While the term BDSM, an acronym that combines abbreviations for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism, and masochism, is believed to have only been in widespread use since 1991, the erotic practices involved date back for centuries. Whipping for pleasure, in particular, has been practiced in numerous cultures through the ages including the ancient Spartans, medieval Christians, and the 18th century British. Other erotic practices associated with BDSM have spanned the generations from the writing of the Kama Sutra to modern leather daddies in the LGBTQIA+ community. BDSM practices have often been shamed, and even pathologized by the mental health community, yet that is rapidly changing, and now BDSM practices are displayed annually at public street fairs.
15. A Street Festival Dedicated to BDSM Practices began in the 1980s
The Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, California is a celebration of all things BDSM and leather. The festival, which takes place in the South of Market (SoMa) neighborhood of San Francisco draws over 400,000 visitors annually. The fair includes public displays of many BDSM practices with a heavy emphasis on leather and rubber fetishists. It also includes a wide range of BDSM public displays including intricate bondage and public punishment.
The festival began in 1984 and was, in its first year, a protest against the attempted gentrification of the SoMa neighborhood which had become home to a large population of gay men. San Francisco was an accessible home for gay men due to being a popular port destination for men giving “blue” or gay conduct discharges from the military. A public profile of the gay scene in Time Magazine in 1964 attracted even more gay men to the city.
Throughout the 1980s, the Folsom Street Fair served as a fundraiser and public awareness tool for the AIDS epidemic ravaging San Francisco’s gay community. The gay leather community stepped to the forefront in the late 1980s as the city attempted to shut down bathhouses and gay clubs out of concern for public health. The leather and kink communities continued to become more of a focus throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, which led to the feel and center of the current street fair.