Friday, October 27, 2006

On Nov. 7, Your Safeword is “Vote!”

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #298, October 27, 2006)

My involvement in preparing for next year’s Leather Leadership Conference XI in Minneapolis (April 20-22, 2007—registration is now open at <www.leatherleadership.org/llc11>) has made me see leadership—and our nation’s current lack of it—in a whole new light.

The goals of the Leather Leadership Conference (LLC) are a) to strengthen the SM/Leather/Fetish community by developing the leadership skills of community members, and b) to foster a greater sense of connection between and within community groups, and a greater sense of unity and understanding within the community as a whole.

That seems to me too good to keep to ourselves. Maybe LLC 2008 should be in Washington, D.C. And maybe we should invite a few congressmen, senators and White House types to sit in on some lessons in effective leadership—because there certainly seems to be a dearth of it in Washington right now.

Then again, why wait until 2008? Let’s invite our national (and, while we’re at it, world) leaders to LLC in Minneapolis next April. Image what a different place the world would be if its leaders learned a thing or two about the theme of next year’s conference, “The Art of Sharing Power.”

I am not necessarily being facetious here. One contestant at this year’s International Mr. Leather contest (I wish I could remember which one) said something to the effect of, “If world peace is ever going to be achieved, it has to come from somewhere. Why not the leather community?”

Why not, indeed. The way we live our lives in this community means we have to think deeply about many things that people living their lives in more conventional fashion don’t have to think about at all. That breeds an unconventional and rare sort of wisdom.

It behooves us to share that wisdom by being in positions of leadership—not just in the leather community, but in other communities and in the wider community as well. We share our wisdom by serving on community and non-profit boards, by participating in civic and political activities, and by making our voices heard. We share our wisdom by leading, and by demonstrating and exercising good leadership.

And, at the most basic level of leadership, if there is currently a lack of leadership in Congress and the White House, it is up to all of us to deal with that leadership vacuum by voting, and voting intelligently.

An analogy has just occurred to me. Think of our current national nightmare—the quagmire in Iraq, the ineffective response to Katrina, civil liberties trampled, scandal upon scandal, etc.—as a BDSM scene gone horribly bad.

In 2000, the people of the United States voted to allow themselves to be led, or topped, by George Bush and his administration. (Of course, it was a nonconsensual scene for just over 50% of the electorate, but that’s politics.) It could also be said that we elected a Republican majority in both houses of Congress to act as overseers, i.e. dungeon masters. And the scene began.

Well, the scene hasn’t turned out either as promised or as hoped for. Who knew that we as a nation would be bottoming to such incompetent, arrogant, selfish, dishonest, hypocritical, unprincipled tops? (Well, slightly more than 50% of the electorate had an idea what was coming. But, again, that’s politics.)

For the last several years I have watched things continually worsen to the point where since 2004 I have personally questioned whether our nation and our world, to say nothing of the leather and GLBT communities, can survive this administration’s (poor) leadership until 2008. We have seen scandal, incompetence, and corruption on a massive scale. It doesn’t look like good leadership to me.

In BDSM parlance, a “safeword” is a predetermined word which, when uttered by anyone involved, modifies the action of a scene. One popular series of safewords is “green” (everything’s fine, keep going), “yellow” (slow down), and “red” (stop immediately).

In 2004 the American electorate had a chance to safeword out of what was even then a nightmare scene. But we didn’t. The two safewords were “blue” and “red,” and very slightly more than 50% of the electorate said “red”—which in this case meant “more of the same.”

As the 2006 mid-term elections approach, however, it appears the tide might be turning. Many leaders find themselves with a dwindling following as poll numbers and approval ratings drop to new lows.

So consider the mid-term elections on Nov. 7 as your chance to safeword out of this national/international nightmare scene, at least partially. Your ballot/safeword might not bring things to an immediate halt. But it might at least act as a “yellow” that will slow things down until 2008, when—assuming the republic has not morphed into a dictatorship—we will have a chance to choose leadership that is more honest, more caring and more effective.

On Nov. 7, vote for change. Vote for sanity. Vote for clarity. Vote for honesty. Vote for accountability. These are all things that leather culture prizes. We demand them in our fellow community members. We should demand them in our community leaders and in our national leaders as well.

It’s your ballot. It’s your safeword. On Nov. 7, use it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Devilish and Divine

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #297, October 13, 2006)

PHOTO: Deborah Addington

The devilish and the divine—both will be part of a pre-Halloween weekend of workshops and other events in Minneapolis.

MSDB (Minnesota Stocks, Debentures and Bonds) periodically brings noted leather/BDSM/fetish authors, presenters and educators to the Twin Cities. Their latest featured presenter will be Deborah Addington (<www.fistandfangs.com>), assisted by Lawrence Alvarado (aka L’Varado) of Fetish Temple (<www.fetishtemple.com>).

Addington describes herself as a practitioner of “mind and body modification.” As a body modification artist she does piercing, ritual scarification and blood tattooing (also called skin etching). Her mind modification work takes the form of the books and articles she writes and the classes she teaches.

Some of Addington’s books are A Hand in the Bush: The Fine Art of Vaginal Fisting and the forthcoming Cunning Torments: A Loving Guide to Female Genital Manipulation. Addington’s writings have appeared in On Our Backs, where she has covered topics ranging from fireplay to lesbians in the sex industry. She has contributed to Sex Tricks for Women by Jay Wiseman and Sex Disasters and How to Avoid Them by Dr. Charles Moser and Janet Hardy.

The weekend starts Friday evening, Oct. 27, with a class patterned after Addington’s book, “Fantasy Made Flesh: The Essential Guide to Erotic Roleplay.” The class, which will include a book signing, will be held at The Smitten Kitten (3010 Lyndale Ave. S.). RSVP by visiting the Kitten Calendar at <www.smittenkittenonline.com>. Space for the class is limited.

On October 28, MSDB presents “Blood Lust,” a combination of two workshops: “Temporary and Permanent Ritual Scarification” and “Kink and the Unitive Experience.”

Addington says of the first workshop on ritual scarification: “I regard all forms of bloodplay—cutting, scarification, play piercing—as a physiospiritual way of accessing incredible intensity; I teach those subjects from a technical perspective within the framework of sacred sexuality.”

This ties in nicely with the second workshop, as Addington believes the BDSM experience “lends itself beautifully to the creation of Sacred Space.” Addington will demonstrate how the unique experiences of kink “permit access to the Divine, to Source energies, and how those energies can be used to enhance our lives.”

The weekend concludes with a community brunch on Sunday morning, Oct. 29. At this writing the planned location is Famous Dave’s at Calhoun Square in uptown Minneapolis.

Mark your calendar: other upcoming events

Friday, October 20: Atons’ Fetish Friday @ The Minneapolis Eagle. This month’s theme is Denim Gear: Ripped/tight jeans. The Atons say, “Got some jeans that show us your religion? How about easy access? Wear your favorite pair of well-worn jeans, and not much else!” 10 P.M.-midnight.

Wednesday, November 1: Crossdressing and Genderfuck workshop presented by Erotic Deviance. To RSVP or for more information: jayne@eroticedeviance.com.

Saturday, November 11: Minnesota Storm Patrol’s Monthly Beer/Pop Bust, Minneapolis Eagle, 5-8 P.M. $5.

Saturday, November 11: Atons’ Leather/Levi Dinner at Surabhi Indian Cuisine, 9818 Aldrich Ave., Bloomington. RSVP to <activities@atons.net> or call the Atons HotLine.

Friday, November 17: Atons’ Fetish Friday @ The Minneapolis Eagle. This month’s theme is Muscle Gear—wear something Tom of Finland-y. 10 P.M.-midnight.

Saturday, December 2: Bizarre Bazaar, presented by MSDB. Location: Trikkz, 490 N. Robert St., St Paul, noon-7 P.M. This is where you’ll find those unusual items on your holiday shopping list. (MSDB is currently looking for people and businesses interested in displaying at the bazaar. See vendor information at <www.msdb-mn.org>.)

Sunday, December 3: Atons Holiday Fundraiser to benefit The Aliveness Project and Open Arms of Minnesota. At this writing location and time are still being determined. However, donations (both leather- and non-leather-related items) are now being accepted for the silent auction. To donate, or for more information, contact <president@atons.net> or call the Atons HotLine.

Wednesday, December 6: Holiday electrical play workshop presented by Erotic Deviance. To RSVP or for more information: jayne@eroticedeviance.com.

Saturday, December 9: Minnesota Storm Patrol’s Monthly Beer/Pop Bust, Minneapolis Eagle, 5-8 P.M. $5.

Friday, December 17: Atons’ Fetish Friday @ The Minneapolis Eagle. This month’s theme is Santa Gear: red underwear/jocks/chaps. 10 P.M.-midnight.