Back to the apocalypse at the San Francisco Fetish Ball

You know when Carmina Burana starts playing that scary things are about to happen.

“Fate is against me/In health and virtue/Driven on and weighted down/Always enslaved.”

So when I heard the first strains of that piece of cheery music at last weekend’s San Francisco Fetish Ball, I instinctively covered my soul.

Questions I asked of God at that time were:

  • Why is that man wearing a horse’s head?
  • Why is that woman 20 feet tall?
  • Why are those ladies breathing through gas masks?
  • Why do I have an erection?

The companies Stormy Leather, Syren, and J.T.’s Stockroom put together a showcase of their fashions using Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and, just as appropriate for a fashion show featuring floggings, worship, and submission, The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”


The Scorpions are more important to Germany than Hitler or David Hasselhoff, and for the first time I realized how important German culture was to the fetish scene.

There were a lot of jackboots and Nazi-suggestive outfits at the Ball, held at the massive Grand Regency Ballroom, and the very theme of the event was “Metropolis,” Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie that inspired everything from “1984” to “Brazil” to a famous Apple ad to a Queen video that was way better than the song it promoted.

The SF Fetish Ball capped three nights of events; a gallery show, a smaller, more physical party called Club Enslaved, and the seventh annual Ball itself, organized by Paige White.

White is the Kansas-born dominatrix and director of Uber Ego, a company that makes sparse, brutal, and lifestyle-accurate BDSM movies. She used to work for Mr. S Leather with her partner, Tchukon Hunter, but left to take over the Ball (Mr. S had run the affair since its inception, and is still a major sponsor).


White awarded the Ball’s Best Costume award to Santa Monica’s Eban (pictured).

“We started in 2000 in a much smaller venue, the DNA Lounge,” White said (the DNA Lounge is where the gallery show was held this year), and we expanded for the past several years.”

The Fetish Ball was not held last year, and organizers attribute this year’s exponentially larger attendance to the fact that people missed the event.

Over the three nights I saw a lot of the same people, but each party had its own distinctive feel, with the hardcore aspect dwindling each night as the audience increased. By the Ball on Saturday night, with more than 2,000 people attending, there was little that seemed outlandish (although there were notable exceptions).


The crowd was overwhelmingly white and the couples in attendance were mostly straight and appeared to be under 40. But that is not to say the Fetish Ball was not inclusive; huge rainbow flags fly over San Francisco neighborhoods, and the Grand Regency itself was lit with spotlights like a film premiere.

At no other place in the country would motorists pay no attention as they drove by a dominatrix, smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk, who was simultaneously ordering her pastie-d slave to do pushups at her feet.

But as groovy and tolerant as San Francisco itself seems toward all stripes of sexuality, it is just as fun to hear lesbians talking smack about transvestites, gay men turning up their nose at butch women, submissives topping from the bottom, and wholesome straight girls, observing for the first time someone getting flogged at a post, saying, “that looks like it hurts.”

Over the weekend I also toured the Armory, the new location of This place blew me away. Built in 1912 for the National Guard, the Armory was designed to withstand a siege during a time of labor unrest. For this reason the 200,000 sq.ft. building has a branch of Mission Creek running through its basement.

“…in case the troops needed fresh water,” said Thomas Roche,’s publicist and former editor of Eros-Zine.

The Armory had been vacant for more than a decade before purchased it in 2006 for $14.1 million. And that was a steal. Inside is a parade ground, a gymnasium, and dozens of rooms to film everything from standard bedroom scenes to water bondage, and everything in between. There is no studio or shooting location in Porn Valley that matches the potential of this building.


Since Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder, I was pleased to see my friend Abby Ehmann at the Ball. How she gets the jobs she does I don’t know, but now she is marketing one of the three brands of absinthe that are legal in America. Unfortunately she was not allowed to give out samples, but I used to drink absinthe when it was illegal and recommend its despair-inducing, hallucinogenic effects.

Made from wormwood, absinthe provides the drinker with a distinctively apocalyptic feeling.

“How are you supposed to drink it?” I asked.

“There’s this thing you do by pouring cold water over a sugar cube in a fancy glass,” she explained.

I bumped into Satine Phoenix and she invited me to her afterparty, which is described elsewhere.


The music on the dance floor was at times so loud that I could feel the bass in my teeth and stomach. Neither a sweaty bondage club nor a snooty and distant scene out of “Eyes Wide Shut,” the Bondage Ball was instead like “The Vampire Lestat” meets the Third Reich by way of “The Shining” (especially this individual), something that was not only sexy and menacing but also comforting.

Previously: Counting floggers on the wall: Mr. S Leather; Trouble X 2
See also: San Francisco Fetish Ball

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Gram Ponante is America's Beloved Porn Journalist

1 Comment

  1. Love the pics!! Love your blog, it is good to hear different peoples opinions and view on different lifestyles. We at will be attending a Fetish Factory party in Florida coming up soon. You should come check it out!!

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