(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #248, November 26, 2004)
From the many excellent books on leather and/or BDSM that have been published over the years, here is a very arbitrary selection—many of them taken directly from your humble columnist’s bookshelf—that only scratches the surface (so to speak) of what’s available.
Almost any of these books would make excellent reading for those curious about, or just starting to explore, leather and/or BDSM.
Even if you’ve been in the scene awhile—whatever your age, gender, orientation, preference or experience level, you’ll find something appropriate and worthwhile among the following.
Urban Aboriginals: A Celebration of Leathersexuality by Geoff Mains (Daedalus)—A trail-blazing mid-80’s look at the development and then-current state of the gay men’s leather community. Also includes still-timely discussions of leather spirituality and explanations of leather’s appeal. Mains, who had a Ph.D. in biochemistry, introduced the notion of endorphins as a component of SM sexuality and was among the first to draw parallels between leather and other tribal cultures throughout history. Brilliant and timeless.
The Leatherman’s Handbook and The Leatherman’s Handbook II by Larry Townsend (L T Publications)—The first Handbook dates from the pre-AIDS 1970s; Handbook II is a mid-80s sequel incorporating safer-sex information (and is the first book that your humble columnist read when he was getting into leather). Both books alternate between fact-sharing and storytelling (Townsend is a master at writing erotic fiction), which for some will heighten the reading experience. The tone of both books is rawer and more macho than the other books discussed here; Handbook II, especially, describes some heavy scenes and practices in unflinching detail.
Leathersex: A Guide for the Curious Outsider and the Serious Player and Leathersex Q&A: Questions about Leathersex and the Leather Lifestyle Answered by Joseph W. Bean (Daedalus)—Bean is one of leather’s best and most prolific writers. Leathersex is a well-organized, straightforward introduction to leather sexuality; in the sequel, Leathersex Q&A, Bean responds to actual letters he has received over the years. His sensitivity, wisdom, and caring shine through both books.
SM101: A Realistic Introduction by Jay Wiseman (Greenery Press)—True to its name, this is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a textbook on SM—thorough, non-judgmental, suitable for all genders and all orientations. Many drawings and diagrams. Bonus: witty aphorisms (example: “That’s the thing I like about rope: One size fits all.”) that will have you thumbing through the entire book because you don’t want to miss any.
Chainmale 3SM: a unique view of leather culture by Don Bastian (Daedalus)—Totally unlike any other book discussed here, Bastian’s autobiographical masterpiece is risky, impressionistic, poetic, hot, intensely personal and eminently readable. An excellent right-brain introduction to leather.
Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics and Practice, Mark Thompson, Editor (Daedalus)—For beginners or for anyone interested in leather/SM spirituality, this is the ultimate compilation of essays on the topic by 25 brilliant writers.
Painfully Obvious: An Irreverent & Unauthorized Manual for Leather/SM by Robert Davolt (Daedalus)—A curmudgeon’s view of leather, this book is packed with priceless social and sociological commentary on how the leather community and its institutions work (or sometimes don’t). It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me think—what more can one ask?
The Toybag Guide to Dungeon Emergencies and Supplies by Jay Wiseman (Greenery Press)—Wiseman, a former ambulance paramedic, has packed a wealth of emergency medical knowledge and common sense into a very small, very portable book without which no toy bag should be considered complete. Useful when emergencies rise, it’s even better if you’ve read it before you need it.
International Mr. Leather: 25 Years of Champions, compiled, edited and written by Joseph W. Bean (Leather Archives & Museum)—Don’t buy it just because it will look great on your coffee table. Packed with rare photos and fascinating interviews and memoirs, this epic book is not just a history of the International Mr. Leather Contest, it documents the last quarter-century of the leather community in general. Twenty-five years in the making, I doubt we’ll see its like for at least another 25.
Here are some other time-tested leather/BDSM books to consider:
The Lesbian S/m Safety Manual by Pat (now Patrick) Califia (Lace Publications). Out of print, but you still might find a copy if you search.
Ties That Bind: SM/Leather/Fetish Erotic Style: Issues, Commentaries and Advice by Guy Baldwin (Daedalus)
Learning the Ropes by Race Bannon (Daedalus).
The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt (Greenery Press)
The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (Greenery Press)
Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns by Philip Miller and Molly Devon (Mystic Rose Books)
Different Loving: A Complete Exploration of the World of Sexual Dominance and Submission by William Brame, Gloria Brame and Jon Jacobs (Villard).
The Master’s Manual and The Compleat Slave by Jack Rinella (Daedalus).
Publisher and Shopping Information
Publishers of books listed above:
Daedalus Publishing Company: www.daedaluspublishing.com
Greenery Press: www.greenerypress.com
L T Publications: www.larrytownsend.com
Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M): www.leatherarchives.org (Support the Leather Archives and Museum! Visit their online gift shop for books and other merchandise suitable for holiday gift-giving.)
Mystic Rose Books: www.mysticrose.com
Villard, an imprint of Random House: www.randomhouse.com
Twin Cities Shopping Information
Many of these titles are either in stock or can be ordered at Dreamhaven Books in Minneapolis (www.dreamhavenbooks.com) or Query Booksellers (www.querybooks.com).
You might also find some of these titles, and many more holiday gift items, at MSDB’s Bizarre Bazaar on Saturday, Dec. 11, noon to 7 PM at Trikkx Bar, 490 N. Robert St., St. Paul (free admission).