Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 29 / 20 July 2017
 

The maturation of kink

Leather

Column shifts and changes, too


Brue (left) and Teagan won the community vote at the SF Eagle to be the 2017 San Francisco Pride Leather Marshals. They will lead the Leather contingent in this year's Pride parade. photo: Rich Stadtmiller
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A few days ago, I was sitting in my dentist's office about to get my teeth cleaned. The hygienist jokingly asked me if I wanted to establish a safeword before he started. We chuckled.

Earlier that same day I had a coffee shop conversation with a young gay man visiting San Francisco who appeared to be in his 20s. The tank top, Bermuda shorts and sandals belied what turned out to be a quite kinky dude as he explained to me some of his edgier sex play interests. Yet, without prompting, he felt compelled to mention that he really doesn't interact with the leather crowd much.

Recently I had a chat with a pup friend and he had a moment of realization during our conversation that he doesn't mix much with the rest of the leather and kink scene unless there's something of specific interest to his pup proclivities. Otherwise, he just hangs out with other pups.

During a layover in an airport between plane transfers a few weeks ago, a woman struck up a conversation with me as we stood at the cell phone recharging stand together. I guess my leather jacket and boots tipped her off because she said, "Are you one of those kinky fellas?"

As our phones charged, I mentioned I was heading to a leather event, explained what it was, and without missing a beat, she said something like, "Oh, my husband and I do that sort of stuff sometimes."

Oh, how times have changed.

As I write this, I'm also packing for a trip next week to International Mr. Leather (IML) in Chicago. More than 30 years ago I attended my first IML. As I reflect on that former leather era and on the many conversations I've had lately, it's hard to arrive at any conclusion than our scene has undergone some massive changes.

Noticing changes in our scene isn't necessarily a new thing. Author Laura Antoniou, in one of her famous keynote speeches from 2015 titled 'Stealing Trash,' offered these observations.

"Sometimes, it seems the larger BDSM communities have taken the wrong cultural aspects from the places they look to for inspiration. When I was a little pervert, going to the single digit LILs and IML and the big events of the day, I used to think one day we'd be huge. Kinksters of all stripes would take over a coliseum for a weekend of debauchery, fashion, shopping, classes, political and social events. We'd be like a comic book/media convention, where we could all come together in one place and all have something to do to satisfy our niche interests.

"Instead, we've gone in the opposite direction. Oh, there are more of us than ever, sure. But we're Balkanized; broken apart into tiny, discrete subcultures so everyone has their own treehouse and their own sashes and their own special titles and language and weekend events. Divided by activity - you can go to an all-rope-bondage event! - or by orientation - only gay men! - or by gender, or by orientation groupings, like straight dudes and their ladies, who, by the way, are generally encouraged to be bisexual, because ...straight dudes... You can go to a Master/slave weekend, and a rubber contest and no doubt pup and pony events and shopping events and a political /community development event and for all I know, there are even still biker events out there. There's a new fucking title every week, it seems and sometimes, I have to blink and wonder if what I just heard was real, or a title I made up for The Killer Wore Leather [one of Laura's books]."

Author, speaker and educator,
Laura Antoniou. photo: Kim Attica

Fast forward to just a couple of weeks ago when Patrick Mulcahey talked about the mainstreaming of leather and kink in his Northwest Leather Celebration keynote speech.

In that speech, Mulcahey spoke to what he sees as the adoption of leather and kink tropes by the mainstream. Everyone knows what certain leather and kink iconography looks like.

Dressed in dominant garb, Lois Griffin gives her husband Peter Griffin a safeword in the animated series Family Guy. Advertisers use BDSM and fetish imagery or innuendo to sell their wares. While the 50 Shades of Grey effect rankles some within the core BDSM constituency, its impact on the greater world must be acknowledged.

Leather, BDSM, kink and fetish have absolutely gone mainstream in ways that we never would have imagined not that long ago.

Another truth that's become clear is that what styles of sexuality and relationships are considered a part of our scene are ever growing with no sign of abating. This begs the question of what's kinky and what's not, with the answer clearly falling on the side of it usually being in the eye of the beholder.

Geoff Millard. Mr. San Francisco Leather 2017, heads to Chicago this week to compete in International Mr. Leather. photo: Rich Stadtmiller

So, we have an interesting perfect storm of a formerly mostly monolithic leather and kink scene splitting into countless self-functioning sub-camps while kink itself is also quickly mainstreaming. What we consider viable kinky pursuits and identities continue to encompass a wider swath of the sexual and erotic landscape.

Phew. That's a lot to take in.

That was a somewhat long-winded explanation of why going forward you may see the content in this column nudging past its usual borders. As the bucket into which we place what is "leather" and especially what is "kink" grows and expands, so must this column or it will become an anachronism and less relevant to its readers.

From now on this column will sometimes embrace a more liberal definition of what is kink, that will undoubtedly upset some leather purists. Some future sexuality and relationship topics might appear to only tangentially belong under the leather and kink umbrella. I apologize in advance to those who might wish for time to stand still, but our sexual subcultures, interests and the social and intimate relationships in which they function are moving on, traditions and entrenchment be damned.

I write not just for the leatherman or woman of yesteryear, but also for the kinksters of today. I write not just for those who proudly identify as a member of some officially designated erotic community, but for those who might occasionally dip their toes into kinky sexuality or push the boundaries of how relationships might be defined and operate. I write not just for the seasoned pervert, but for those who might simply stumble upon this column that may usher in a burgeoning interest in heretofore unexplored areas of their sexuality and relationship lives.

"Nighttime"-themed Family Guy toys, sold online, take kink to its most comically mainstream.

As a writer, I feel my duty is to inform, inspire and perhaps at times entertain my reader and to see my reader as potentially coming from any walk of LGBTQ life. Of course, we also know that people are increasingly exploring their sexualities and relationships across the orientation spectrum and my reader may not even relate to the LGBTQ moniker even as some of their sex and intimate arrangements do. In other words, I write for anyone who is sexual and curious.

How might this column unfold in the future? I'm really not sure. It will probably still cover a lot of similar leather and kink ground, but if you see it straying into unfamiliar territories, I hope you'll go along with me for the ride. Broadening our views and insights about the entire world of sexuality and relationship options can only make us better "leatherfolk" and "kinksters," however you happen to define those.

Change is a good thing, and the only constant. Thus, it must be for this column.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. You can reach him on his website, www.bannon.com

 

Leather Events, May 26 – April 9, 2017

There's always a lot going on in the San Francisco Bay Area for leather and other kinksters.

Fri 26

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

Officially a CMA meeting, but open to all Anonymous 12-step Fellowship members, 4058 18th St., 9:30pm. www.castrocountryclub.org

Gear Party @ 442 Natoma

Gear play party (leather, rubber, harnesses, etc.) for gay men. 442 Natoma St., $15 (requires $5 membership), 10pm. www.442parties.com

Sat 27

Hell Hole SF @ SF Catalyst

Fist party for men. $30. Students and military with ID, $10. Volunteers get in free. Doors open 8pm-12am, party ends 2am. 1060 Folsom St. http://hellholesf.com/

Code @ The Edge

As Mr. San Francisco Leather 2017, Geoff Millard, goes off to Chicago to compete for International Mr. Leather, enjoy the night and wish him the best of luck. 4149 18th St., 9pm-2am. www.edgesf.com

Sun 28

ACLC Memorial Day Weekend Beer Bust @ SF Eagle

Join the Alameda County Leather Corps for their beer bust. 398 12th St., 3-6pm. www.aclcweb.org

Mon 29

Ride Mondays @ Eros

A motorcycle rider and leathermen night at Eros, bring your helmet, AMA card, MC club card or club colors and get $3 off entry or massage. 2051 Market St. www.erossf.com

Fri 2

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

Officially a CMA meeting, but open to all Anonymous 12-step Fellowship members, 4058 18th St., 9:30pm. www.castrocountryclub.org

Gear Party @ 442 Natoma

Gear play party (leather, rubber, harnesses, etc.) for gay men. 442 Natoma St., $15 (requires $5 membership), 10pm. www.442parties.com

Sat 3

Woof! @ SF Eagle

Romp, play and socialize at this monthly pups and Handler mosh event. There will be mats out to pup out on. After the mosh, you can head over to SoMa StrEat Food Park for food. $3, 398 12th St., 2-5pm. www.SFK9Unit.org

Tribe @ SF Eagle

SF Eagle and BLUF presents Tribe (Leather Resurgence). DJs Tom Ass and Carlos Souffront. Leather/Gear Swap Marketplace. BLUF dress code is NOT required, but full fetish gear is strongly encouraged! 398 12th St., 7pm-12am. https://bluf.com/e/1992

Sun 4

Scotty's Cigar Social @ World Famous Turf Club

There will be cigars, drinks (please support the bar), snacks, and fun, so please join these folks for a delightful afternoon with friends and leather family. 22519 Main St., Hayward, 12pm-4pm.

Mon 5

Ride Mondays @ Eros

A motorcycle rider and leathermen night at Eros, bring your helmet, AMA card, MC club card or club colors and get $3 off entry or massage. 2051 Market St. www.erossf.com

Fri 9

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

Officially a CMA meeting, but open to all Anonymous 12-step Fellowship members, 4058 18th St., 9:30pm. www.castrocountryclub.org

Gear Party @ 442 Natoma

Gear play party (leather, rubber, harnesses, etc.) for gay men. 442 Natoma St., $15 (requires $5 membership), 10pm. www.442parties.com






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