Whether you're new to the city or finally mustered up the curiosity to attend San Francisco's famed BDSM and kink festival this Sunday, we want you to do it right. And don't expect the tame version of Folsom Street Fair they tried to pass off in Looking earlier this year. You're going to see people suspended by hooks, spanked in broad daylight, playing naked Twister, whipping one another to the point of welts, wearing ball-gags, sipping urine, and possibly giving and receiving blow jobs if you're lucky. Arrive sober (you can get plenty drunk there if you choose), enter with an open mind, and abide by these tips.
Leave Dogs And Kids At Home
This seems like an obvious one, but every year, people bring dogs and kids — which could be trampled or permanently scarred, respectively. And don't even think about bringing a stroller (for your dog or kid). It's hard enough as an adult to push through some 400,000 people packed into 13 city blocks, though if you want to act like a puppy or baby, that's encouraged. There will be a canine course and playpen space waiting for you.
Do Not Try To Drive Through Town On Sunday
Just don't. All of SoMa is basically going to be off-limits to traffic creating consequent traffic snarls in every direction all afternoon.
You Do Not Have To Wear Leather, Or Be Gay
Folsom Street Fair is open to everyone, and is hardly a gay event (the truly gay kink fest is Dore Alley, which happens in July). Kink transcends all gender and sexual identities. And if that sentence made you snicker or cringe, welcome to San Francisco. You don't have to costume yourself along with the leather-, rubber-, and latex-clad hordes if you don't choose to, but that stuff is certainly encouraged and will get you more attention. It's fine, though, to just wear jeans and non-open-toed shoes and be a tourist at the fair.
Ask Before Taking Photos
This is not your opportunity to look edgy on Instagram at the expense of someone'e privacy. You will see weird and titillating demonstrations of sex acts, but even if it's at an official festival tent, you should still ask before taking someone's photo unless they have a mask on. But as we noted last year, if they're porn stars, it's fair game.
Ask Before Touching
Again, this should be obvious, like elementary-school-rulebook obvious. You should ask or wait to be invited (at least implicitly) before touching anyone, and that includes clothing, jewelry and gear. Most people are happy to tell you more about what they're wearing (or not wearing).
Don't Point, Giggle, Or Gawk
Don't be an idiot. It's just like if you were invited to a Hollywood party and there were celebrities there. Yes, people want to be looked at, but respectfully and without judgment. Take in the scene, rather than creepily staring at one person for too long. This is San Francisco and people don't always take kindly to prudes.
Act Cool If You See A Coworker
San Francisco can sometimes feel like a small town and Folsom is no exception. You will likely see someone you know, maybe even a coworker, potentially in a compromising position. Whatever you do, don't spread any gossip and don't run away. If it's appropriate, say a quick hi. If it's not, keep walking and pretend you didn't see them.
Bring Sunscreen And Water
You may shed some layers while at the festival (there's an area to check your clothes) and, seriously, you don't want a harness tan when you go into the office on Monday. Bring sunscreen, hell bring enough to share, and reapply throughout the day. And while you can buy water at the event, it's cheaper and easier to bring your own and refill throughout the day. Oh and don't drink any water bottles filled with yellow liquid — unless of course that's your thing.
The Fair Is Not The Only Thing
There are a bevy of events happening all weekend long, and thousands of kink-loving tourists in town for the festivities. The Armory is doing special tours all weekend, there's this HUGE gay dance party on Treasure Island Saturday night called Magnitude, and much, much more.
It's Free, But You Should Donate
Support the folks who have kept Folsom Street Fair running for 30 years and pony up at the gate. If you pay $10 or more, you'll get $2 off every drink, and proceeds go to benefit local groups including the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who man the gates. Pun intended.
Folsom Street Fair takes place on Sunday, September 21 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Folsom Street from 8th to 13th Streets.
Jay Barmann also contributed to this post.