Notes on Attending My First Sex Dungeon:

Words by Jarvis Subia 


For those of you who are unfamiliar with San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair, allow me to briefly fill you in, the street fair is an event held every year on (you guessed it) Folsom street in San Francisco, although I’ve yet to attend, it has been described to me as everything inclusive and sex-positive about SF’s LGBTQ Pride, but concentrated. It is considered the world’s largest leather, BDSM, kink, and sex positive event; this is the alternative to popular sex culture.

So when a friend of mine invited me to join him for a pre-Folsom eve party at the SF Citadel (technically the opposite of a dungeon), the city’s premier BDSM and kink club, I was more than happy (but mostly nervous) to enter into a culture I was fairly new to. I mean, previous partners and I have played around with some blindfolds and fluffy handcuffs before, but I’ve never been tied to a wooden X and then flogged with a leather instrument while an audience watches (also something I’m not opposed to.) But as being “other” myself, I’m acutely aware when entering into unfamiliar spaces to have the intention of learning and not disassociating. But to my ignorance’s surprise, I settled in to see all of my presumptions and misconceptions (probably given from poor quality television and late night visits) about this culture shattered. Yes, people were being consensually tied up and beat (there are moderators in place to ensure safety.) Yes, there were people wearing jeans and button-up and leather and undies and their birthday suits. Yes, there is open sexual activity happening all around. Yes, nearly all of it gets an audience. Yes, people of all sexual orientations and relationship statuses were present. Yes, I witnessed some of the most beautiful scenes of love and affection in I don’t know how long (even if just for that night.) Yes, I ran into friends there. Yes, there were snacks. Yes, even in a place that was unfamiliar to me I felt at home, by choosing to keep an open mind and not immediately feel the need to ostracize.

As a 25 year-old-mixed-brown-spiritual-queer-hood-millennial-artist named Jarvis, being unique is my jam sandwich and the soundtrack to my life. Conversations about my personal identity are usually accompanied with a “but…” or “although…” or some varying explanation of how I got here. “My family emigrated from all parts of Latin America…”, “Some of them immigrated to the pacific and settled…”, “I come from toxic masculine culture…”, “Sexuality is fluid…”, “90s cartoons are better than…” All usually while standing in front of someone who needs an explanation to understand the person they're looking at. Sooner than later, after continuously having to explain your identity it becomes apparent that you are the alternative to normalcy, which we’d be cool with (since we don’t fux with that mess anyway) if it weren’t for the deeply rooted sense to belong. I would argue that even the saltiest misanthrope still desires for someone to love and accept them for who they are. Though acceptance is still accomplishable inside of “Otherness”, because of subjugation these communities become smaller and harder to find. Hence events like Folsom Street Fair are organized to give folks a safe space to embody their whole identity but even these spaces can only reach so many people. 

Inclusivity is always easier for 'the space' than it is the people entering it, what I mean is, a space with a culture of acceptance already set will attract people seeking acceptance (simple “Field of Dreams” logic.) It’s when people who find the culture of said space unfamiliar or odd and (un)consciously decide to create a divide between them and the people of that culture it becomes problematic, and in that moment the “Other” is created. Also, the act of marginalizing groups of people historically is a device of oppression. So when a multi-dimensional intersecting person made of mostly marginalized groups (me!) enters into any space, inclusive or not, each layer of identity makes it exponentially more complex to fit in. Truthfully there aren’t many spaces I feel wholesome acceptance in, more often than not this acceptance comes from multiple space/people. 

When I do find a space I feel accepted in, it becomes vital that I hold fast to it, because alienation and individually, comes with a ratchet of mental health problems. If I don’t make a point of seeking acceptance I feel as if I might not receive it. So when my friend, who I find solidarity in identity with, asked me to go to the all-inclusive kink party, I was more than happy (but mostly nervous) to follow them into this new place with a set culture that I was unsure how my identity would react in. That fear of the unknown is what leads people to create these great divides: Maybe if the Pulse nightclub shooter had more spaces where he could comfortably develop his identity there’d be more people alive today. Maybe if police understood the experience of being Black in America there would be less headlines to grieve over. Maybe if Donald Trump had ever been underpaid, under-benefited, and overworked he would be calling to build more bridges than walls. The hard truth is “Otherness” kills, it has for as long as history, it is the creator of wars and colonization and genocide and oppression and tyranny and injustice. So please I beg of you, next time you enter into a space comprised of marginalized groups : be cautious, be aware, take notes, you might be a guest there, act accordingly. 


 Illustration of Jarvis Subia by Kenta Thomas

Illustration of Jarvis Subia by Kenta Thomas

*this is installation was brought to you by Jarvis Subia for our Otherness Week. This is the first of our 'Themed Weeks' and I'm so excited to finally open up my site to friends to share their stories and ideas. We're starting the look for more folks to pitch in. If you want to write about Death or Gratitude, or topics beyond that, hit me up at : )! Yay -