Shirts and Skins
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Shirts and Skins

“I’d like to try flogging.”

Strolling with my friend Lea around Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco’s largest leather/fetish fair, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, we had just approached the flogging demonstration area.

“Giving or receiving?” she asked.

“Oh, receiving. I wouldn’t know what to do.” But I knew Lea did. She was a veteran of leather play, a cute butch lesbian, in some ways my female counterpart. Both short, with matching closely cropped black hair, pale skin, pink cheeks, and bright smiles, people often mistook us for brother and sister, and we referred to ourselves as The Campbell Soup Twins. Lea loved to bottom for femmy tops, usually in scenes involving a sling and a riding crop. She was most definitely a leather sexpert.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Pretty sure…” The whole truth was that even though I had been coming to this event for fifteen years, I was never sure about Folsom—never quite sure of my place in this scene, and never sure on which side of the Folsom blade’s cutting edge I would fall that year. Some trips I was tantalized, mesmerized, by the beauty of tanned, tattooed muscle bound in leather, excited to risk and explore. Other years my insecurities about my far-from-perfect body overtook my Folsom day like dark, creeping fog, and every sexy torso and chiseled six-pack seemed to chastise rather than beckon.

“Who do you want to flog you?” Lea inquired.

“I don’t know. One of these guys?” I replied, nodding toward the floggers deep in concentration while they flogged their subs.

“Well, I refuse to let you make a random decision. Before we even think about finding a top for you, we need to do a few things. C’mon,” she said, grabbing me by the arm and pulling me away from the flogging area and back toward the vendor booths.

“Let’s see what kind of sensation you like first,” she said. “There is a flog-ger booth back here I saw,” she said, searching the booths through the increasingly swarming crowd.

The equestrian fetish was just hitting that year, before the puppy fetish became big but well after Furries gained momentum. One dominatrix was being pulled in a small carriage by a man in black leather short shorts, harness, and [End Page 90] blinders wearing enormous platform shoes painted shiny black to look like hooves. He pulled the carriage with his hands like a rickshaw, the bit

in his mouth connected to her manicured hands. When she purred “whoa” he came to a stop, leaving his hands on the wooden pulling posts, snorting through his nose, whinnying and stamping his hooves.

Lea stopped before we got to the booth and pulled me down closer so I could hear her. “Now,” she said conspiratorially, “we are going to try a few of these, but don’t say we’re just looking. These are expensive and they want to make sales, not just have us try them out and leave.”

We entered the booth, manned by two lesbians, one butch and one femme, the former in a black harness and the latter in a tight oxblood leather corset.

“Can I help you?” the femme asked.

“We’re going to check out some floggers,” Lea said. “I was here earlier.”

“Great. Let me know if you have any questions,” she said breezily, exactly like a salesperson at The Gap.

Lea walked toward the rack of floggers at the back of the booth and I followed. She turned and looked at me with a smile.

“Okay. Give me your arm,” Lea said. When I complied she grasped the top side of my right forearm and turned it over revealing the tender underside. “The inside of your forearm is a very sensitive part of your body; by testing different floggers on this area, we’ll get an idea for what kind of sensation you like.”

Lea entranced me when she was like this. Normally she possessed an amazing sweet, gentle demeanor, so I loved it when she became so bossy and toppy.

“Let’s try…. this one,” she...