Folsom Street Fair

By The Empress // Photography by Beth Thomas

This year marks the 38th anniversary of the Folsom Street Fair. The Fair takes place on September 25, 2022. It is the world’s largest leather event and gathering for the BDSM culture, drawing anywhere from 250,000 to 400,000 attendees every year.

The Street Fair began as a reaction to the local government shutting down bathhouses and placing heavy regulations on LGBT+ bars in the early 80’s in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis. The LGBT+ community held a street fair at this time (1984) and it has been taking place every year since. Spinoffs now include Folsom Street East (New York), Folsom Street North (Toronto), and Folsom Europe (Berlin).

Folsom Street Fair

What it ISN’T: Family Friendly.
Leave the kids home.

What it IS: Adult Time.
YOUR time.

If you’ve never been, go with an open mind. This is a great opportunity to educate yourself in an ever-growing demographic – the BDSM community. While popularized by books and movies like “50 Shades of Grey” (often incorrectly), most people really don’t know that much about the lifestyle. If you are more outgoing, you can go beyond the educational aspects and experience the activities for yourself.

There are hundreds of vendors with all types of BDSM products. Just walking from booth to booth can be an education. The vendors are happy to talk to you about the products (many of which you may have never seen). From leather products to clothing to…well, just about everything…there is something for everyone, even the novice who just wants to “try something new”.

There are numerous performing acts, usually alternative artists, DJ’s, and an area specific to women. The Festival has been bringing in some of the best artists, internationally, from the underground in addition to more well-known bands like Berlin, Missing Persons and the English Beat.

What may attract the most observers, though, are the public BDSM demonstrations. The types of demonstrations that have been given in prior years include whipping, cock & ball torture, bondage & vibrators, rope tying and Naked Twister (just to name a few). In case you missed the implication of “Naked Twister”, many of these demonstrations are done sans clothing. Yes, nudity is allowed. And, as an attendee you are permitted to walk around naked.

Upon entering the Festival you will see the following signs: “Gear is not consent. Nudity is not consent.” “Ask someone before photographing or touching them.” “No means no.” Consent is an important aspect of not only BDSM and sex in general, but the Festival itself.

The fair is free to enter but for a $10 donation you get a sticker that gives you $2 off every drink you purchase all day. The Folsom Street Fair is an event to raise money to sustain San Francisco area based charities. The event is designed to be sex-positive, diverse and adult-oriented. In 2017, the organization was able to return $322,484 to local and national charities. Since its inception, it has donated over $6,000,000.

The event this year is from 11 am to 6 pm on September 29. The Main Stage is located at Howard and 10th Streets. For more information, go to

PROUD & Kinky Magazine - Issue 1

This article was originally published in the premiere issue of PROUD & Kinky Magazine. You may read it in its original format here.