Frisky History

August 3, 2010

San Francisco has long been home to many outposts of sexual adventure. At the Center for Sex & Culture we keep an archive that gives us a peek into some of them, and the LGBT Historical Society of Northern California has lots of information too.

We know that our little City by the Bay began as home to WAY more men than women, and for a while in early SF history most of the women in town were whores. Alleys with women’s names in downtown SF are a reminder, it is said, of some of the most significant lady entrepreneurs of that day. Sally Stanford, a notorious and successful madam, moved to Sausalito after she retired and was elected that town’s mayor! And speaking of politics, drag impresario Jose Sarria (A.K.A. The Widow Norton), ran for mayor of SF in the early 60s, using the Black Cat Club in North Beach the home base of her campaign.

Everyone knows about the Summer of Love, but not everybody is aware that there were already SM gay bars in town before the hippies started dancing in the park. Over in the Haight, the Kerista commune made free love its own mantra, and the Cockettes (revived lately by the Thrillpeddlers) were shocking audiences with their outrageous shows. The SM community went co-ed when Cynthia Slater wouldn’t take no for an answer and insisted on joining her gay male friends at parties, finally founding the Society of Janus as a mixed-gender organization. Its descendants are many, and the spaces they played — the Shotwell Meeting House, especially – became notorious long before the Citadel, or’s Armory, were born.

So it’s good to know that events like Kinky Salon have a such rich history in this beautiful city that always knows how to play! Tune in next month as I uncover more of the obscure sexual history of San Fran Frisky!


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SanFranSexy is a bi-monthly zine bringing a bulging package of Sex-Positive Culture to your doorstep. Every month we bring you juicy bits of news, events, resources, and advice keeping you in the know about what’s worth knowing in our sassy little town.

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