Friday, February 16, 1996

Leather and Domestic Violence

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #19, February 16, 1996)

Someone recently told me about a boy in our community who was being abused by his Daddy, and asked if I knew where he could go for help. I told them who to call (see below). They later told me that the information had been most helpful, and the situation had been dealt with. They also suggested that this might be a good topic for my column, so here it is.

Domestic abuse has certainly gotten its share of attention in mainstream media, from O.J. and Nicole to various members of the Vikings to at least one state politician. But almost all the mainstream publicity frames the problem as the man (“perpetrator” or villain) beating his wife (victim). This model doesn’t really apply to either gay male or lesbian domestic violence. And we in the leather/SM community, being the creative tribe that we are, have invented flavors of domestic violence that would boggle the minds of “battered women” advocates. How does one explain a mistress who abuses her boy? Or a slave who abuses his or her master or mistress and then says, “If you don’t like it, you can take your frustration out on me in the dungeon”?

Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, domestic violence does happen among gays and lesbians and in the leather community. And it can be stopped. I’m living proof of both those statements. I was in an abusive relationship for eighteen years before finally getting out of it almost three years ago.

What qualifies as abuse? For anyone but a leather columnist an easy answer is when your partner hits you. For people into SM that answer may not apply. (Then again, it may.) It is perhaps because of the “unorthodox” dynamics going on in leather/SM relationships that our community has developed its mantra: “Safe, Sane, Consensual.” If it’s not safe, if it’s not sane, or if it’s not consensual—it’s abuse.

Abuse can be physical, but it can also take other forms. Abuse is about one person trying to control another, and the abuser may use many control methods. There may be emotional or psychological abuse, preying on a victim’s self-image to make him or her easier to control. The victim’s property, pets or even children may be abused, the implied message being “If you don’t toe the line, you’re next.” Sexual abuse can take many forms, including both enforced sex (rape) and withholding sex. Abuse can even be financial.

In abusive relationships, the perpetrator’s objective is to maintain control over their victim. Paradoxically, they create in their victim the illusion that the victim is in control—and is therefore responsible for the fact they’re being abused (“I wouldn’t hit you if you didn’t deserve it” or “Oh, you’re really asking for it now, aren’t you?”) The victim thinks he or she provokes the abuse, and constantly “walks on eggshells” hoping—in vain—to avoid another blowup.

One other form of abuse needs to be mentioned here—chemical abuse, which often accompanies domestic abuse. It might be expected that if a perpetrator abuses their partner they might also abuse chemicals. And victims often turn to alcohol or other substances to deaden their pain. Unfortunately, the effects of chemical abuse and domestic abuse tend to magnify each other, quickly making bad situations even worse.

Like chemical abuse, domestic abuse is progressive—it rarely gets better on its own and almost always escalates. I’m lucky my abuser didn’t kill me. And when I see news reports of victims who kill their abusers in self-preservation I realize that had circumstances been just a little different, that could have been me.

Minneapolis was one of the first cities in the nation to address the issue of gay and lesbian domestic violence; in the next issue we’ll look at some of the community resources available for helping both perpetrators and victims. Until then, if you are being abused, or if you find yourself hitting the man or woman you love, help is available by calling the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline (or call the GLCAC Helpline, noon to midnight). Susan Gibel is the domestic violence program coordinator. GLCAC is not a leather organization, but they are leather-friendly.

“Black Frost” This Weekend!
Lavender Lifestyles and your humble leather columnist extend a hearty welcome to everyone visiting the Twin Cities for Black Frost 19, “Spur’d On In ’96.” Here’s hoping you all have a great time (and a safe one)!

Friday, February 2, 1996

Atons and Black Guard Events

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #18, February 2, 1996)

This column begins with an apology and a correction. In Issue #14 (the Questions and Answers column) I erroneously stated that a gray hankie means “light SM” (as opposed to a black hankie meaning “heavy SM”). It was recently brought to my attention that a gray hankie really means “bondage.” I sincerely regret the error and apologize to anyone I may have confused about this matter.


The post-holiday season has been busy for local leatherfolk and promises to remain so. Two recent fundraisers drew good crowds, and both the Atons and the Black Guard have been busy preparing for upcoming events.

Recently there has been some discussion about what some have perceived as the repetitious nature of leather fundraisers. (The term “cookie-cutter” has been bandied about.) Therefore, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the first two fundraisers of 1996.

Whips & Wheels featured something I’ve never before seen at a fundraiser: entertainment by a live singer with a karaoke machine. I heard generally favorable comments; one guest said the singer was very good and deserved better than the “59-cent” speaker in the karaoke machine. The crowd filled the Men’s Room bar at the Gay 90’s, and the atmosphere was relaxed and social. Hats off to the three local titleholders who were the organizers: Ms. Minnesota Leather (Darlette Knox), Ms. Twin Cities Leather (BK) and Leatherman of Minnesota (Thomas Casey).

The following weekend, the Men’s Room bar was busy again as the Atons presented the Snow Ball. Attire was “winter sleaze” and your preferred color of hankie; guests were given an extensive hankie-code list at the door. Featured entertainment was a “best butt” contest which drew eleven contestants and was won by a beautiful man (with a beautiful butt) from North Dakota. The event drew an enthusiastic crowd; I heard the Atons were thrilled with the turnout.

Neither of these two events were productions on a huge scale, but each one was planned to include some distinctive entertainment features. And each one drew a good crowd who seemed to be enjoying themselves. (I know I was glad I attended both of them.) A recent “Dear Abby” column contained some wisdom that may apply here: “It’s not what you put on the table that makes a great party, it’s what you put on the chairs” (or to paraphrase: what you put in the plastic beer cups isn’t as important as who’s standing around holding them).


Atons to install new officers: On Saturday evening, February 3, the Atons will hold their 24th Anniversary Installation Banquet at Little Jack’s. This year’s officers are B.D. Chambers (continuing as President), Growler (Vice-President), Jeff Gross (Secretary), and Chrys Zaglifa (Treasurer). Also to be honored at the banquet are this year’s Friends of the Atons: Vince Harris and Wayne Loveland.

The Atons also announce their upcoming second Casino Run to Grand Casino, Hinckley on Saturday, March 16. For more information call or e-mail them at


New Officers to “Spur On” Black Guard: This year’s Black Guard officers are Colin Spriestersbach (President), David Blaszak (Vice-President), Tom Johnson (Secretary), and Ken Dedina (Treasurer). They will be among the folks you’ll see at the Black Guard’s upcoming run, Black Frost 19/“Spur’d On in ‘96,” which happens February 16-18.


My computer is positive: A few days ago I got an interesting, if chilling, e-mail message. Someone I met in San Francisco last April (and subsequently lost track of) sent me e-mail holiday greetings with a 12-page document attached. His greeting apologized for the length of the document but assured me there was an explanation at the end of the document.

Most of the document consisted of e-mail headers showing that the document had been forwarded many times from person to person to person—sort of like a chain letter. After reading pages and pages of names and e-mail addresses, I finally got to the end of the document and the person who had started it. They apologized, and said they didn’t mean to offend or alarm anyone. But this was an experiment. Imagine that they had the AIDS virus. Imagine that every forwarded message represented the virus spreading further. Imagine that every name in that document was now positive. How long would it be before the entire e-mail universe was positive?

A virtual HIV virus. A simulated epidemic. Probably coming soon to a computer near you. All those e-mail headers represented an electronic Names Project—a sobering demonstration of how, in the absence of precautions, real-life AIDS spreads exponentially.

Until next time, please play safe.