NSFW: Kinksters dominate San Francisco’s leather district for Folsom Street Fair 2023

Four people posing for a photo at Folsom 2023. Each person photographed is smiling and shirtless and wearing some form of kink gear. They are photographed from the waist up.
Four people posing for a photo at Folsom 2023. Each person photographed is smiling and shirtless and wearing some form of kink gear. They are photographed from the waist up. Instagram: @robearla

On Sunday, September 24, kinksters of all descriptions came out to play as San Francisco celebrated the 2023 edition of Folsom Street Fair. The annual event welcomes visitors from all over the world, with around 250,000 estimated to have taken to The Golden City this year.

Folsom 2023 marked the 40th anniversary of San Francisco’s largest street fair, which is also billed as the world’s biggest kink festival. Dominating the area between 8th and 13th street, the event closed the roads to cars and instead erected stalls with vendors selling a variety of playful apparel as well as poppers (which reports say were very high in demand).

There was also a full-sized wrestling ring, public flogging stations and multiple stages featuring dance, DJs, bondage demonstrations and more.

 

 

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Since its debut in 1984, Folsom Street Fair has grown exponentially. The event caps San Francisco‘s Leather Pride Week, attracting members of the BDSM community from all over the world. The city has a long history of leather-loving, with its very first leather bar, the Sailor Boy Tavern, opening in 1938 to cater to navy sailors looking for some same-sex action.

An earlier precursor to Folsom was the CMC Carnival (California Motorcycle Club Carnival), a gay leather BDSM fair that took place from 1966-1984. It was organised by queer motorcycle clubs, like the Warlocks, San Francisco’s first gay biker gang.

 

 

 

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The beginnings of the Folsom Street Fair are closely tied to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, when city officials began to enforce stricter regulations for bars and crackdown on bathhouses. In response, community activists decided to organise a public gathering to raise awareness, as well as funds, and to offer members of the leather community the possibility to access information and services around safe sex.

Over the years, the event evolved into the iconic celebration of free sexuality that we know and love today, and has expanded to hold fairs in Europe and Australia as well.

 

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