On Friday a friend of mine was at the Rocket Cat Cafe down in Northern Liberties in Philadelphia. While she was there, she was accosted by local nudist Tom Dimitriou, also known as Tommy D Naked Man. Needless to say she was shocked by the appearance of a man’s naked genitals next to her face while he offered her a flier for the Philly Naked Bike Ride. She got up and gave the guy an earful. You can read her account of what happened in an article she wrote for The Frisky, but she also commented on Rocket Cat’s Yelp page about it.
The response of Rocket Cat owner Karen Breeze was to post this nonpology to their Facebook page.
The fact that Breeze tried to turn their “apology” into a message promoting the event that they think somehow excuses this behavior is the first really big problem with this message. The second problem is that the owner tries to make it sound as though PNBR’s body positivity movement is in any way helped by jumping people in their regular day with a naked person. Weird thing about people, they don’t like having unsolicited dick waved in their face when they are having coffee. It’s a consent thing.
Of course, eventually the Breeze reached out to the Philly Naked Bike Ride and asked them for their support. They sent the following:
I hate to tell Breeze this, but PNBR’s response does not really help her out at all. All it does is show that PNBR was not aware of the type of promotion that Tommy D was doing and that they would never have allowed that type of promotion to go on, had they known about it.
That doesn’t mean that Breeze is somehow off the hook. Or that she has the support of PNBR in any way. PNBR has flat out asked that Tommy D not be involved with any of their promotional affairs in future. That is likely because they recognize that Tommy D is not a good representative if you are trying to get people to like or feel comfortable around you as an organization.
It also doesn’t help the case of Breeze or Rocket Cat that she has gone through her pages and deleted all the negative comments associated with this incident. Or that she has blocked supporters of Sarah (such as yours truly) from commenting.
I have to say, Breeze made made a lot of mistakes in this whole debacle. Nonetheleast of which was the use of Tommy D as an advocate of body positivity.
Which brings me to my next point. I have met Tommy D before. At an event called the Erotic Literary Salon here in Philadelphia. Of course, when you have a sex positive event, you get all kinds coming out for it. And Tommy D was one of the people who came out that gave me the willies. He was too touchy. Too leery. And he talked constantly about what a thrill it was to be seen naked by people on the street. The whole thing made me really uncomfortable, so I avoided him. He really seemed to be communicating all the time that his true thrill in being seen naked was that other people would see it, whether or not they consented to seeing him naked was never discussed. Tommy D’s view on consent is pretty amazing, honestly. He said in an article in Philadelphia Magazine on Monday that:
“I had permission from the owner. I figured that’s good enough. This thing about consent is an affront to our civil liberties. If someone gives you permission to be naked at their venue, and you don’t like it, then leave.” Likewise, he brushed off concerns that children at the café saw him naked. “That business about nudity hurting children is a lot of baloney,” he said.
Now, I’ve been to clothing optional places before. They are usually very well sign posted as such to the people patronizing them. You don’t just walk into a place and get surprised by how naked everyone is. Sometimes you even have to sign a waiver. Like it or not, public nudity is illegal in most places. And just because a person who owns a venue tells you that you can be naked, that doesn’t mean that they have the legal right to.
After I read that, I sent the article to the Salon organizer with a note saying that she might be interested in Tommy D’s views of consent. Her response was to tell me that the story was a “slippery slope” because he “had consent” from Breeze to be there.
Except the owner of an establishment cannot consent on behalf of her patrons. If she had put up signage, I would agree that she had the right to shuck off responsibility for people being upset. But she did not.
Her next point was that “people freak out when it comes to nudity” and that, if they don’t like it, they can remove themselves.
But that isn’t really relevant here. Again, a store owner cannot consent on behalf of the people in her store to a thing. And taking responsibility for what you want to be exposed to is all well and good when you can predict what you are going to be exposed to. But spotting naked scrotum isn’t something you really expect at a coffee shop that isn’t located on a nudist resort.
And honestly, if this were any other type of behavior, I doubt that people would find it defensible. If Tommy D had entered the store and just wantonly started punching people, for example, no one would tell the patrons to “take responsibility for what they are exposed to” and “just leave.” So many of the people responding to this story are seeing what he did as some kind of act of sexual freedom and body positivity. But it’s not. As Sarah Gray said in her Frisky article:
An act isn’t “body positive” or “sex positive” just because you say so. In a country where a sexual assault happens every 107 seconds and 98% of rapists are never jailed, you don’t get to complain when women respond with alarm to a sudden scrotum in the face.
As if all of his behavior wasn’t gross enough, Tommy D also upped the ante yesterday. He found Sarah’s phone number, called her up, said “This is Tommy. Freedom will win.” and then hung up the phone. So, you know, add stalking and harassment to his list of attributes right after thinking that consent is just a thing that fucks with his ability to do whatever he wants. He totally deserves the defense of all of these people all over Rocket Cat’s page. Except not.