Folsom Street Fair Etiquette: 5 Essential Tips

by Kitty Stryker

Whether you’ve been in leather and kink communities before, or this is your first time, it’s always a good idea to remind yourself of the etiquette of this unique space. Here are five tips to help make your experience at Folsom 2022 a positive one – for you and others! 

1.Don’t touch people without asking

This should be super basic, but, ask people before you hug them, ask people before you kiss them, ask before you touch their hair, their costume, their body, their wheelchair, etc. It doesn’t matter if you’re not “sexually attracted,” it’s still grabbing at someone without asking and that’s not ok. A smile and checking in about consent (and hearing “no” respectfully!) can make an interaction really amazing and intimate instead of deeply unsettling and scary.

Photo credit: Tom Hilton

 Photo credit: Tom Hilton

 Photo credit: Tom Hilton

Photo credit: torbakhoppe

2. Be respectful of people’s space

The first point covers physical space, but I also want to encourage you to be respectful of people’s emotional boundaries. Kink can bring up some intense feelings for folks, so be a polite guest when observing someone’s scene (don’t gawk!) or chatting with someone on the street (if they’re not making eye contact, consider giving them an out and ending the conversation!).

Photo credit: Tom Hilton

 Photo credit: Tom Hilton

 Photo credit: Tom Hilton

3. Let people know before you take their photo

There are a lot of reasons people are uncomfortable with their photo being taken without permission at Folsom. They may not be out as a kinkster, they may have dysphoria, they may be shy, or they may just not want to be the subject of a photograph. Ask, and respect the response. I can’t tell you how many times people have taken my photo without asking. It’s frustrating, because not only does it indicate a lack of care for my consent, but also because I can’t follow up for a copy of my own! 

Photo credit: Ron

Photo credit: Ed Bierman

4. Be a participant vs. a consumer

Rather than coming to Folsom to be entertained, or just to people watch, contribute in some way. Volunteer at a booth. Bring sunscreen. Offer to black boots. Give away cold bottled water. You don’t have to participate in a public scene to participate, but by giving back to Folsom, you’re cultivating a mutually caring community, rather than treating it as a performance you’re attending. Incidentally, Folsom was created for the very purpose of fostering that kind of energy (learn more about the history of Folsom Street Fair as a space of resistance and solidarity here).

Photo credit: Ed Bierman

 Photo credit: Ed Bierman

 Photo credit: Tom Hilton

5. Drink more water

Folsom is often very warm. You’re walking around outside, in the sun, possibly wearing leather or latex. Dehydration and being under the influence can certainly join hands in leading people to make poor decisions about boundaries, both their own and other people’s. Don’t be that person getting sloppy at Folsom. Make sure you eat properly and drink a bottle of water for every drink *at least*. Your liver and conscience will thank you.

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Kitty Stryker at Folsom Street Fair 2014

Kitty Stryker has been working on defining and cultivating consent culture for over 10 years through her writing, workshops, and website. She’s the editor of “Ask: Building Consent Culture“, and is especially interested in bringing conversations about consent out of the bedroom into everyday life. Kitty is currently working on a second book through Thorntree Press, “Ask Yourself: The Consent Culture Workbook”. She also works as a street medic for direct actions, plays Dungeons and Dragons, and cares for her two cats. Kitty identifies as a sex worker, queer, asexual, sober, anarchist and femme.

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