San Francisco Wrap-Up: Masquerotica

Last Saturday night I went to the first-ever Masquerotica soiree in San Francisco, the kinda-sorta replacement for the city’s long-running Erotic Ball. Having never made it out to the Erotic Ball, I hoped Masquerotica–a costume-mandatory behemoth of a rager with nine stages of entertainment ranging from burlesque to go-go dancers in bubbles and leather to pole dancing to latex showcases– would be a sexy and sophisticated replacement. San Francisco, after all, is the modern ethical hedonist’s mecca for all things sexual. San Francisco is so liberal that I expected the entertainment and partygoers to maintain a sense of detached frostiness–a willingness to party, of course, but a recognition that in a city where big burly bears can walk blocks to a sex party in fairy outfits without being heckled, erotic parties can be a bit banal.

And to some degree I was right. The entertainment was nothing short of fabulous all evening. Some technical difficulties in lighting and sound were a tad annoying, and the space itself was far too large with the stages often much too spread out to get a good rager going. But the shows being put on, even if far apart, were really great. I particularly enjoyed the zombie strippers, performing shamblingly inside a large wire fence and beind handled by white coverall-wearing men. And Unkle Paul’s Dark Kabaret showcased remarkable talents (I saw a guy blowing bubbles INSIDE other bubbles!! If I’d been on drugs my brain would have exploded) as well but also stunningly gorgeous latex and corsetry that wowed me. And the dance parties were all great–there were many. And I was right about the crowd being a bit “meh” for the most part. Because of the awkwardly oversized space in which it was held, it was almost impossible to get anyone together in a tight enough knot to get a serious energy buzz going, so the whole affair was rather laid-back.

But it was also unnervingly familiar. The thing about sex parties and sexy parties alike–and you’re reading the ramblings of a seasoned pro at swing parties, erotic parties, porn star parties, and so on–is that, no matter how sophisticated the crowd, one element will never disappear. That element? It’s not the super-hot fun. No, sadly, it’s the creepy staring dude factor. No matter how cultured the clinetele, no matter how liberal the city, at every single party I’ve been to that has ever had an openly publicized sexual element to it, there has been a gaggle of gawking males standing around and ogling the women who pass by, sometimes following them around (at Masquerotica this was particularly apparent, since that often meant whoever was following me would be doing it for a half mile of corridors and dance floors), sometimes reaching out to try to touch, sometimes dancing too close, sometimes saying innapropriate or unwanted things… you get the idea. Basically, it seems that if you’re selling tickets to the public (and often even if you’re screening heavily or not allowing single men in at all) for an event that will bring out scantily clad women… you will get a creep factor of way higher than you want it to be.

Now let me make it perfectly clear that I’m not trying to be snotty. As a matter of fact, I’ve been to so many events where guys stare longer than necessary at me or other women that I hardly even notice it anymore. I’ve adoped an “I know I’m amazing, so it’s only logical that you’d be struck dumb by my coolness” mentality at events like this. I notice the stares in my peripheral vision but usually just walk by. Unless someone accosts me, whatever. They can look all they want. But at Masquerotica I was with a dear friend who doesn’t go to this type of party often, and she was unnerved by the dilated pupils, sweaty hands, and panting breath of many of the guys we walked by that night. I couldn’t blame her. She’d gone in with the same expectation I had–that people at this party, in this city, would be a bit more inured to people being dressed up and beautiful, or at least more able to hide their astonishment when a pair of beautiful bouncing breasts covered only with pasties or latex walked by. But alas, we were both mistaken. Over the course of the night, we were approached by hyperventilating, handsy clowns; followed by tall men in masks for the length of the show floor; aggressively danced with by sweaty strangers we didn’t want to dance with; and otherwise creeped upon. Ick.

I could try to go on some evolutionary-psychology-fueled rant about how men are visually oriented and are stimulated more by looks than women. I could apologize for asserting that guys like this are just creepy and I don’t like them. But personally, while I wish this all hadn’t happened and that the guys in question would just cool their jets a bit, I think the indictment for this behavior doesn’t lie on men per se. But on the culture.

Even in San Francisco, it seems, our Puritan-rooted society hushes up sexuality to such a  stifling degree that, when faced with a sexual situation, people become slobbering stalker-y creepsters. So much of our basic desire to be able to be free with our bodies and comfortable with their sexual natures is so pent up for so long that when a party is offered that promises some small release… it turns into an explosion of awkward. We’re not trained or prepared by normal life to be in a situation where there are beautiful bodies bouncing here and there in lingerie. We’re used to hands-off environments–even in strip clubs you are not allowed to touch–and Masquerotica was hands-on (if you got permission). We’re used to tamping down, shutting up, pretending not to be looking, pretending not to be interested, because we’re told it’s never appropriate. But what we end up with is not a culture of adults who can handle themselves around sexuality, but a culture full of people reverting to outright rudeness and middle-school behavior because there is no other context in which to get comfortable seeing nearly-naked people. Even in San Francisco, where nakedness and sex is a whole lot more out in the open than in most places, the fun of the evening was transformed for many into a chance to unleash the drooling thirteen-year-old who never grew up because he couldn’t find enough free air to feel comfortable around open sexuality. It’s a sad state of affairs.

I don’t have a solution, but I do have a suggestion: talk, keep talking, write, keep writing, read, keep reading. Go to sexy parties. Open up. Learn how to be appropriate and mature. Sometimes the only way to do that is to be inappropriate and immature first: that’s ok. Just know that sometimes you might not get the best reaction to that. But it’s all about learning, owning yourself and your sexuality, and moving forward. So here’s to Masquerotica! I’d go again in a heartbeat.

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