Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Up Your Alley and a Bit of Kok

You can search the blog archive for various previous posts about the Dore Alley Fair in San Francisco. As a re-cap, this is the smaller relative of the Folsom Street Fair event, pitched at the leather and 'kink' community and is arguably seen more as a 'community' event than a tourist event. It now goes by the brilliant name 'Up Your Alley'. This is the sort of name that presents the double-entendre minded with questions such as: "where you heading?" "Up Your Alley", "What you doing today?", "I'm spending all day at Up Your Alley". I could go on, but you get the gist.

Anyhow, the event is once again worthy of comment before it has
even taken place thanks to the ongoing ban on those tireless renegade pirates of porn, Treasure Island Media (TIM). The event is scheduled for this Sunday, July 31st and takes place in San Francisco's South of Market Area (SOMA). For those whove' never visited, it's on odd mixture of bars, sex joints, wholesale clothing outlets, apartments and mechanics.

The Fair is free to enter (an important aspect that divides Pride events) but with a suggested donation (dollars not semen - but it's admittedly unclear).

The event has traditionally been seen as more of a 'raunchy', 'semi-naked', un-inhibited sleazy sex -fest but the organisers seem increasingly to be pulling back from that (raising questions about the purpose and direction of the event).

The site for this years event includes an amusing section on 'lewd conduct':

'Folsom Street Events encourages all fairgoers to express behavior that is safe and within the law. We encourage everyone to take personal responsibility for providing a positive communal environment for the adult alternative lifestyle community. Lewd acts will be disrupted by our security volunteers who reinforce this message for anyone found on the fairgrounds to be in violation of our policy.
'At the suggestion of SFPD, we have implemented a more aggressive graduated policy for violators of the lewdness policy.

'Step 1: Verbal warning
Inform the fairgoer that the behavior is not allowed and that they will face ejection from the fair on the next occurance.

'Step 2: Reminder
Fairgoer will be reminded of the first warning and given a personal escort off the fair grounds with notification to gate volunteers not to allow re-entry. Warn the fairgoer that on the next violation of this policy we will escalate to SFPD.

'Step 3: Turn over to SFPD
SFPD will be called to assist and requested to cite the fairgoer who has violated the lewdness policy.

Lewd behavior in second and third story windows on the fairgrounds will be referred directly to SFPD for intervention.'

I'm immediately struck by the lack of definition given to lewd conduct. Presumably the wearing of jocks is allowed - it has been previously - but I would have thought that walking around in nothing but a jock further up the road in the department store, Bloomingdales, might be regarded as 'lewd' by SFPD no? So, I guess it's down to context and the opinion of organisers - so that's clear then.

We then have the fabulous final sentence about 'second and third story windows'. What on earth? I'm genuinely confused as to what this means. Have they had reported complaints of human piss fountains spraying passers by from high-above? Men fucking with the absence of a safety harness on narrow window-ledges? I'm left with a vision of rather serious looking leathermen looking suitably funereal at windows above the event, possibly sporting a 'nothing lewd about me' badge or some such. Perhaps flag waving is permitted provided people don't jerk their hands too suggestively or vigorously. Madness.

Anyway, into this faintly potty organisational mix, we add bareback porn mongers, TIM. They have, it seems, been once again banned from the event. I think it was last year they held an event at the famously bareback sex club, Mack Folsom Prison to get around the ban. Mack is the seediest dive I've ever come across. On my visits there, they have seemed to blend a clientele that has either appeared fucked on drugs or being fucked (always bb) by other guys. It has achieved that rarest of things, it shocked me. Of course, it has an official 'safe sex' policy.

This year, they are not there (although such is the damn expected at Mack that they are urging regulars to sort their membership before Thursday), but instead are this year descending upon Kok Bar (that's subtle bar branding for you). It's not a venue I've visited but seems to brand itself as a 'cruisy' bar and means TIM can remain at the margins of the event - although I suspect it will once again gain many visitors.

In a blending of the 'old' and 'new', TIM's Brad McGuire, James Roscoe, Blue Bailey (I think he is a twink poz porn performer), and Blake Daniels (I understand is bf of Bailey) will be there. So if you want to ask Brad and James about their poz porn controversy, here's your chance. There may of course be other things you'd like to ask of a less intellectual nature.

So, what does a ban achieve? Well some people are talking about bareback, why it's controversial, and why TIM are banned. An airing of these issues is surely a good thing. Ironically, it's TIM that have prompted this discussion through their continued resistance to the ban rather than this being a conversation 'engineered' by organisers.

Moreover, this entrenched position makes it harder for the Fair to quietly allow back bareback porn companies as that would be seen as a very public climb down. We are therefore left with a Fair that censors the queer community at a time of supposedly celebrating it. Let's be clear, TIM might have the biggest stand there, but only guys curious, interested or already practising bareback are going to rock along. Banning them is a way of saying "we are failing", "safe sex is failing", and "current health policies and strategies are failing". Is the safe-sex argument really so weak that when shown guys fucking bareback, guys will discard their condoms in a flurry of new-found sexual 'recklessness'? The answer from all parties appears to be "yes". Don't we think that's a big deal? Don't we think that's something worthy of real passionate debate and response, rather than censorship?

We are left instead with another sanitised event, an event that in the face of failure chooses to present an illusion rather than the reality of lived sexual lives, and in doing so, further removes queer organisations from the people they supposedly represent. Nobody wins from this sort of strategy, but in the long-run, we're all losers.

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