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I was wondering what you think about the Folsom Street Fair, the annual gay leather/fetish/BDSM street fair in San Francisco. Do you think it is still a socially relevant display? Or do you think that when we are fighting for civil rights and equality it does more harm than good?

Better Displaying San Francisco

I'm pretty sure that the Folsom Street Fair remains socially relevant — and highly so — to folks in the leather/fetish/BDSM scene in San Francisco. It's also relevant to anyone who believes in freedom of sexual expression. (For an idea of what Folsom looks like, search for "Folsom Street Fair" on YouTube.)

And the Folsom Street Fair, which took place last weekend, isn't exclusively gay. Thousands of straight kinksters attend. About the only difference between the straight attendees and the queer ones is that no one claims that the kinky straight people at Folsom make all heterosexuals everywhere look like sex-crazed sadomasochists. (For the record: Sex-crazed sadomasochists are my favorite kind.)

But you didn't ask about kinky straight people. You wondered whether the Folsom Street Fair was harming the struggle for LGBT equality.

The Folsom Street Fair has taken place every year since 1984. Pride parades have been taking place all over the country since the early 1970s. And every year, we hear from concern-trolls about the damage that's supposedly being done to the LGBT-rights movement by all those drag queens, go-go boys, dykes and leather guys.

But everyone acknowledges that the gay-rights movement has made extraordinary strides in the 43 years since the Stonewall Riots. We have yet to secure full civil equality, but the pace of progress has been unprecedented. The women's suffrage movement, for example, was launched in the United Sates in 1848. It took more than 70 years to pass the 19th Amendment, which extended the vote to women. At the time of the Stonewall Riots, gay sex was illegal in 49 states. Gay sex is now legal in every U.S. state; gay marriage is legal in six states and our nation's capital; and gays, lesbians, and bisexuals can serve openly in the military. (The armed forces still discriminate against trans people.) And we've made this progress despite fierce opposition from the religious right, a deadly plague that wiped out a generation of gay men, and — gasp — all those leather guys at Folsom and the go-go boys and drag queens at Pride.

I would argue that leather guys, dykes on bikes, go-go boys, and drag queens have helped our movement. They demonstrate that our movement isn't just about the freedom to be gay or straight. Our movement is about the freedom to be whatever kind of straight, gay, lesbian, bi or trans person you want to be. And freedom, as Dick Cheney famously said, means freedom for everyone — from pantsuit-wearing POS sellouts like Mary Cheney and Chris Barron to kinky straight people and hot gay boys in harnesses.

I don't think it's a coincidence that cities with big pride parades and events like Folsom are more tolerant than cities that don't have big gay parades and fetish street fairs. If an event like Folsom were counterproductive, you would expect San Francisco to be less tolerant.

And finally, BDSF, any attempt to shut down the Folsom Street Fair — or to ban drag queens, go-go boys, dykes on bikes, or leather guys from pride parades — would be so divisive that it would do more harm to our movement than a thousand Folsom Street Fairs ever could.

I'm a female in a relationship with a male. My boyfriend recently told me that he bought a set of butt plugs for himself. He said he's happy to use them alone if I'm not interested. I don't mind the idea of him using them when we are together, and I would be more than willing to peg him if he wanted me to, but I hesitate to tell him. I'm worried this will lead to him suggesting we play in my anal territory, and I am really uncomfortable with this idea. I have IBS; my lower digestive tract and I don't get on well. I do not trust my body enough to feel comfortable trying that, and I don't think I could look my boyfriend in the eye again if something terrible happened. I know when it comes to guys wanting anal sex, your stand is that he should take it first if he wants to give it. So if I am unwilling to take it, do I forfeit any right to do my boyfriend with a strap-on?

I'm Being Selfish?

Turnabout is fair play and reciprocity is important, but a person can have a legit physical limitation that makes certain sorts of reciprocal turnabouting impossible. You have a perfectly good reason to avoid being on the receiving end of anal play, IBS, and I can't imagine that your boyfriend is going to object to your offer to plug him or peg his ass even if he isn't allowed to plug, peg or fuck yours.

Yes, Dan, there are still plenty of straight guys out there who are put off by women who go "too fast," and oral sex on the first date is typically perceived as too fast. It's part of a misogynist mind-set that says women who are too sexually assertive are not "relationship material." Or maybe it's some ancient male fear of the insatiable nympho who will drain his male power. Or, more generously, maybe these men think going too fast just speaks to poor judgment (although straight men rarely apply that logic to themselves). Whatever the cause, I've found the solution to be to date more sex-positive feminist men. I've found that feminist men actually appreciate women who are sexually assertive while many non-feminist men are happy to accept the attentions of sexually assertive women while harboring contempt for us.

The Happy Whore

Thanks for sharing, THW.

Find the Savage Lovecast (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/music.

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