vivian fu photographs the sexy fetishes of the folsom street fair
Each year, San Francisco's thriving BDSM community comes together to celebrate kinks of all shapes and sizes at the Folsom St Fair. Photographer Vivian Fu shoots a few of the city's most creative kinksters as they sound off about life, love, and...
Each year since 1984, kinky leather clad folks descend upon San Francisco's SoMa district in celebration of BDSM culture, and more generally, the freedom of sexual expression. People from all walks of kinkiness were there this year, strutting their stuff, tugging their stuff, or selling some stuff (Folsom Street Fair has many vendors, selling everything from t-shirts with sexual innuendos to heart shaped paddles). All this naughtiness supports a good cause, as donations taken at the gates are given to various charities. In the 70s, the precursor to today's fair was an act of protest against the city's attempts to redevelop SoMa, a historically blue collar industrial neighborhood which also housed queer hang out spots, including bars, bathhouses, and clubs. As the AIDS crisis unfolded in the 80s, many of these establishments were closed by the city. The event was organized to gain visibility for and fundraise for the community.
Folsom Street Fair 2015 saw a turn out of both the old school leather community and newbies, visitors from out of the country and San Francisco natives, long time BDSM community members and vanilla spectators. I went to photograph and interview attendees.
Name: 'The Twins'
What do you do? Consultant
How many years have you been coming to Folsom St? Myself, one. My partner, three.
What is your favorite thing about the fair? Showing off and meeting friends
What inspires you? The love my partner and I share. And horses.
Name: Little M
What brings you to Folsom St? Folsom provides an environment where people are free to be who they are without shame. Many kinksters have lived their lives ashamed of their sexual desires due to the stigma surrounding fetishism because it deviates from what society deems as a "normal" sexual expression. Folsom provides a place where the differences and abnormalities of our sexuality that we have learned to hide can not only be openly expressed, but also be celebrated. There is nothing more freeing than being able to publicly embrace something you thought made you a huge weirdo your whole life.
What inspires you? I am inspired by people who are strong enough to say "fuck you" to societal norms in order to be true to themselves. Wear what you want to wear, do what you want to do, and live how you want to live. As long as you're not (non-consensually) hurting anyone, you're free to be yourself.
Names: PupMaphia & Fetchfore (my sir)
What do you do? Maphia: United States Air Force. Fetchfore: Construction Engineer and United States Navy
What brings you to Folsom St? It's a way for myself and my sir to be able to express ourselves and share our passion in a community that accepts us for who we are and what we do.
What is your favorite thing about the fair? Just being around an open minded crowd with like minded individuals. Living in the South, we cannot enjoy this luxury, unfortunately.
Who is your BDSM Icon? We both agree you cannot have a single icon. Our icons are anyone and everyone in the community that continues to live their dreams and continues to share their passion with the community.
What do you love most about San Francisco? What's not to love? There's something for everyone. No matter what you are into you feel a safe knowing you wont be judged.
How many years have you been coming to the fair? This year might have been my 19th or 20th time at the fair. I know I haven't missed any in the past 16 years. Before that I probably went maybe three or four times.
Who is your BDSM Icon? My favorite person currently in the scene is Mistress Kära. She was at the fair but busy hosting a private party to which I was invited. Later that day, I got to play with her :)
Name: Madam Quinn Helix
What do you do? Professional Dominatrix
What brings you to Folsom St? I'm a pervert just like everyone else here. Having the opportunity to celebrate my lifestyle and culture in a public space is absolutely thrilling.
How many years have you been coming to the fair? This is my first year.
What inspires you? The Rad Feminist movement, sex worker rights, and influential Dommes that teach the next generation of Pro Dominas.
What do you love most about San Francisco? I love the punk scene, and public kinky stores and vendors. Mr. S leather is heaven to me.
Name: An Li
What do you do? Pro-Domme (professional dominatrix)
What is your favorite thing about the fair? The huge population of kinky to vanilla people. Given that it is a free event, I had expected that the crowd would be a large population of looky-loos to participants, but it is actually overwhelmingly kinky! People really pull out all the stops and have a lot of fun with it.
What do you love most about San Francisco? That it can support such an open-minded and thriving BDSM lifestyle scene. It seems to me that people in the Bay tend to be more open-minded and politically conscientious than a lot of California, and that in turn lends to a more liberal acceptance of people's kinks.
What brings you to Folsom St? Friends, galloping around dressed like this, seeing people in fabulous outfits, watching people have fun, playing with friends, pulling a cart in the animal cavalcade.
What is your favorite thing about the fair? That it's this free-for-all where almost anything feels normal, but that it's also a space which feels very welcoming and respectful.
Who is your BDSM Icon? I tend to dislike narrowing a field of inspiring artists down to icons and idols that don't represent the diversity of the whole. That said, I saw Grace Jones perform the night before Folsom and she was absolutely amazing. Leigh Bowery is certainly an inspiration. Since they aren't wholly bondage-related, Michael Manning is among a group of people who have produced some pretty great bondage imagery.
Names: Gabbi (pictured right)
What do you do? I go to school and find memes on the Internet to laugh at.
What brings you to Folsom St? BDSM has always piqued my interest. I wanted to know more about the community, and what better way to do that then go to Folsom?
What do you love most about San Francisco? I love the people and all the different communities bundled into one place. I grew up in the Bay area so in some ways, it reminds me of home.
What do you do? School and military service
What brings you to Folsom St? The desire for nudity and leather!
How many years have you been coming to the fair? Just popping the cherry!
Who is your BDSM icon? Angelina Jolie
What inspires you? I'm inspired by all the underachieving success stories.
What do you love most about San Francisco? Aside from hosting all these crazy events, the gay history that runs through each street here.
What do you do? I recently graduated with a BA in Anthropology.
What's your favorite thing about the fair? I just love how everyone feels so liberated to enjoy their carnal desires.
What inspires you: My first exposure to kink was my first LA Pride in 2010 when I was 18. My then boyfriend wasn't into it, so we didn't explore. And now I kinda feel at home in such environments.
Text and Photography Vivian Fu