Cyclists convene at People's Park before participating in the Naked Bike Ride Day. Photo: Robert Mills
Cyclists convene at People’s Park before participating in the Naked Bike Ride Day. Photo: Robert Mills

Berkeleyside set off a storm of controversy on Monday when it posted a video of a group of naked bicyclists riding through Berkeley.

The shot displayed on Berkeleyside’s front page showed a naked man’s genitals and a naked woman’s breasts.

A number of readers complained, saying the photo was offensive and unprofessional, and should not have been posted. Rather there should have been a link to the video or a less graphic photo displayed, they suggested.

When the Berkeleyside editors sent out our intern, Robert A. Mills, to shoot the video, we thought he was merely reporting on one of the interesting slices of Berkeley life.

Mills tried to be careful in shooting the event and in most of the video the participants’ private parts are hidden behind bicycle seats and other obstructions. But there are glimpses of naked people throughout the video.

The video was posted to You Tube, which randomly selects three scenes from a video and rotates them as screen grabs. The first screen grab selected was the photo that some readers found offensive.

This has been a learning experience for Berkeleyside, as the editors did not realize exactly how You Tube worked. That said, when we did see the nude shots we were not that bothered by them. We did not rush to take down the video. You Tube did that for us later, probably because an irate reader flagged the video. According to You Tube guidelines, the video did not violate their community standards as the nudity was not in a sexual context. Berkeleyside then used Vimeo to repost the video. That service gave us more control over which image was displayed on the site’s front page.

We decided to poll our readers on Facebook and find out how many felt Berkeleyside went too far in posting the video. By 10:30 am today, 60 readers said no, Berkeleyside did not go too far, two said yes, and two were undecided.

If Berkeleyside upset readers, we are sorry. That was not our intention. We appreciate how quickly you let us know, and we appreciate the commentary in support and in opposition to our decision. Once again, the Berkeleyside comment boards have been a fascinating place to linger. Please share your views. The editors only ask — again — that we try and keep the discourse civil.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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66 Comments

  1. I’d rather look at naked old people for days rather than look at a dead animal beheaded and skinned!

    Sheesh, I don’t even fit in in Berkeley!  😉

  2. You forgot one of the most deeply held positions in Berkeley: “Don’t park YOUR car in front of MY house”

  3. 2 things.

    1. Someone said that re-posting the photo was a big f-u to the apparently small number of people who were offended (not counting the “should’ve used a NSFW tag” commenters). I don’t think so. The story is the reaction on fb/in the comments, and having the photo in question there illustrates it quite nicely.

    2. Personally, I didn’t notice the photo/video the 1st time around because I use the RSS feed, which allows you to scan through the new articles without seeing them. Perhaps this is a method the SFW folks can use when surfing Berkeleyside at work.

  4. Stone Age Chic or One Million Years BC, Berkeley Style
     
    I agree with the general gist of most comments here that this is much ado about very little and that it’s getting old already (puns intended…).
     
    Still, I was left to ponder the “larger picture” here, trying to connect various Berkeley related news stories and Berkeley inspired values.  Here’s what I came up with.  There seems to be a common strain of what I will term “primitivism” which permeates many Berkeley “progressive” ideals these days.  Granted, most residents don’t really live up to these ideals, but they still shed some precious light on the state of our local “civilization.”  Our “wants” tell us a lot about who we really are at bottom.
     
    If you were to construct a Berkeley utopia, it would seem to take us back to a pre-motorized peasant or possibly even Stone Age world.  In order to save the earth from further environmental degradation caused (primarily) by carbon emissions, we would return to moving about on our own two feet, possibly with the aid of horses or oxen to draw heavy loads or carry us more significant distances.  Even bicycles, when you think about it, require too much noxious technology to build and to operate (paving nature?).
     
    Next, like feudal peasants with small vegetable patches accorded to us by our “community lords” (in the current political clime, that would be Master Bates), we would strive to grow as much of our own food as possible and then barter for what we cannot.  This is also a form of primitivism in a pre-monetary economy.
     
    While we nominally do wish our children to be “educated”, we get far more excited about teaching them about farm work and peasantry than about trigonometry or Shakespeare.  Sure, the pretext is that gardening informs a healthier and fresher diet and that it’s a great entrée to the biological sciences, but mostly we seem excited that the next generation might learn the “authenticity” (as Zola put it) of the soil.  Sort of a more benevolent version of Blut und Erde.
     
    Now we come to the matter of wearing clothing in public which, from the Garden of Eden myth onward, almost seems like the basic premise of civilization or distinguishing ourselves from other beasts.   Granted, most of those lauding public nudity on city streets or on bicycles (which, after all, are not exactly like riding horses or Centaurs) only do this as a de rigueur pose of sophistication.  Americans are such prudes and puritans!!!  We Berkeleyans are more post-Modern Euros who don’t need to respect or abide by bourgeois morality and conventions.  We snicker at conventions like going around with your clothes on in public at 65+ years old.  We are better than that. 
     
    So, to summarize, the ideal Berkeley person, would seem to walk around naked or with a loin cloth, ideally as an agricultural Bedouin, along  an outed creek bed which is clean enough to fish or drink from directly without purification.  This Berkeley tribesman never  uses mechanized or motorized transportation, grows his own food in a small private or communal garden and lives in a pre-monetized, stone age, barter economy like a character from a Rousseau discourse, preferably in some type of low impact hut or teepee without the concept of property rights.    Even so, Conan is emphatically not welcome within our tribal lands.
     
    Maybe a touch of incongruous solar or wind power to boil your coffee in the morning in lieu of collected firewood (and who could grow sustainable coffee in this microclimate?).  Maybe some type of powerful Native American contraceptive herbs too as a deviation from pure Nature?  Overpopulation is killing the planet!  Native Americans lived very lightly on the earth.  Do we also keep some livestock animals or do we just hunt for occasional ceremonial feasts to honor our pagan gods?  Or would the ultimate Berkeley ideal take us back prior to both the age of domesticated animals and agriculture?  The Earth demands “justice”!
     
    How about computers and internet connection?  How do they fit into stone age chic?  I just don’t know.  I guess when you live semi-naked in a real mud hut village, tending your crops all day, you don’t need to communicate or interrelate online anymore.  Maybe that’s the solution to that dilemma?
     
    All wonderful ideals!  How they square with being a modern “Progressive” who derides hidebound, turn back the clock, fearful conservatives who cannot evolve or adapt to change remains a little mysterious…  At least to me…

  5. Two requests —

    1 – please add “NSFW” tags where appropriate, I do read Berkeleyside at the office and there are folks walking around who hail from much less enlightened corners of our region.

    2 – I’m okay with the nekkids, but I’d appreciate if you could balance the images of flabby and flacid with a few female hotties.  If only one showed up for the event, just keep repeating her picture .. if was just a bunch of old hippie dudes, go find some stock photos to make up the balance.

    thank you for your consideration

  6. Absolutely hilarious. The only thing more absurd than men getting their jumblies caught in their bicycle chain is other people getting their knickers in a twist about it.

  7. i was at a local kids store (Grove Street Kids-YAY!) when the nudists biked by. Pretty funny! Older gray nekkid dudes riding bikes. The delightful store owner and i dashed out to the street hardly believing our eyes and laughed. please file under ‘another day in Berkeley.”

  8. I am sure your advertisers are delighted to have their brand next to an old man’s dick on a bike…

  9. Rightist prudes?  What silliness. It says nothing at all about political leanings what one thinks of this story.  Not everything thing in this world is political.  Some of us think putting everything through a political lens is tiresome.

  10. you’re kidding, right?  i can’t imagine how this could be considered the least bit offensive in 2011.  what happened to the 60’s???

  11. you’re kidding, right?  i can’t imagine how this could be considered the least bit offensive in 2011.  what happened to the 60’s???

  12. It’s interesting how Berkeleyians are so easily offended, with Berkeley being one of the most free spirited places, it doesn’t surprise me that someone organized a Naked Bike Ride Day. On the contrary, it is considered indecent exposure and is illegal, and do the fact that there are plenty of Children out and about on this Summer Day, I can also see if Parents became offended. I have lived in Berkeley all my life and don’t believe “we” as a community should be blowing so much smoke over something like this.

  13. The two weeks of national smirking “Wiener” jokes (thankfully not here at BS) were far more offensive to public morals.

  14. Yes, well said, Bryan.  I was not offended by the images, but I think I should have been given a choice as to whether or not I wanted to look at them.  Doesn’t matter to me if I’m at work or at home or on the Berkeleyside app. 
    I checked out the Facebook poll yesterday, but decided not to respond.  Like you said, it was poorly worded.

  15.  Calvinist? Possibly.  Draconian?  Absolutely.  Of course, as is always the case with (apparently) rightist prudes, they are very careful to choose their wording so as to be able to purport motivations of common sense and careful consideration.  In reality, they forget that their motives are betrayed by their vim in trying to (futily) suppress the actual logical and common sense views.

    In other words “Sharkey”, your attempts at culling people to your side of the argument are simply  defeating your purpose.  Have you noticed that you are a one-man band?  That’s because  nudity for many people is a non-issue, or at least something that requires little argument.  Yes, I know, you only said that the image should have had an NSFW click-through, but as I mentioned, your religious zeal in re-stating your position ad nauseum reveals that you are probably the only rightist still on the left coast (and indeed, in the heart of THE free speech mecca). 

    OK, maybe the image should’ve had an NSFW device (personally, I think not), you’ve stated that opinion, now move on.  Life’s too short to worry about whether someone has seen a “wiener” or some “boobies” – rotflmao.  They’ll survive somehow.

  16. Americans are prudes.

    Don’t be a jerk.  That’s only true of an overwhelming majority of us.

    (of course –> 🙂

  17. An intelligent solution would’ve been t0 use a more tame cover photo with some warning that upon opening the article you will see nudity.

  18. The Sharkey, if you require an explanation as to why ‘boobies’ and ‘wieners’ are interesting then I’m afraid you just aren’t going to understand.

    Also, these weren’t just any ‘boobies’ and ‘wieners’, these were local Berkeley ‘boobies’ and ‘wieners’.

    While I am quite sympathetic to your original complaint, and think maybe reserving the photo for those who chose to follow a link would have been a good idea, it honestly doesn’t seem that difficult to understand why someone might have found their choice to prominently post such a picture interesting:

    As ‘childish’ as it may be it distinguishes Berkeleyside from a more traditional ‘news’ outlets and shows a bit of whimsy to which some people respond favorably.

  19. Americans are prudes. There was nothing sexual or lascivious about this, just some normal people in the nude. On bikes. In Berkeley. Did people lose sleep, or have nightmares, over this?

  20. Pablito, I think your comment displays your righteousness.  I hear you calling for some kind of moderation to prevent dialogue that YOU think is childish clashing. Well, I think your comment is childish. You seem to think that your standards are the right ones, that ‘we’ should honor your standards.  I do find the back and forth in this thread boring but, hey, no one made me read it all the way to the end the way I just did. I would much rather err on the side of boring then swing to censorship.  Your comment entered the realm of repetitive boring looping but you don’t see that because it was your comment. I bet that is also true for all the ‘boring’ comments here.  I would much rather read this relatively harmless, relatively polite, boring back and forth than experience censorship here.

  21. “according to current law, even non pornographic nudity is illegal in public in the City of Berkeley.”

    which is what makes this story “news”, i suppose!

  22. “according to current law, even non pornographic nudity is illegal in public in the City of Berkeley.”

    which is what makes this story “news”, i suppose!

  23. I agree, John. My original point was simply that the graphic nudity ought to be hidden behind an NSFW link. I have no problem with Berkeleyside covering the story and including those images, but it simply strikes me as inconsiderate to not make the simple gesture of hiding that content behind a link.

  24. If there’s a lesson learned from all of this is that Berkeleyside needs to rethink it’s comments structure.

    Perhaps, volunteer moderators might do the trick? Anything that limits the same back-and-forth arguments between the same few users will work.

    I’m not bothered by the clash in opinions, and I think this should be an open-forum for that clash. However, many comments have left the realm of discourse and entered into a repetitive loop of commenting—a childish relentlessness to get in the last word—that aims towards satisfying the commenters righteousness instead of moving discussions forward.

    Obnoxiousness aside, it’s just plain boring.

  25. i agree with randy. the exposure as captured in the video was not intended to arouse, or necessarily shock. rather, it was an expression of political speech. and, there are very few other cities where type of an event would happen. If you appreciate berkeley’s quirky side, a story like this ~would~ make berkeleyside more interesting. personally, i think berkeleyside’s interesting enough, but i do enjoy that it captures the more colorful side of berkeley. and i did enjoy the story, but found the video very disappointing after all the buildup!

    that said, i think a fair compromise is Bryan Garcia’s recommendation, which is to place the nudity behind a NSFW link. that’s how many other sites handle content that some people find objectionable. 

  26. So are smoking marijuana, drinking in public, lying on the sidewalk, and having unauthorized amplified sound–but I doubt you would have a problem if Berkeleyside posted photos of those activities. What it still comes down to:
    Your concern over workplace perceptions. (More reasonable)
    Your stated personal distaste for seeing nekkid old people. (Less reasonable)

  27. Hi Sasha/Windy/Claire/Gabru.

    Since Eric quoted me in his comment, I think it’s safe to say that at least part of what he said was, indeed, about me.

  28. Because I firmly believe in freedom of speech and freedom of the press, it didn’t bother me at all. 

    But I actually really like Bryan’s idea, and it’s nothing groundbreaking. Tons of sites post “NSFW” warnings. Gawker did this with Weiner’s weiner. I think this is a great compromise, Bryan.

  29. I would imagine that any workplace comfortable with its employees surfing the net would also have the discernment to understand that this was a local blog post featuring non-pornographic nudity. I think clothes are generally a good idea and I don’t plan to ever be naked in public, but if some people want to run around naked, I could scarcely care less. Either way, I wasn’t personally bothered by the post.

    That said, I don’t think it would be some huge capitulation to conformity, the garment industry, or the man for Berkeleyside to put it after a jump, behind a link, or to give some sort of warning for the faint of heart. You admit you (or your workplace) have delicate sensibilities and Berkeleyside accommodates them as best it can. Seems like a fair compromise to me.

    What really bothers me is all the ageist horse hockey flying around:

    I’m not uncomfortable with nudity, I just don’t like looking at a bunch
    of saggy old men with their genitals hanging out. It’s aesthetically
    unpleasant.

    It’s not meant to be “aesthetically pleasant,” or for that matter, unpleasant. Non-pornographic nudity is not about your viewing pleasure. I’m not much of a hippie, but I still think it’s worrisome that our culture views titillation as nudity’s raison d’être and anyone over 40 as too-ugly-for-nudity. The notion that nudity can be both non-sexual and all-ages is one of the points nudists try to make. You don’t have to agree with it, but when you complain about older nudists being unattractive, you’re sort of missing the point.

  30. Making a fake secondary account to call someone a troll? Priceless.

    As has been repeatedly stated, he content of the video is not the problem. The problem is the way that it was presented on this website – with full frontal nudity on the home page rather than placed behind a link.

  31. Do you just not bother to read other people’s comments, e-nuff/AsperiTe/biked/bikedodger/Jack?

    I’m sorry that the idea of being concerned about other people is so foreign to you that you assume that I’m talking about my own situation even though I have repeatedly said that I’m not.

  32. If you manage to swallow your bile for long enough, you might see that the video is actually pretty fun, and the people in it are harmless (maybe a bit weird but whatever).

    Some people like fun stories.Not everyone is so pissed off at life that they lurk around independent news sites complaining about content. Some people watched the video for what it was: a light-hearted, exhibitionist spin on the common protest.If you don’t think the piece was “news,” then you need to pick up a dictionary. Troll the comments some more (I know you are) and you’ll find that a few people said, “Oh hey I saw them ride by me, I wondered what that was all about.”

    Well now they know what it was, Sharkey. Thanks to Berkeleyside.

  33. I couldn’t care less about nudity being posted, but in the future it would be great to have the video behind a link marked as NSFW for those of us who read Berkeleyside at the office. Again, no problem whatsoever with the images/video, solely about the “NSFW” aspect.

  34. Honestly Sharkey,

    You’ve posted the same repetitive drone on here for the past 2 days, amassing quite a pile of responses.  If you are indeed at work, and that is why the post offended you, then you spend such a large quantity of time scanning the web that I wouldn’t be (statistically) concerned about someone looking over your shoulder.

    Also, there is a little mechanism I like to use when things I don’t enjoy pop up on my screen.  It involves clicking on a little “X” on the tab to close it.  Or swiping my fingers on my trackpad to “hide all windows”.

    This is so very far down on the list of things I’m heated about, and your impassioned Calvinist drumroll here is remarkable.

  35. For someone so offended by free press and so concerned about getting in trouble at work, you sure do troll these comment threads quite religiously.

  36. I wasn’t upset by the video image, but I do read Berkeleyside at work during lunch, so I had to scroll quickly past that story to avoid potentially upsetting co-workers or violating a policy on looking at non-work-related explicit material. Something to keep in mind for the future, I suppose!

  37. Can you explain in more detail how one or two photos of wieners and boobies makes Berkeleyside more interesting and re-enthuse you about local news and politics?

  38. This is the photo we put up yesterday in place of the video. Sharkey, you are the one really the most offended by this and have filed many many comments on the matter. I think it is time to let others have their say.

  39. So in order to discuss the issue of some people being offended with nudity in the images, you’re posting an enormous photograph of nudity that pushes other stories down the page again?

    I know the Berkeleyside writers aren’t stupid, so what this really amounts to is a big middle finger from the editors to anyone who might have been offended about this in the first place.

     

  40. Berkeley has had a law against public nudity since 1993.

    Perhaps you are the one who needs to leave if you’re so gung ho for public nudity.

  41. Whoever said anything about the 60’s? The 60’s *are* over Bryan, this is 2011, deal with it!

  42. Berkeleyside did not err. Berkeleyside is now more interesting and possibly worth perusing more often than previously. You notice it’s just a couple of ‘concerned commenters’ who keep complaining, and trying to ‘educate’  Berkeleyside. I’d stopped checking this website mostly, but am now re-enthused.

  43. I particularly enjoy reading reports and articles about things which make Berkeley special.

    For photos and video, I’d err on the side of non-offensiveness (if that’s a word).  

    If BerkeleySide thinks that a graphic might be too graphic for a family member (child, parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt ….) co-worker (supervisor, co-worker, …) to inadvertently see as they pass by a computer screen … then I think it’s best placed so the BerkeleySide reader has to “opt-in” and click-through to see it.

    And with that, I’ll butt out.

    Ira

  44. I’m sorry, but I wasn’t aware that Berkeley was a “clothing optional” city.

    Actually I’ll live wherever I damn well please, which is in Berkeley.  The 60s are over.  Deal with it.

  45. A few things:

    1) It wasn’t the publishing of the images in and of itself that was offensive, so your poll wording was quite flawed.  It was the fact that you gave readers NO CHOICE in whether or not to view the nude images.  It was right there, plastered on your front page, when I came to check for the latest news, while at work!  (And before someone chimes in about surfing the web at work, many workplaces are okay with you browsing appropriate sites during your down time.)

    2) I am personally fine with you posting such images, but please hide them behind a link or place them after the “continue reading” jump, with a NSFW warning.  Some of us check this site at work and could either be put in an awkward situation if found with nudity on our screen or worse, reprimanded by our employers.

    3) Berkeleyside’s writers need to educate themselves about the NSFW tag and the online etiquette that goes along with it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Not_safe_for_work

    To summarize, those of you calling us “prudes” for our complaints need to understand that this isn’t about the nudity in an of itself, it’s about how it was handled.

  46. People offended by nudity probably shouldn’t live in Berkeley. If your panties are in a bunch, take them off and have some fun.