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My Magazine > Editors Archive > Sexpert > Folsom Street Fair ("In Leather Pride, with Heart ")
Folsom Street Fair ("In Leather Pride, with Heart ")   by Cleo Dubois

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In her 20-plus years of kinky experience, Ms. Cleo Dubois has studied ritual piercings among primitive tribes, acquired expertise in rope bondage, and developed her own special fire at the end of a whip. Cleo's DVDs, "The Pain Game" and "Tie Me Up," are seminal works in the field of BDSM education (available online at Cleo presents seminars around the San Francisco Bay Area. In fact, her reputation for intense workshops has made Ms. Dubois a favorite guest presenter at major leather conferences throughout the country. In between a wild schedule of events at Folsom Street Fair and conducting her "Weekend for Dominant Men and Men Who Switch" (October 1-2), Ms. Dubois took time out to tell us about the famed San Francisco leather event.


What a great Leather Pride week here in San Francisco! For me, it began as I stood in the large auditorium of the Women’s building for the Exiles (a lesbian BDSM group) monthly meeting. As the guest presenter I had just asked fifty pairs of kinky women to switch in a partnered SM exercise during my class on Radical Touch. They went for it and it really moved me.

As I left the building, the city was already buzzing. And there was still a week to go! Many of the 300,000 people expected to gather for the 22nd annual Folsom Street Fair were starting to converge on the City. Among them are two very special women I have been looking forward to spending time with in my dungeon.

Kim and Annie contacted me last winter about two very different play sessions during their short visit to the Bay Area. A lesbian couple in a loving relationship for many years, they wrote “after seeing “The Pain Game” and “Tie Me Up,” we felt it would be a wonderful experience to travel to San Francisco for Folsom Fair and have you guide us in play.”

When we finally meet it only takes a few moments and direct eye contact for the three of us to sense that we are a match. Annie, a petite femme with intense grey blue eyes and an obvious locked-on collar craves a deeper exploration of her masochism. Creed‘s screams in “The Pain Game” as I ripped the clothespin zippers off her flesh echo in Annie’s mind, and she desires that level of intensity.

Creed w/piercings from "The Pain Game"

First, though, her Lover and Mistress, Kim, a slender soft butch with cropped hair a la David Bowie, who is her Dominant 24/7, wants to switch and find out what surrender feels like.

Letting go does not come easy for us Tops! As Kim enters the safe space of my SM Temple, I have her kneel and accept my collar. She soon discovers that it is difficult to just follow orders and not anticipate my desires. I keep pointing out her attempts to control, and I punish her for it. Eventually she gets very quiet and I feel her descend into sub space. During aftercare, she softly whispers, “Oh Cleo, I do understand why Annie is so grateful when she surrenders to me. What a sweet freedom ride it is!”

In the early days, the Old Guard did not look kindly on switching. You had to bottom to earn your privilege to Top. So I began bottoming to gay Leathermen (yes really!) and, being the rebel that I am, I bent the rules by dominating straight men and switching with women. It all felt natural to me! Soon I discovered there was more than one aspect to my play persona, equally passionate on both sides of the whip!

Cleo and FriendsFolsom, 2005

These days, my Leathermen friends tell me that switching is called “playing versatile” and looked upon much more favorably. Playing versatile, knowing what surrendering in trust is like, will make You the Dominant more aware of the journey you are leading your submissive on! When I bottom, I like to put up a little resistance and gladly be overpowered, physically, psychologically and sexually. My inner Rebel is a sassy slut who loves to be a brat. I call on my Sadistic Healer, Teacher and Guide when I Top.

Speaking about being a guide, it is time for session two and Kim is back in her Dominant mode. Together we tie corseted Annie up to my office chair, blindfold her and keep her legs open with a spreader bar. She is not gagged. Should she call for help, we know we can hear her. Kim follows me to the dungeon to “plot” our scene as co-tops. She wants to be more confident in her sadism and piercing and clothespin zippers are on her agenda. She also seeks encouragement to let her partner have it with whips and canes. Great!

Four hours later the three of us emerge out of the dungeon. Annie, beaming, is happily bruised and Kim found out that she enjoys paddling Annie’s thighs a whole lot harder than she suspected. Kim also discovers that gliding needles into the skin of her lover makes her really high. In fact her intensity brought her masturbating sub to a fiery orgasm!

If you are in a Mistress/ Master‒ slave or 24/7 D/s relationship like Kim and Annie, switching with your partner probably won’t work. Kim and Annie knew that and that’s why they came to me. Most couples I know who do switch set boundaries about what is and is not okay to do with others, and then seek out kinksters in their community or online. Remember Frankie and Johnny from my column “Coming Out to Play?” They too are versatile players, and enjoy co-topping as well as switching. Last month, Frankie was one of “the girls” I caned at Thunder. Now I need to switch before I continue my commitments for Leather Pride weekend.

The sound of Johnny’s knife snapping into place gets my attention. He slides its point from the tip of my earring down my neck to my chest and as our eyes meet, I stop resisting. Frankie tightens the buckles on my wrist cuffs and she attaches them to the bar over head, standing me alone in the middle of the room. I know Johnny’s blade is really, really sharp and my whole body is really accessible. His deep blue eyes hold mine, and all thoughts leave my busy mind. I am completely focused on feeling the blade slowly glide across my right breast. The cold steel feels like slow fire, hot and sexy. That really turns me on!

Little drops of steamy rain are flickering all over my back. Frankie is giving me a gentle rhythmic whipping. It stings so good that I start to fly. Johnny orders me to stay very still as he increases the pressure of his blade on my breast. His voice is firm, his words caress me and I know better than to move one inch. Breathing deeply I find the calm I need to surrender. At that moment, the gates open for me to that place of freedom I so cherish in loving SM play. So taken care of, safe, and at my core, I truly let go.

Batteries recharged I am ready for Folsom Street Fair! You know, Johnny took Frankie to Folsom Street Fair before he even told her he was kinky. What an introduction to the Leather Community! This year they joined my partner and me, along with some 299,996 Leatherfolks.

The street is jammed, pulsing, and we move very, very slowly. It is a sunny day south of Market, perfect for the scantily clad revelers strutting their naked torsos and pierced nipples, bare butts and leather chaps, kilts and spandex. Imagine latex fetishists happily sweating under their shiny rubber cat suits, hooded naked men in chain mail, thousands of hunks, Leatherwomen, Divas and Transfolks of all shapes and sizes, punky boys and girls, even tourists and friendly police folks, celebrating their alternative lifestyles.

A magnificent voice begins singing an aria to the deep background rhythms coming from both ends of Folsom street and we are surrounded by the vibrating crowd all turned on by the scenes going on everywhere, even on the rooftops! Yes it can be a bit overwhelming, so many thousands of people out in broad day light having a fun time, but this is San Francisco, that unique and magical city by the Bay, where we have a tradition of being happy to meet and greet each other in the spirit of acceptance and freedom everyday.

That’s what I mean when I say at the end of my columns,
In Leather Pride with Heart,

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This month, Ms. Dubois is gearing up for her hands-on workshop with Eve Minax at the San Francisco Citadel: a Weekend for Dominant Women and Women Who Switch (November 11-13).