Opinion
3 min

Folsom Street Fair’s dirty little brother, Dore Alley

Mike Miksche explores public sex in San Francisco

Credit: wernerimages/iStock/Thinkstock

I was walking down Folsom Street in San Francisco towards “Up Your Alley,” or as the locals call it, “Dore Alley.” The event is advertised as the Folsom Street Fair’s “dirty little brother,” and spills out of Dore Street onto Folsom, and around the corner onto 10th. I’d heard from friends that the fair is more local, much sexier and not as gawky as Folsom, with its hordes of spectators. I was curious to check it out.

Dore Alley began in 1985 to raise money for AIDS organizations and keep up the spirits of the community. The idea was to hold a daytime event to celebrate the sexuality of the folks who traditionally enjoyed Folsom Street’s leather bars and sex clubs. Dore seemed to focus on leather and kink pride. Back then, leather sexuality was something to be enjoyed in dark bars or alleyways at night. Gay sexuality had been very clandestine. Not anymore.

Closer to the fairground, I passed teams making their way in full gear: harnesses, leather overalls, masks, jockstraps and kilts. Inside there were hundreds more parading around: masters and slaves, pups and handlers, guys with hoods, collars and corsets too. Dore Alley did look more hard-core than Folsom but with the same jovial vibe as its bigger brother.  

There were a lot more people than I was expecting. It was difficult to even get through the crowd. I had to push past the muscles, boobs, body hair and big bellies until I finally found the beer stand. I brushed by a fully naked man with an erection, jerking off. Nobody batted an eye at him.  

After I grabbed a beer, I came across a guy in a fluorescent yellow sleeveless hoody. He had a matching speedo, though his cock was out, fully erect. He pointed it upwards and started to piss in the air, well over his head like a human fountain. A younger guy with a Mohawk, harness and black jockstrap got down on his knees and tried to catch the piss in his mouth. He was partially successful, but most of it ended up on his body. People around them pulled out their phones and began snapping photos. I did too, genuinely impressed with how high he was able to piss. The two guys didn’t seem to mind the attention.

I decided to explore Dore Street next, which was full of men in harnesses and leather gear, drinking beer and socializing. Along the sidewalk I noticed an older gentleman, perhaps in his late 60s, sitting in a Meadow Rest chair naked except for a large cowboy hat and tinted amber sunglasses, with an orange bandana tied around his neck. The man had a thick grey moustache, like a Texan rancher. He also wore striped orange and blue knee-high socks with matching wool arm bands, and held a GoPro camera on a monopod. I assumed he was filming the people collecting around him. He suddenly became erect, and lifted his left leg in the air to reveal his asshole. The entire time he remained expressionless.

I thought how he could easily be somebody’s grandpa, perhaps living most of his life closeted before coming out —  at least that’s the story I imagined in my head. He obviously got off on doing stuff like this and has a place to do it, judgment-free. This is great, I thought.

Continuing along Dore, I came across another fellow in a black ski mask and sunglasses sitting on the sidewalk. He wore a black hoody and was exposing himself, stroking his penis, which was wrapped in thin bungee cords with multi-coloured plastic balls hanging off. With his free hand he held up a camera like the Texan and recorded the people around him. I guess exhibitionists filming their voyeurs is a thing now.

I was a little inspired by this guy. I’d often had fantasies of wearing a hood and walking around an event like this naked. I don’t know why, but I always found the idea hot, although I’m not sure I’d ever be able to bring myself to do it.

The last time I’d seen such mass sexuality was at the Lab.Oratory in Berlin, but there’s something different in broad daylight; it’s liberating in a way an underground sex club is not. We’re made to feel this side of queer sexuality is profane, and that we should do it behind closed doors—that we should be ashamed of our kinks. Not at Dore Alley.