Two women wrestle at El Rio in March 2011. Photography by Johnny Crash.

“Lube wrestling? I don’t know what that is.”

“Yes, you do. You know. A swimming pool, lube and two women. Wrestling.”

“Oh. And you’re gonna do that?”

Yes. Definitely. It’s every first Thursday at El Rio, and seeing it once was enough to convince me.

It looked sexy. It looked like fun.

Fast-forward four weeks. My costume: fishnets, a cut T-shirt that showed my belly and my Wonder Woman shorts — good for Halloween, roller derby or, and as it turned out, wrestling.

The night was billed as a lesbian-erotic show “by women for women,” but a quick look at the audience around the plastic swimming pool in El Rio’s back room showed that all kinds of people — the place was packed — come to enjoy.

As uninhibited as the whole evening may appear, making the participants feel safe and comfortable is a priority for the organizers. Photographs and strange, unexpected moves are unwelcome.

Examples? When a woman from the audience — probably high — jumped unexpectedly into the swimming pool, she was admonished. So too the guy who pulled out his cell phone for a photograph. Producer and host Dottie Lux made it clear that both would be thrown out for a second offense.

Other than those isolated events, the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed.

Any woman can take part, and in return you get not only the wrestling experience but free admission to the rest of the $10-to-$15 show, a drink, and free admission for a companion. Girls wrestle for the entire length of a song, and no one really loses. “Audience wins,” as Lux repeated throughout the night.

But Travis — a girlfriend I had convinced to be my partner — and I were unwilling to show mercy.

We arrived early to learn the rules. The evening started with arm and finger wrestling, followed by the real action. “Have you done this before? You girls want to go together? You can change here and then take a shower.”

No, we didn’t want to be the first of the 10 or so couples lube wrestling that night.

But we agreed to open the show with arm wrestling and then be the third team to jump in the pool. That gave us enough time to get excited but not to have second thoughts.

The locker room was filled with other newbies, veterans and advice: cover your piercings and nipples with tape. Nudity is forbidden but, you know, tops move.

We waited in the audience and then our names were called for the arm wrestling.

“This is your first time, right?” Lux asked.

“It is,” I said.

“And she has an accent!” someone in the audience screamed cheerfully.

We sat, elbows on the table, and started.

Arm wrestling has never seemed very exciting, but everything is more interesting when you’re doing it in front of a cheering crowd, dressed as some kind of colorful pin-up and trying to distract your opponent by touching her with your feet. Oh, and a tattooed lady in lace acting as the commentator makes it even better. So does lube, a silicon-based lubricant that Lux spread over our arms for the second round of arm wrestling.

A performance by burlesque artist Ruby Vixen followed the arm wrestling warm-up, and then it was show time!

First round in the swimming pool: a short-haired girl in a pink swimming suit and rubber gloves against an opponent dressed entirely in fishnet, spanking one another. Round two featured a couple of beautiful ladies in sexy bikinis, one of them covering her breasts timidly when her top fell off.

Travis and I were up next — absolute beginners.

Lux called our names, and as we left our seats it was clear that the floor was already slippery from the first two bouts. We could see Chris, Andrea and Paul, who were in the packed audience to cheer for us.

In the ring, we high-fived to show we were sober, then it was into the swimming pool. It was covered with a base of lube, which oddly didn’t feel cold. We looked at each other for a few seconds and then went for it. Fight on!

I can’t even remember what song was playing. You’re immediately blinded by a greasy liquid, and you get whiffs of an intense silicone smell up your nose. You feel buckets of lubricant being thrown over your back. But who cares? Survival kicked in as I grabbed my opponent’s tights until they ripped, and reached for a T-shirt to stay on top.

Fun! Exhilarating, but way too fast.

After a quick shower, we headed back into the audience to see the rest of the show. Women of all shapes and sizes and outfits, from latex jumpsuits to male underwear, kept fighting each other — some in a lustful way, others in a more athletic one.

A good two hours later, the wrestling night ended. A couple of girls approached us.

“Yours was great!” one said.

“Thanks,” I replied.

“Was it your first time?”

“Yes,” I said one more time.

But not the last.

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Marta came from Zaragoza, Spain to master her English but everyone she speaks to wants to practice Spanish. After just a few months in the Mission, she already feels at home. In her free time she can be found reading books, watching movies, roller skating or just enjoying a good meal, an interesting conversation or a sunny walk around the neighborhood.

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  1. “When a woman from the audience — probably high — jumped unexpectedly into the swimming pool, she was admonished.”

    I won’t speak for anybody else here, but this is probably the last thing I would do after smoking a joint.

    On the other hand, it would definitely be on my mind after having my fifth shot of Cuervo.

    Stop hating on those who enjoy cannabis.

    1. Oh, I don’t think she was high on cannabis. I do believe there was something more than alcohol though.

      But of course I may be completely wrong.

  2. Fun article Marta. Nice to read about a bunch of people enjoying themselves. As for the girl jumping into the ring… I’m going with “Irrational exuberance”. The expression aptly described stock market anomaly so it certainly applies to lube wrestling. Keep up the great work.

  3. Why not two men? In fishnets? Or cycling gear? Or in suits? That would be way more fun to watch. Ahh, still so much disappointment in the entertainment industry. I mean, this is still considered entertainment for the audience, right? Otherwise, an audience wouldn’t really exist…

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