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Up Your Alley: #KinkThanksgiving Is the Alternative to Pride (NSFW) - By - August 1, 2016 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Up Your Alley: #KinkThanksgiving Is the Alternative to Pride (NSFW)

WARNING: BUTTS
Apple just announced that it'll be releasing a rainbow flag emoji this fall, as part of a suite of new id eograms that looks mostly like it's plugging in a few holes in the existing emoji-verse than anything else. (There's also a single-mom-with-son, for instance.)

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It's nice, but it's also nice to think about queer culture outside of the context of reaching immediately for that rainbow. Because Pride happened in the shadow of the worst mass-shooting incident in American history, the somber tone wrestled the usual eye-rolling over drunk woo-girls to a draw this year. But it's really yesterday's Up Your Alley Fair — better known as Dore Alley — that represents alternative sexuality in San Francisco at its best.

If the massive, occasionally controversial, hotel-rooms-at-max-occupancy, line-Market-Street-with-leather-pride-flags Folsom Street Fair is #LeatherChristmas, then Dore is #KinkThanksgiving, a festival of weirdness over gayness, of debauchery over political righteousness (although it's good we have space for that, too). It's littler, more home-grown, and more manageable. 
It's also nice to see the boundaries of queerness swell to include straight people, too: I'm always so delighted by the presence of heterosexual kinksters — or, to be more specific, people who may not necessarily be straight-identified, but who present in hetero arrangements of whatever sort, like a buxom dom leading her emasculated slave(s) around on a chain. The fact that straight people can add to an event's diversity is charming.
As society evolves and it becomes possible to hold a middle-class job with a neck tattoo, and mainstream audiences can easily see even the most obscure subcultures of the kink universe, things change. A lot of gear and ritual arcana that were once heavily freighted with symbolism have now become purely ornamental — padlocked collars around men's necks, for instance. There's no shame in that; it's all in good fun.

You could also sense a certain randiness in the air this year. Maybe it was the fact that the fog quite didn't roar in like it usually does, just as inhibitions are lowest after an afternoon of outdoor drinking in a hot-blooded maelstrom of flesh. Or maybe it's the pervasiveness of PrEP that's brought back a certain sex-positivity after decades of balancing lust against the reality of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. (This is a value-neutral observation; obviously, HIV is still a public-health emergency. But an atmosphere of permissiveness is palpable.)

Yet there are still a lot of looky-lous who don't always ask before taking pictures of people in compromising positions, and who don't look like they're part of any particular tribe. Oh well.

Yes, Pride is bland and corporate. You should still show up, though, if you ever smooched someone of the same gender or ever felt like a sexual misfit. Your presence acknowledges the people who fought for you to be queer without getting fired and evicted, and also keeps the entire thing from becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Wells Fargo and Apple. And yes, Pride is often conspicuously full of very young, very straight-seeming people in rainbow knee-highs who treat it like any old excuse to go wild. You should still go, anyway, to avoid sending it into a death spiral.

But it's nice to have a day devoted to sexual exhibitionism that doesn't have quite the same angst attached to it: pride without Pride, and a bit of naughty fun besides.