I N T R O D U C T I O N
N
TOWARD A PERFORMATIVE
MATERIALISM
I spent the summer of 2000 in San Francisco, trying to
figure out how to do ethnographic fieldwork on bdsm.
I started by looking up sm organizations online, slowly
summoning the courage to e-mail my request for inter-
views to local groups. But I wanted to do participant obser-
vation, to attend some bdsm community event and get a
sense of what was going on. I wasn’t sure what to expect:
black leather, for sure; motorcycles, tough women, chaps,
and radical sex practices. I had gone to the fetish-themed
night of a local club, Bondage-a-Go-Go, and, the next night,
to the Power Exchange, a sex club with a dungeon area. But
this, I thought, was ‘‘tourist’’
sm, so I was excited when I
was invited to the ‘‘Byzantine Bazaar and Slave Auction.’’
Held at the Castlebar dungeon in South San Francisco, the
auction was a combination charity fundraiser and shop-
ping and vending opportunity. As I browsed the website, I
learned that the event would feature the chance to buy
whips, floggers, canes, and other bdsm toys before a bene-
fit auction, during which one could bid on tops, bottoms,
and switches. A play party would follow the auction. We
were encouraged to dress appropriately.
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