by David Wraith
I know this site is called Sex Positive St. Louis, but on a site dedicated to sex positivity, I think it’s perfectly acceptable that we pay homage its American Mecca. What Los Angeles is to the movie industry and New York is to the theater, San Francisco is to sex. Yes, L.A. (and more specifically, the San Fernando Valley) has the porn industry and NYC is home to the sex blogger literati (Audacia Ray, Tristan Taormino, Rachel Kramer Bussel) but where would we be without Good Vibrations, On Our Backs Magazine, or Cleis Press? If there was a Sex Positive Hall of Fame (Is there one? And if not, why not?), think of how many inductees would be native or transplanted Northern Californians; Susie Bright, Pat Califia, Carol Queen, Joani Blank, just off the top of my head.
It was while walking through Haight Ashbury that I developed my theory of dominance and submission as applied to cities. San Francisco is a dominant city. St. Louis is a submissive city. But that’s a whole other blog post. On my first trip to San Francisco in 1998, I saw a drag king for the first time in a cabaret performance by Peggy Shaw of her one woman (?) show, The Menopausal Gentleman. It was in 2004 in San Francisco that I first saw hook suspension during a performance by Allen Falkner and Masuimi Max at the Madame S Mr. S Fetish Ball.
On my most recent trip to the bay, I was shown Folsom Street, home of the world famous Folsom Street Fair, by internationally known sex educator, Lee Harrington. We started at the BDSM themed coffee house, Wicked Grounds. As the Hard Rock Café is to rock and roll, Wicked Grounds is to kink. Rumor has it that you can get your coffee served in a dog dish, but I opted for a cup. Next, we went to Mr. S Leather and I have to admit that it was a bit overwhelming. Once again I was reminded of where I sit on the sex positive continuum: far to the left of the average American and several degrees to the right of the average Mr. S Leather customer. I could have spent a day just pondering a single wall of that store, and if I had to choose one, it would probably be the one with the assortment of dog-faced leather hoods and assorted pony hoof shaped gloves and boots. From there we went to Leather Etc., a much less intimidating store where I got talked in to purchasing a fur lined jock strap.
Walking around Folsom Street, I kept noticing painted boot prints on the sidewalk. Their origin seemed to be Stompers Boots at 10th and Folsom. I heard a bootblack speaking at the education tent at Pride Fest last year. He was almost ecstatic in describing the experience of boot blacking. I have to admit, it was a new one on the kid. But if boot fetishism is your thing, you’ll probably think Stompers is the bee’s knees; small, unassuming and serious about boots.
In St. Louis, I often feel like a bit of a freak. There’s nothing like a tour of Folsom Street to make me feel vanilla by comparison. It’s nice to get in touch with my inner conservative from time to time.
The following day I spent some time with a friend in Oakland and we went to Harbin Hot Springs in Middleton, a couple hours north. This was much more my speed, a clothing optional hot spring and retreat center. We spent several hours, much of it in meditative silence, alternating between a body temperature pool and the barely tolerable hot pool (113 degrees) and cold pool, with nothing too distract us but hills, trees and a large revolving cast of beautiful naked bodies. It was also the first time I’d ever seen a naked trans woman without dropping a dime on dinner and drinks first.
If I had a heart; I could very easily see how one could leave it in San Francisco.