S.F.'s well-known leather festival takes exclusionary approach in effort to stay underground 

If you don't already know about the Up Your Alley leather and kink street festival happening Sunday, then you should probably stop reading.

At least that's what the event's board of directors would like you to do.

Over the years, Up Your Alley (more commonly known as Dore Alley for the South of Market street where it's hosted) has garnered the label of the Folsom Street Fair's "nasty younger brother." This year, however, Folsom Street Events, the organization behind both leather events, has capped promotion of Up Your Alley in order to make it a more exclusive, locals-only festival for men.

"We're actively avoiding promoting Up Your Alley outside San Francisco," said Demetri Moshoyannis, executive director of Folsom Street Events. "Whereas Folsom Street Fair is for the curious newcomers, Up Your Alley is for the more hardcore leather players. We want to keep it a hidden gem in San Francisco."

The thing about hidden gems is that they don't stay hidden for very long, especially in the age of broadcasting your whereabouts via your smartphone. Year after year, interest and participation in both the Folsom Street Fair and Up Your Alley have increased exponentially.

While most festivals would see this as a positive, Folsom Street Events organizers fear that if the trend continues, attendance at Up Your Alley will balloon similarly to the Folsom Street Fair's blockbuster 400,000 attendees.

So the plan this year is to keep Up Your Alley local and "more intimate" with 12,000 guests, strictly from San Francisco. Heaven forbid having fetishists from Fresno.

This tactic is an ironic departure, considering Folsom Street Events was founded on an all-inclusive premise.

Festivals such as the Folsom Street Fair and International Mr. Leather in Chicago are popular destinations for people all over the world not because of some brilliant marketing strategy, but because they serve as a very specific, much-needed outlet of sexual expression. Men and women live year-round repressing their sexual desires, hiding their leather harnesses in locked closets, only to come out publicly and proudly during these events.

Most of them get to feel this liberation just once a year at the Folsom Street Fair — or if they're privileged enough to know about Up Your Alley, then twice.

For Folsom Street Events to cannibalize itself in an effort to regain some sense of a nostalgic underground not only comes off as selfish, but mirrors similar tactics employed by gay organizations that have chastised the leather community for years.

Instead of keeping Up Your Alley locals-only, why not open the gates? Make it just as big and successful as the Folsom Street Fair (both events raise money for local LGBT charities). And then quietly kick off a new event: find a different but equally gentrified alley in SoMa for only a small, select group of San Francisco male kink insiders to urinate on.

Just make sure not to post the event on Facebook.

Oscar Raymundo is the head of marketing at a leading LGBT media company. Email him at oraymundo@sfexaminer.com.

About The Author

Oscar Raymundo

Oscar Raymundo

Oscar Raymundo is the author of Confessions of a Boy Toy. Email him at oraymundo@sfexaminer.com.
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