Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 46 / 16 November 2017
 

Intersexualities

Leather

We're not one community, and that's okay


Stopping at Oasis along this year's annual Leather Walk, this couple blended SM and pup kink. photo: Rich Stadtmiller
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When some of you read the title of this column you got a little pissed off. Inside of you might be a voice wanting to scream "Yes, we are one community, damn it!" But hear me out. There is value in recognizing that what we typically refer to as the leather community or kink community is indeed a set of loosely affiliated communities. This isn't a bad thing. Really.

My stance comes from a desire to ensure that what we do and who we are thrives, grows and fosters the kind of robust and fun scene we all want. I sincerely hope it doesn't come off as divisive. That's not the intention. In fact, my intention is quite the opposite.

What we kinky folk are is a set of many groups that are loosely affiliated, sometimes quite loosely. We're connected by our ubiquitous rebel and maverick sexualities and erotic identities that percolate throughout the various realms of what we do and who we are, but the connectors that bind us vary in strength considerably.

Leather and kink are big umbrella terms under which a wide range of kinksters get categorized. This umbrella concept is how we've functioned for years. It's useful, but deceptive. It's less useful today than it used to be.

Heresy? To some, yes. While it's convenient, and sometimes perhaps even appropriate, to refer to the leather community or kink community as an entity unto itself, setting up such a pervasive mindset that we are a monolithic and single-minded community can impede us in certain ways.

At the inception of the modern leather community it indeed felt more like a single community. It was inherently gay identified and replete with gay male imagery. The leather women and small cadre of heterosexuals and bisexuals that gay men mingled with usually dressed, thought and socialized much the way gay leathermen did. We mostly kept to separate spaces, but it truly felt like we were a community. And when we did mingle, we shared a similar collective ethos and definition. In short, we identified, interacted and played quite similarly.

Fast forward to today, just a few decades later, and the landscape has changed a lot. If a leatherman from 1970 were to happen upon a recent pansexual kink conference or event, he would barely recognize what he's seeing as a descendant of his leather experience.

I've used the Venn diagram imagery in the past to explain this concept, and it works here too. Venn diagrams are those labeled circles that intersect to varying degrees, their position and overlap indicating the relations among the labeled categories.

Back in the day, let's say the '60s to '80s, the leather scene had a few labeled circles (leather, BDSM, role-based dynamics, and so on) and those Venn circles mostly overlapped one on top of the other.

Over time, our scene has segmented and sometimes balkanized into a collection of more granular subsets. The Venn circles have increasingly overlapped less. Sexual and erotic interests such as rubber, pup play, watersports, fisting, master/slave, sports gear, and a whole lot more, began to segment into their own camps. Add to this that some camps kept mostly to their own sexual orientations while others chose to mix more often with other orientations and the entire architecture of the leather and kink world got rather complex.

BDSM and Pup play; some people like one or the other, some like both. graphic: Race Bannon

So, why does this matter? Why am I pointing this out?

For me, this all gets to the crux of why we sometimes see so many disagreements, misunderstandings and, frankly, drama amid our kinky ranks. We see it at events, in discussions, and we really see it on social media. I believe so much of what seems to tear us apart and cause angst and consternation boils down to not understanding our differentness within our supposed sameness.

Let me illustrate this with an extremely simple example, gay men who are into BDSM or part of the pup crowd. I'm restricting the orientation to gay men in this example because orientation adds another layer of intersection complexity that might muddle the example.

Just because a guy is into BDSM does not mean he truly understands the mindset or issues of someone who identifies and plays as a pup. Likewise, a pup may not understand at all how a BDSM guy thinks or acts. However, there are guys who are into both manners of erotic expression. They understand both camps.

Are they both part of a single community? Well, sort of. But they are also part of entirely separate communities that have their own clubs, parties, events, literature, and so on. One can function entirely within the BDSM ranks and only occasionally encounter those within the pup ranks, and vice versa. And even when the two camps commingle, that doesn't mean they entirely understand each other. We don't necessarily have to completely understand another human being to hang out with and enjoy them.

What I'm hoping people realize is that while it's certainly nice if we can understand other kinksters better, we should never assume we do. Our values, priorities, social structures, sexualities and erotic identities may at face value seem the same, but might be quite different.

A gay man who moves entirely within the fisting world might barely understand the inner workings of a bisexual woman who identifies as a slave. That's okay. It's simply not reasonable to expect us to be able to put ourselves in other people's shoes entirely.

An August SF Eagle beer bust included rubber-clad slaves, casual bears and exhibitionist kinksters. photo: Rich Stadtmiller

But the problems arise when we have the bizarre expectation that we do or can fully understand each other and hold each other to the same sets of expectations. That gets us into the messes we sometimes find ourselves in. Just because members of one community think a certain way, identify a certain way, play a certain way or socialize a certain way doesn't mean another community will. Even within the same community there will be those who don't think exactly like their community peers.

It's a difficult pill to swallow sometimes, but people, individually or collectively, are not here to meet your expectations. As Shakespeare said, "Expectation is the root of all heartache."

The next time someone tells you what they need or want to have the most fulfilled and happy kink experience, believe them. Don't try to impose your expectations on them, and don't let them impose theirs on you.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. You can reach at www.bannon.com

 

Leather Events, November 10-24, 2017

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

Fri 10

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

Lick It @ Powerhouse

Dance and play and have a taste of some sexy fun at Lance Holman's monthly leather and kink night. 1347 Folsom St., 10pm-2am, $5. www.powerhousebar.com

Sat 11

Mr. Daddy's Barbershop Leather 2018 @ 440 Castro

Competition where the next man to hold the title of Mr. Daddy's Barbershop Leather will be chosen. 440 Castro St., 5-9pm. www.daddysbarbershop.com

GearUp Men's Play Party @ SF Catalyst

Friendly erotic space where kinky men can socialize with, learn from and play with other men. 1060 Folsom St., $20, 8pm-1am. www.gearupweekend.com

Mon 13

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 17

Bowling with the SF girls of Leather @ AMF Bowling Co.

Open to all, the group will cover the first two hours of bowling and shoe rentals for up to 12 guests. Please RSVP to angel@sfgol.org if interested. 300 Park St., Alameda, 7:30-10:30pm. www.sfgol.org

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 18

Omega @ Club Six Underground

Pound Puppy's CarrieOnDisco, Polyglamorous's Beya, and Fog City Pack's own Astro & Fawks DJ the manly men kinky dance event; sponsored by Mr. S Leather; photo booth by FBFE. 520 Jessie St., 10pm-4am, $15-$20. www.fogcitypack.com

Mon 20

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 24

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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