Folsom Street Fair Brings a Diversity of Fetishes
Crowds gathered to be whipped, spanked and tied up
September 26, 2005 6:44 PM
Leather, lots of skin, whips and chains all came together on a fabulously sunny day in San Francisco’s South of Market district on Sunday at the twenty-second annual Folsom Street Fair, where fetishes and kinkiness ruled the land.
An estimated 400,000 people frolicked and ogled at the world’s largest leather event, an annual fair along Folsom Street scheduled for the last Sunday of every September. The weather was warm and the sky was clear, prompting most fair-goers to wear as little as possible.
No sexual fetish, fixation, kink or preference is too risqué for Folsom. There were spanking booths, porn producers hawking their wares, sex toy sales, and plenty of public debauchery.
“I like how it’s such a spectacle unlike anything you could see anywhere else,” said Yanko Guerrero, a local college student, as he took a quick break from dancing with a large group of friends clad in leather accessories and skimpy clothing. “It’s just one only-in-San-Francisco moment after another.”
Fair attire included a variety of leather harnesses, dominatrix uniforms, leather chaps, the occasional gas mask, and sometimes, nothing but a pair of shoes. Several men took in the fair while strolling about casually wearing only a cockring and maybe a backpack or fanny-pack.
The Folsom Street Fair, which is put on by a nonprofit group called Folsom Street Events, each year returns all proceeds, including gate donations and beverage sales, to local charities. This year there were 12 primary beneficiaries including the AIDS and Breast Cancer Emergency Funds, Project Open Hand, the Stop AIDS Project, and the Quan Yin Healing Arts Center.
San Francisco police officers kept an eye on the festivities but hung back from the action and allowed almost free reign to the fair-goers, even when some of the activities might have drawn unwanted attention on any ordinary day.
John Miller, 29, flew into town from Phoenix for the street fair and stayed the weekend with some friends. Though he had heard all about the fair and thought he knew what to expect, he was just a little shocked to witness men participating in fellatio in broad daylight.
“I’m sure it happens in Phoenix, I’ve seen just about everything else,” said Miller as he peered back over his shoulder just to be sure his eyes weren’t fooling him. “Just not in the middle of the street.”
Often it wasn’t too hard to tell the veterans of previous Folsom Street Fairs from their more naive fellow revelers. Some people were content to just watch the craziness around them, while others were all too happy to take part.
“My friends and I get together and have a crazy time because we know that no matter how naughty we all get, there are people all around us, some within an arm’s length, taking things further than us,” said Guerrero. “There’s less sense of guilt or shame when you’re surrounded by the truly shameless.”
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a self-ordained Order of queer nuns and a San Francisco institution, were collecting a recommended donation of five dollars at the gates in exchange for a sticker that was good for one dollar off of drinks. Big-name sponsors included Miller Genuine Draft, Finlandia Vodka, Southern Comfort, and local radio station 92.7 FM.
“I love Folsom. I always look forward to gathering with friends, going out and being free and enjoying whatever it is that’s going on,” said Braddon White, 31. “Plus it’s usually a great time to be outside and enjoy life, love and happiness.”
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