How exactly does one measure the kink-factor of a major metropolitan area? Surely there are prevailing opinions on the matter — San Francisco and New York come to mind first.
But to celebrate the launch of Kink University (we’re still a little unclear on what that is), the aptly named purveyors of all thinks kink, Kink.com, went looking for the top ten kinkiest cities in America.
To reach their results, they examined “total kink population (as measured by active members on kink social network Fetlife), the percentage of the population that identifies as kinky, the number of kink-aware professionals (therapists, doctors, lawyers) listed on the NCSF’s excellent resource directory, and by the porn purchases of their inhabitants, using data from Kink.com.”
Here’s what they found, and #1 may surprise you:
# 10: Las Vegas
“While a relatively small amount of Vegas’s population is kink-identified (just under 2% identify as kinky), and the city’s resident population tends to swing more than switch, few place make kink as big part of their business as Sin City. From fetish balls and kink-themed clubs to porn shoots and dungeons, Vegas is where the rest of the world goes to get kinky. Not surprisingly, it’s low on kink-aware professionals, like doctors and therapists, but heavy on pro-domme listings. Which, if you think about it, are just kink-aware professional of a different sort.”
# 9: Philadelphia
“Until we saw the numbers, we never would have guessed that the City of Brotherly Love might also be the City of Poly Gimp Throuples. But you can’t argue with data (or dommes). Philadelphia only broke the top five in one metric (for total kink-identified population — 27,411), but it placed in the top ten in nearly every kinky category we measured. The Philly scene maybe more undercover than in neighboring centers like New York and Atlantic City, but that just means that they get creative. After all, who but Philadelphians would throw a BDSM-party in an abandoned church!”
# 8: Boston
“At first, Boston may not seem like a hotbed of caning and submission. But then you think about those Puritan punishments — the stocks, the whips, the branding, the dunking stools — could give even Kink a run for it’s money. Not to mention that, as the biggest city in New England, it pulls in a kinky population from all over the northeast. Over 3% of the population is active on Fetlife, it’s porn tastes are VERY restrained — but we don’t mean vanilla, we mean actual restraints. Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. If Bostonian kinksters has their way, poly could be next.”
# 7: Seattle
“What is it about the Pacific Northwest that brings out the kink in so much of it’s population? Seattle ranked second among US cities in kinksters-per-capita. Over 3.7% of its population has a profile on Fetlife (the second highest percentage of any city in the study) and with (just behind San Francisco). And like DC, Seattle’s VERY fond of it’s BDSM and fetish porn. Of course, it’s also the birthplace of The Stranger’s Savage Love column, long before Dan Savage’s weekly interrogation of alternative sexuality became a syndicated phenomenon — which might explain the lack of a taboo around issues like polyamory, fetish and anal.”
# 6: Los Angeles
“For a city with a reputation for fake boobs and blonde hair, Los Angeles sure has a dirty side. Thanks to relatively cheap rents and municipal anonymity, L.A. is home to more dungeons and playspaces than any other city on our list (including Sanctuary LAX, Den of Iniquity, Bar Sinister, Dominion, Dungeon West and Submission LA). L.A. had the third highest total population of self-identified kinksters (over 35,000, just behind Chicago and New York), though they only make up less than 1% of the total population — which knocks them down the list a bit. But where else but L.A. would you be able to take a fitness class led by a pro-domme?”
# 5: Washington D.C.
“No one cares more about a wholesome image than a politician. And by most public measures of kink, the nation’s capital ranks fairly low among US cities — but skyrockets when it comes to kinky porn! Of all the major cities in the United States, no one was more likely to have a membership to a Kink.com than a Washingtonian. Think of it as the city of secret kinksters. DC’s Domina Vontana recently linked the city’s appetite for kink to its appetite for power: interns are the slaves, staffers are the submissives and the Senators are dommes. (At least in public.) Since she sees all of them behind closed doors, we’ll take her word for it.”
# 4: Chicago
“Leather culture as we know it was born at Chicago’s Gold Coast bar in the late 1950s , and the city has hosted the International Mr. and Ms. Leather contests since 1979. In fact, the annual contest may even best San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair as the highest of the kink high holidays. Throw in the Leather Archives and Museum, a thriving dungeon scene (including GD2, Continuum, The Studio) and a wealth of professional resources for both LGBT and kink-identified populations you’ve got hell on earth…in the best possible way.”
# 3: New York City
“The birthplace of not only Stonewall but the Ramrod, not to mention The Eugenspiegel Society, Cinekink and Pandora’s Box, New York has more total kinky residents (82,584 active Fetlife profiles, at last count) than any other city in the US — even if they make up a smaller percentage of the total population as they do in smaller cities like Seattle or Portland. But while the famous Folsom Street East fair had to move in 2013 after neighbors in the increasingly-upscale Chelsea neighborhood expressed “embarrassment” about the kinky public spectacle, Kinksters fought back, it returned last year with plenty of perversion. And even if rents crowd out dungeons, with over 8 million residents, there’s no place like New York for diversity of kink.
# 2: San Francisco
“The home of the Folsom Street Fair, the Society of Janus, Mr. S. Leather, Kink.com and Kink University, when it comes to kink, San Francisco is never far from the top (even when it bottoms). The city’s unconventional sexual history goes back to the bawdy days of the Gold Rush, and today, San Francisco offers more professional resources to kink-identified people than any other city on our list, with a kink-identified population that rivals much larger cities. But the tech boom hasn’t been all good for BDSM and fetish — legendary play spaces like Mission Control and the Power Exchange have faced evictions as rents have risen, the city instituted a nudity ban that would have been unthinkable a few years back. Even sex anchor tenant Kink.com has floated the idea of picking up the castle and moving to Nevada, in the face of anti-porn legislation. It may not have taken the top spot this year, but don’t expect this city to submit for long…
# 1: Portland, OR
“Put a whip on it! With nearly 4% of it’s population logged on to kinky social networking site Fetlife, Portland has the highest percentage of kinksters per capita in the US — and is nearly as rich in resources for the BDSM, fetish and poly communities as much larger cities like San Francisco, New York and Chicago. It’s also become a leader in pushing the scene forward — it’s the home of influential kink blog, Leatherati, and it was local Portland artists who (for better or worse) launched the HealthGoth trend. The numbers speak for themselves. In a recent survey by the Portland Mercury, nearly 42% of Portland identified as something other than monogamous and 33% as something other than heterosexual. Just about the only metric that Portland scored low on was kinky porn consumption. But then again, it might be because they’re getting so much IRL. Congrats, Portland — sir.