Getting Kinky at Folsom: The World's Largest BDSM Festival

Getting Kinky at Folsom: The World’s Largest BDSM Festival

BDSM: an overlapping abbreviation of Bondage (sexual practice involving tying up or restraining one’s partner) and Discipline (BD), Dominance and Submission (DS), and Sadism (deriving sexual pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation on others) and Masochism (deriving pleasure from one’s own pain or humiliation) (SM).

Imagine a party where you can be completely naked in public, performing some of the most creative, confronting and outrageous sexual acts on earth. All walks of life are in attendance… including mothers and their strollers. Welcome to Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, where BDSM and leather fetishism are celebrated on the streets – in the flesh. It’s the Mount Everest of sexual openness. There’s blood, lashings, piss parties, orgies between all genders and sexualities, and people dangling from chains. I see what you’re thinking: Is this too much? Am I comfortable? Am I scared? Should I be more open-minded?

Upon walking into the festival, my friends and I were plunged into a deep sea of bare-breasts, dick rings, arseless pants and leather on leather on leather. Walking past various stages, sex tents, bars, music stages and fetish markets, I could smell freedom and acceptance in the air, as well as some things I couldn’t quite put my finger on (and didn’t necessarily want to).

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We made our way past a building called the Fay Boy Mansion, which was hosting a house party we would be attending later. As we glanced up to the second floor of the building, we saw our first performance take place. A man in his late twenties stood facing the street, wearing nothing but a leather harness. His bulging erection poked through the open window. Another man stood penetrating him from behind, whilst a third man shoved his fingers in the receiver’s (aka bottom’s) mouth, forcing him to gag whilst slapping and choking him.

The bottom’s face glowed with lust and passion. He became completely submissive, passing trust and control of his body to the men behind him. Soon enough, a person was pointed to in the crowd, and the bottom began spitting down at them. The people below giggled, gasped or gawked. I remember dropping my jaw, saying, “Oh my god!” and releasing a nervous laugh.

“Guys, I need a fucking drink,” I muttered to my friends.
“Agreed,” they replied in chorus.

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Several shots later, we came to another stage and saw three naked men in leather holsters perched on their hands and knees, arses pointing to the crowd. Another man sat on top of them, forming a mini-nude human pyramid. At the front of the stage, a tall Eurasian man in arseless leather pants and a feathered black jacket stood with a tire attached to a long cord, raising it into the air with a knowing smile. Electronic music thundered into the cheering crowd.

The man proceeded to tie the cord around the penis and testicles of the man at the top of the human pyramid. Once secured, the procession began crawling forwards, as the man on top dragged the tire behind with his genitals. I was amazed at how much passion and lust could be derived from aggression, pain, submission and domination – creative sexuality.

More creativity spewed at us from every direction as we traipsed past people masturbating on the sidewalk, awaiting a companion or nearing climax. It almost seemed like an adult candy store where people could pick their lollipop, suck on it for a while, and then find another one to enjoy before moving on.

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As promiscuous and ‘unsafe’ as this might sound, the festival has a huge focus on safe sex. Advertisements were sprawled across the street walls, and a bowl of condoms sat at every turn (among other items). Promoters of the revolutionary HIV-preventative drug named PREP were scattered throughout the festival. Unsurprising really, considering the festival was started in 1984 as a response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that crippled San Francisco’s gay community. It aimed to raise funds for medical aid, whilst repelling conservative forces that endeavored to eradicate sexual progressiveness and homosexuality in the area.

We soon wandered up to a double story bus installation in the form of a giant sheep (please note that no sheep were violated at Folsom and bestiality is forbidden at the festival). The bus blasted music and we danced around with the partially nude crowd, their genitalia flopping all over the place. It was a blast. We found ourselves feeling safe and comfortable with everything happening around us. Everybody was enjoying themselves in different ways. We danced the afternoon away in support of sexualities that we previously deemed repulsive, and we danced knowing that we were welcomed with open arms, despite not participating in them.

As the sun disappeared, we moved on to the Fay Boy Mansion, where several people told us their stories from Folsom’s past. Rather than being shocked or repulsed, I enjoyed the conversations, relishing in their honesty whilst admitting sexual truths that I generally kept secret.

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No one at Folsom could condemn what was happening on those streets that day. People were free to leave at any time, and amidst the air of surprise, shock and humour, a permeation of approval could not go unnoticed.

Everyone has sex, yet embracing sexual diversity not in accordance with social norms is often considered disgusting or immoral. But no one should feel the need to prevent sexual openness and inventiveness when the acts are consensual for all parties involved. Certain fetishes and sexual explorations can add fabulous fire to a person’s sex life. Experimenting can lead people to find new ways of having sex they might enjoy. This is especially true considering how many relationships and marriages fail, and how much sex has to do with that.

If it makes you happy and it’s consensual, it can’t be that bad. Not everyone wants to get fucked in the missionary position every night.

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Cover by Tasty Eagle, inset by Tweeker0108, Makukuzu, HeyMoira, bob8888 and Ed Bierman

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