Folsom Street Fair
World’s largest fetish event in San Francisco on the last weekend of September showcases BDSM products and culture.
An annual BDSM and leather subculture street fair. BDSM is an erotic preference and a form of sexual expression involving the consensual use of restraint, intense sensory stimulation, and fantasy power role-play. BDSM is derived from the terms bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism and masochism (S&M). BDSM includes a wide spectrum of activities, forms of interpersonal relationships, and distinct subcultures.
The Folsom Street Fair, sometimes simply referred to as “Folsom”, takes place on Folsom Street between 7th and 12th Streets, in San Francisco‘s South of Market district. The event started in 1984 and is California‘s third-largest spectator event and the world’s largest leather event and showcase for BDSM products and culture. It has grown as a non-profit charity, and local and national non-profits benefit with all donations at the gates going to charity groups as well as numerous fundraising schemes within the festival including games, beverage booths and even spanking for donations to capitalize on the adult-themed exhibitionism.
One of the few occasions when sadomasochistic activities are encouraged and performed in public, it attracts a considerable number of sightseers and those who enjoy the attention of onlookers as well as hundreds of photographers and videographers. Although the costumes and activities are frequently transgressive, many attendees find the event “eye-opening” and positive. On the other hand, the event has at times drawn public and internal criticism for its bawdy atmosphere and broad tolerance of lewd behaviour, and it is a regular target for unsympathetic organizations.
The fair annually draws 400,000 visitors including kinky leather fans from around the world, and is the third-largest street event in California, after the Tournament of Roses Parade and San Francisco Pride parade. Each year all proceeds from the Folsom Street Fair, including gate donations and beverage sales, are given to qualified local charities. These include AIDS charities and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who lead the organizing effort at the gates themselves.
It was the first time I attended such an event, only to leave it with an understanding of people who seek to fill a fantasy in such a cooperative way. It may look harmful, but in fact, the play is mutual consent that only delivers joy and pleasure for the participants.
** Folsom Street Fair logo is trademarked and the rights for usage are limited.