The Truth About The Leather Community
Last weekend was Folsom Street Fair. Thousands flocked to the San Francisco streets, some part of this fetish community and many others just curious onlookers, but all of them were interested in being part of the festive street party. Yet people who are really into leather, which has become a sort of generic term for anyone who's into any kind of fetish, often find themselves having to defend their sexual appetites. Indeed, people often display very instant reactions toward the topic; they either think it's super hot or absolutely demented.
"Sometimes it is important to be aware of our initial reactions and temporarily suspend them to learn more," says Dr. Weston Edwards, a psychologist who deals with sexuality, spirituality, chemical dependency and mental-health issues."Leather and kink sex is based on concepts of safer, sane and consensual acts. But just like you use your seat belt when you test drive a car, learning about sexuality should be done with safety in mind."
So what does it mean to be in this dark, dirty, and super sexy world?
The truth is that kink sex isn't as foreign as some people imagine. Many guys actually practice elements of bondage, domination, and submission without even knowing it. "If you get turned on when a guy is on top of you and holding your hands down, that's a form of domination," says Kurt Vestor, who's written about gay sex for numerous publications and websites. "You can love the sight of a man in leather and not want to be spanked. You can be aroused by tickling someone and never put on a jockstrap. People need to get over the lables and just enjoy themselves sexually. It will make everything a lot easier."
Edwards agrees, advising interested players to start small with their exploration. "Work with your partner and use a bandanna to cover your eyes," he suggests. "Pay attention to the sounds and smells. If you’re interested in restraints, before you run out for a pair of handcuffs, maybe tie your hands to the corners of the bed using tube socks. If the experience gets too overwhelming, you can easily get out of the 'restraints' and stop the encounter."
This is an important point. You are in control, and there is nothing wrong with telling your partner to take a break. As Vestor explains, "A lot of guys see something in porn they think is hot, but when they put it into practice it freaks them out. That's okay. It doesn't mean you're a wimp or too 'vanilla,' it just means that this particular experience or sexual partner wasn't right for you." One example Vestor gives is with "Derek" (not his real name), a man he interviewed for an article on clothing fetishes. Derek thought he wanted to be dominated by a man in full leather gear, but when he really thought about what turned him on, it was the image of a really masculine authority figure. "Derek is now into muscle men in business suits telling him what to do," Vestor says. "It's really no different. He traded one form of drag—the image of a leather man—for a different one."
After you've played around, make sure to talk with your partner about what you liked and disliked. When you realize what you enjoy, you can go online to find information on more intense experiences. It's helpful to also chat with guys who have similar interests, and members of the leather community are very good about talking about their tastes and passing on advice, education and information. Just don't jump into any kind of intense scene right away, make sure you trust the other man, and always stand up for yourself: Never do anything that you feel is too risky or outside of your comfort zone. A good leatherman will respect your boundaries, and if you meet someone who doesn't give that respect then move on. There are plenty of good men out there who can help with your exploration.
While that may seem like a silly statement, because of course you'll find a guy willing to have sex with you in any way possible, the leather community is more than just a group of horny men: It's a community. Standards of the perfect body are thrown out the door, and men of varying body types and tastes are both welcomed and celebrated. This is why you'll sometimes hear leather folk refer to the community as a "tribe."
The leather community is also about radical celebration of sexuality. "Much like Stonewall and the drag community was a political statement, so too the leather community is a visible confrontation to the straight community about gay sexuality," Edwards says. "It is a sex affirming, public statement in a world that shames and shuns sexuality." He adds that it's also a form of self-expression and being proud of your sexuality by displaying it in your outfit or gear. "Whether you belong to the community or not, you definitely notice a guy in full leathers. Perhaps because of the diversity, the sub-groups in the leather community offer a range of expression of your sexual identity."
Ultimate, though, both Edwards and Scott explain that being into the kink commuity is about self discovery. As Scott observes, "It can be very primal. You're exploring deep, dark ideas, but that's cool. It's how we evolve as humans and sexual beings."
Photos from Folsom 2010 by Wilsonmodels.