Sep 12, 2014

Dore Alley: the San Francisco Fetish Festival

When I was living in West Hollywood, many people made the six-hour trek north to San Francisco often, once a month, even once a week.  West Hollywood might be a gay mecca, but San Francisco was Gay Heaven, with constant crowd-drawing events and activities.  I went up once or twice a year, whenever a friend invited me, and for awhile we even managed to live there.

So I've been to my share of film festivals, art exhibitions, bar nights, and benefits.  I've been to Gay Pride, Folsom Street, and the Castro Street Fair.  I've been to Dore Alley.

Once.





Dore Alley is a leather-fetish fair held on Dore Street between Howard and Folsom -- the historical heart of SOMA (South of Market), and the center of the gay leather-fetish community.

The neighborhood used to be very run-down and sleazy, but it has undergone a renaissance in the years since I was there last.  .

Dore Alley is a place to let it all hang out.  Lead your slave on a leash on all fours, with doggy ears and a tail.  Practice BDSM on a nude model.  Demonstrate golden showers.  Put beer bottles places where they ordinarily don't go.  Walk around naked and fully aroused.  Be as sleazy as you wanna be.

The participants are mostly gay men, the fetishes on display all same-sex, but gay, bi, and straight participants are apparently welcome.  Drag is just as good as leather.  A combination of the two, even better.

I only went once.  It scared me.

My problem was: for 40 years we've been telling the heteros, "Gay is not about sex. It's about a shared history and culture, about fighting oppression, about finding a community."

Dore Alley is definitely, aggressively about sex in all of its variations, all of its fetishes.

And the heterosexuals know it.  They come, take horrified pictures, and rush back to their homophobic churches to report.


A few weeks after Dore Alley, every homophobic church in the country sees a film of gay men urinating on each other and leading each other around on leashes, and preachers yell "Do not be deceived by the liberal Hollywood agenda.  This is what homa-sekshuls are really like!  This is what they want to teach in school, and force your kids to do!!"

And when a gay rights bill comes before the city council, they show the film and yell "If the bill passes, this is what homa-sekshuls will be doing openly on the street!  They are already doing it in San Francisco!"

And the Gay Rights Movement is set back a few years.

 See also: Why San Francisco is Gay Heaven.; and Sean and the World of Gay Leathermen