San Francisco has a long history of sexual permissiveness, and the backstory of counter culture sex parties is rich. Before Kinky Salon there was a lineage of events blending community with art and sexuality, all the way back to the swinging ’60s. The AIDS crisis in the ’80s knocked the wind brutally out of the sails of the blossoming sex culture in San Francisco. By the time I arrived here in 1999 it was ready for another bloom.
I founded Kinky Salon in April 2003 with Scott Levkoff, who was my co-producer and partner. The first event was an after-party for a big fetish ball being held nearby our community space in the Mission District of San Francisco. The combination of color, creativity, community and diverse, authentic sexuality became hugely popular, and within a couple of years the events were twice a month and bursting at the seams.
When we started, things looked very different. At first, Kinky Salon did not have themes. We had a couple of special events with themes and realized what a difference it made to the vibe. People got excited about creating a costume, exchanging ideas, hosting sewing nights and going shopping together—it became a community activity. Creativity bubbled up, and next thing we knew we had a party full of the most ridiculously sexy people we had ever seen. Costuming takes the seriousness out of the sexually charged vibe.
Some people are surprised to hear that we didn’t have sex at the first Kinky Salons. Although they were always sexy, the sex didn’t really start happening until a couple of years in. There was some action, in dark corners. We had a spanking bench, and there were certainly plenty of kinky escapades, but it took a couple of years before we added dedicated play spaces, designed specifically for people to have sex. Or, as we dubbed them, the “horizontal socializing space.”
The structure of the event developed over the next few years, and eventually became a tried and tested magic formula. In 2009, I wrote it all down in the first Kinky Salon guidebook, and shared it with an event producer in Austin who created the first local Kinky Salon chapter. Soon after, we hosted a series of workshops called “Booty Camp,” and trained up one of our core volunteers who was moving to London. She took the formula with her and London became the first event in Europe.
I hosted Kinky Salon with Scott until 2011, and then we parted ways so that Scott could focus on other projects. I now host Kinky Salon in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and I guide the global Kinky Salon community.
To learn more about the history of Kinky Salon, where I came from, and a deeper look into the ethos, pick up a copy of my memoir Polly: Sex Culture Revolutionary.