Friday, November 22, 1996

The Difference Between Black and Gray

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #39, November 22, 1996)

True or false: a leatherman displaying a gray hankie in his right pocket thinks it would be fun to be tied up and beaten.

Answer: False. Although “tied up” and “beaten” may seem like a natural kinky sex combination, bondage and domination or B&D (gray hankie) are not the same as SM sex (black hankie). B&D covers a wide range of activities, some of which overlap with SM but many of which don’t. The gentleman in the above example may indeed want to be tied up or otherwise dominated, but that gray hankie says nothing about wanting to be beaten.

Being tied up or otherwise restrained may be followed by a flogging session, tit clamps, and hot wax. But it could as easily be followed by a long, slow blow job, full-body massage session, or a tongue bath—things even non-kinky types might find pleasurable. If you think of bondage only in connection with SM activities, think again; you may be missing something very enjoyable.

The theme of bondage runs through modern society, although most people don’t consciously think of it that way. A wedding ring is a symbol of being bound to another person, and the fact that one needn’t get pierced to wear one doesn’t change that fact. And a necktie can symbolize submission to a multinational corporation just as much as a dog collar can symbolize submission to a master. Many people turn to bondage and domination play as a way of understanding dynamics that the rest of society often would rather not discuss.

For a person playing the “bottom” role part of the thrill of bondage may come from being, literally, “out of control”—having turned control over to the top. The top, in turn, gets a thrill from being in total control of (and responsible for) another person. Some people even practice self-bondage (harnesses, corsets, cock-and-ball toys, butt plugs, or even tall boots laced up tight) and experience a combination of both feelings.

Safe, sane and consensual applies to bondage just as much as to SM. In SM sex the giving and receiving of pain is a major source of pleasure. Pain in bondage, however, is often a sign that something’s wrong. For instance, ropes or handcuffs that are too tight can cut off circulation; uncomfortable positions maintained for long periods of time can lead to tissue or nerve damage. Duct tape-and-Saran-Wrap devotees can cause all kinds of problems by staying wrapped too long. Being bound in whatever fashion should not mean being in physical discomfort or danger.

Another safety point: Just as a good SM scene has a “safeword” which instantly stops the action, a good bondage scene has the Houdini-like escape provisions necessary to ensure safety in an emergency. Some examples: a knife or scissors to cut rope (use them carefully!); extra handcuff or padlock keys; quick-release buckles on restraints.

If bondage sounds interesting to you, explore it. Start slowly, and take the time to learn to do it safely. There are many excellent books available on various bondage techniques and at least one magazine, “Bound and Gagged,” devoted to the subject. Finally, the Twin Cities Bondage Association is a good learning and networking resource: TCBA, St. Paul, MN.

STEVE KELSO is coming to the Twin Cities!

Are you a Steve Kelso fan? If so, then Friday, December 13 is your lucky day. You’ll be able to meet the legend himself at an Aliveness Project fundraiser to be held at Town House Country in St. Paul. Buy a calendar or poster and Steve will autograph it for you on the spot. (Talk about pleasurable Christmas shopping! And for a good cause, too.) The event starts at 9 pm. $5.00 at the door, net proceeds benefit The Aliveness Project.

If you just can’t wait that long, check out the official Kelso web site, coyly called “Hairway to Steven” at After thorough exploration of that site, you can link to an incredible universe of other leather/bear/fur sites that could keep you busy for hours!

Upcoming and Ongoing Leather Events

For quite a while now, the Men’s Room Bar at the Gay 90’s has been the one place locally that catered specifically to the leather community. Recently several other Twin Cities clubs, listed below, have started vying for our patronage.

Last Friday of the month (this month: November 29), 9 pm to close, Club Metro Underground
Leather/levi/latex/uniform dress code enforced, so the dance floor is all leather all evening. Come say hello to former 90’s bartenders Vern and Lawrence. $5 cover, free beer 9 pm-midnight.

NEW! Leather Knights
Wednesdays in December, 8 pm to close, Town House Country
Leather/levi/uniform attire encouraged. $5 cover includes free beer or $1.50 for other drinks.

Hard Mondays
Every Monday, 10 pm to close, The Saloon
Leather/levi/fetish wear. Amazing scenes and demonstrations. No cover.

Friday, November 8, 1996

Gay Marriage (and other forms of bondage)

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #38, November 8, 1996)

The legalization of gay marriage seems to have become a “hot-button” topic for the entire gay community, and members of the leather community are no exception. This year’s outgoing International Mr. Fantasy J.D. Buchert and his lover David Gillis renewed their vows onstage at the contest. And at this year’s International Mr. Drummer Contest, Mr. Southern California Drummer Kyle Brandon (who went on to win the International Mr. Drummer title) performed a “fantasy” which was not a fantasy at all, but rather a real-life marriage ceremony between him and his lover. In addition, many of the speeches at all three of this year’s international leather contests contained references to the issue of gay marriage.

Fighting for the legalization of gay marriage is a good and noble cause; it will be a great day when society no longer tells us our love is second-class love. But gay marriage is really just the tip of the iceberg.

In one sense, relationships in the leather community run the same gamut as in the rest of the gay community, which run the same gamut as in straight society (where, by the way, currently half of all marriages end in divorce). Leather relationships run for varying lengths of time, from hours to years, and none of them come with a guarantee. But because they’re not “normal,” people tend to give a lot more thought before entering into them, and that tends to make them healthier and more stable.

Relationships in the gay community in general and the leather/SM community in particular come in a rainbow of flavors the general straight public doesn’t usually consider. The leather community, in addition to woman/woman or man/man (and even, on occasion, woman/man) spousal relationships, offers such esoteric relationship choices as daddy/boy (neither of which is necessarily male, by the way) and master/slave. Adding to the richness of choices (or confusion, depending on your viewpoint) is the fact that one person may engage in multiple concurrent relationships; one person could theoretically be someone’s boy, someone else’s daddy, someone else’s master or slave, and someone else’s spouse all at the same time.

Certain elements of straight society find relationships like these threatening and subversive. They are so frightened by the form of these relationships they never get around to investigating the content; if they did they’d see the same kind of “traditional family values” they spend so much time talking about. The negotiations preceding an SM scene, and the trust necessary to bring it off properly, bespeak a respect for ourselves and the other person or people involved. The same can be said for a healthy and affirming daddy/boy or master/slave relationship.

These relationships don’t just happen—they require work and care and nurturing. But the work and care and nurturing pay off in learning what makes a healthy relationship and what doesn’t. And generally, the good that’s gained from these leather/SM relationships spills over into all the other relationships in which a person is involved, from work to family to casual acquaintances to people on the street.

If we let someone else’s disapproval dampen our enjoyment of our culture and our relationships we have only ourselves to blame. No one can oppress another without the other’s consent. To the extent we are secretive about the nature of our relationships we reinforce to ourselves, and to the general public, the idea that those relationships aren’t acceptable.

The Stonewall rebellion was about gays and lesbians questioning their oppression by straight society. It spawned a viewpoint that said, “We’re tired of not having the same rights as straights. When is it going to be our turn?”

The answer to that question is simple. It’s our turn whenever we take it.

But if we don’t take it, no one will ever give it to us.

More and more gay people, both leather and non-leather, aren’t waiting for society to legalize gay marriage, to “give us our turn.” They’re taking their turn right now. The leather/SM and non-leather GLBT communities have taken society’s rulebook (in which marriage is defined as a lifelong monogamous union of a submissive wife and a dominant husband for the purpose of producing offspring) and thrown it away. We no longer constrained by those rules—we are free to invent new kinds of relationships that meet our needs and the needs of those we love. If two people of whatever sex and/or gender decide that a traditional monogamous marriage framework (with or without children) is what they want, fine. If another framework better meets their needs, that’s fine too.

Legalized gay marriage will offer certain benefits (and will also entail certain responsibilities). But legislation won’t change peoples’ hearts and minds—hearts and minds will have to change in order for the legislation to be enacted. And hearts and minds will be changed, one heart and one mind at a time, by enough of us being open and proud of our culture and our relationships—woman/woman, man/man, daddy/boy, master/slave, whatever.

Leather pride—or any other pride, for that matter—is when we can be open, honest, genuine about ourselves and our relationships, and not feel a need to apologize. And it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy—over time society will get used to the idea that our relationships can be healthy, positive and satisfying. Finally, in a stunning example of anticlimax, gay marriage will be legalized.

But we don’t really have to wait for that to happen. Remember, it’s our turn whenever we take it. It’s our turn right now.

Upcoming Leather Events

Ms. Minnesota Leather Competition 1997

Friday, November 15, 9-11 pm, Club Metro Underground “Maximum X” Bar
$5.00 at the door includes free beer, food, door prizes and free parking. Don’t forget the “trashy pants” contest! (See the previous issue of Lavender for more details.)

Black Guard 20th Anniversary Chili Feed
Sunday, November 17, 4-9 pm, Gay 90’s Dance Annex
A leather community tradition. Free beer, soft drinks, food, prizes. (You can also get your link in the “Get Linked” chain if you haven’t already done so.) $5 at the door.