California's Vague Public Nudity Law

It's no secret that people all over the world have sex in places other than their homes. And why not? Having sex in an alternative location can be thrilling. Some couples may find the possibility of onlookers thrilling. Yet, others merely enjoy doing it whenever and wherever the urge strikes them. So why do some people insist on losing their damn minds when pics exist of people fooling around in public spaces?

Earlier this year, a couple decided to get freaky on the stage of a venue called the Belly Up Tavern. During a concert by adults-only punk band The Dead Kennedys, a couple engaged in oral sex onstage. The woman was mostly naked and "exposed" according to various news sources. Apparently, this can be a crime under California (where Belly Up is located) law. PC-314 is a law which states that public nudity can be a misdemeanor if others are "offended or annoyed." Seems a little vague, doesn't it? Fully clothed people offend and annoy me every day, but I'm pretty sure it's not a crime.

Should Oral Sex at an Adult Only Concert Be Considered a Crime?

The most obvious question is whether or not two adults engaging in a consensual sex act in a bar should really be considered a crime. Who does it harm? What negative consequences could occur as a result? Should they have just done it in a bathroom like everybody else? Aside from general American squeamishness and the "Won't somebody please think of the children?!" mentality sex-negative types are fond of parading, what is the actual problem with couples having sex in public?

In this case, the venue was a bar that serves alcohol. So, no children should have been there. The band, The Dead Kennedys, is a punk band that's been around since I was in elementary school. Surely by now everyone had gotten the memo that the band that brought us "Frankenchrist" will not feature wholesome entertainment suitable for the whole family.

No Formal Complaint Filed with Law Enforcement

According to the local Sheriff, there were no formal complaints about the sex act. The couple will not face charges. Long live punk, amirite? However, let's think about this. The couple wasn't charged because no other concert goers were "offended or annoyed." If they had been, does this mean that public sex is suddenly a prosecutable offense? Should disapproval from our peers turn what may be just tasteless rutting into something that puts a couple in jail...or worse: on a sex offender registry? I can't imagine who that could possibly help.

The issue shouldn't be whether or not it's okay for a couple to engage in a little public giggity. Whether something is legally decent or obscene relies on a consensus of random people who were also there, and what they had to say about what they saw. Shockingly, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission—a non-elected body) works in a similar manner by imposing fines on stations only after citizen complaints and a determination that what was broadcast should not reasonably have been seen or heard. That's why NBC is fined for a nip slip at a football half-time show. Yet, Game of Thrones on HBO is continually given awards instead of demands for apologies.

Why Are Specific Obscenity Laws Difficult to Pass?

One could argue that specific obscenity and decency laws are difficult to pass because people can't agree on issues like obscenity versus art, the place of nudity, or deciding whether or not something is sexualized. If that's true, and I think it is, wouldn't that mean that decency should be an issue of taste rather than an issue of law? Our society seems divided on the issue of public sexuality. Some people don't mind fornicating couples in a bar. Other people are uncomfortable when they see a couple holding hands at the mall.

Offended? Take Some Personal Responsibility

I'm inclined to suggest that if you see something that you find annoying or offensive, remove yourself from that thing rather than suggesting that the thing should stop because you don't like it. Most obscenity issues boil down to matters of taste. I think the 50 Shades of Grey books are some of the worst fiction books I've ever encountered. However, I'd never want to take it from anyone who likes it. I daresay if I want to engage in giggity on a concert stage that only the band should step in to tell me if that's not okay.