If Leather is Indeed Dying, This May Be Why…

Awhile back, the Leatherman Discussion Group (or LDG) here in San Francisco put on a couple of panels with the first one called “Is Leather Dead? Does it Need to Die?” and the other one nameed “Is the Men’s Leather Community Dead?” Upon reading both the panels’ names I was dumb-founded. I know a large part of having those be the titles is to create a kind of shock value and to drum up interest in these discussions. Still, I thought to go to that kind of thought process was maybe exaggerating a bit.

Then today while doing something completely unrelated a thought came to me: Sure. with the closure of a number of leather bars in San Francisco, an important part of what historically has helped the leather communities get together is being threatened. There’s no argument from me about that. But if indeed leather is dying, could it be that it’s because leather is getting talked about more in mainstream media, sometimes accurately and other times, not so much? Are those “old schoolers” who still long for the more hush hush days feeling like their fantasies are being killed, because *gasp* “they” are letting everyone in? (heaven forbid!).

To ask more specifically, could it be that those who are lamenting about the death of the community are actually lamenting that folks of all ages (18+ here in California), shapes, sizes, genders, styles of play, and experiences are now more able to find their way into the lifestyle either through classes, going to a play party, or even the internet and now certain folks are thinking that the “leather pool” is now all of a sudden less pure?

As a host of two public play parties I’ve long wondered (in some instances publicly) why it is that some of the most audible complainers of the leather community dying are those in the gay men’s community, yet when I go to play parties, either the open ones, or the occasional specialty parties the men are so hard to find? I’ve actually talked to a few people who I know who identify as being a part of the men’s leather community, and they say that a major reason why a lot gay men don’t attend parties that aren’t men’s only is because a) the energy is different and it’s hard to get into it, and b) it’s just harder to find people to play with.

Don’t get me wrong. I can understand where they’re coming from. There’s a party hosted at my local dungeon that’s for folks 40 and under and their partners. It’s an awesome party, but it’s so crowded that it can often be difficult to find space, let alone create sexy energy for play. We don’t often go to that party because of those reasons, but we have gone because the hosts of the party are our friends, and it’s just good to support our folks, and that’s part of the point I’m trying to make. Many in the men’s community are saddened, perhaps even angered by what they consider the death of the leather community, yet despite a lot of those same men saying they find it really hard to find play partners because they’re sober and they feel going to bars may threaten their sobriety. A lot of those same people are reluctant to, and some even refuse to attend non-men’s events, or events that aren’t in bars where alcohol will not be served and where drugs are prohibited. You can’t really have it both ways.

When the various leather bars in San Francisco started closing I was not happy. And recently, during that period when the future of the SF Citadel, a place I’ve considered my kinky home for almost seven years, I found myself worrying about the places I and my fellows can gather and be ourselves. But this sort of lamenting about the “good old days” and talking about how the internet, the openness of the community…etc are “ruining” the community is rubbish! Gossip ruins our community, people demonizing certain types of play instead of learning a safer way to play that way ruins a community. People making certain people feel less worthy because they’re not what those people consider attractive ruins the community. Those who try to peddle the idea of the supposed “One true way” ruin the community. Change, and that’s all a lot of what’s been happening is doesn’t ruin our community. It just presents an opportunity for us to evolve.

Sailor

Owned and operated by her loving dominant, Sailor identifies as a sober, genderqueer, switchy, service submissive and volunteering addict with a particular appreciation for ageplay, sharp objects, and hard, thuddy things. She currently co-hosts three events: "Transmission" for kinky trans folks, their friends, and their lovers and "Vibe" for kinky people of color and people who love and support them (both of those are held at SF Citadel), and the San Francisco Littles Munch (at Wicked Grounds) for people who're into or curious about age play. When not serving her dominant or her community, or running around in a dungeon Sailor enjoys, reading, writing, hanging out with friends, and conversations over good coffee. You can read more of Sailor's writing on her blog at sailoralecs.tumblr.com, or by following her on Twitter at @sailoralecs.

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5 Responses

  1. Octavian says:

    I have to say that I don’t participate in the “men’s leather” area of events due mostly to being ostracized by orientation. As someone who is not gay or bisexual there are very rare events that include me as a part of a “leather family”.

    Also, a lot of events held at dungeons end up being exhibitionist parties- instead of people gathering for the mutual enjoyment of activities, it’s more of a high school arena. So I tend to only go rarely, and usually attend local munches rarely if at all.

  2. Sailor says:

    Thank you to the two people who’ve commented so far. Your comments are really appreciated. They will certainly help me improve both as a writer, and as a critic.

    To Honest: I will be the first person to admit that my mechanics indeed need work. Having something good to say and knowing how to say it is not enough; I need to work on making sure what I have to say is presented in a way that is polished enough that how I say it doesn’t get in the way.

    To Moloko: You’re certainly correct in saying that the position I’m in- both as an outider to the men’s community, and as a person who can gain get free entry to a lot of events I go to can cloud my perspective on this subject. For what it’s worth, I do try to make it out to events outside of my familiar surroundings (such as those held in bars) as much as I can. Having done so, I certainly see the value of having those events. I can also understand how frustrating it can be to try to build alliances and failing to do so. All I can say from my point of view is perhaps all parties can try a little harder as (in my opinion) it does no group any favors (at least not in the long run) to try to exist on it’s own. We are better served as a community at large to try to work together and to support each other.

  3. Moloko Velocet says:

    Rah! Good points, but it’s more complex than coming out to a party to take one for the team in the name of greater solidarity.

    People need to see the value in that solidarity. The more marginalized communities do, but the men are not marginalized (at least inside the BDSM ghetto). If you want an alliance, the alliance has to be seems as worthy by both parties. Many men either currently, or in the past, joyfully embraced the heterosexual, queer, womens and trans communities. Others say why bother? What is the value others bring? It has been tried before, and many former allies in the men’s community are no longer allies because they didn’t see the value.

    Next, there is the question of parties. Who you want to be in solidarity with is not the same as who you want to cruise and fuck. Where are people going to spend their hard earned dollars and limited social time? Are they going to spend it someplace they feel marginalized, or at a party that caters to their chosen demographic? What is the ratio of queer identified folk at a pan sexual inclusive party compared to that same party when a queer invasion has been organized?

    Showing up to something at the SF Citadel is not a fair comparison for you. You’re getting free entry (thanks to the volunteer work you put into the Citadel) and going to a party that is supportive of your demographic and has an attitude not too off from how you like to play. Is it optimal? Maybe not, but can you have a great time? Sure.. How often do you hit the Powerhouse, Kok, or the Lone Star? They don’t meet your needs, so, probably only on special occasions, right?

    All of this is to just say that finger pointing doesn’t solve the problem.

    Show the naysayers that being in community with you is of value to them.

  4. Honest says:

    This is terribly written. It includes typos, grammatical errors, and redundancies. In addition, the full content could be easily reduced to one sentence.

    Is there no quality control for this blog?