Best of the Bay 2009: Sex and Romance

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Editors Picks: Sex and Romance

BEST FAIR THAT'S UP YOURS

While the Folsom Street Fair has grown into an international destination for kinksters and the tourists who ogle them, the Up Your Alley Fair has become increasingly important as a more intimate oasis for local leatherheads who remember the scene's old days. The fair — better known as Dore Alley Fair, though the event was named when it started in 1985 on a different street — has brought much-needed attention to the oft-overlooked SoMa neighborhood. We love the organization's dedication to supporting groups and charities like the Episcopal Community Services, AIDS Emergency Fund, and Transgender Law Center. What we don't love is that this event may be the next target on the Police Department's Death of Fun Crusade. Show your support this year so that Up Your Alley doesn't go the way of Castro Halloween.

Last Sunday in July, Dore Alley, between Folsom and Howard. www.folsomstreetevents.org/alley

BEST SEX AND SERVICE

Having sex doesn't take much: a partner (or not), a place, a modicum of desire. But feeling sexy isn't always so easy — especially if you're in a relationship that has reached the sweatpants, TV–dinner, oral-sex-what? stage. Enter Intima Girl, the Marina's boudoir of a boutique. The small, upscale shop stocks a variety of items meant to up the ante in the bedroom, from sex toys to lotions to lingerie, most geared toward girls (and their partners) who want a little class in their kink. Think sleek vibrators, high-end candles, silk bondage ropes, and sex books that could sit on your coffee table. But Intima Girl doesn't skimp on the fun. Adventurous types can head home with an edible candy bra, assless panties, and metallic condom compacts for stylish safe-sex on the go. Best of all, the owner and staff are as knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful as you always wished your big sister would be.

3047 Fillmore, SF. (415) 563-1202, www.intima-online.com

BEST SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES

Dim, crimson lighting. The Stones on the sound system. Attractive youngsomethings lounging languidly on plush couches. And there, across the room, a tall, lean brunette, sipping a PBR, staring through the haze. Will Amber, the worker-owned watering hole with stiff drinks and legal cigarette smoking (thanks to labor law loopholes), be the setting of your "How We Met" story? Are those the tears of love at first sight? If you're not a smoker, your eyes might just be irritated or you might be frustrated knowing tonight's bar clothes will smell when you wear them to work tomorrow. But for those brave (stupid? nah) few who still toke the tobacco stick, this Duboce Triangle destination is a sexy, sultry, smoky oasis in a world that's become increasingly cold (literally) to the dwindling minority. Just for this moment, in this beautiful bar out of time, nothing exists but you and your beloved. Not work. Not cancer. Maybe not even a future for your relationship. But what does it matter? Since the first release of studies on the dangers of smoking, people who continue to puff have lived in the here and now. And at Amber, there's no better place to be now than here.

718 14th St., SF. (415) 626-7827

BEST WEDDING SINGERS WHO AREN'T ADAM SANDLER

You're getting married to the love of your life, and every member of your extended families will be in attendance, including your Aunt Jolene, who lives in an RV in the Nevada desert and talks to inanimate objects, and your future spouse's Harvard-educated litter, all flying in from Martha's Vineyard. How are you going to pick a wedding band that will get everyone — from your lumpy litigator father-in-law-to-be to your own Crazy Uncle Cletus — on their feet dancing? Tainted Love, the best '80s tribute band since The Wedding Singer, is the answer. This talented seven-piece act regularly draws sold-out crowds to venues like Bimbo's and Red Devil Lounge, while also happily playing private parties, corporate events, and, yes, weddings. Now that '80s music is almost the golden oldies, you can count on the fact that Love's renditions of "Purple Rain," "Sweet Child o' Mine," and, of course, "White Wedding" will appeal to all the guests on your list — no matter how far they traveled (or how much they put in for the ceremony).

(510) 655-7926, www.taintedlove.com

BEST COCK RING FOR THE CREATIVE CLASS

What's wrong with loving a product for its design? That's really why Apple fanatics love all things "i." And that's why we lust after sex toys from Jimmyjane, the Potrero Hill pleasure purveyors whose vibes, games, and accessories would look as natural in a museum gift shop as they would in your minimalist, modern bedroom. The Form 6 vibrator looks like a cross between a stylized pen and a high-end electric toothbrush, while the Little Chromas model has the sleek grace of a bullet, or a small cigar (we refuse to make that joke). And Jimmyjane's Usual Suspects line is nothing short of inspired — celebrating both form and function by interpreting classic toys, in flawless white. Yes, the company does seem to cater to Audi drivers and iPhone users — collaborating on expensive special editions with well-known designers and bragging about appearances on cable TV shows. But we can't argue with the nontoxic materials and the unprecedented one-year warranty. And the fact that they just look so cool.

www.jimmyjane.com. Available at Good Vibrations, various locations. www.goodvibrations.com

BEST QUEER PORN

The problem with mainstream porn is that most of it is made in the San Fernando Valley by brainless douche bags and lazy ex-cheerleaders looking for a quick buck. But this is San Francisco. This is the art capital of the world, the home of the free thinker, the land of the awesome. Can't we get some porn made for us? Yes, we can! Yes, we can! If you're as sick of Barbie Doll smut as we are, then you should know about local filmmaker-producer-writer-artist Courtney Trouble. Trouble is the founder of a queer porn site called Nofauxxx.com ("queer" as in not just homo, but alternative as well). She's the final word when it comes to smut with attitude, character, and soul. Not only is No Fauxxx the oldest running queer porn site on the Internet, it's also the only spot that mixes alt, gay, lesbian, straight, trans, kink, and BBW content. It's sexy, artsy, entertaining, all-inclusive, and totally DIY. In a word: ours.

www.nofauxxx.com

BEST CONTEST FOR WANKERS

The Masturbate-a-thon is an annual pledge drive for the Center for Sex and Culture during which people gang up in a hot and sweaty room to watch each other jerk off for an entire day. Sounds like fun, right? But what if you're not an exhibitionist? No worries. The whole show (held in May, which is Masturbation Month) is broadcast live on the Internet so that shy people can join in too. Categories include "Most Money Raised," "Most Orgasms," and "Longest Squirt," and the winners in each division receive sexy prizes from Good Vibrations (and perhaps a lifetime of wishing Google and YouTube were never invented). Score! Exhibitionists, porn addicts, and the rest of us are encouraged to ogle, vote, and even participate alongside certified wank-masters such as Dr. Carol Queen, Fellatio Brown, and Masanobu Sato, a Japanese toymaker who holds the world record for "Longest Time Spent Masturbating" (to be fair, it should be noted that his company, Tenga, makes masturbation cups for men). The time to beat next year is nine hours and 58 minutes, so fire up Fleshbot.com now and start practicing. You can be sure that's what Masanobu is doing.

www.masturbate-a-thon.com

BEST PLACE TO PARK WITH YOUR PARAMOUR

The place where Broadway meets Lyon and dead-ends into the edge of the Presidio is almost always empty. Here, the steep angle of the land affords swoon-inducing vistas of the Marina, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the bay, and tranquility hovers amid the perfectly manicured gardens and the improbably large and ornate houses to which they are attached. The drawback? If you're not in the mood for a workout on the Lyon steps, there's not really anything to do here except park, which, if you've brought an attractive friend along for the ride, is no drawback at all. If there's an ounce of chemistry, the solitude and stunning view will have you two making out in the backseat of your car. In fact, come here with someone for whom you have feelings that run deeper than lust, and you may just be inspired to make things official. There are few better spectacular, proposal-inducing viewpoints in our spectacular, proposal-inducing city that haven't been completely co-opted by tourists. Relationship-phobes and impulsive romantics, consider yourself forewarned.

Broadway at Lyon

BEST TASSELS WITH TALENT

Burlesque is bawdy. It's lowbrow. It's often political, and always boundary- pushing. But sexy? Not necessarily. As the new burlesque movement merges with circus and performance arts, it sometimes sacrifices the delight of the tease in favor of mere shock and awe. But Rose Pistola knows how to balance her solo performances so they get your panties wet and in a bunch. The classic beauty has graced stages in an octopus skirt, an Elvis costume, a mullet, a Victorian mime outfit, and a full tulle gown (that she rolled out of) — always mastering a blend of humor and class. But it's not just her performances at places like Hubba Hubba Revue and Bohemian Carnival that rev our engines — Pistola also designs costumes, including tiny hats, vinyl corsets, and almost all of her fabulous stage get-ups. What could be sexier than a woman with pasties and a pincushion? How about one who plays with fire? Oh yeah, Pistola does that too.

www.myspace.com/rosepistola

BEST MEETING GROUND FOR SWINGERS

Not big on commitment? At Lindy in the Park, the weekly swing dance party that's been uniting partners with fancy footwork since 1996, change companions as often as you change your mind. With free lessons starting at 11 a.m. and open to the public, it's the perfect place to flirt with fellow Lindy Hop fans and then flee. But this outdoor event near the de Young Museum isn't just for eternally happy singles. Couples know the best thing about the swingout is the swing-back-in. And once you've seen your honey doing the sugar push, you might just find that your hip-to-hip leads to lip to lip.

JFK Dr. (between 8th and 10th avenues), Golden Gate Park, SF. www.lindyinthepark.com

BEST PLACE TO PICK UP CHICKS (WHO LIKE CHICKS)

Whatever your definition of cockblocking — whether it's using a friend to pose as a lover to deter unwanted advances, or stopping a fellow suitor from stealing your paramour with their charm and free drinks — the idea is clear: there's a third-party penis, and its plans must be thwarted. What better name, then, for a dance night geared toward girl-on-girl love? But it's not just clever nomenclature that fuels our love for Cockblock, the monthly lesbian dance party at the Rickshaw Stop. It's the fact that these get-togethers feature infectious music, cheap drinks, good vibes, and that rare chance for girls-who-like-girls to get together without sweaty heteros trying to get in the way (or cast them in their personal porn fantasies). Plus, queer ladies should have at least one surefire place other than the Lex to scope out a hottie.

Second Saturdays, Rickshaw Stop,155 Fell, SF. www.cockblocksf.com

BEST CIRCLE TO JOIN AND JERK

Masturbation need not be a covert mission reserved for solo artists behind bedroom doors or within shower stalls. If you're the type who is more of a team player, you might like SF Jacks, a group of like-minded men who appreciate a good circle jerk. The group has been perfecting its "loose and goofy environment" for 26 years, regularly drawing as many as 70 Jacks and Joes who want to lose their clothes — and their inhibitions — together. Meetings are held every second and fourth Monday at the Center for Sex and Culture, where lube and refreshments are provided. Just show up with your $7 donation (though no one's turned away for lack of funds), ready to do the hand jive. But just remember to follow the rules. You can touch your dick, but don't be one.

Second and fourth Mondays, 7:30-<\d>8:30 p.m. $7. Center for Sex and Culture, 1519 Mission, SF. (415) 267-6999, www.sfjacks.com

BEST WAY TO GET YOUR DATE SWEATY

Dinner and a movie, a night at the bar, a drive down the coast — all these date options have their merits. But when you're trying to plan a partner activity that's off the beaten path, consider renting bikes from Golden Gate Park Bike and Skate and exploring less charted territory (especially on Sundays, when Golden Gate is closed to car traffic). For just $5 an hour, you can check out hidden trails, watch the legendary bison do whatever it is bison do, and take a breather by the ocean. Not only will you get beautiful views (of park and partner), but the chemicals you release while exercising will bring you and your paramour closer together. This is an especially good thing if you're looking to take your relationship to the next level, because producing endorphins together might just lead to ... uh ... producing endorphins together.

3038 Fulton, SF. (415) 668-1117, www.goldengateparkbikeandskate.com

BEST PLACE TO PARTY LIKE A PORN STAR

Unbeknownst to pretty much everyone, Dogpatch Studios, the nondescript warehouse on Tennessee Street marked by a benign and vaguely cutesy flag featuring a black Labrador, is where the Mitchell Brothers filmed Behind the Green Door, the first feature-length hardcore porn film to be widely released in the United States. Today, with enough green of your own, you can host a private event inside this historic sex landmark. While the venue still welcomes movie shoots, your options are unlimited. Dogpatch Studios will provide you with flexible floor plans, kitchen facilities, wireless internet, lighting services, staffing, and just about anything else you require, whether it's for a sedate corporate retreat, a no-holds-barred bacchanal, or even a wedding. Because nothing says everlasting love quite like tying the knot where Marilyn Chambers (R.I.P.) filmed money shots.

991 Tennessee, SF. (415) 641-3017, www.dogpatchstudios.com

BEST XXX XX IN THE CASTRO

Remember when the Castro was just a big boys' club? That's changed somewhat, thanks in no small part to Femina Potens, the nonprofit art gallery dedicated to women, transgendered folk, kink, and the sex worker community that anchors the corner of Market and Sanchez. Cofounded by renaissance porn star and queer BDSM queen Madison Young, the cozy spot has been hosting exhibits, workshops, spoken word performances, film screenings, and readings by queer literary and artistic legends like Michelle Tea, Annie Sprinkle, and Inga Muscio since 2001 — and recently has added health and wellness programming into the mix. With showcases tackling topics from body image to safer sex, suicide prevention, and breast cancer awareness, there's no question that what Femina Potens does is important. But we think art shows about bondage and performances about breasts are also just damn sexy. Plus, it's about time the Castro got a little more double-X (chromosome) action.

2199 Market, SF. (415) 864-1558, www.feminapotens.org

BEST KINKY DINNER

Dark Tasting is the most unintentionally kinky thing to happen to dining since the invention of the hot dog. The very concept sounds like something out of a Marquis de Sade novel. The San Francisco group believes that sight deprivation heightens the sensory experience of having a meal, from the taste, smell, and feel of your food, to the sound of your company's voices. Before the meal is served, diners are blindfolded and rendered submissive. (Doesn't that alone sound like something out of a deliciously depraved Japanese bondage flick involving nyotaimori?) Sponsored by TasteTV and held at a different venue once every two months, Dark Tasting events offer gourmet multicourse meals with wine parings, with the caveat that you have to pay $95 per person and can't see what you're eating. Events are described as a "sensual dining experience," and given that no one can see what a pervert you are, you can freely grope your partner under the table without eliciting "Get a room!" remarks from fellow diners. If you're into BDSM, we highly recommend Dark Tasting as a romantic prelude to being hog-tied in a cage (where the real fun begins).

www.darktasting.com