dominance of liberal, moral relativism at work here. It's the dominant MeFi philosophy. That's fine, I suppose, but it doesn't reflect the mood of the country as a whole. This one little thread and the responses is analogous to asking people in Berkeley what they think of George W. Bush and asking the same question in say, Plano TX and people in Berkeley assuming "everyone" feels the way they do - same for the community here. I know I am in the minority at MeFi, but that's okay too! It would be rather boring if we all marched in step.
posted by Independent Scholarship at 3:37 PM on September 9, 2005


Woioo! Plano, TX, Representing.
posted by RustyBrooks at 4:44 PM on September 9, 2005


We as a society have a wide range of reactions to various depictions of nudity in public places, so the reactions here are no surprise. Hell, my wife still thinks of photos of bare-breasted women as "obscene" and I don't think I will change her mind on this point.

We have varying and often inconsistent laws, too. As many here have pointed out, the courts generally say that nudity on its own is not obscene. Michelangelo's David would not be judged obscene anywhere. But you can be arrested for indecent exposure if you walk naked into your local McDonald's. That's of course not based on the definition of obscenity; that's just enforcing the local sense of proper behavior.
posted by yclipse at 7:33 PM on September 9, 2005


The bathrooms a Buca are so great. Funny though, that no one's mentioned the Men's restroom's most hilarious feature (well, at least at the one in Pasadena, California):

the handle on the inside of the door is a brass cock and balls.
posted by redteam at 8:24 PM on September 9, 2005


So this place is kind of like a cross between the Olive Garden and the Cheesecake Factory?

*shudders*
posted by Vidiot at 10:07 PM on September 9, 2005


I think that as one careers through parenthood, raising children (of the opposite sex in particular) one's assumptions about our own vs. community standards get challenged regularly. If you add in the tensions and distrust from a split family and divorce court, erring on the side of caution to protect one's relationship to our offspring overrides earlier liberal attitudes to adult themes.

IOW, I understand why taumeson is cautious and requested feedback from peers on this one - I hope that at some point, taumeson, you can regain your confidence in your own assessments and that your girl benefits from your personal standards.

Some assumptions acknowledged.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:15 AM on September 10, 2005


Here's a photo of the men's room at the City Walk, Los Angeles restaurant.
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:48 AM on September 10, 2005


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