On the last Sunday in September, the Folsom Street Fair was held as the closing event of a week of parties and activities for leather men and other fetish afficionados.
This manifestation is still controversial. The poster alone made the Christian fundamentalist organization Americans for Truth About Homosexuality foam at the mouth.
The organization let off steam on its website under the heading “San Francisco ‘Leather’ Homosexuals Put the ‘P’ Back in Perversion: Folsom Street Fair Poster 2013.” This heading will not win any prizes in the category clarity, unless the Christians read the “P” as “pee.” But there is no reference to this kinky activity in the tirade that follows after the appropriate quotation of Romans I:27, following the rules of a sermon: “The ‘fair’ is notorious for its open-air perversions, mocking of religion, sadistic whippings, ‘master-slave’ couples, and full nudity - and the latter will be allowed again this year due to an exemption granted to FSF to a new anti-public-nudity law passed by city supervisors. Words can barely convey the evil captured by this image - a rebellious wickedness that comes from glorifying sin in defiance of the wholesome boundaries for sex established by God. Folsom is also the creepy cousin of ‘gay pride’ and ‘diversity’ - there would be no Folsom Street Fair were there not first a ‘gay’ revolution, with its ground zero in the homosexual Mecca of San Francisco.”
Even though the organization warns about the “highly offensive graphic,” it did include the poster on its website. This made them distributors of material they claim to abhor, but the extreme right-wing Protestants are no strangers to hypocrisy.
The disgust of these Americans who think they hold the truth did not stop the visitors of the fetish week showing up wearing their best bib and tucker, or less.
The kick-off to the Leather Pride Week took place on September 22nd with the LeatherWalk, starting at Harvey Milk Plaza. This demonstration was first organized in 1992 by Art Tomaszewski, former president of the AIDS Emergency Fund (AEF), model for the “Bare Chest Calendar,” and former Mr. Headquarters Leather. Its aim is to celebrate “leather, kink and community,” and collect money for the AEF and the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund (BCEF). Also this year, hundreds of LeatherWalkers took over the legendary Market Street, and walked from the famous gay ghetto Castro to that other famous gay district, South of Market. The route passed a number of favorite San Francisco watering holes and ended with a beer party at the SF Eagle, hosted by the models of the “Bare Chest Calendar.”
The unsurpassed highlight of the Leather Pride Week is still the Folsom Street Fair. This market, which has become the largest open-air day event in California, was first organized in 1984. At the time, a lot of saunas and other stopping places for the leather community had to close because of new rules or out of sheer necessity as a consequence of the AIDS crisis. A number of activists then decided it was time for a street market, not only to improve the visibility of the fetish world, but also as a way to spread information on safe sex, and as a fund raising opportunity. Last year, the donations totaled 325,000 dollars.
The fetish fans arrived en masse for a day of shameless nudity, sun, fun, chains and whips on this thirtieth edition. On the Fair, regularly spanking demonstrations are given for a small fee, for example in the stand of specialized porn producer Man’s Hand Films, originally based in San Francisco. The company has a “spanking booth” on the Fair since 1994, with all the proceedings going to an AIDS charity. Some years ago, a giggling blond twink had to cover his mouth while waiting for his punishment in his bare ass on a buck. An enthusiastic crowd was recording the event with photo and video cameras. No “sadistic whipping,” but a cheerful moment that will last forever on the Internet...
Although this display of perversions might upset our Christian friends, for fetish lovers, the Folsom Street Fair is a glorious manifestation of pride and lust. It is even more attractive as it is an open-air event, unlike Amsterdam’s Leather Pride or the Leather Meetings in Hamburg, making the exciting character of this fetish visible to an even larger public.