Friday, 8 June 2012

A Very Special Prison Closure

Sad news for San Francisco barebackers and tourists to the city, with the news last month that the sex club Mack Folsom Prison has temporarily shut.

A notice on their website informs patrons that: 'We are moving...Sometimes bad things happen for a reason.  You may not understand or see it at the moment, but later you look at it and realise that it turned out to be a good thing.  So we hope that out bit of bad news leads us to a better Mack Folsom Prison.  On March 10th of this year we lost one of the owners by heart-attack.  Our heads were still spinning when we were notified that the landlord decided to terminate the lease.  Mack Folsom Prison's last day at the current location was May 6, 2012.  We are taking this opportunity to find a new location that we feel would be suitable for us to create a space for men as unique as Mack Folsom Prison is.  We will keep you posted here, and we're looking forward to serving the men of Mack Folsom Prison soon!  The Staff and Management'.

Sad news indeed about one of the owners.  It's easy to think 'so what' but such is the powerful history of San Francisco in terms of identity formation and particularly in the response to HIV/AIDS that the very presence of these clubs serve as a powerful monument to sexual history.  Their existence, and the banishment of saunas, the presence of a venue called Blow Buddies, the geographical positioning of these venues today - far from the tourist strewn Castro - speaks volumes about who 'we' were, who we are, and who we are becoming.

Whilst other venues fussed about whether your shower product could be still be smelt on entering the club (no, really - beware of using Original Source and then visiting Blow Buddies), Mack celebrated uninhibited, sleazy, raw, un-prentious sex.  For many the venue was a cesspool, a venue guaranteed to ensure that you leave with more than you came with.  A free gift for every customer and so forth.  Of course, officially, men subscribed to the safer-sex guidelines which the city requires but it was a venue where drug use, if not the effect of drugs were not unknown and bareback sex was in abundance.

It was a bit tatty, not huge, and the raised platform 'towers' had ladders which you always wondered whether you'd break your neck on.  Yet it's hard to under-estimate the emotional hold that such venues have on guys.

As such, like it or love it, it was a very special venue and it's closure of significance.  You might therefore think that a reopening is a certainty.  You might well be wrong.   Playspace opened last year (video tour below) which you can check out here, adding another sex club venue to the city, and is also placed in the South of Market district.

The website splash screen for Playspace instantly positions the club as a safer-sex/condom venue (which also indicates fucking in contrast to the oral focussed Blow Buddies) yet read their safer sex section and it's far from preachy:

'PLAYSPACE recognizes that sex for men comes in all shapes and forms. We encourage all our clients, patrons and friends to remember that for guys into other guys it’s important to include routine STD/HIV screening every 3-6 months. San Francisco has lots of opportunities and places for free to low cost testing, or ask your own doctor to test you during your regular visits. Many STD’s don’t have any signs or symptoms and can be missed or shared without regular screening.'

Then again, the rules inside the club (which you can see in the more atmospheric video below taken at their opening) has as rule number one 'No bareback sex'.  How far this is practised I'm not sure.  I've not seen the kind of online postings that Mack attracted but nor have I visited this venue myself to evaluate behaviour.  I would be fascinated to see how these two venues - one relatively new, one relatively recently closed, are shaping bareback behaviour in the city of San Francisco and how regulatory safer sex frameworks are playing out in reality (does anyone sense a research grant bid coming on?)

Watched it?  I'm guessing you want to see/know more about Daniel don't you?  You're a predictable lot.  Anyway,  I've also seen an Internet posting that the old Mack venue is now owned by someone else who aims to re-open a new sex club there - although that was meant to open on 1 June and it doesn't appear to have done so. Another spanner to potentially throw in the works.  How I miss San Francisco.

Check out the Mack website here.

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