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News + PoliticsFetish fair plans for monkeypox safety as thousands of...

Fetish fair plans for monkeypox safety as thousands of attendees come to SF

The huge Up Your Alley fair takes place on Sunday. Here's how organizers are handling the public health issue

By all accounts, the lines for monkeypox vaccinations have been moving much smoother than before, at least for what very little monkeypox vaccine we get before it quickly runs out. As of Tuesday, according to NBC news and the San Francisco Department of Public Health, San Francisco had received only 7800 of the 35,000 requested shots and hadn’t received an answer yet from Washington when more would be arriving. State Senator Scott Wiener has called for the state and city to declare an emergency. Yesterday, SFDPH announced there are now 261 cases reported in the city. (In the US, there are 3591 cases as of July 26.)

While not a “gay disease,” so far the virus has mostly impacted men who have sex with men in the US, although it does also affect women, other men, and children. (Since AIDS, gay men are great at testing, talking about, and advocating around disease, so good for us!) According to the CDC, monkeypox is spread through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids; respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact; and touching items (such as clothing or linens) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids.

So, what’s going to happen when thousands of gay men flock to the city for this Sunday’s huge Up Your Alley (aka Dore Alley) queer fetish fair and its satellite parties?

That’s a good question! Nightlife promoters I’ve spoken with say they haven’t received any definitive guidance around monkeypox from the city except general SFDPH guidelines (an unfortunate throwback to COVID). Some promoters, like DJ Bus Station John, have decided to postpone their parties. Others are offering refunds and urging people to stay home if they feel unwell. Our exciting but ill-starred, newly reopened sex club Eros has been toggling between cautionary posts and those celebrating sex-positivity.

It’s actually possible to do both, as this guide to “Dore Alley without fear” from the SF AIDS Foundation, which has been a leading light on monkeypox and safer sex, urges, with headings like: Don’t skip the piggy parties / Be aware, but not overly afraid / Play dress up / Take a friend to the dungeon / Move to less crowded areas / Enjoy the show / It’s OK to be picky with your sex partners / Slow your roll / Cover up your bumps / Try to get vaccinated. (I’ve asked SFAF what specific protocols they based their guide on, I’ll update this when I hear back.)

As Scott Wiener says, telling people to not have sex during the height of AIDS only made things worse. Shame forces people away from medical treatment. Informed harm reduction is the way. And paring back on sexual activity when you can is a good thing, too.

What about the fair itself, “Folsom Street Fair’s little sibling,” expected to draw at least 20,000 people of all queer stripes for BDSM demos, leather looks, and general carousing—back in full force from COVID downsizing? I spoke with fair organizer Angel Adeyoha, interim executive director of Folsom Street Events, for the monkeypox tea.

“We’ve been working very closely with the SFDPH for outreach and guidance,” Adeyoha told me. “Our plan was to have vaccination tents located at the entrance, but with no vaccine available that was an impossibility. We will have COVID testing and vaccination available, however. Hopefully, there will be more vaccine here by September for Folsom Street Fair, when we can put that plan into action.

“The SFPDH both will be the first you see when you enter the fair,” they said, “and they will be distributing information about how to protect yourselves and others. In general we’re saying to people to give each other space, limit personal contact, and cover up where you can.

“One of the things we’ve concentrated on these past two years is valuing mental health along with physical, and we know that people haven’t really been able to socialize, or even spend much time outside. Our object is to encourage people to socialize while being fully aware of what’s going on with monkeypox and COVID.

“There are definitely changes this year—for instance, the Steamworks booth stage won’t be asking for volunteers to come up on their stage for demonstrations,” Adeyoha said. “That’s one of the things we’re emphasizing: There are all kinds of things to watch.

“We’ve got some spectacular entertainment, with a full lineup of DJs, go-go dancers, and bondage and kink performers, plus the vendors, so you can have fun that way. Kink can be versatile. Enjoy the flogging!”

Up Your Alley takes place Sun/31, 11am-6pm, around the intersection of Dore Alley and Folsom Streets. More info here.

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Marke B.
Marke B.
Marke Bieschke is the publisher and arts and culture editor of 48 Hills. He co-owns the Stud bar in SoMa. Reach him at marke (at) 48hills.org, follow @supermarke on Twitter.

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