Catacombs (sex club)

The Catacombs was a gay and lesbian S/M fisting club in the South of Market area of San Francisco, which operated from 1975 to 1981, and reopened at another location from 1982 to 1984. It was the most famous fisting club in the world.[1] The founder and owner was Steve McEachern. The location was semi-secret and admission was by referral only. It was originally a gay men's club, and Cynthia Slater persuaded the management to open up to other groups.[2] Among the patrons was Patrick Califia, known then as Pat Califia.[3] The Catacombs has been exhaustively described by sexual anthropologist Gayle Rubin,[4] who calls it "exemplary" in its attempts to deal with the AIDS crisis which would eventually lead to its closure.[5] Patrick Moore devotes a chapter to it in his Beyond Shame: Reclaiming the Abandoned History of Radical Gay Sexuality.[6] Sex educator Carol Queen called it "the place to be seen and to play at during the 1980s."[7]

The San Francisco South of Market Leather History Alley consists of four works of art along Ringold Alley honoring leather culture; it opened in 2017.[8][9] One of the works of art is metal bootprints along the curb which honor 28 people, including Catacombs founder and owner Steve McEachern, who were an important part of the leather communities of San Francisco.[9][10]


  1. Gayle Rubin, "The Catacombs: A Triumph of the Butthole", in Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice, Alyson Press, 1992, ISBN 1555831877, pp. 119-141; reprinted in Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader, Duke University Press, 2011, ISBN 0822349868, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 6, 2014. Retrieved September 30, 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), retrieved September 30, 2014.
  2. Call, Lewis. 2013. BDSM in American science fiction and fantasy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p.5
  3. Pat Califia (who later changed names to Patrick), "The Necessity of Excess", POZ, October 1998,retrieved September 30, 2014.
  4. "The Catacombs: A Temple of the Butthole", in Mark Thompson, ed., Leatherfolk — Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice, Boston, Alyson Publications, 1991, ISBN 1555831877, pp. 119-141, reprinted in Deviations. A Gayle Rubin Reader, Duke University Press, 2011, ISBN 0822349868, pp. 224-240, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2014-09-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), retrieved September 30, 2014.
  5. "Elegy for the Valley of Kings: AIDS and the Leather Community in San Francisco, 1981-1996, in In Changing Times: Gay Men and Lesbians Encounter HIV/AIDS, ed. John H. Gagnon, Peter M. Nardi, and Martin P. Levine, University of Chicago Press, 1997, ISBN 0226278573, p. 116.
  6. Beacon Press, 2004, ISBN 0807079561, pp. 27-33.
  7. "An Interview with Carol, Queen of Sex," Spread, vol. 1, no. 1, spring 2005, pp. 35-38, quote on p. 36.
  9. Paull, Laura. "Honoring gay leather culture with art installation in SoMa alleyway – J". Retrieved 2018-06-23.

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