Volume 43 Number 19

Isn’t it ironic?

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Under harsh, clinical lighting, with a background cloaked in darkness, a zaftig, heavily tattooed woman fellates an enormous and alarmingly hairless penis. The hairless penis ejaculates, and a ominous computer voice intones that dribbling cum stains resemble "writing in Arabic, or sometimes Sanskrit." As the woman stares at the cum, the voice dramatically pronounces that "if she could learn to read that writing, she would know her … entire … future." The penis writes a tiny bit more Sanskrit, and the scene fades to black.

What is this? It’s not Andy Warhol’s Blow Job (1963). It’s the opening blow-job scene from a movie called Hospital, produced by Vivid Alt, an imprint of the mainstream porn production studio Vivid. Vivid Alt produces alternative pornography, or "subcultural erotica." Altporn is, on a basic level, porn that features models who are representatives of real-life subcultures like goth, punk, rave, emo, rockabilly, and hipster. Instead of buxom blondes who appear to have traipsed out of the Playboy Mansion on a cloud of pink boas, altporn features models who are often tattooed, pierced, and generous with the DIY Manic Panic hair dye. In a weird porn-imitating-life-imitating-porn switch, two big stars of altporn, Sasha Grey and Charlotte Stokely, currently star in campaigns for American Apparel.

Alternative porn is nothing new, at least not since the advent of the Internet. While magazines like Hustler and Playboy have formulated the aesthetic of mainstream print pornography, the Internet created a democratic space inside which divergent interpretations of sexuality could be easily presented. Blue Blood is generally credited as launching counterculture erotica in 1992 with the glossy, erotic zine that featured punks, goths, and erotic fiction. But Altporn did not take hold on a large scale until the late 1990s with Web sites like GothicSluts and EroticBPM. By the time alt-erotica site SuicideGirls appeared in 2001 (not quite full-blown porn, but a contributor to the altporn genre just the same), altporn was a full-fledged subset of porn. Today there are hundreds of altporn Web sites, with names like Crazybabes, Burning Angel, Broken Dollz, Razor Dolls, Supercult, and DeviantNation.

For Eon McKai, founder of Vivid Alt, porn is an intensely personal form of expression. "I’d say at no time — especially at Vivid Alt — no one is told to make a certain type of movie that isn’t coming from some place inside of them." McKai states that he and other altporn directors are merely "expressing the aesthetic that they find in their life, that they live in their life." In fact, many people involved in the altporn industry believe that what they are creating is a meaningful form of personal expression. Most people involved in altporn view their work as fundamentally different than mainstream pornography. Cutter, of AltPorn.net, explains, "AltPorn makes the trends and porn-porn tends to follow them. Traditional porn is conservative in a weird insular way. It tends to copy outside things." Cutter doesn’t think that altporn appropriates or copies from existing subcultures. He and others view altporn as being organic, DIY, independent, and fundamentally authentic.

All alternative subcultures are inherently interested in the notion of authenticity, and particularly in determining that which constitutes genuine membership into the group. Maintaining authenticity is a crucial part of how subcultures survive. Because subcultures are groups that are in part defined by their opposition to the mainstream, they are innately concerned with the "authentic" or original moment of resistance. Members of the altporn community are just as interested in the notion of genuine membership as the subcultures they depict. Eon McKai vehemently appeals, "We are a part of the subcultures that we represent, so if you look at the people who are behind it, I think you’ll find that they are pure to the street, and everything is authentic and this is who we are. We are just making porn about it, and this happens to be who we are. It’s really artist and filmmakers who make porn who are really expressing the aesthetic that they find in their life, that they live in their life." But what, really, is authentic porn? Isn’t a bona fide cumshot enough to prove authenticity? Eon McKai’s own name is a point toward the absurd, as his moniker is a play on the name Ian McKaye, the Fugazi and Minor Threat frontman who was a leader of the straight-edge movement that rejects alcohol, drugs, and casual sex.

From what I gathered from those in the altporn community, authenticity necessitates that creators of altporn be actual members of the subcultures they represent on camera. Smith elaborates, "All the originators in this genre were driven to create sexual media that appealed to their own community and their own communities’ aesthetics. So, the goths created goth erotica and the punks created punk erotica and the ravers created raver erotica. So, on an aesthetic level, altporn offers an alternative look, as well as the community interactivity, to prove it’s authenticity." Whether they are "true" punks, goths, or hipsters, shouldn’t really matter if the work speaks for itself, right?

It wasn’t until after I watched hipster porn videos like Sugar Town and Honey Bunny that I realized why altporn needs to paint itself as authentic. Smith puts it best when he says, "Without genuine subcultural attributes, it quickly becomes self parody." For porn that banks on its subcultural attributes, being perceived as inauthentic means dismissed as a joke. Of all forms of cinema, porn — with its skeletally thin plots, poverty of character development, and cheap production values — is most vulnerable to lampoon. For those who have ever watched porn, I am sure you know that embarrassed, cringey, oh-my-god-ew feeling of watching a particularly ludicrous moment in any scene. That feeling is magnified tenfold when watching a hipster porno that features stars discussing Sartre while wearing nothing but tube socks, such as in Honey Bunny.

While altporn might have originated under the auspice of DIY amateurism, it has proven to be lucrative and, as a result, has carved a niche for itself in the porn market. Because of the push to earn money, altporn has become less concerned with representing certain aesthetics than it is with latching on to new trends and then marketing them to get more customers. Annaliese of Gods Girls reflects, "I think that altporn will always be a representation of what is in-the-now for the customer that it is appealing to, the models that it features and the culture that it represents. The Y generation are furious followers of now trends in fashion, art, music, film, etc., and our site is a reflective of those nuances. Altporn will go where ever the models go and will evolve as the culture evolves. I personally see fewer and fewer applications from stereotypically ‘goth’ models, so perhaps that look has become less trendy." What’s the next big thing in altporn? Hipsters.

It seems like everything is getting hipstered out these days. From clothing to music to even the rebranding of the Pepsi logo, everything is getting a hipster makeover. Porn is no exception. If you look at the logo for Vivid Alt, you’ll notice that it’s tricked out to resemble an Urban Outfitters catalog. In the videos, the actresses are decked out in American Apparel. Hipster culture subsumes and dismantles the aesthetics of popular culture, appropriates its sincerity, and transforms it into a pastiche of irony. Likewise, hipster porn subsumes and dismantles the aesthetics of hipster culture, appropriates its irony, and transforms it into something utterly sincere: porn. For what can be more sincere than a cumshot? Is it possible to get ironic oral? Hipsters belong to a subculture that is incredibly concerned with image — and with defining, controlling, and protecting that image. They can now watch as their vaingloriously crafted personae are subsumed by the porn industry and transformed into fetish. How ironic.


Photos, video, and a full interview with altporn director Eon McKai on our new SEX SF blog

>>More G-Spot: The Guardian Guide to love and lust

Letter your love

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We usually think of Valentine’s Day gifts in terms of decadent chocolates, lush roses, glittering jewelry, and luxurious lingerie — pretty much everything except, well, valentines. You remember … those cards made out of paper, usually in some shade of red or pink, crowded with hearts, kiss marks, and Xs and Os? People once used them tell their sweeties — or would-be sweeties — how much they cared, before the annual celebration of romance transformed into an expensive dating ritual that requires flowers, chocolates, and fancy dinners.

Now that the economic crisis makes such extravagance imprudent, if not impossible, why not focus on finding an actual valentine for your love this year? Even if your ever-slimming wallet can’t sustain a dozen red roses, a big heart-shaped box of chocolates, and dinner for two at Jardiniere, you can still express your affection with an actual paper note personalized with a sentimental message. But don’t run off to the drugstore and settle for Hallmark cliché — San Francisco has several local, independent retailers with an eye for cards that are stylish, sweet, sentimental, and sexy. You can find just the right valentine to suit whatever your romantic situation may be this year — from casual hook-up to longterm love — if you know where to look.

FINE PRINT


At crisp, cheerful Glen Park boutique Perch (654 Chenery, SF; 415-586-9000, www.perchsf.com), Zoel Fages has harvested a splendid variety of valentines, including a handful of cheeky cards from local letterpress company Old Tom Foolery. These delightful cards use footnotes to clue in that gorgeous, if somewhat dense, special someone you’ve been lusting over. For example: a missive with bright pink letters asking "Will you be my valentine?*" is underscored by slightly smaller letters noting "*FYI: I’m easy." If paper and envelopes aren’t your thing, check out other options, like Moontea Artwork’s plushy hemp cotton pillow, block-printed with a red heart and the words "Je t’aime." It even has a handy pocket on the back, perfect for a handwritten note or a handful of condoms — and for displaying year-round.

SCREEN DREAM


When Cupid shot an arrow through the heart of Matthew Grenby, he used his techie background and design sensibilities to create e-mailable floral love letters for long-distance sweetheart Irene Chen. "When I opened the letter, I was wowed," Chen fondly remembers. "It was a wonderful feeling, like receiving a handwritten note, but it was online." Grenby wooed Lafayette native Chen away from New York and back to the Bay Area, where the couple turned Grenby’s innovative communication idea into e-stationary business iomoi (www.iomoi.com). A one-year, $15 subscription lets users select design templates, colors, and scripty fonts for classy e-cards. Sure, the concept is not exactly groundbreaking, but e-stationery is certainly more aesthetically pleasing than your standard box of Gmail text. And the lucky recipient will appreciate that you put time and thought into your presentation as well as your words. Plus, e-valentines are eco-friendly. "When people send e-stationary, they aren’t having to buy paper and don’t need a postman to drive around and use up gas," notes Grenby. Best of all, each of this year’s English-garden inspired designs — ornate floral borders, pale pink bumblebees, and crowned hearts — will be available in iomoi’s send-for-free section.

VICTORIAN ELEGANCE


Antique European sentimental artifacts fill every worn wooden drawer and graceful glass countertop at whimsical curiosity shop Gypsy Honeymoon (3599 24th St., SF. 415-821-1713), where purveyor Gabrielle Ekedal has stocked up on the prettiest paperies from the past. Pluck a heartstring or two with a historical hand-tinted photocard from 1900s, where suited men with perfectly parted hair gaze at coiffed women in frilly frocks surrounded by a shower of pink flowers. Or pick out a pair of tiny paper hands, holding little cards inscribed with sweet sayings like "I live on love for thee." Our favorite? An embroidered souvenir postcard from the 1950’s which entices you to lift the billowing maroon skirt of a Spanish senorita standing on the seashore, under which you’ll find a little pair of lace panties. Scandalous!

MODERN AGE


If you’re searching for a more conventional card, an extensive selection of the classic heart-covered red and pink greetings can be found at Marina stationary shop Union Street Papery (2162 Union, SF. 415-563-0200, www.unionstreetpapery.com). But owner Stacey Bush has several modern valentines for less formal loves as well. A card whose cover says "I like hanging out with you" — and whose interior qualifies "naked" will let your current casual hook-up partner know you’d like more of the same.

CUPID’S SECRET


Some emotions are so intense that they can be handled only by the eyes of your lover. Invest in the Secret Love Letters Box from Chronicle Books to secure your most sensuous sentiments. Complete with both regular and invisible ink, old-fashioned nibbed pens, thick cream stationary, and tales of star-crossed lovers to refer to, this correspondence kit is worthy of a Romeo and Juliet romance. Pick one up at Mission Street print shop Autumn Express (2071 Mission, SF. 415-824-2222, www.autumnexpress.com).

HOT FOR TEACHER


Peruse some of the tissue-thin vintage schoolhouse greetings resting among the delicate dishes and colorful aprons at Russian Hill’s old-new emporium Molte Cose (2044 Polk, SF. 415-921-5374). Retired San Francisco schoolteacher Ms. Bonar sold the lot of valentines that students had given her from 1920 to 1960 to proprietor Teresa Nittolo. One of the more suggestive selections shows a pudgy blonde boy, apple in hand, smiling and standing over the words "I may not be your teacher’s pet, but you’re my pet teacher." Another has a rosy-cheeked girl holding up the ruffle of her skirt, asking, "How can you resist my endearing young charms?" There is something irresistible — if not odd — about these sweet, simple valentines.


More Valentine’s shopping and style ideas, plus Laura Peach’s "Objects of Obsession" feature on our Pixel Vision blog

>>More G-Spot: The Guardian Guide to love and lust

“Coraline”

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REVIEW Coraline is a great film to take your kids to, provided you’re willing to let them sleep in your bed for a night. Like the Neil Gaiman novel it’s based on, this is a fairy tale with a dark side, an Alice in Wonderland–style fable that doesn’t dumb things down for its target audience. But then, neither did Alice. Dakota Fanning voices Coraline, a lonely, blue-haired little girl in search of adventure. She finds it, and them some, when she travels into bizarro world by way of a tiny door in her house. There she finds her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher), who seems nice enough — except that she wants to sew buttons into Coraline’s eyes. Soon the precocious girl has embarked on a mission to save her kidnapped parents, some old school ghosts, and, of course, herself. The animation style is an updated version of that found in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), also from director Henry Selick. There’s a richness and depth to Coraline‘s world, which is only emphasized by the nifty 3-D effects. Inevitably, this Coraline is softer than Gaiman’s source material, but it’s spooky enough to please both fans and newcomers. Despite the lack of big scares, it leaves you with a lingering unease. And possibly a fear of buttons.

CORALINE opens Fri/6 in Bay Area theaters.

Festival for Freedom

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PREVIEW It doesn’t take six degrees of separation to link the new breed of local bands performing at the University of San Francisco’s Festival for Freedom benefit show. They’re an interwoven clan of West Coast outfits with garage rock tendencies and psychedelic leanings. And they’re just about all in each other’s MySpace top eight. If I had to label, I’d consider the term "flower punks" for ’em. I mean, c’mon, San Francisco has a huge Haight-Ashbury legacy to live up to. So, in the spirit of hippiedom and smiling on your brother, the undergrads from the university’s Erasmus Community has decided to take on the cause of fighting modern-day slavery and is planning an immersion trip to Uganda and Rwanda, where they will focus their efforts on rehabilitating child soldiers.

This benefit show for that trip is a culmination of the group’s efforts in social justice awareness and activism, combined with a dose of peacenik-punk rock. Taking the stage on campus: Ty Segall, Man/Miracle, and a very Birthday Party-era Nick Cave sounding Depth Charge Revolt, among others. The bands will bring the noise, so you should bring your bucks to help support this worthwhile cause for the marginalized children of Uganda.

FESTIVAL FOR FREEDOM: USF BENEFIT FOR THE REHABILITATION OF UGANDAN CHILD SOLDIERS With A Quantum Visionary, Depth Charge Revolt, Travis Hayes, Ghosttown Refugees, the Vox Jaguars, James Rabbit, Ty Segall, and Man/Miracle. Fri/6, 6:30 p.m., $5–$8. McClaren 250, Phelan Building, University of San Francisco campus, SF. (831) 588-3537

Love potion

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According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite emerged from the foaming sea bearing foods, drinks, and herbs that stimulated sexual desire. While at first this tale led to the belief in ocean-derived aphrodisiacs such as oysters, by now the net has been flung much wider, and it seems that anything remotely suggestive is touted as a love potion. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we consulted Bay Area sexologist Joy Nordenstrom, who specializes in aphrodisiac-based dinner parties, to help us sort through all of the chemical compounds thought to rev our engines. Here’s our guide to 10 love drugs that’ll put you in the mood.

ASPARAGUS


The law of likeness, or "sympathetic magic" as it’s sometimes called, goes something like this: if it looks like a sex organ, it’ll make you horny. Clearly phallic in shape, this sexy stalk is not only a psychological aphrodisiac, but also a chemical one. Asparagus — which you can get in season at Zuckerman’s Farm at Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market (1 Ferry Building, SF. 415-291-3276, www.ferryplazafarmersmarket.com), contains substantial amounts of aspartic acid, an amino acid that neutralizes excess amounts of ammonia, which makes us tired and sexually disinterested. This nutritious vegetable also contains asparagine, a diuretic that excites the urinary passages. For a truly erotic side dish, try serving creamed asparagus alongside an Italian sausage and a pair of Yukon Gold potatoes.

CAVIAR


Rare. Expensive. Mouth-watering. One of the essential food groups of czars and czarinas, "harlot’s eggs" contain a high level of phosphorous, a chemical that’s essential for the healthy production of love juice. Set the mood by serving this pickled delicacy in a silver caviar presentoir with chilled vodka or champagne. Better still, skip the presentoir and invite your paramour to Tsar Nicoulai Caviar Café (1 Ferry Building #12, SF. 415-288-8630, www.tsarnicoulai.com), the company that pioneered sustainable domestic sturgeon farming back in 1979.

CHILI PEPPERS


No doubt about it, a chili pepper will fire up your sex drive. Capsaicin, the chemical responsible for hotness, gets the heart pumping, the blood flowing, and the adrenaline coursing through your veins. For the very best of these sexy stimulants, head over to the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building on Saturdays, where you’ll find a dazzling array of fresh peppers at the Tierra Vegetables stand (1 Ferry Building, SF. 707-837-8366; www.tierravegetables.com). For a highly concentrated dose, try their sizzling hot C. Chinese chili jam. Yow!

CHOCOLATE


Legend has it that Montezuma, the Aztec ruler, drank 50 cups of chocolate each day to better serve his harem of 600. Soon after Montezuma offered Cortés a cup, chocolate arrived in Spain, where it was sweetened with cane sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon — and promptly denounced by the Spanish clergy. Besides serving up a jolt of caffeine and a taste that everyone loves, chocolate also contains phenylethylamine (PEA), the molecule that makes you feel like you’re in love. For "obsessively good" chocolate with a social conscience, head over to TCHO (17 Pier 45, SF. 415-981-0189, www.tcho.com), where you can pair fruity, nutty, and earthy chocolates with a piping cup of Blue Bottle coffee.

GINSENG


If you’ve ever ventured into a Chinese medicine shop, you’ve probably passed a barrel or two of a fleshy, tan-colored, striated root called ginseng. This root, according to Chinese herbalists, aids the kidney and the liver, which are the organs responsible for fertility and sexual arousal. "The kidney is the body’s reservoir of energy," explained herbalist Efrem Korngold, Lac (Chinese Medicine Works , 1201 Noe, SF. 415-285-0931, www.chinese-medicine-works.com). "Under a great deal of stress, you have to dip into these reserves often, and the body goes into survival mode. When living to just survive, there’s not a lot of juice left over for sex or procreation." Brew a pot of ginseng and replenish your juices.

HORNY GOAT WEED


Horny Goat Weed — or Chinese Viagra, as it’s often called — is a time-tested aphrodisiac. According to legend, a Chinese goat herder first discovered it when he noticed his flock getting randy after grazing on the herb. The active ingredient, epicedium, increases the essential energy (ching) needed for sexual vitality. Although you can easily buy a box of Horny Goat Weed tea over the counter at places like Great China Herb Co. (857 Washington, SF; 415-982-2195), don’t take it without first consulting an herbalist like Tim Khang, Lac. (Tim J. Khang Acupuncture and Herbs, 4002 California, SF; 415-680-8620). Since the brew tastes rather bitter on its own, try mixing it with honey or agave nectar.

OUZO


For an impromptu lesson on love, head over to Greek Imports Inc (6524 Mission, Daly City. 650-994-3321, www.greekimportsinc.com), where charming shop owner Elias Tsiknis will tell you how to set the mood, Greek style. "In order to climb the ladder and go to the very top," he’ll explain, punctuating each word with a backhanded wave of his fingers, "you have to climb the steps one by one." The most important of these steps is taking a shot of ouzo, an anise-flavored liquor, which is the national drink of Greece and, according to Tsiknis, the world’s most potent love brew. But this is not just national pride speaking — it’s science, pure and simple: the anise flavor contains anethole, also known as a chemical precursor for paramethoxyamphetamine (PMA), a.k.a. ecstasy. While you’re there, take a moment to admire Tsiknis’ extensive collection of Aphrodite sculptures.

OYSTERS


Perhaps the most potent of all aphrodisiacs, oysters were the infallible recipe of Casanova, who famously seduced two women at once with this sensuous shellfish. Oysters are the world’s most concentrated natural source of zinc, the key ingredient to a healthy prostate and the production of sperm. Oysters come in various tastes and textures: if you like a clean, smooth flavor with a briny finish, try Evening Cove oysters; for a buttery texture with a sweet, slightly fruity flavor sample a Kumamoto; and for a sweet, fruity taste with a touch of watermelon and cantaloupe, try the mollusks from Point Reyes, our local oyster farm. Yabbies Coastal Kitchen (2237 Polk, SF. 415-474-4088, www.yabbiesrestaurant.com) serves these varieties, and many more.

SPANISH FLY


Remember "Brass Monkey," that Beastie Boys hit from Licensed to Ill: "Girl walked by, she gave me the eye / I reached in the locker, grabbed the Spanish Fly / I put it with the Monkey, mixed it in the cup / Went over to the girl, "Yo baby, what’s up?" What the Brooklyn boys’ lyrics refer to is a potentially deadly (and, in the U.S., illegal) aphrodisiac made from the ground-up bodies of tiny iridescent blister beetles. Although Spanish fly has a 5,000-year-old history as an aphrodisiac, both for humans and farm animals, it can cause permanent damage to the kidneys and genitals if taken in excess. Let the buyer beware!

ZZZS


Though it may seem counterintuitive, sleeping is one of the best aphrodisiacs around. Nordenstrom says if you’re not getting seven or eight hours of sleep nightly, it’s time to put aside the chocolate and oysters, and rekindle your passion for old Mr. Sandman.

More herbs and food to get you in the mood from Ann Sims on our SEX SF blog

>>More G-Spot: The Guardian Guide to love and lust

“The Bird and the Bee”

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PREVIEW For a band that has leased tracks to Grey’s Anatomy, Sex and the City: the Movie (2008), and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), the Bird and the Bee curiously still bear the burden of being just one buzz band among the ravenous, clamoring multitudes. Nonetheless, the duo’s brand of frothy pop has gained traction among various species of photosphere hipsters.

According to their nonchalant MySpace bio, Inara George and Greg Kurstin met, hit it off over jazz standards, played a few, and then never looked back. An established producer, Kurstin has collaborated with artists running the gamut from Beck to Britney Spears. The Bird and the Bee’s self-titled, 2007 Blue Note debut garnered attention for the pair, thanks to songs like "I Hate Camera," a capering, catchy track with glinting synths offset by playful electronic noodlings, The music, which the band itself has described as sounding like a futuristic 1960s American film set in Brazil, fuses Kurstin’s retro inclinations and suave jazz accents with George’s sweet sing-song to darling, almost uniformly excellent results. With George’s bold Cleopatra chop and the twosome’s taste for playfully kitschy promo pics, you can’t say the kids lack style, either.

With the musical intelligentsia stroking their graying beards over the pass/fail results of the second album’s litmus test, the consensus is that new record, Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future (Blue Note), delivers its bubbly pop goods with minimal deviation from what’s already working. It’ll all be up for examination at the Independent.

THE BIRD AND THE BEE With Obi Best. Mon/2, 8 p.m., $15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1422, www.theindependentsf.com

Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes

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PREVIEW What lengths will you go to for your art? If you’re a castrato it’s probably a sore point. For Mexico’s internationally renowned experimental theater company, Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes (Certain Inhabitants Theatre), it’s the beginning of a lush and lively investigation into the complexities and contradictions of cultural power and refinement. Drawing from a variety of theatrical styles and incorporating multidisciplinary performers, director Claudio Valdés Kuri and writer Jorge Kuri have crafted a time-tripping escapade across three centuries of culture and cruelty.

Siamese twins — a surgeon and opera columnist in a single ungainly suit and two Louis XIV wigs — lead a journey that begins in the decadent 18th century court society of the Old World, in the throes of a circle that fed ravenously on the castrated children of the poor and elevated them to superstardom by the preservation and cultivation of their fine prepubescent sopranos. With Monsters and Prodigies: A History of the Castrati, Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes the company makes its long-overdue Bay Area premiere, courtesy of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in what promises to be a resonant, dramatic outing whose operatic airs — in Spanish and Italian with English supertitles — hit an unfaltering high C for cutting, carnivalesque satire.

TEATRO DE CIERTOS HABITANTES Thurs/5–Sat/7, 8 p.m., $25–$30. Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org

The G-Spot

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San Francisco is a great place to get laid. Beginning with the brothels of the frontier era and moving right through history to the gay-rights and free-love movements, we’re a city particularly adept at providing, supporting, and celebrating sexual exploration. Is it a coincidence that our seven-by-seven mile utopia-by-the-sea also happens to be brimming with attractive, talented, and adventurous folks who always seem only a step away from jumping into each other’s beds?

Not that this isn’t also a great place to be in love. With some of the world’s finest restaurants, sexiest art and music, best-jukeboxed dive bars, and easy-to-access outdoor locales, it’s hard to imagine a better date city. And thanks to our open-minded culture, that means all kinds of dates: homo, hetero, poly, furry, you name it.

In this year’s installment of G-Spot, we attempt to straddle (pun intended) love and lust. We’ve also compiled a list of our favorite parties, events, and classes for singles and couples.

But wait! That’s not all! We’re also excited to launch our brand-spanking new (and yes, we’ll probably talk about spanking) SEX SF blog, featuring all that’s sexy, steamy, and salacious about the Bay, including our guide to hosting your very own orgy. Call it the Guardian‘s valentine to you (and yes, we expect you to put out).

Molly Freedenberg, G-Spot editor



>>Love potion
10 aphrodisiacs that’ll jump-start your sex life
Ann Sims



>>Letter your love
Select sentimental stationery instead of pricey presents
Laura Peach



>>Isn’t it ironic?
Hipsters and the emergence of altporn
Juliette Tang



>>Valentine’s Day events
Sexy, sweet, and snarky ideas for singles and couples
Molly Freedenberg