Getting sexy: Up Your Alley Street Fair's fetish alfresco

  • by Race Bannon
  • Wednesday July 25, 2018
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An affectionate moment between leather bears at 2016's Up Your Alley Street Fair. photo: Rich Stadtmiller
An affectionate moment between leather bears at 2016's Up Your Alley Street Fair. photo: Rich Stadtmiller

Buckle up kids. As this column hits the streets and online, the busy weekend of leather and kink happenings punctuated by the Up Your Alley Street Fair is underway. This year's schedule is packed to the rafters with stuff to do.

Of course, there's the iconic linchpin event, Up Your Alley, Sunday July 27. I hope you go to many of this weekend's events, but if there's only one event you go to, make it this one. It's entirely unique. Some refer to it as Folsom Street Fair's little brother, but Up Your Alley has an ethos all its own. Smaller. Gayer. A bit more leather and gear-oriented, but people come dressed all sorts of ways.

You will meet people of all sizes at the Up Your Alley Street Fair. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

When I attend both events I always reflect on Up Your Alley as having a more deeply rooted gay men's sexual and heavy cruising vibe. Of course, people of all stripes attend, but the pervasive leathermen's flavor has a certain appeal to those of us who revel in such environments. Enjoy.

There is no way I can possibly touch upon all the other events going on this weekend. So, I'm going to instead navigate you to the online leather and kink calendar. And if you're reading this in print, you'll want to visit the Bay Area Reporter website that was recently revamped with a great new look and feel. Here's a direct link to the next two weeks' events:

To view the online calendar, from the main website navigate to BARtab > Leather-Kink. Once on that page you'll see a post titled Leather Events with the corresponding dates. If you view this week's calendar, you'll immediately realize why I say I can't possibly discuss everything. We are so lucky in the Bay Area to have such an array of events to attend!

About Sex
One of the first questions a visitor and even some locals often asks me during such busy weekends is "Where can I have sex?" For all the fun and frivolity that takes place, the bottom (or top, or versatile) line for many is getting laid. The answer to that question is tricky.

Yes, you will see flogging, whipping and more kink demonstrations at Up Your Alley. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

Why? Because where you're "allowed" to have sex is sometimes quite different from where you "can" have sex. Now, by sex here I mean insertive sex. BDSM and certain types of kink play can be an entirely different animal with an entirely different set of rules and guidelines. Here, though, let me explain about the sex part, and I hope this clears up a lot of misconceptions about how such things are organized and planned.

As for anything that takes place on the street, and that includes Up Your Alley itself, you can't have sex in public. Yes, I know. Once upon a time years ago lots of that stuff took place. Welcome to a different era. Don't blame the producers or organizers of such events. In the case of street sex, take that up with the police and local politicians. It's entirely in their court.

When it comes to sex behind walls, out of the public eye, it's not always as black and white as it might at first appear.

Each hosting venue has its own set of rules. If it's a bar, they are entirely beholden to local laws and state liquor oversight agencies.

Although crowded, the street fair itself is wheelchair accessible. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

Events held elsewhere can sometimes be a grey area regarding sexual activity too. There's a difficult balancing act between venues, laws, attendee demographics and producers that isn't always entirely evident to the outsider looking in.

As for anyone thinking a producer, especially of an event catering to gay men, wants to overtly "stop sex," no. Every producer knows quite well that "sex sells" and they're never going to intentionally squash a sexual environment unless the factors in place make it impossible or extremely difficult to do.

That's a very long-winded prequel to recommending that you realize that when it comes to seeking out sex-friendly venues, you're going to have to do a bit of the legwork on your own. Some places are officially sex spaces, such as the Steamworks bathhouse in Berkeley. Others might embrace and encourage sex in venues and at events that fit certain legal and rules guidelines. Yet others might tolerate sex with a wink and a nod fully aware there can be risks.

Back to the plethora of events happening. Check out the Leather Events calendar. Choose where you want to go and what you want to do. Many of the events can sell out. Procuring tickets in advance is a good idea. Some events also have shorter lines for ticketholders even if they allow tickets purchased at the door. Take this into consideration during your planning.

This week the voter registration campaign was launched. photo: IMsLBB/IMsL Foundation  

Kink The Vote
In a recent column I wrote about leather resistance, that we as leather and kink people need to fight against the wave of hate and bigotry that's come to the forefront of American politics lately. I believe that these forces would like to take away what freedoms and protections LGBTQ, leather, kink and all those who traverse the edges of erotic and relationship configurations have achieved thus far.

I know that's taking a political stance, and I've historically tried to not editorialize politically in my writings here on sexuality and relationships, but I've come to believe I owe it to my own sense of morality to do so today. The situation is just too dire.

I'm not alone. People across the leather/kink spectrum, with admittedly some exceptions, understand that the national political landscape we're experiencing is dangerous and precarious. One such person is Sharrin Spector, the Executive Producer of the International Ms. Leather and Bootblack (IMsLBB) weekend and competition.

Spector had an idea after the 2016 election about organizing a project to register kinksters from all walks of the scene and encourage them to vote. Spector worked on this project with the assistance of some dedicated volunteers and this past week Kink the Vote was announced.

Kink the Vote leverages the already successful Rock the Vote platform and it makes it easy for kinksters to register and vote no matter the state in which they reside.

The hope of Kink the Vote, underwritten by IMsLBB and the IMsL Foundation, is that producers and organizers of contests, conferences and other kink gatherings around the country will carve out a space to promote this voter registration effort.

Check out the website and if you have an event at which you'd like to offer a Kink the Vote registration option, contact Sharrin Spector at

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. You can reach him at