By the numbers

Our top 20 favorite things about sex this year

1. The sub's home away from home

Where in the Bay Area, you might be wondering, do people go when they feel like being strapped onto a hospital examination table and having their balls bashed while electrical current is applied to their nipples by a corset-clad nurse? Where might one tap into childhood memories with an immersive role-play of after-school detention, a pulse-quickening game of basement hide-and-seek, or a vigorous spanking for peeing in the sandbox? Where to turn on a rainy Saturday afternoon when no one on Craigslist wants to play with your urine while riding you like a pony? Well, probably lots of places. But one of them – if you've got cash in pocket – is a 100-year-old Emeryville Victorian called the Gates. A house of bondage and domination, the Gates employs an alluring array of dominas (including Miss Bondage-a-Go-Go 2005!) who can help you transform a thick pillow book's worth of submissive desires into reality (of a sort). The Web site offers an extensive list of services that range from caning to Saran Wrap mummification. If you've got something else in mind, call ahead to discuss. And be advised: If you're looking for sex, you've rung the wrong doorbell. (510) 261-7243, www.thegatessm.com.

2. Ten years of girl-on-girl action

Photographer Phyllis Christopher has been capturing the heat of the local queer scene for years – you may have seen her stunning photos anywhere from On Our Backs magazine to the cover of No Other Tribute: Erotic Tales of Women in Submission or Pat Califia's Public Sex. (She also shoots regularly for this publication.) Frustrated with waiting for a book deal that never seemed to come into frame (more's the pity – we'd love to put that on our coffee table), Christopher recently released her own self-published DVD, Sextrospective: A Decade with San Francisco's Sexiest Lesbians, a collection of 300 breathtaking stills of butch and femme, kink and glamour, rebellion, art, and erotica. Frat houses might pan this collection for its artfulness alone, not to mention the multiple piercings, butch action, gen-u-ine strap-ons, and wickedly dreamy yet true-to-life situations – and airbrushed Barbies clearly knew better than to apply. Which is exactly what makes this celebration of local talent a powerful magnet for a real dyke audience. $31.95. Available at www.thesexystuff.com.

3. Royal proclamations

The '90s were a Bay Area heyday for pornographic material featuring queer women of size. That decade saw the birth of two locally made zines, Fat Girl and Fat!So?, that brought a wide load of humor, storytelling, sexual content, and resources (where does one buy Levi's with a 56 waist?) to a hungry audience of the chubby and the chubby-chasing alike. Tragically, DIY resources tend not to last forever, and by 1997 both publications had been lost in the zine abyss – though the makers of Fat!So? say it's merely on hiatus. In the meantime, in August the creative forces behind Fat Girl sallied forth with Size Queen, whose tagline – "For Queen Size Queers and Our Loyal Subjects" – suggests they're back with attitude intact. Cover model, entertainer, and luscious porn star Jukie Sunshine ushers in an exquisite collection of bitch-slapping size-acceptance politics as well as well-rounded kink and erotica in this grown-up, full-color glossy that plans to publish three times a year. The small run (2,000 copies) of the zine's debut has sold like doughnuts. Look for the next ish at your independent bookseller in January or February. www.sizequeenzine.org.

4. Newsom-endorsed BDSM projects

The Bay Area's always getting props for diversity, but some might contend that our fetish divas seem to specialize in the "polar bear in a snowstorm" hue. Freaky doms and subs come in all shades, of course, and the Bay Area Women of Color BDSM Photo Project is dedicated to proving it by capturing them on film. Launched in September 2003 by model-dom Ms. Heart of San Francisco and photographer Andrew Morgan, the ongoing project has a mission of bringing together Bay Area BDSM models and photogs, a home online at www.mistressheartsf.com/woc.html, and an exhibit currently running at SF Citadel. To top it off, world-renowned BDSM connoisseur Gavin Newsom even bestowed the project with a San Francisco Certificate of Honor in July for "expanding the San Franciscan spirit of lifestyle acceptance." Did G-New appreciate the project's admirable promotion of racial diversity, or was it Mistress Heart's chain mail minidress? Check out the work and decide for yourself. www.mistressheartsf.com/woc.html. SF Citadel (exhibit through December; call for details), 245 Eighth St., SF. (415) 626-1746, www.sfcitadel.org.

5. Big hard blogs

Your evil lump of a boss finally went out for his 11:15 Krispy Kreme break. And so it's party time. You excitedly hunch over the keyboard and tap out the magic words: "gay porn." And after .15 seconds of Google alchemy, the first thing that comes up is ... a blog? Yes, a blog. But not just any blog. Gaypornblog.com. Maintained by SF porn lovers (and makers) Mike Stabile and Jack Shamama, the site shares its format with that of tedious slacker efforts across the Net, but the contents are unsafe for the workplace at any Internet speed. Stabile and Shamama frequently update things with the latest celeb gossip, reviews, and interviews with scads of porn stars, from the winsomest Bel Ami boy to the buffest Colt man. Meanwhile, link categories like "Sexxxy Reads," "Big Hard Gay Sites," "Gay(ish) Blogs We Like," and "Hot Blog-on-Blog Action" indicate a deep appreciation for the subject matter. If you've memorized the opening monologue to Jeff Stryker Underground or cop Chi Chi LaRue's mascara techniques, you'll find a kindred spirit here. www.gaypornblog.com.

6. Big pink blogs

"We are not porn stars, we are sexual superheroes." So goes the opening statement of Pinkgasm.com, the sex blog of Tassy and Halcyon, two lovers drawn to each other via shared penchants for exhibitionism and all things pink – including pink hair, pink clothes, pink sex toys, and yes, pink bedding. No shrinking violets, they also both like to be watched. In this they're hardly alone on the World Wide Web, but Tassy and Halcyon's explicit photos and videos (mainly reserved for paying members) avoid the ordinary by projecting an amorousness that comes across as real – with the possible exception of Tassy's breasts. (They're fake, and they're spectacular.) Not content just to sit back and collect on their sex life en rose, Tassy and Halcyon also spread their message of sex-positivity by hosting participatory events such as Globalgasm (a Webcam-based worldwide orgy), and they're in the midst of organizing an adult Katrina relief effort. As Tassy and Halcyon would say, "Stop the shame and spread the pink!" www.pinkgasm.com.

7. iPorn

It has long been obvious that whenever a new technology pops up, it is bound, sooner or later (and probably sooner), to be exploited for its pornographic potential. The wonders of home video entertainment? Turbosluts 27, in Betamax and VHS. The vast information superhighway? www.virtualskeez.com. Podcasting has proved to be no different: Heavy-breathers and dirty-talkers have quickly set up sexcast shop in the podsphere. One of the brighter spots in the podnographic landscape, however, is the captivating Violet Blue's 'Open Source Sex,' a popular podcast featuring cheeky commentary, erotica, sex educator interviews, porn biz talk, and much more. That BART ride home with your iPod has never gone by so fast. www.tinynibbles.com/audio.html.

8. Girls who love boys who love boys

The world of Japanese publishing has spawned a wealth of exciting subgenres peopled by saucer-eyed characters, but one of our personal favorites is yaoi. Though the term has come to include anime and games as well, strictly defined, yaoi is manga, short stories, and novels created by and for women and depicting love stories – and explicit sex – between male characters. Is there not something poignantly San Franciscan about that formula, even if we didn't come up with it? Would not Tales of the City's Mary Ann Singleton perhaps be cruising the manga racks at Comix Experience instead of the produce section at Safeway if she lived here today? (She'd find plenty of gay boys, as they seem to have taken a liking to the genre. ...) It was only a matter of time before the masses of frenzied yaoi fanatics had formed a coherent enough interest group to be organized into a convention, and that moment came ... well, four years ago. Yaoi-Con No. 5 hits San Francisco Oct. 28-30 at that swinging hot spot, the Westin San Francisco Airport hotel, where conventioneers will be feted with such entertainments as "Win ... Dare ... or Strip! Otaku Challenge," an "artists' alley" and "fan market," a swap meet, and, naturally, a yaoi-themed bingo parlor. Elsewhere, Cosplayers will rock their best InuYasha drag, panelists will wax obsessively knowledgeable, and titles like Selfish Love and Only the Ringfinder Knows will be passed around like currency. Minors take heed: You'll have to get your boy's-love fix elsewhere; Yaoi-Con is strictly for 18 and up. 1 Old Bayshore Highway, Millbrae. www.yaoicon.com.

9. Girls who believe in sock security

We've been noticing a fetching little trend in lower legwear cropping up around town. Flaunted by ladies who know how to mix retro style, genderfuckery, and delicious socks to create the ultimate fashion statement, the sock garter is a ravishing item, and the girls who wear them are pretty much slaying us. Not sure what we're talking about? Well, these particular personal accessories were popular during your grandfather's time and feature stretchy straps that wrap around the upper calf, with one or two snaps used to pin up your socks, hose, or other creative foot coverings. They look lovely with frothy skirts and midcalf boots; they look totally hot with shorts and sneaks. If you know what we're talking about but don't know where to find them, we suggest vintage boutique La Rosa on Haight Street, www.vintageswank.com, or any store that caters to the tastes of men whose fashion sense hit its peak in the 1930s or '40s.

10. Lesbian cruising

Maybe this has happened to you: On a Friday night, somewhere between the hours of 9 and 11 p.m., you were making your way down Harrison Street, perhaps by skateboard or bicycle, and you noticed some saucy chicks hanging out on the corner and shouting in your direction. Maybe it sounded like they were calling on you to kick it curbside with them. Maybe they gave the impression that they could have you pinned to the wall with their lips before you got out the words "What's up?" My friend, you were lesbian cruised, and if you passed up the chance, you are a dumb shit, because nothing is more fun than getting cruised by hot, local lesbians, some of whom might even share their beer with you. Perhaps you thought you had to be a lesbian to participate? Au contraire, mon frère. Everyone is welcome to party down with the cruisers, but if you're a girl who likes girls, this is your chance to avoid the hassles of lesbian dating and cut to the horny-sleazy-dirty chase. Friday nights, vicinity of Harrison and 20th Streets.

11. Fraternal love

Regular attendees of recent leather- and queer-oriented community events may have noted the sudden, thrilling presence of a meticulously uniformed gang of handsome men in their midst. Lord knows we could use more strong, silent types at such affairs. Who are these shadowy figures? What arcane organization could they possibly represent? And most important, are any of them single? You might have to beat the answer to that last question out of them, for these knights in shining chaps represent the Men of Discipline, an alternative leather and uniform fraternity of gay men who take their BDSM straight up, no chasing. Sure, male bondage is nothing new, and hermetic sexual fraternities are an institution older than the Vatican. But the MOD "alternative" stresses a community-oriented, holistic bondage lifestyle, not just the occasional weekend kegger of ball gags and stud-paddling. With chapters here and in DC, the Men of Discipline work to support BDSM awareness in the larger sphere, importing their philosophy of "discipline in daily life" to broader issues. Even better, they manage to combine their open zeal for restraints with a lust for quiet cool. Who knew discipline could be this dreamy? www.menofdiscipline.com.

12. Naked spelunkers who give anonymous back rubs

Once a month, when the moon is full, low tides unveil an otherwise-hidden hot spring on a certain unmentionable (we're sworn to secrecy!) beach in Marin County, and a covert ritual begins. After a 20-minute clamber down a precipitous cliff to the shore, visitors will find the nude figures of the more robust revelers cavorting in the waves of the chilly Pacific. You could join them, or you could just plunge (naked, naturally) into the main pool of the hot spring and bask in the heady vapors of sulfur steam (and the passing peace pipe). Then paddle to the back of the pool and duck under a rocky overhang to enter a nearly pitch-black cave: the source of the spring and haunt of the most ardent communal bathers. Grope your way through a tangle of limbs and you'll find your place in what can only be described as a coed, naked massage chain, ministered by strangers whose faces – and sometimes genders – can only be guessed at by the timbre of their moans. Slather your neighbor's back with a fistful of hot sand, let those wayward hands frisk and fondle, and ask yourself if that's a sea horse creeping up your thigh – or is someone just happy to have you near? Hint: Wend your way up Highway 1 under the full moon and look over the side of the cliff for naked hippies.

13. People who know how to communicate their sexual needs

Oh, those self-reflexive folks on Tribe.net. They're so postmodern. How many tribes are there about Tribe? Pages. You've got Tribe Friends Who Don't Answer Back (nonrepondingtribemembers.tribe.net [sic]) and I See the Same People in All My Tribes (samepeople.tribe.net). But one of the sexiest, or at least time-sucking, of these metatribes is People I Want to Do on Tribe (dopeople.tribe.net), where members make a wish list of all the most fuckable people they've found on the community-building site. Each list links on over to the profile of the desired. This is all about open communication, so naturally other people can post comments about your list ("Hey, whadda 'bout me?" and "Thanks for picking me!"). Does someone want to do you? You better get on there and find out.

14. People willing to show us the ropes

You're setting the stage for a romantic bondage evening with your honey. Ropes? Check. A little red wine? But of course. That dodgy how-to pamphlet you got at Crazy Zeke's Adult Bookstore? Only if you don't mind explaining to the fire department how your beloved got tied to the ceiling fan. Bondage should be sexy and safe, and nobody takes their bondage fun more seriously than Two Knotty Boys. Bay Area duo J.D. and Dan use their professional rope-rigging experience in workshops that demonstrate how to create everything from a simple wrist restraint to an advanced suspension harness. Your rope-burned baby will thank you, and you might actually be able to truss up that Thanksgiving turkey this year. (510) 433-7493, www.knottyboys.com.

15. Options

The potential fallout of a broken condom strikes a note of terror into many a back-alley or kitchen-floor tango, not least because you may have been exposed to HIV. What to do when safe sex fails? Well, last year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a treatment regimen called Postexposure Prophylaxis (or the somewhat too-cheerful PEP) for general use, which basically means that, if you can get there within 72 hours of exposure, your local free clinic may be able to put you on a month's worth of basic HIV meds – which could stop infection before it starts. While there's a lot of official agreement that PEP works, it's hard to pin down actual statistics (how do you prove why you didn't get something?). And PEP's no picnic – HIV meds can be hella harsh on your body, not to mention your party schedule. Still, it's nice to see at least one arm of the government getting off its ass to make an experimental HIV prevention treatment available for us common fucks (a PEP program for medical workers who prick themselves with needles has been approved for years). While PEP's no miracle "morning after" cure, it does provide a scrap of last defense. For more info go to www.sfcityclinic.org.

16. Versatility

Gay sex ... does anyone really care anymore? Still, for the glamorous sexual outlaws among us who shudder at the thought of Will and Grace's Jack shedding his Banana Republic turtleneck and getting plugged doggy-style, it's a matter of real-life or mainstream death. Alan Reade, the queer cabaret underground's heftiest naysayer, favors the former – shining a hot-pink spotlight on tweeker whores, jaded hustlers, evil bottoms, Manhunt casualties, steam room queens, and other towel-clad boys in Bad Gays!, his hilarious one-man romp through the raw, red underbelly of actual men-on-men encounters, running through Oct. 1 at Jon Sims Center for the Arts. Ascending through the shady floors of a (somewhat) fictional local sex club, Reade channels all the blasé head-trips, internalized rejections, and twisted self-images of the characters he finds there (his impersonations of a chicken-aged methhead babbling about his "recovery" and a self-defeating whore who "just got pozzed" are pitch-perfect). But while the once-subversive rituals of casual gay sex may seem like emotional death traps today, Reade slyly implies some advice for his handful of well-ridden souls: He who seeks love through sex must fuck himself to find it. Jon Sims Center for the Arts, 1519 Mission, SF. $10-$15 sliding scale; 18 and up only; Fri/30 is a benefit for Tweaker.org. (415) 554-0402, www.alanreade.com/badgays.htm.

17. Flagging, redux

Quarantined for decades in the hampers of part-time professional clowns and balding hippies, that once-bright fashion flag of Wilde Ones, the handkerchief, is back with a vengeance – slinging its colorful history of queer machismo and backroom glee into today's trendy accessory circle jerk. Don't panic: We're not talking peasant blouses and pocket squares here. It's all about the return of the hanky code, the '70s leather clone fashion system that matched certain colors in certain pockets to the wearer's preferred kinks – thus stylishly bypassing the often boner-deflating blah-blah-lisp of trick small-talk. Light blue on the right side? Howdy, cocksucker. Fuchsia on the left? Spank me, daddy. Lavender on the right, dark red on the left? Good luck finding a drag queen who'll double-fist you in this town, honey. Current club kids and edgy fashionistas are playing all sorts of ways with the connotative mix, a rainbow-hued nod to the sexual underground's lost generation. And who knows? Maybe that cute young thing on the dance floor really does want you to suck her toes while she shaves your balls and shits on you. Never hurts to ask. Hanky code: alt.xmission.com/~trevin/hanky.html.

18. Butt cleavage (really)

Every day, at Bay Guardian HQ, we start the morning by thanking our lucky fashion stars that the visible t-back, or v-string, panty is slowly making its way out of San Francisco's undie drawers. We're really over being visually assaulted by the sight of those skinny ass-crack straps riding high above too-low jeans, no matter how charming the wearer. And yet, surprising even ourselves, we find we're not always averse to the slight crack exposure afforded by keyhole panties, currently making the scene on lingerie-store shelves. For one thing, it looks a lot more comfortable than a tightly wedged strip of cloth (c'mon, let that poor suffocated crack breathe!). But our preference also follows the adage "less is more." The keyhole gives the lucky looker a small preview of what's to come – if he or she is lucky. In short, butt cleavage is hot!

19. Mating calls

What could be less sexy than the blatant bra-snapping lameness of faux-musical act Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha," with its hot wheels, midriffs, trampolines, and "It's a Small World" smorgasbord of dancers in cartoonlike Village People getups. Worse than the lack of imagination and flat pseudo-sexiness is the claws-out nature of lines like "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me / Don't cha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me." Capping on some doof's chica is the antithesis of sexy – it's just plain sleaze, no matter how much Courvoisier you splash on it. On the other hand, how about the White Stripes' 'Forever for Her (Is Over for Me),' off Get Behind Me Satan, for real sex appeal? Who can resist a fella who kicks off, in passively angst-ridden fashion, by admitting he blew it and "if I knew what to do, then I'd do it," then builds to a climax that's part sexual frustration, part plea for getting the hell out of this place. Mr. White takes male submis sion, a rare bird in pop these days, and turns it into a carnal love call.

20. Shining a light on sex work

Created by sex workers with the goal of "illuminating the sex industry," newly born NYC-based magazine $pread is likely to have some local appeal – given San Francisco's history (and present) as a hotbed for sex-worker art and activism (and perhaps the fact that our very own Michelle Tea graces the cover of the latest issue!). $pread comes packed with interesting articles, short fiction, visual art, and a good mix of regular features, the most entertaining of which might be Indecent Proposal, in which sex workers submit amusing and/or bizarre on-the-job anecdotes – issue two features an investment banker craving hot sex with a black-hoodie-clad anarchist-protester girl. On the informative end, there's the advice column the Healthy Hooker, a "Global Sex Workers" news roundup, an international resource guide, and reviews of relevant books and films. Other highlights from issue two include an interview with Tea, a report-back from the 49th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which took place in March at the UN, and, perhaps our favorite, a piece on the British tradition of "strip pubs." www.spreadmagazine.org.

Contributors: Marke B., Forrest Caskey, Kimberly Chun, Deborah Giattina, Sarah Han, Mirissa Neff, Annalee Newitz, Lynn Rapoport, Karen Solomon, Caitlin Van Dusen, Giselle Velazquez.