Saturday, December 1, 2012

FETISH: The Leather Identity Project's focus for 2013.

The Leather Identity Project has always been my way to seriously explore topics and show common ground. I've focused on significant issues like labels and identity, HIV, sex role, family, and race. In 2013 I'll be taking the project into a different direction.

We all have limits. Blood, scat, permanent marks, women, and piss are among the most common from my "what are you into?" survey. While a fetishes can be an acquired tastes, they are usually already with us waiting to be discovered. Fetishes that are on the fringe of accepted practice, or at lest unpopular, invite jeering and negative jokes.

Like most people, I have limits. Scat grosses me out. I see BB as an unnecessarily risky behavior. PnP freaks the hell out of me. Never the less, we've all been in situations where a friend opens up about a fetish that turns us off. How did you respond? I've always done my best to be accepting of my friends "other interests." Heck, I'm into water sports and many think that's disgusting.

Next year I'll be exploring different fetishes. Popular sites to get information about safe exploration and etiquette. I'm also looking for experts on different fetishes to help out. You don't have to be the ultimate authority to help out. I want to know what turns you on about your fetish. What was your first experience? Have you ever done it in public? Do your friends know about it?

I'm including a form with this post asking people to contribute thoughts, information, and anyone willing to be interviewed about their fetish. Please take the time to look at the form.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Race in the Leather Community

I'm a thirty something year old white guy who was raised in an affluent suburb. My expieriences with race were limited before I became an adult. Maybe life before then limited exposure, or perhaps I was simply oblivious. I admit, in my younger years I was limited in my sexual attraction, but now I'm a far more equal opportunity play mate. People of color are sometimes disproportionately absent in the leather community.

How are you affected by race in the scene? Are you?

This survey is closed. Data is coming soon.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

"American Boys Bill of Rights"

While patrolling the web I came across this poster. It was published in 1947 as a toy add, but much of it applies to my view of what a leather boy is and what a leather boy deserves from the world. So it's a little gun rights heavy towards the end, but it has some elements that I think are missing from the emphasis of boy culture today. It says the following:
We… The Boys of America believe in these OUR RIGHTS: the right to LIBERTY, hard-won by our forefathers ~ the right to HAPPINESS that comes with the growth of a healthy body and mind ~ the right to TRAINING, thoughtfully planned by parents, school and church ~ the right to OPPORTUNITY, to live, learn, play and grow up in the time-honored traditions of a free people ~ and the right to learn to SHOOT SAFELY. We recognize and accept the responsibility imposed by these Rights. But ~ until we are old enough to vote we expect YOU ~ our fathers, mothers and other citizens who elect America’s city, county, state and federal officers ~ to be eternally vigilant that our RIGHTS be not abridged!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Leather Titles

I have mixed feelings about leather titles. I think those best served by leather titles are the title holders and contestants themselves. Running for a contest can be a huge confidence boost for the men and women who choose to compete. It takes guts to expose yourself on stage. For most, running for a title is a positive experience. In fact, more than half of those who have participated in a contest have competed in more than one. 69% of participants who have competed in a contest report that they have won at least one contest. If at first you don't succeed...

My husband is a title holder for this current year and winning has been an amazing experience for him. He's met people from across the country and made some lasting friendships. He also shows a comfort working a crowd that he never had before. This boost alone has increased his confidence at work and at home. He has kept his goals modest, simply to promote his bar and increase awareness of the leather community.

Unfortunately titles can also have a darker side to them. Winning can bring out the worst qualities in some people. It can also give false authority to a winner, allowing him or her to pass on bad or destructive information to new members of the community. Living under a microscope is a stressful experience, and this can push some to do negative things.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Leather Pride

Gay pride, take it or leave it, is a major part of urban life. Wether you like it or not, there is often a noticeable absence of leather visibility at pride. Perhaps the leather folks don't feel welcome to come out in leather, or perhaps its too damn hot. 

Whatever the reason I'm curious what you all with pride. Do you wear your leather, or at least some leather out to pride? Do you attend at all? This isn't a formal survey, but it's fun to see what people do.

Are you attending pride in leather or gear?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Happy Daddy's Day

Over the past year I've been thinking a lot about the relationships between Sirs and boys. I can't help but feel like Daddies are left out of the conversation far too often.

Like many I started exploring kink online. My first Dom was on the site He was in Houston and I in DC, but our correspondences changed my life. At the time I wanted to be a slave, but he insisted that I was not. He saw my playfulness and my desire to serve as telltale signs that I was a boy at heart. He explained the differences between a Master/slave and a Daddy/boy relationship. He said that we could use whatever words we wanted; Sir/boy, Sir/pup, the wording was irrelevant. It was our power dynamic that mattered.

I consider Daddy Jim Raymond to be my first "real world" Daddy. Like a father, Daddy Jim has shaped me and other boys into more balanced individuals through his example and leadership, not adherence to protocol alone. We haven't always seen eye to eye, but he has always shown faith that I would do the right thing for myself and for my community. With him I fear disapproval more than punishment. Unlike some outsiders, Daddy Jim has always used his honorary membership in the DC boys to play devils advocate and to encourage us to make our own decisions after thoroughly considering all the consequences.

To me, the Daddy/boy relationship serves both parties. They structure their relationship through growth, compromise and agreement. Daddies embrace the differences between boys and understand that no two are alike. Daddies are nurturing and caring individuals who want us to bring our best to every situation. Finally, Daddies know that one day a boy needs to stand on his/her own and define himself/herself without requiring another to provide that definition. Far too often I am frustrated when I see boys exit long term D/s relationships no better equipped to make their own decisions, manage their finances, or understand the importance of honoring commitments. As with vanilla relationships, D/s relationships should be mutually beneficial.

I lean on mentors to help me be a better person. Daddies have helped me in that pursuit. Shaping the future leaders of the community is a more noble path than rigidly defined roles and self gratification alone.

Happy Daddy's day Daddy Jim, and Happy Daddy's day to all the men and women who strengthen our community through mentorship, compassion, and understanding.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mr. ?

Leather titles are a significant part of the leather experience. Contests, being the core of many leather events, provide a setting to bring people together. While many see titles as the backbone of the leather experience others look down on them. Both leather title advocates and "sash queen" dissmissers are vocal members of the community. As with most things the loudest often have the most extreme opinions. 

Those with mixed feelings often don't speak up on their viewpoint. Where do you stand on leather titles?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mixer: Gay, Straight, Bi

I'd like to start by saying this was a hard survey write and analyze. I'm not sure I did it justice, and I apologize for this. I believe that gender and orientation divide the leather community in negative way. We don't need to wander down the path of political correctness to diversify. If anything I prefer the leather community's willingness to kick social norms in the ass. Preferring same gender or orientation play spaces doesn't make you an asshole, but there is no reason we can't make a greater effort to be more tolerant in social settings.

It's no surprise that gay men are frequently unwilling to engage in sexual acts around people of different orientations and genders, but the reverse is true for social interaction. 75% of gay men have attended mixed orientation/gender social events and an additional 5% would be willing to. These numbers don't change remarkably when broken down by age and sex role. The 25% who are not willing to attend mixed social events can't be explained by friendship homogeny alone. 

Switches and gay males in their 50's were the only groups who deviated significantly from other participants regarding mixed social event attendance. Gay male switches were 14% less likely than Doms and subs to attend mixed social events. Gay male participants in their 50's were 23% less likely to attend mixed social events. Gay males in their 50's have 16% fewer gay friends than other gay males and gay male switches have the same number of gay friends. The lack of correlation between friendship homogeny and willingness to attend mixed social events in these groups suggest another variable. 

Sexual attraction alone can't be the deciding factor. Although the survey didn't adequately explore the topic, all bisexuals, women, and trans participants were willing to attend mixed orientation social events. These three groups were also more accepting open play spaces.

My conclusion is that there is something about the gay male portion of the leather community that differs from other groups. Clearly there is more to explore. Please feel free to send any questions I should have asked my way. A future survey could look at gay men more specifically.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Boys' Club Census

While working on the history page for the dc boys of leather I've discovered it's very difficult to locate information about which boys clubs have existed, what year they formed, and which ones are still active. I've decided to address this problem by asking for your help. There are boy clubs all over the continent. Some are thriving while others have disbanded or changed their name. Please help me compile a history of when these clubs formed and which ones still exist. Feel free to participate as many times as you want, my goal is to find out information about as many clubs as possible. Participate in the census.

I'd also like some high resolution images of club colors. I can pilfer around on the web, but a lot of you probably have some good images saved on your computers. If you have one please provide your email address and let me know in the survey.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Does Your Mother Know?

I often draw a destination between the sexual elements of the community and the social ones. The leather community is a one composed of sexually liberated individuals, not necessarily a community for sexually liberated individuals. Because of this I have little problem being open about my involvement in the community. I may not want to share my sexual adventures with the world, but I have no issue being proud of my social involvement

Many of those entering the community, or indeed those involved in it, do not draw this distinction. I find that considering community and sexuality mutually exclusive to be alienating to those on the outside.

The "Does Your Mother Know?" survey explores how individuals distinguish these issues. Most do on some level, others do not.

To give some perspective here, 211 people participated in this survey. People are surprisingly open about kink and community involvement with their vanilla friends. Family and co-workers are equally informed in social involvement, and not surprisingly kept in the dark about sex.

27% (27 participants) work in kink friendly carriers, just over half of those who are open about kink with co-workers. Between 7% and 9% only have kinky friends and friends in the community. All three of these groups are a small, but vocal, minority.

Most of us have to balance both worlds, deal with conflicting values from our family and friends, and choose our battles. My husband tend to be more open than is probably good, but it does weed out those that find our personal life objectionable. Sure it can be painful when friends and family result to irrational judgement, but values are subjective. As marriage and other "social norms" permeate our community this conflict will only become more relevant as we maintain our preferred relationship models.

Once or twice a year I have the privilege of doing a S&M demo at my alma mater. Pouring hot wax onto 18 to 22 year old co-eds is fun, but it also presents an opportunity. My co-presenters and myself are always asked "do you have 'real' jobs, or do you do this full time?" The awe of their reaction when we reveal our mundane careers is always amusing. Their belief that we exist permanently on the fringes of society is understandable. It also fuels so many fears about coming leather bars and other social centers. Coming out and living openly can help so many closeted individuals know they can be open and happy about their orientation. Similarly, being open about our community involvement helps those who are afraid to know it's a safe space. We can invite others to join us by making it clear that we are far more dynamic than erotic fiction would indicate.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mixer: gay, straight, & bi

The leather community is a diverse and dynamic place. We're divided along lines of orientation, gender, and protocol level. Sometimes we all come together and celebrate, but more commonly we gather with those like ourselves. I've always seen the Leather Community as both sexual and social. Individual limitations of the former drastically influence the latter. How do you feel about the social and sexual mixing of individuals of different backgrounds? 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Leatherwear Basics

One thing that the "Barrier to Entry" survey made painfully obvious was a lack of easy to find guides for those intimidated by entering leather community. My first handout gives some basic leather-wear advice for those who think they don't have anything to wear. In truth nearly everyone has the right clothing to wear into a leather bar. Download PDF

Barrier to Entry (leather bar attendance)

There are factors that keep people coming and keep people away from Leather Bars. This break out will explore the reasons for both. At the end of the day, some patience is necessary from the regulars and some adventurousness is necessary from the newbies.

Geography and parking is the biggest barrier keeping people away from bars. The simple fact is their can't be a bar in every town, and traveling to the city isn't an option for everyone. I'm working on a guide for those who are looking for a sense of community without having geographic access to a Leather or Leather friendly bar. There are ways to develop a sense of community without traveling, sometimes it simply means opening up your mind.

I've organized some of the most common factors keeping people coming and keeping people away in the lists below. I've paired reasons by disconnect.

Keeps People Coming
Keeps People Away
not too loud
bartenders are friendly
tag along with kinky partner
relaxed atmosphere
sense of belonging
HIV accepting
see same faces
meet likeminded people

comfortable wearing gear
know what others are into by look
scuttlebutt (gossup)
smoking areas
too loud
rude staff
partner is vanilla


sub groups

grose bathrooms
no one dresses up

being  judged
smoking areas

The takeaway from this list is that there are no simple solutions. I've broken my advice into three categories; advice for bars, advice for bar regulars, and advice for newbies. I'm not an expert here, but this advice is based on what people want. Everyone needs to put a little work in to make things better.

  1. Cleanliness: I know for a fact that my local bar cleans regularly, but basic facilities are a problem. People want clean bathrooms with closing stall doors. keeping the bath facilities well lit and sterile looking may take away from the ambiance, but it also sends a message that bathrooms arn't sex dens. Some patrons want a place to hook up, but many new ones are intimidated by not having a comfortable place to piss.
  2. Smoking Areas: Not everyone is into cigar smoke. Enough people are that it should be available, but make sure the smoking area is separate from the rest of the bar so non-smoking patrons won't get turned off.
  3. Websites: I went to a lot of web sites, and none were good sources of information about leather bars or leather bar culture. Guides about etiquette, basic dress do's and don'ts, and well kept calendars are key. People are regularly upset about parking, so if you are mass transit accessible let people know that on the site.
  4. Changing Areas: Many bars have lockers available to remove layers once you get there. If you're bar has such facilities advertise that fact.
  5. Welcome Feedback: Tradition is an important part of leather bar culture, but that doesn't mean things shouldn't change when they aren't working. You shouldn't ignore valuable feedback simply because "You can't please everyone."

  1. Be Less Judgmental: You were new once too. The young man or woman dressed inappropriately or behaving disrespectfully may not know any better. If you want bars to thrive into the future then you have to help bring new people into the fold. It's also important to let them put their generation's spin on the community.
  2. Wear Gear: Instead of bitching about no one wearing gear, gear up yourself. There is no reason for anyone else to dress up if you aren't willing to first.
  3. Be Friendly: You don't have to want to have sex with someone to be polite to them. You also don't need to take every person under your wing to be friendly. New people regularly see members of the community as rude to outsiders. We know how supportive the community can be, don't turn someone off before they can discover that for themselves. Remember that the "twinks" who came out in a group may be uncomfortable coming alone. They may just need a mentor or a friendly face to keep them coming out.
  4. Come Out More: If you're sick of bars being empty then come out more.
  5. Check the Drama at the Door: Club, bar, and title politics are a constant source of gossip and drama at the bar. To an outsider it can sound like leather men are a bunch of backstabbing jerks.
  6. Speak Up: Leather bar managers and owners have to walk a type rope to keep as many people happy as possible. Support their efforts to try new things, but also don't be afraid to respectfully express your point of view.
  1. Evaluate Your Priorities: Do you want a D/s relationship, or do you want a community? There is absolutely no reason you can't have both, but sometimes searching for a Sir or a slave can prevent you from seeing possible friendships that could support you in your journey. Making friends in the community also helps you network in a way that online personal sites never could.
  2. Be Outgoing: Regulars see leather bars as a welcoming place that creates a sense of family and community. This atmosphere doesn't need to be hard to break into. If you feel unwelcome, try to remember that you are the new one. People should be more friendly, but so should you. It's your job to try and introduce yourself. Although they may seem clicky from the outside try to look for club nights at bars, clubs often want new members. Even thought you may not want to join, it's a good way to meet people and no one will mind if you remain a GDI (God Damn Independent). 
  3. Its about Sex & Community: Although people do hook up at leather bars, it's not the only reason people go. You don't have to want to have sex to go. Many are there to talk and have fun too. Often those looking for sex are in different areas of the bar than those who are there to socialize. If you want to meet people go to where people are talking, not making out. Also consider that you don't only have to talk to people you are attracted to. That "old man" on a bar stool could be an invaluable source of information and friendship.
We often hear about reaching out to "young people" when talking about keeping the community alive. We can see below that those born between 1981 and 1990 are as likely to attend leather bars monthly as those born a decade earlier. In all likelihood their attendance is growing. Those born between 1961 and 1970 are the most likely to attend regularly, but those older drop off quickly.

One regular anomaly is the dip in those born between 1971 and 1980. This absence is present in nearly every survey. Because these individuals would have been in their 20's during the 1990's one could assume their absence is a continuing legacy of the AIDS epidemic. The positive outcome of those terrible years is that the Leather community is largely accepting of those who are HIV positive. This acceptance is strength of leather bars and the leather community at large. Although some choose not to play safer, the leather bars are a place where being positive doesn't need to be a secret shame.

Monthly attendees of leather bars tend to be mixed by role, but the "regulars" tend to be subs and Doms. Being able to express protocol in an accepting environment was a common reason that keeps people coming out. Switches consistently have the highest participation in LIP surveys, but we can see here that they may frequent leather bars, but don't necessarily make them their home.

My final take away is that leather bars are still attracting people. Attendance may be down, but as homosexuality becomes more mainstream we can expect a smaller counter culture community. That means that those of us that remain need to be more tolerant of each other. Specializing your identity is empowering, but also chops up community resources. Be yourself, but work together and respect differences.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Does your mother know?

During Mr. MAL 2011's very motivational and energetic step-down speech he brought his parents to the stage. This made me cry like a baby. Maybe it was the fact that my husband was in the contest and I was already emotional, but it is always moving when someone shares the community with their biological family.

The leather community is a fundamental part of my social life, and sometimes it's uncomfortable living in both worlds. I make a lot of choices of what I share with family, vanilla friends, and co-workers. At the end of the day I consider my involvement in the leather community to be such a positive experience that everyone knows, even if I leave out some of the details about sex. This survey explores what you share about your involvement in the leather community.

Happy ______!

Before joining the leather community my winter holidays were uniformly  Christmas oriented. Now I have friends of many faiths  and exposure to more and more people from different backgrounds have introduced me to new traditions. The leather community is one of choice, and consequently it's a melting pot that society at large could never be.  I wanted this survey to be an exploration of what is considered to be one of the happiest, if not most stressful, times of year. 

Christmas and New Years are the most celebrated holidays, but Winter Solstice has a significant percentage of participants. I was surprised how few participants reported celebrating Hanukah. It will be interesting to explore the religious elements of this survey in a future survey.

This survey reviled that those not close their families are twice as likely to spend the holidays alone, and also a third less likely to spend it with a significant other. My survey didn't ask how many wanted to spend the holidays alone, but it does show that only half of those who spend the holiday season alone also do not celebrate any holidays at all. 

Chosen families are an important component of the leather community. One community leader often refers to his home as "the island of misfit toys," which is particularly relevant considering it references a Christmas holiday classic. Loosing ties with one's biological family is an unfortunate reality for some. Creating new families is a powerful option. Nearly half of participants entertain during the holidays. If you are fortunate enough to be near a leather bar, some are open 365 days a year, including holidays.

Clarification on "Sex Role Preferences"

I'd like to take a moment to clarify one of the questions I use in every survey. It is my view that human sexuality is far more complicated than defining between dominant and submissive. In fact I have a three dimensional view of sexuality shown in the chart below.

The reason I ask everyone to define themselves as dom, sub, or switch is because I believe sex role preference influences opinions in the community. For me, sex role is limited to dominant, submissive, and switch because I consider "level of sexuality" and "level of kinkiness" as separate dimensions of sexuality. People can be anything from asexual doms to vanilla subs. I've also deliberately simplified the vocabulary to preclude words which have different meanings in different circles. Subs and doms do not always see eye to eye and switches often see issues differently. I ask you to define yourself not because I am trying to box you in, but because it's a spectrum that everyone falls on. If you feel that neither "dom" or "sub" defines you, I challenge you to ask "do I desire to take or give control to an other?" If you do both depending on sexual chemistry, then perhaps you should consider identifying as a switch

I also draw a destination between labels and sex role preferences. Some labels are clearly defined as dominant or submissive, others are not. I am a boy, but I see myself as a switch much of the time. I've learned a lot in my years and situations arise where I feel more comfortable taking control. These roles are fluid, so if you feel dominant today, it doesn't mean you have to identify as "dominant" tomorrow.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Survey: 'Barrier to Entry,' attendance at leather bars

For some, leather bars are the center of our social universe. They represent a second  home, a meeting place for all of our friends and 'family.' For others they are unwelcoming holes that don't tolerate those who break from the pack.

Whatever your view point, leather and leather friendly bars are an important part of our subculture. While some notable bars have closed in the past few years, it is good to see other bars taking the opportunity to open their doors to the leather community. I hope this indicates that leather bars, in general, are here to stay.

The aim of this survey is to explore what keeps people coming back to leather bars and also what prevents those who attend leather events like MAL from frequenting bars. I've opted for free form answers in parts of this survey, which adds a lot of work for me when I tabulate. I hope those taking the survey will take the opportunity to speak up on what they love and hate about leather bars.