Get Ready for Folsom Street Fair!

We’re just over a week away from Folsom Street Fair, the biggest BDSM community events in the world. On Sunday, September 25 from 11-6, over 400,000 people will fill 13 city blocks with hot, sexy, fun!

There’ll be music, food, dancing, demos, play spaces, lots of sexy people, and booths offering plenty of toys and other goodies. It’s always a fun event, and here are some tips to make sure you have a great time.

1) Know what you’re getting into
The Fair is a kink event and you’ll see folks in all sorts of outfits from nothing but a pair of sneakers to lots of leather to amazing costumes that took hours of devoted labor. If such things make you uncomfortable, you may want to reconsider your reasons for attending. Also, you’ll see lots of hot men kissing, spanking, flogging and paddling each other, and every year, I see a few people who are definitely uncomfortable around that. Here’s a hint- this started off as an event by and for the gay BDSM community, so don’t be surprised by sexy men having fun. (Here’s a few photos to give you a glimpse.)

2) Say hydrated and bring sunblock
Even though San Francisco doesn’t usually get too hot (unless you’re dancing your booty off), there’s almost no shade in SOMA (South of Market) and the cool breezes can make it harder to realize that you’re getting a sunburn. Besides, if you have sunblock, maybe some hottie will strike up a conversation and ask to have some! Having enough water can make a big difference in how much fun you have, too.

3) Dress to participate
One of the things I hear every year is “there sure were a lot of people gawking!” Lots of events like Pride, Burning Man, or other community gatherings struggle with how to balance the experiences of the folks who are active participants and the people who come to check it out. But there are also lots of people who come to stare at the kinky freaks, which can cause problems. And there’s no way to tell which one someone in a t-shirt and jeans might be. So give a clear signal and show that you’re there to enjoy the day, rather than gawk.

That doesn’t mean you need to show up in full leather (although some people will), but showing up in the same clothes that you’d wear when you go to Safeway is just not cool. It’s a theme event and if you’re not going to participate, you might as well stay home. Club Slick has a great piece about making the effort here. Swing by Hot Topic or Forever 21 for something disposable and sexy.

4) You’ll see lots of different kinds of sexy
One of my favorite things about Folsom St. Fair is the amazing range of sexualities, bodies, kinks, and people on display. People come in all sorts of outfits, from gym-buffed dudes in jeans and leather chest harnesses, to corsets and vintage wear, to sexy steampunk, to schoolgirls of various genders, to latex body suits. I think my two favorites from last year were Little Red Riding Hood walking the Big Bad Wolf on a leash and Mary with her Little Lamb (also on a leash). I love the creativity that people bring to their sexual play, especially when they do it in ways that simply don’t occur to me.

One of the key pieces of sex-positivity can be summed up by the acronym YKINMKBYKIOK, which stands for “Your Kink Is Not My Kink But Your Kink Is OK. Once you realize that your turn-ons and your squicks come from within you, once you realize that it has less to do with what someone else is doing or saying than you think, you can discover much more sexual freedom within yourself.

There’s a great video here to give you a sample of what you can expect, so if you’re not sure about your comfort level, check it out and see what you think.

5) Ask before taking photos
Just because folks are in skimpy outfits and you have a new digital camera doesn’t mean that you can take photos of them. It’s rude. Actually, it’s really obnoxious. I once saw a guy with a camera got really angry when my friend put her hand in front of the lens and told him to stop, as if his right to take photos of anyone he wanted was being violated.

Yes, it’s a public event, but that doesn’t mean that everyone wants their photos on the internet. Plus, if the Fair gets too many people taking photos without consent, fewer people will want to come and show off, so it ruins the event for everyone. Ask before you take a photo and listen when people say no. Even if they’re giving a spanking demo, even if they’re making out, unless you have their consent in advance, don’t do it.

6) Ask before touching
I can’t say this strongly enough. Don’t touch anyone without permission. That includes anyone wearing a leash and/or collar. If you’re not familiar with the etiquette around such things, take a workshop or two at the SF Citadel or the Society of Janus and stop impinging on other people. And if you can’t resist touching a gorgeous person in the crowd, then maybe you need to not be in situations where you’re going to do something you shouldn’t be doing.

7) Parking is difficult
Consider taking public transit or be prepared to walk several blocks just to get to the Fair. 400,000 people is a lot.

8 ) Bring clothes for later
San Franciscans know that it gets chilly in the late afternoon. If you plan to be at the Fair late in the day, you’ll want a sweatshirt or something else to keep warm when you head home. And those gorgeous high heels might look great, but after a few hours on pavement, they might not feel so sexy.

I hope this helps you have an amazing time at the Fair. It’s always a blast, especially with a little planning in advance! Have fun!

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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