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Slick and twisted: Latex maids, lady cops, corset-boys and butt-bags — Coming to grips with the ‘Slick’ fetish ball
by Summer Burkes

“Dilettante” column originally published on 10.20.1997 in the SF Bay Guardian. Re-intro 4.11.2018 here.

SAN FRANCISCO, since the Barbary Coast days, has always been something of a hub for sexual depravity. During the Gold Rush, in a city where men largely outnumbered women, miners who couldn’t get any from a ‘good’ woman bought live bodies for illicit and impersonal sexual enjoyment in the bordellos and ‘cribs’ of Chinatown and North Beach.

Today, even though flesh is still heavily traded in the Tenderloin and the Mission, with the 50/50 ratio of men to women, it’s admittedly a lot easier for John Q. Hetero Public to go out and get laid without having to pay.

Always reaching for higher goals, humans have decided to go natural, evolutionary I-like-you-you-like-me instincts one better. Enter those who publicly declare and espouse all manners of what Pentecostals everywhere call ‘perversion.’

As a subculture complete with cliques, sets of rules, and a distinct fashion sense, these fetish freaks’ Big Night came last Sunday – the Slick Fetish Ball. I, well-nigh unaccustomed to the fetish crowd, went.

let’s keep it pg-13 here folks

Unaware of the S&M crowd’s inability to integrate comic relief into their events, I chose as my ‘fetish costume’ my housemate’s old Catholic School uniform, complete with pigtails and knee-socks. I stood outside the club with my befetished, Joan-Jett-alike companion while she enjoyed her last cigarette of the night (damn those laws).

A balding, be-spectacled middle-aged man in uncomfortably high heels hobbled toward the entrance in a short latex sheath with the behind cut out. The first hairy ass I’d seen since the Folsom Street Fair.

Inside, the sign by the ticket booth read, “Nudity and actual sex (direct genital contact) are not allowed at this event.” The sea of black leather, latex, and metal led me to believe that I was partying not at a fetish ball, but with the Borg on some tripped-out Star Trek episode where the characters suddenly get personalities. We stood in the block-long line for coat-check, directly in front of a man in a Zorro mask with a dick-nose attachment.

A baby-faced boy in jammies pulled his pigtailed girlfriend and teddy bear around in a red wagon. (I almost scratched my initial notion that this crowd didn’t like to yuk it up, but after more exploration, I discovered that, besides us and two other Catholic School girls, we were alone.) A mullet-haired man in a leather vest asked to borrow the ruler I was carrying to spank his french-maid girlfriend, to the absolute apathy of the crowd around us.

oh ahem hello good sir, i think “leatherman” means something different to you than it does to me

Past an exhibit of some amateurish, sterile erotic photography, in the next room, COLLAPSINGsilence was performing. A Butoh troupe beyond thunderdome, they all wore head-to-toe white paint, gas masks, and strategically placed tatters of clothing. They grimaced and leadenly carried sundry symbolic objects to and fro for about thirty minutes, accompanied by a soundtrack of sparse, droning white noises. The piece was slow, elaborate, oblique, and gloriously creepy — perhaps the highlight of the night.

We made our way over to the deserted “deviant liquid latex” body-painting booth and watched singles and couples get their twisted prom pictures made at a free, sign-a-release-form-first photo shoot. A smarmy, L.A. record producer type grinningly asked us if we wanted to simulate a threesome for the camera with his bridge-and-tunnel girlfriend in a holographic corset. We politely declined.

Undaunted, she performed an amateurish, ’80s hair band video visual soliloquy, twisting her nipples and sticking her tongue out for the horny photographer. Vampires, Siouxsie Siouxes, and Robert Smiths all passed by sneering, as if their event had just been bought out by Disney.

Downstairs in the ‘dungeon’ was definitely the best place to play Pretend Your Grandparents Are Here. Shocking people were stringing up other shocking people and shockingly spanking them. Hard, soft, ninja style, you name it, it was all shocking. Okay, and I’m not afraid to say it: I DON’T GET IT. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

Now, I know that some people have different fantasies, and they like to play them out in safe environments with like-minded people. That, to me, is perfectly healthy. What doesn’t sit well with me is that many of the fetish crowd don’t seem very comfortable with themselves, and that the ratio of stunning, submissive women to less-than-comely, dominant men was a little too high.

When approval within your subculture includes simulated humiliation and the underlying threat of violence and death, if your self-esteem is already a little low, you might need to find a new peer group. But I digress.

Back upstairs, the kids at Stormy Leather staged a formidable fashion show to wrap up the evening. Shiny and deviant latex maids, kings, devil girls, lady cops, and corset-boys simulated mechanical hot-sex acts to freaky catwoman Twin Peaks music as a satanic overseer lurked in the background. As the lights faded and the Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up” bellowed over the sound system, we braved the coat-check line again.

A paunchy, mustachioed man in a cup, a butt-bag, and nothing else conversed with a woman in a perfect Batwoman bra. A high-heeled, purple-wigged drag queen and a saran-wrapped Dale Bozzio lookalike ambled by. My fetish-hobbyist companion admitted, “Yeah, this is a cool scene, but I don’t think I’d want to pick up a date here.” Me neither, but someone does.

“You people are SICK!” I gleefully shouted as I walked past the crowd outside. Smiles of encouragement and pride surrounded me. Only on the Barbary Coast, I guess.

yall have fun wi' dat. bless

yall have fun wi’ dat. bless

This is the third piece in my “twenty years ago this week” project; this post’s intro here, and Dilettante’s first installment is here

Oh and ten years after this article, on 10.9.2007, the SFBG‘s next nightlife columnist Marke B told us about losing his third eye at a rave

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