a visitor’s guide to Folsom St. Fair

The Folsom St. Fair is coming up on Sept. 27 and I have a few tips for anyone coming to enjoy the spectacle. Folsom is an amazing experience and a great opportunity to have fun, if you’re interested in queer, kinky, leather, sexy folks. (You can pick any combination of those adjectives to describe most of the people in the crowd.)

As much fun as it can be to see folks getting flogged to raise money for community groups, scantily-clad people wandering around in the San Francisco sunshine (at least, until the middle of the afternoon, when the chilly wind makes people get dressed), or the leather-and-denim wearing hunks cruising each other, there are some important steps you can take to make sure that you have a good time.

First, the fair is a kink-oriented event. If you’re at all uncomfortable seeing queer men making out, hot dykes spanking each other, people being led around on leashes, folks wearing amazing fetish costumes, or people with bruises on their backs from being flogged, you might want to reconsider attending. At the very least, I suggest that you go with the awareness that any discomfort you feel is about you. Folsom can be a lot of fun and it can also be overwhelming if you’ve never been in a BDSM space up close. Take care of yourself and don’t blame the players if you don’t enjoy the game. If you’re not sure where your comfort zone is, check out these photos.

Second, yes, the fair takes place in public and people go with an expectation of being seen. But each year, more and more douches with cameras show up, snapping pictures of people without asking for permission. I’ve seen quite a few altercations start because somebody didn’t want to be photographed and the dude with the camera wouldn’t leave them alone (it’s almost always men with the cameras). And if this keeps going, the cute people are going to stop showing off because they don’t want to end up on the internet or as somebody’s wank fodder.

Yeah, I get that the guys with the cameras aren’t going to listen to me, but I needed to say it. But if you want to jack off while looking at naked folks, get over yourself and get a subscription to a website. There’s plenty of them.

Third, dress for the day. Folsom St. Fair works best when it’s a participatory event. You don’t need to wear a collar or lay out lots of cash. But wear something that makes you feel sexy. Wear something that shows that you’re participating, not just gawking. It’s like wearing team colors when you go to a game. You’ll have more fun, and so will everyone else. Swing by Hot Topic or Forever 21 for something disposable and sexy.

Next, don’t ever touch anyone without permission. That includes anyone wearing a leash and/or collar. It’s a good way to get yourself smacked. If you think that being in a BDSM space means that you can grope someone, don’t even bother showing up because you don’t get it. Ask first and don’t touch if someone says no.

Don’t forget to bring sunblock, water, layers of clothing, perhaps a hat, a snack and some cash. The San Francisco weather is always unpredictable and it can go from sunny and warm to windy and chilly in an hour or two. Be prepared. There are plenty of food and drink vendors, but if you don’t want to wait in line to buy standard fair food, bring your own. And you can purchase lots of fun & sexy toys, clothing, jewelry and more, so a little extra money never hurts to have.

So there it is. Have lots of fun, play safe and remember- if you can’t be good, be bad well.

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Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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