There are other such clubs in the city, but they cater either to gay men like me Eros on Market, Blow Buddies on Harrison or are private institutions, often with a leather theme the SF Citadel.
Only the Power Exchange takes all comers. The bouncer gives me the run down: This new spot is entirely mixed, and I steady myself for a little muddling. As my eyes adjust, I see that a naked man in wedge sandals is wiping the stage with Windex. A few are wearing swatches of leather. On the couch, a couple that could be Edith and Archie Bunker are holding hands. Other people mill about uncertainly — an older woman and younger men; a big blond with a Latino boyfriend; a couple of single guys.
She keeps her back to the pole, slides down it with her hands behind her head to keep balance, and when she reaches a squat position, spreads her legs. A few people turn to watch, but with the noncommittal interest afforded to an opening act.
I see a tall blond woman with a short black boyfriend heading down a staircase, and I follow them. Downstairs is a series of playrooms all doused in black light. Each room has been painted with neon colors and is decorated by theme: I hear heavy sex play, but all I can see is a sombrero on the wall. I jockey for a bit, trying but failing to get a glimpse. A woman in a corset gives an older man a lap dance. He slaps her ass and she grinds on him.
As soon as I walk in, one of the guys turns and gives me a heady stare. I stay in the darkness for a while, but eventually move on. Sex clubs are a constant cruise, and even momentary commitment is fleeting. I walk back through the maze of warrens, and I see a man who appears to be in his late 30s — stocky, dark, maybe Latin — slapping the ass of a large woman bent over an improvised work station.
The area is wide and open, and a crowd starts to form. The man takes a whip the size of a hand broom and swats her ass as if it were the ball in a game of table tennis. Her white skin turns pink, and her grimace turns to a smile and back again. After a few more minutes, she thanks him, then gets up and pushes down her latex skirt. She moves to another bench and another man. The whipper introduces himself as Mr.
He does the medium to hard. Unlike the strip club that used to be here, there are no hired performers at Power Exchange. Owner Mike Powers equates his role to that of a gym manager. He just provides equipment; the rest is up to the people who come. He shows me three different floggers — one of cloth, two of leather — and holds them out for me to feel. As I pause to consider the prospect, three college-aged girls approach. At first, I confuse them with tourists looking for a giggle, but one with braces seems intrigued.
He waves her good-bye, and I decide to follow her lead. The energy upstairs is starting to pick up now. One man is chaining a woman to the stripper pole, while another — the erect guy with wedge sandals — uses the pole to steady himself while he showcases some oddly placed body jewelry. The tension of an hour ago has broken and in its place is mild abandon. Two men are masturbating; a third performs oral sex on a woman while the others watch.
Despite the live sex, the voyeurs are respectful. Everyone gives the couple space. Behind glass in the exhibition booth, two women compete to blow a longhaired good-old boy in flannel, like a censored lost episode of Roseanne. The club smells like a locker room, and the pheromones are intoxicating.
I look for a well-built guy I spied earlier, and find him back in the warrens. In another corner, a man and woman are necking on the couch. The warrens are a carnival now. There are more bodies, more gawking, more cruising. I walk by Mr. An older man — ruddy face, white hair, mid-fifties — is watching and we start to talk.
In San Francisco, they give it away for free. It embodies the spirit of a town that birthed both free love and Craigslist. Forty years after the start of the sexual revolution, some San Franciscans are still having a blast. Half-price Thursdays and Sundays.