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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Today’s Folsom Street Fair Item

posted by on October 2 at 7:58 AM

Damn it. It always unnerves me when I find myself in agreement with right-wing shrieker Michelle Malkin but, uh, she’s got a point: Why would anyone bring his kids to the Folsom Street Fair? As a parent and a homo, I don’t think this is appropriate for kids. I wouldn’t want my child to see straight people behaving so shamelessly in public.

Malkin links to this story in the Bay Area publication [X]Press about parents that bring their kids to Folsom. She neglects to include the headline (“Folsom Street Fair Not For Children”), or quote any of the precautions that organizers take to warn parents away from the BDSM/leather/fetish street festival:

Every year unsuspecting tourists and families stroll into the Folsom Street Fair. Some turn away at the gates after being warned by security officials about the event’s graphic sadomasochistic nature, while others saunter in with baby strollers and young children.

Instead Malkin quotes a section of the story about a gay couple that brought their twin girls to Folsom.

Two-year-olds Zola and Veronica Kruschel waddled through Folsom Street Fair amidst strangers in fishnets and leather crotch pouches, semi and fully nude men. The twin girls who were also dressed for the event wore identical lace blouses, floral bonnets and black leather collars purchased from a pet store. Fathers Gary Beuschel and John Kruse watched over them closely. They were proud to show the twins off.

“They will see more than the kids with moms and dads in Iowa,” said Beuschel, who wanted to expose his children to San Francisco’s diverse community. “Every parent has to decide for themselves what is right for them. And I respect that. And we decided that this is right for our children.”

Personally, as a parent, I’m appalled by Gary Beuschel and John Kruse’s decision to take their little girls to Folsom—and in itty-bitty fetish wear no less. I wouldn’t take my kid to Folsom—at nine he’s too young to understand that BDSM is play, cops and robbers for grownups. And, again, I wouldn’t want to have to explain this to him. But I have taken him to gay pride festivals where, yes, the occasional naked person strolls down the street. He thought it was a crazy party.

That said, I think Malkin and the rest of the right-wing shriekers are being a bit hypocritical on this score. Who do we usually hear things like this from: “Every parent has to decide for themselves what is right for [their children].” Conservatives!

Conservatives are always screaming about the divine right of parents to raise their kids however they see fit. Malkin thinks it’s not okay to take a two-year to a one-day kinky street fair—and I don’t think it’s okay either—but I’ll bet you thinks it’s a fine and noble thing when parents opt to “homeschool” their children to “protect” them secular schools teaching their kids facts that conflict with the crap in mommy and daddy’s bible. Where’s the outrage from conservatives when racist parents pound hate into their kids heads? Where’s the outrage over polygamist Morman sects bringing up girls to swap and boys to discard?

Conservatives don’t have a problem with parents that expose their children to harmful, toxic garbage—so long as their motives are religious. If your God demands that you isolate, lie to, and generally terrorize their children twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year about all the people God hates and the coming apocalypse, well, that’s your right. But conservatives will raise their voices in protest when a couple takes a kid to a kinky street fair for a few hours—which, again, is a dumb thing to do, in my opinion, and I wouldn’t take my kid to Folsom. But I don’t want anyone—certainly not Malkin—telling me and my boyfriend or Gary or John how to raise our kids, where to take them, or what to teach them.

Finally, be sure to watch Malkin lose her shit here. It has nothing to do with the subject at hand, but it’s always a delight to watch.

RSS icon Comments


This is such a difficult choice for any parent who wants to raise loving, accepting children. I want my (six year old) daughter to be exposed to the world--the REAL world--not the world I wish existed. I want her to see it all, I want her to love it all. But I don't want to overwhelm her with imagery and rhetoric that her six year old mind, liberal and accepting as it is, isn't prepared to absorb. So we do go together to the Pride Parade, but we skip the Fetish Festival. It's the same way I discern the appropriateness of ANY environment: It is less about the content and more about the context.

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | October 2, 2007 8:16 AM

As a Folsom attendee, I was offended by the stroller-toting mom who was making the "ewwwwwwwww!" face at all the attendees. Why the hell would she bring her child to an event that she clearly hated and was disgusted by? That's just plain bad parenting. If she wants to protest Folsom, sure... bring a picket sign or your bible tracts and I'll think she's a hopeless idiot but instead she brought her child and used the stroller to hit the other attendees in a packed slowly moving crowd!! There are other ways to get to where she was going and if she lives on Folsom, she was fully aware that she'd either have to stay in or stay away from 11 to 5.

That, and don't bring your dog to Folsom, it's just too crowded and that's cruel to a small skittish dog like the ones I saw at Folsom.

Posted by Dee in SF | October 2, 2007 8:25 AM

I like Malkin. Whatevs.

Posted by Mr. Poe | October 2, 2007 8:27 AM

That Malkin video was awesome!

Posted by Wes | October 2, 2007 8:27 AM

seriously, this is really a no brainer. If, as a parent, you enjoy going to the folsom street fair, go ahead and bring your kids along. If, as a parent, you don't go to the folsom street fair, don't bring your kids. i don't think a parent should take their kids for cultural experience unless they share a genuine interest in that culture and are secure enough to be comfortable doing so.

Posted by easy, really | October 2, 2007 8:39 AM

I'm thinking back to the problems my home state had passing meaningful child abuse legislation. The main source of opposition was from those same old-fashioned Christian family values people who contended that the state had no right to tell them how to discipline their children. The fact that their definition of "discipine" included everything short of stabbing didn't seem to matter.

In contexts like this Street Fair "Protect the Children" usually means "protect me from things I find icky."

Posted by flamingbanjo | October 2, 2007 8:44 AM

I would rather take a kid to Folsom then to a church. At least the BDSM and fantasy at the street fair occasionally ends in orgasm.

Posted by giffy | October 2, 2007 8:51 AM


Anybody find it just the least bit disturbing...dressing up two-year-old girls in sexual fetish wear and parading them around in a sexual fetish street fair?

Or is this just fine and dandy because it's in opposition to the religious right?

Posted by BallardDan | October 2, 2007 8:55 AM

I hate to see anyone use kids like props.

Whether its leather folks or the idiots who dress up their little girls and paint them like hookers and enter them in beauty pagents. It's really offensive.

I used to raise money for AIDS in the Boston From All Walks of Life in the late '80s and early '90s. I usually did it alone, but when our daughter was 11, my husband and daughter came along. There were always some... ahem... challengingly dressed individuals, which did not traumatize my daughter (or my husband) all that much.

Posted by Laurie D. T. Mann | October 2, 2007 9:07 AM


Can you read?

Posted by Kiru Banzai | October 2, 2007 9:13 AM

If I had small children I wouldn't want them to see Folsom Street, and I really, really wouldn't want them to see Michelle Malkin.

Posted by Fnarf | October 2, 2007 9:18 AM

hey dan, apropos of your post: your son is 9--want him to start sex ed class, in all its gory detail? after all, sexual activity is only a SCANT 6 YEARS AWAY! whenever i say that 9 is too young for sex ed i get shit for it like i was some right-winger for saying it. i'm it comes...

Posted by ellarosa | October 2, 2007 9:22 AM

Kids are sexually aware at nine years old and I think it is fine to start SOME sexual ed talk.
Obviously there is a limit. Today with the internet and almost any random TV show talking about sex all the time a kid would have to live in a closet not to be somewhat aware. The reality is that most nine years olds are too aware in todays world.
It's just the reality of the world today.

Also for the protection of the child that subject has to be talked about at that age. Predators are everywhere and no matter how much you try to protect your child SOMETHING could happen.
This is from experience.
The subject has to be talked about at the level a nine year old can handle it.

Posted by mj | October 2, 2007 9:32 AM

oh gee, big surprise - michelle malkin's head is exploding. AGAIN.

i *heart* that video. for someone who has built a career on calling people out on their bullshit [or more often inventing bullshit to call people out on], she sure can't take it when the tables are turned. she wishes she were ann coulter but she's handicapped by the fact that she actually has a soul.

Posted by brandon | October 2, 2007 9:33 AM

I'm a little slow today.

What is the issue under debate? Does it come down to whether or not Miller and other national brands should sponsor kinky festivals? The definition of a mainstream national brand is that it represents something that is acceptable to practically everybody, and therefore offends nobody. The big national brands are the very epitome of lame, after all. Whereas, your kink isn't particularly kinky if it doesn't offend anyone. Seems like to be really kinky, you'd almost no choice but to go somewehre that the mainstream fears to tread, and so you'd have to be offensive to the vast majority.

Which is awesome. Kind of the point, actually.

So the question I have is why a BSDM festival would have any serious interest in a mainstream sponsor? And why would a mainstream sponsor even consider something truly edgy? They are mutually exclusive. The only ones who really benefit as far as I can tell are just right wing fund raisers.

I don't think it will scar your kid to bring them there, other than when they are older they will ask you what the hell you were thinking. Embarrassing.

Posted by elenchos | October 2, 2007 9:34 AM


thank you. Yes, I can read.

Dan and a commentor or two seem to find it inappropriate to take kids to Folsom Street Fair.

I'm a little surprised that so far, nobody expressed disdain or disgust in particular at little girls being paraded in sex-wear at a sex-festival. Laurie seemed offended only that they were used as props, but not that they were participants in a sex festival. I don't seems that this doesn't cross a line for many of the posters here.

A couple reasons that none of the commentors have mentioned the seeming inappropriateness of two-year-olds in sex-fetish wear at a sex fetish fair are...the liberal-moistening phrase, "diverse community" (who wanted to expose his children to San Francisco’s diverse community), and that this sort of thing pisses off the religious right.

Posted by BallardDan | October 2, 2007 9:39 AM


Note to self: No leather dog collar on child.

Duly noted. Civilization saved.

Posted by elenchos | October 2, 2007 9:44 AM

Growing up in San Francisco, with a gay dad, there was one rule that was golden. Don’t go to the Folsom Street Fair. My Dad laid this rule down because likely he was out there in all his leather glory, wearing his bare-assed chaps, perhaps fucking in an alley in the hot sun. Of course I didn’t know this at the time, but years later, when I was an adult and living off Folsom Street myself, well I got it. It’s a fabulous party, no doubt, but no place for kids or adults with weak stomachs.

Posted by Stepanie | October 2, 2007 9:46 AM

I think every child should be on a leash when in public. With shock collars.

Posted by Mr. Poe | October 2, 2007 9:52 AM

MJ @13: yes, answer their questions on a level they can understand. beyond that, i find they just wanna watch "high school musical" and play with their toy robots. "predators everywhere." sigh. the statistics on that are actually much lower than we all think. stranger abduction/rape is very low number. i believe the hysteria about it is more harmful than the reality of it. and i'm not so sure that full-out sex ed for 9 yr olds is going to have any effect on pervs and their effectiveness in molesting. these are power situations, not "sexual ignorance" situations.

Posted by ellarosa | October 2, 2007 9:52 AM

Some people treat some events like Halloween. An event where you dress up and have fun. But even though Halloween has a violent side to it sometimes I would not think parents would let there toddlers go out as sex slaves or hookers, sexualized characters. The Folsom fair is the same thing. It is not just dressing up it is suggesting something sexual. Dressing up your kids and sexualizing them because you as an adult think it is cute is quite ignorant. They have no idea what is really going on but are about to find out at a crotch level since most kids see things at that hight. I was sexual at an early age but it was all mild and experimental based upon curiosity but was never arranged by an adult.
There are situations where sex and kids do not mix. Kids will be curious but have to come to terms about sex on their own terms not on the terms of an adult. Education usually takes into consideration the child and presents the facts in a way children can deal with it is different than dressing them up and placing them in a sexual environment. It is not dress up like Halloween.

Posted by -B- | October 2, 2007 9:56 AM

BallardDan, what is your reasoning behind supposing that you aren't reading the disgust you're seeking is for either of those reasons? Is it because you think anything sexual - anything at all - is inappropriate for toddlers?

Posted by Matt from Denver | October 2, 2007 9:58 AM


Who cares if stranger abduction/rape is statistically insignificant? I'll argue that a kid's molesting uncle is as much a predator as a pedophile lurking in the shadows, and his (the relative's) actions are just as harmful. Child molestation is common; if you made it through childhood without being molested, consider yourself lucky.

And I agree with mj. Young kids should receive some sex ed; at least enough to distinguish good touch v. bad touch, and to know that they're not to blame if they've been molested and that they should tell someone. Pedophiles are enabled by silence and most children never tell anyone when they've been abused.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 2, 2007 10:24 AM

w0w - after clicking the link and seeing the photos of toddlers in dog collars.... to say i'm beyond grossed out is a bit of an understatement. if anyone here is looking to make the case against gay adoption - exhibit A: these 2 douchebags.

one possible upshot - by taking your kids to folsom, you will all but guarantee they won't have sex until they're at least 50.

Posted by brandon | October 2, 2007 10:25 AM

@22 and other's calling out BallardDan, got any kids of your own? This one is a no-brainer. The Folsom Street Fair is hardly "anything sexual--anything at all--is inappropriate..." grade material. Using your kids as props, whether at a hardcore BDSM public event or at an equally out there "Christian dads and daughters chastity ball" is creepy.

Posted by Westside forever | October 2, 2007 10:26 AM

Yes, ellarose, not to be dramatic but I once thought just like you did and paid a huge price for it.
I was the mommy of the century... Stay at home, baking cookies, super attentive and then my whole life was affected by one event that practically sent me to the loony bin. Abuse and a child being curious because something feels good goes hand in hand so kids need to know something.
I would have to wonder if the statistics are wrong not on the high end but on the low end.
Things can happen right under your nose and I was way too naive and thought kids just wanted to see high school musical.

Nine is just right there on the edge where it's hard to keep them too innocent anymore. That is just my opinion.
Of course we don't need to be shoving sex in their face but we need to acknowledge they are not innocent little
Brady Bunch kids in todays world.

Posted by mj | October 2, 2007 10:32 AM

Conservatives are always screaming about the divine right of parents to raise their kids however they see fit...

It's not just Conservatives--it's every self-centered, self-indulgent parent out there, regardless of politics. The proper response of Folsom attendees would have been to beat the stupid parents to a bloody pulp, and send the kids to Child Protective Services.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | October 2, 2007 10:33 AM

@ 25, yes, I do have kids of my own, and no, I wouldn't take them to this or anything else BDSM related. I didn't imply that I did. I do, however, stand by my question to BallardDan as the tone of his posts seems to be going beyond just this.

Posted by Matt from Denver | October 2, 2007 10:48 AM

Ok, the age of nine is not too young to start talking to your kids about sex. I figured out what sex (and blowjobs!) were at the age of nine. I remember it well. And I was interested YEARS before that. And it was only a few years after that (7th grade) when girls in my grade started getting pregnant. And that was before the crazy interweb.

Posted by Dianna | October 2, 2007 10:55 AM

I was finding and looking at my dad's not-very-secret stash of Playboys when I was eight. Kids are a lot more sexualized than adults seem to remember.

Posted by Fnarf | October 2, 2007 11:16 AM

Yikes. I wouldn't say that nine is too early to start talking to kids about sex, but I very strongly doubt most nine-year-olds, much less any younger kids, are quite ready to appreciate S&M or the other phenomena on display at the Folsom Street Fair the way adolescents/adults would. There's a lot of complex issues regarding the safety and appropriate social/mental/physical boundaries of that kind of play. I would never, ever bring kids that young to something like this.

Posted by tsm | October 2, 2007 11:19 AM

7th grade is 12 yrs old. i support full-blown sex ed at this age.

Posted by ellarosa | October 2, 2007 12:13 PM

I vote: Go ahead and desensitize your kids. Just don't blame anyone else when or if they're fucked up.

Posted by Amelia | October 2, 2007 12:15 PM

tsm@31: I agree, I would never bring a nine year old (or a twelve year old) to that fair. I was responding to an earlier comment that suggested nine was too young to talk to a kid about sex.

And my point, no. 32, was that at 12 kids were already getting pregnant, i.e., sex ed should begin earlier, or at the very least, parents need to talk to their kids earlier.

Posted by Dianna | October 2, 2007 12:17 PM

I think there needs to be a distinction made between sexuality and fetishism, here. I don't think fostering a culture where sex is kept in the shadows and deemed too dirty or too inappropriate for children has been very effective. Humans are sexual. Sex is a healthy, beautiful, positive aspect of life. I think parents should make an effort to protect children from harm and danger--sex between mature, consenting humans is neither. The reason I wouldn't take my daughter to the Folsom Fair is not because of the sexual content, but because of the nature of the sexual content--which is decidedly not appropriate for children. She doesn't need to know or view or explore BDSM or role playing, etc. We're talking about apples and oranges, people. Surely there is a reasonable position somewhere between the two extremes on the spectrum?

Posted by Jaime-Leigh | October 2, 2007 12:28 PM

Nine is not too young to know about genitals and what they are for. Most kids that age no full well that boys and girls have different parts.

I also am not really a fan of this idea of innocence being tied up in knowing about sex. Sex is not dirty. Telling a kid that adults have sex using their genitals and the result can in some circumstances result in children is not going to destroy their childhood.

Posted by giffy | October 2, 2007 12:31 PM

BallardDan, I'm actually not all that worked up over the 2 year olds in fetish wear. The toddler fetish wear, in and of it self, is harmless. At 2, they have no idea what they're wearing or what kind of statement it is making. All they care about is if it is too warm or too cold, and if it itches.

I'm bothered that the stupid parents used them as a statement (regardless of what they were wearing). Same way I get pissed when the fundies wave their placards from the sidelines of abortion clinics, with their kids on their shoulders. This pisses me off regarding parents supporting either liberal or conservative causes. Causes are for adults, not kids.

I'm bothered that they were exposed to sights that are inappropriate for 2 year old eyes.

But I'm not bothered by the fishnet costume.

Posted by SDA in SEA | October 2, 2007 12:48 PM

Why isn't there a rule that no one under 18 is allowed at the fair?

Posted by Cat in Chicago | October 2, 2007 12:56 PM

38 - public land.

Posted by brandon | October 2, 2007 1:50 PM

@ Dan

can you read what you link? There's plenty of ACCURATE fucked up shit by the MormOn church to focus on...

"polygamist Morman sects"

" The FLDS broke more than a century ago from the mainline Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, over the practice of polygamy.

The Mormon church, which gave up plural marriage more than a century ago, has renounced Jeffs' group."

Posted by lazy | October 2, 2007 2:05 PM


I don't think fostering a culture where sex is kept in the shadows and deemed too dirty or too inappropriate for children has been very effective. Humans are sexual. Sex is a healthy, beautiful, positive aspect of life.

A fine sentiment, but sex is certainly not only a healthy, positive aspect of life. It can be a site of disrespect, degradation, humiliation, and hurt.* That's the part of sex parents want to protect their children from. And by and large that ends up getting translated into trying to protect them from any knowledge about sexuality at all.

*See all of these fetishized at the Folsom Street Fair!

Posted by Kiru Banzai | October 2, 2007 2:55 PM

Anyone notice that the pictures are two years old (2005 Folsom)? So why NOW the uproar?

And who do you know that the two gay guys were using their kids dressed in "fetish wear" as a political statement? Maybe they were just out having fun? And if you are so concerned about dressing up kids in "age-inappropriate" clothing, then why aren't you complaining about these little beauty pageants where kids the same age are dressed up like that (or worse)?

Posted by gryphon773 | October 2, 2007 7:35 PM

In regards to all the comments about "when is it too early for kids to learn about sex":

I learned about sex when I was ten. Not from school, or from a parent, but from being raped by a babysitter. I had no idea what the hell was going on, what to do. I kept it a secret for eight years; eight years of depression and shame and anger.

Now, I agree that the Folsom Street Fair is no place for a two year old. Hell, I know some 20 year olds it wouldn't be a place for. But, I gotta disagree with the whole, "OMG, TEACHING CHILDREN ABOUT SEX WILL SCREW THEM UP AND MAKE THEM PERVERTS!" That's like arguing teaching kids a condom will help protect them fairly well from STDs and pregnancy makes them sluts, whereas teaching only abstinence will make them hold off 'till marriage. Does not work like that. Never has, never will.

Now, I only wish my parents would have had the foresight to explain sex a bit better to me as a child. I'm not saying I was ready to hear about, say, whips and nipple clips and candle wax, but knowing that I was not sick or wrong for orgasming when someone held me down and manipulated my body could have helped a lot.

Kids need to know the various functions of their bodies. Save the hardcore stuff for later, sure; but sending kids off into the wide world ignorant is no way to handle the issue.

As for the whole "stranger danger" issue, as I believe someone above put it; that's not the biggest thing. Usually child molestation is done by someone that child should, by all rights, be able to trust; if their parents don't explain anything to them, they'll believe the person who molested them. And that'll screw them up far worse than any talk of genitalia and what it can do ever will, trust me.

Posted by Sarah | October 2, 2007 7:39 PM

i think the hardest thing to explain to a child about the cute-chubby opposite-sex people doing s/m stuff in the street is why that guy would wear those shoes while naked, tied to a board and clothes-pinned, unless she added them for extra humiliation.

Posted by erin | October 2, 2007 8:56 PM

I didn’t get to go this year, due to a last minute change in logistics, to what me as a straight man is basically a Halloween costume type event crossed with Renaisance Faire overtones (and is a great place to take a date, really!).

But I have gone in the past many times, and I can tell you that the entrences to the fair (which is spread out over many blocks and side streets) DO have gates, and do ask for charitible donations for local causes.

The “action” tends to be away from the main line of vision of the gates. Closer by all you will see is people in costumes enjoying bands on stages you can see at any fair.

I have seen older teens at this event, just as I have seen at Pride events across the country. They are able to be themselves, and somehow seek out community in a safe environment. There are many non-profits exhibiting there devoted to the mental health of the LGBT community, located on EVERY block and bless them for reaching out.

I can’t recall seeing children there before, although I wouldn’t rule it out. I have seen some of the people in the orignal photos posted by Dan. The Asian guy put on a very memorable demonstration that day!

Probably not appropriate to bring your toddlere, but also not appropriate for children to be in lots of other places I see - violent and/or sexual movies, watching violent or sexualized stuff on TV, hanging around with teens lerning to preen and prance amongst themselves, and so on. This is an issue that happens EVERYWHERE across America without regard to the parent’s sexuality.

Sadly what else is common across America, and even SF is not immune:

Last year while walking with my GF towards our transportation home after the fetival. several blocks from the festival itself, a yellow school bus full of middle school age boys rolled by.

Upon seeing a few men who were merely dressed in colorful clothes and makeup (not leather or uncovered or flamboyant at all), the boys let loose a stream of insults designed to spew hate and impress their buddies.

I couldn’t have felt sadder for the men, except for the boys - who probably will be attending Folsom Street Fair trying to come out of the closet in future years.

That kind of hate, and the kind shown in the comments on this blog and others (including the Malkin piece) can only come from self-hatred turned outward. Rational thinking has nothing at all to do with it, despite the false rhetoric.

So two guys made a stupid parenting decision. Be outraged. But it has nothing to do with being gay.

Would anyone have been any less outraged if the article says they were two guys who left their wives at the Local Mall for the afternoon while they babysat the kids?

I think not and I hope not.

So, outraged ones, let it be about an occasional bad choice, and try to recognize the difference between that and your internal hatred.

Posted by Where does the hate come from? | October 3, 2007 5:09 PM

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