Folsom St. Fair was yesterday. It’s the biggest kink/leather/BDSM event anywhere and as often happens, the weather gods smiled on the pervs. The sun was out, but it was just enough to make the skin on the men glisten with sweat.
But I digress.
Every year, a few people get their knickers in a twist about the event, saying that all that open sexuality is dangerous, scary, and harmful to teh kiddiez. And yeah, it’s not a kid-friendly event. Unlike many people, I don’t think that children need to be protected from sexuality. I think that they deserve to be protected from adult sexuality because children and adolescents need the room to be sexual beings as children and adolescents. We let 5-year-olds play tee ball, not fast pitch hardball for a reason.
And the crowd at Folsom is definitely fast pitch hardball. 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 yesterday 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.
What makes Folsom so important, as well as sexy & fun, is getting to see people expressing parts of their sexualities that most of us keep secret. It’s not just getting to play with a lover- it’s also being witnessed by other people, most of whom are also letting part of their sexuality out to play. This might not seem all that important to you, especially if you get to express your sexuality in ways that US society considers OK. If you’re a young femme woman who likes to wear short skirts and tight tops, you can do that at almost any nightclub in town. If you’re an older woman, or a man, or disabled, or not conventionally pretty, you won’t get the same response. But you can go to Folsom St. Fair and have a great time dressed in sexy clubwear, no matter who you are. Of course, not everyone will get it and some people may have their negative reactions. And many other people will smile, nod, and share a moment of mutual recognition:
Yes, you are a sexual being, you’re having fun, and there’s nothing sexier than that.
I’ll admit that when I first started going to Folsom, I felt a lot of discomfort with much of what I saw. I couldn’t wrap my brain around cross-dressers, or wrinkled men in full leather, or some of the more intense fetish outfits. And I certainly saw quite a few people having their own eeewwww moments yesterday.
But that’s another thing that makes Folsom important. Sexuality is an expansive country and media representations really only show us a small slice of it. After all, most sex in the media is used to sell stuff, which can only work if enough people find the imagery attractive, or at least, not off-putting. And the first time you see something outside your comfort zone, whether it’s two men kissing, or a woman with bruises on her back, or someone whose gender seems ambiguous, or anything else that challenges you, you have an opportunity to cut loose from your assumptions, beliefs and judgments about sex. You have an opportunity to discover the difference between “I find that attractive” and “That is attractive.” You have an opportunity to discover the difference between “I find that disturbing” and “That is disturbing.” And that is that start of discovering sex-positivity.
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. You can start to turn that around and realize that someone else’s judgments about your desires have nothing to do with you. Even if it’s your long-term partner, even if they aren’t willing to explore those desires, it still has nothing to do with you and you still get to have those fantasies. (Figuring out what to do at that point isn’t trivial, but it’s a lot easier when you believe that you’re not bad because of your sexuality.)
Folsom St. Fair was a big part of that journey for me when I was first discovering sex-positivity. Although I won’t pretend that everything that I saw yesterday did it for me, it was amazing to celebrate the joy, pleasure and fun that everyone brought to the fair. It’s an incredible thing to see.
And of course, if you happen to like watching hot men get it on, you’ll have lots of opportunities next year. Just saying.