A few weeks ago I took a trip to San Francisco, the North American mecca of freaky sexuality.

It didn’t disappoint.

Being a sex radical feminist, I had to take a trip to Good Vibrations. I set out one Saturday morning, on foot, to find it. I don’t know why I assumed that what looked like a short distance on the map would be a quick walk, but it was a nice day and I was up for some exercise, so I jauntily set out in search of this golden palace of sex radicals.

First of all, if you’ve ever been to San Francisco, you know that going for a walk is a non-trivial experience. The people who built the city obviously have a sense of humour, because they arranged it on some of the most bizarrely hilly land I’ve ever seen. A walk in San Francisco goes like this: Up, down. Up, down. Up, down. Up, up, up, up, up *gasp* down. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, except I had to walk through the loop-de-loops.

As my Andean Trek ended in the Mission District, I found myself standing under a sidewalk construction canopy thing (you know, the ones where they put plywood on top of a metal framework, forming a demented city sort of weekend carnival funhouse). I looked around for Good Vibrations (“it should be right here!”) and finally realized that its door was almost covered by this sidewalk construction monstrosity. Here it was! I grinned and headed inside.

I don’t know what I was expecting. Perhaps I was thinking that I would be greeted by beautiful femmes clad in shimmering white robes who would offer me nectar and show me the latest animal shaped vibrator. Or that muscle boys in black motorcycle jackets would be presenting a “meet the neighbours” lecture in which they espoused the virtues of leather bears with whips. Instead, this looked like most another womyn-owned sex shops. It was clean, bright, and very friendly. I watched in fascination (this always gets me) as a couple of EXTREMELY straight kids stood around giggling nervously. I am certainly not mocking them, because gosh knows the first time I went into a sexuality store I was horribly embarrassed. I want to go up to people like that and reassure them, but I don’t think that they would be comforted by a jock femme dyke wearing a button that says “I’d Kick Your Ass But This is My Best Dress” and talking to them about the banality of sex toys.

So… to work. I checked out Good Vibes’ vibrator selection (excellent, of course), went through their books (not a huge selection, but some REALLY cool stuff), and sashayed up to the counter to ask about a Patrick Califia book. I was greeted by an astoundingly sexy butch woman who spoke to me in this rich honey voice and oh my god. Yes. They didn’t have the book, but at that point I didn’t really care. This woman and I flirted madly for a minute or so, and we smiled and said our goodbyes. On the way out I asked about shoe shops, and they sent me to a place called Foot Worship.

After boarding three different buses I finally found the one that was heading where I want to go (figuring out San Francisco’s public transit system is impossible). It let me off almost in front of Foot Worship. And whadda ya know, it was not only a store with cool shoes, it was a FETISH shoe store. That’s what I get for asking about shoes in a sex store.

I actually found a pair of Lucite mules that grabbed me. I bought them. I’ll never be able to wear them anywhere, but one of my girlfriends says they make my legs look fabulous. I love my girlfriends. And these shoes sure are cool.

After that I figured I’d go all out, so I asked about a leather store. I was sent to Mr. S. This time I took a cab.

Mr. S is an amazingly nifty place. It’s very much a BDSM and fetish store. I was looking for a suede whip (don’t get any ideas; I wanted one for decoration), but the adorable man who helped me said that they really didn’t make the kind I wanted. We chatted for a few minutes and he then suggested that I run across the street to their new store, Madame S.

Excellent. Just my style.

As I was walking across the street, the aforementioned adorable man came running after me, calling “hey hon! I think I found what you wanted!” Indeed he had! He was waving this 12′ bullwhip at me. It was perfect! And $30, too!

Madame S is a classier place, but it didn’t feel as comfortable as Mr. S. There was some neat stuff, but none of it was anything I would get into. The woman behind the counter told me that they were having a sale, and that they had discounts for professionals.

“Do you work in the industry?” she asked.

There were so many jokes I wanted to make, but instead I said, “I guess so. I’m kind of an educator.” She wanted to know more, so I told her that I was a writer. We flirted for several minutes, too, until I mentioned that I was staying with a friend for the weekend. She was visibly deflated, and I wanted to say, “no, really, she’s JUST A FRIEND, I’m not kidding!” Of course, that would have meant serious conversation, and I wasn’t really up for serious conversation. I was having a good time watching all of my fellow freaky people.

As a queer, I really do think that San Francisco is one of the coolest places on earth.