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Skin is skin or is it?

A local publisher talks about sexuality, nudity, and what we should really care about

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In light of SLO city's annual nudity ordinance and local HopeDance publisher Bob Banner's interaction with nudity-related themes in the past New Times asked him a few questions about an issue that's literally skin deep. His July/August 2006 edition on sexuality featured a painting by Mark Bryan on the cover, which prompted a variety of reactions, including the removal of numerous copies from county libraries.

COVER GIRL :  The July/August 2006 edition of Bob Banners HopeDance, featuring a painting by Mark Bryan, created a stir in the county especially the libraries about what is and is not appropriate when it comes to bare skin. - IMAGE COURTESY OF BOB BANNER
  • IMAGE COURTESY OF BOB BANNER
  • COVER GIRL : The July/August 2006 edition of Bob Banners HopeDance, featuring a painting by Mark Bryan, created a stir in the county especially the libraries about what is and is not appropriate when it comes to bare skin.

# Banner, who said in an e-mail that he chose that image "because it was beautiful," expanded on the topic.

New Times: How did the community respond [to the sexuality issue and cover]?

Banner: Many enjoyed that I had the guts to publish something of that nature in a conservative community. Even some "progressives" were shocked. I lost a distributor because of it not very big...

[KVEC talk-show host Dave] Congalton jumped on it for being a First Amendment rights issue. During the interview, I wanted to keep steering the conversation to sex, and he wanted to keep it on the First Amendment issue. All the people who called were against the head librarian pulling the issue...

New Times: The January/February issue also features nudity [in the online version], though the theme is "changes." Why did you choose this image?

Banner: Golly geese, a naked butt. My word. The front cover of the printed version has no such "nudity." We liked both images, so [we] decided to have one for the online version and one for the printed version.

New Times: Have you heard anything in response to the current issue's cover?

Banner: Yeah, lots. I'm not sure if it's the cover or the topic. I'm sure the people who are immediately offended never bothered to read it. Then again, there are people who were not offended by the cover but were offended by some of the stories. At least they read it.

New Times: What do you think is the difference between this [online] cover's nudity and the sexuality cover's nudity?

Banner: Oh, you mean the difference between breasts and a butt? Not much, to me. I like seeing both. I also like seeing hands and feet and hair and lips and elbows collar bones have a peculiar attraction to me...

What pisses me off is that we can go around in a comatose state while our soldiers are being killed for an illegal war fighting over oil, and it has nothing to do with freedom and democracy, yet we get all squirrelly in our seats because of a woman's naked body. Give me a break. Wake up, America! Where are our priorities?

What publications around the world ought to do is show photos of the ... blown-up bodies of women and children and men, who might be naked or not, that we are killing with our tax money. Put that on your front cover and see how long your advertisers keep paying their bills. See if you have the courage to do that. I'm including myself in that as well.

You think that might get people out in the streets to protest this illegal war. If we really had photos and film footage displayed in America about the realities of war, naked brutally killed bodies for a week or two, we might just end this war, but no, we'd rather get all in an uproar for some nudity on campus or a Mardi Gras parade that lets people be what they want to be without harming anyone.

Where's our democracy at home? We talk about exporting it all around the world, but we don't talk about it not being here in the United States, especially when it comes to small towns like SLO and sexuality.

New Times: In your opinion, do you feel that there is a distinction between nudity and sexuality? Can nudity just be nudity, or is there always something sexual about it?

Banner: Show a naked body being blown up by one of our bombs. I don't think that's very sexy. I think this question is ridiculous.

New Times: In general, how would you characterize San Luis Obispo County's openness to nudity, at least from your experience?

Banner: It's not open, but thank goddess that there is Pirate's Cove for people who love to expose themselves and for those who like to watch.

New Times: Anything else to add?

Banner: About Mardi Gras: I'm more concerned about the beads and where they are manufactured than I am about any nudity. Bring on the nudity! But let us become aware of where the beads are coming from. We have a film called Mardi Gras in China that exposes/unveils/makes naked awakening of the working conditions of young girls working 14-hour shifts making beads so we can play in our silly rituals totally ignorant/clothed/veiled of our lifestyles on other peoples'.

Editor Ryan Miller can be reached at rmiller@newtimesslo.com.

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