Friday, April 25, 1997

Lavender Forum—SM: It’s About Respect, Not Abuse

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #50, April 25, 1997)

Is SM: A) a sexual orientation, or is it B) a system of internalized violence?

The answer is: C) Neither of the above.

Is SM a sexual orientation? No, at least not in the way the words “sexual orientation” are generally used these days. The SM community refers to itself as “pansexual” because it is made up of members of every sexual orientation: lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, queer, and straight. (It is worth pointing out, however, that just because the community is pansexual doesn’t necessarily mean an individual member is pansexual.)

To understand why SM is not a “system of internalized violence” requires a closer look at SM is about—and what it isn’t. Imagine three groups of three people each. In each group, one person is being flogged by the other two. A person unacquainted with the dynamics involved in SM situations might see exactly the same thing happening in all three groups. Yet one of the groups is involved in SM, and the other two are not. What’s the difference?

The motivating forces behind the SM group’s actions are respect, trust, and love. The person being flogged asked the other two people to flog him because she or he respects them, trusts them and knows it will be pleasurable to be flogged by them. The floggers, in turn, love and respect the person they are flogging and are pleased that they can help this person achieve pleasure.

Notice that everyone in this group is being motivated by the same forces: respect, trust and love. There is no conflict here. This mutuality is the reason why SM scenes can be so powerful and so pleasurable for all concerned. This is how and why SM sex can be described by the SM community’s mantra: “Safe, sane, and consensual.” Because of the respect and love every group member feels for each other and for themselves, none of them would want to do something unsafe or insane which might endanger anyone. Because every group member trusts the other members and trusts themself, consensuality is possible.

Now let’s look at the second group, where the picture isn’t quite the same. Here, instead of unity of purpose, there is conflict. The two people doing the flogging are motivated by anger, hatred, and vengeance. They want to damage the person they’re flogging. The person being flogged did not ask for the flogging and does not want to be injured. This person is feeling threatened and fearful. Attacker does not respect victim, victim does not trust attacker. This is violence. This is abusive. This is not SM.

In the third group, the person being flogged asked for it. But he asked for it because his self-image is so poor he feels he deserves to be abused. While he may or may not respect the people he asked to flog him, he doesn’t respect himself. This, then, is internalized violence, but it’s not about SM. This is about martyrdom.

Some people may find SM offensive because they have been on the receiving end of abusive or violent behavior, and they may mistakenly associate SM with what they endured. They might be surprised to find that many members of the leather/SM community are also survivors of sexual abuse, childhood abuse, or domestic violence. These community members have found SM to be helpful in learning to trust again, and in reclaiming their personal power and self-respect.

The hallmark of SM is respect for oneself and others. But respect, or the lack thereof, is not easy for a casual onlooker to judge. Therefore, casual onlookers who think SM is degenerate and who therefore want to avoid it (and its practitioners) may try to find a more visible marker. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work very well. The big butch stud dressed head-to-toe in leather may not be into SM at all. Not all leatherfolk are into SM, and not all SM players are into leather. Just as you can’t always tell who’s gay and who’s straight by looking, you can’t always tell who’s kinky and who’s not by looking. You can’t always judge a sexual situation by looking, either.

Saying that SM “represents a system of internalized violence” is the same as Outpost saying that gay sex is a sin, a perversion and an abomination in the eyes of God. In each case, the person casting disapproval on certain sexual practices may be trying to deal with their own fears by projecting them onto others. If you think SM sex is violent and therefore people in leather make you fearful, ask yourself why—it may be your own capacity for violence you really fear.

deLeon is Mr. MN Fantasy ’97

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #50, April 25, 1997)

PHOTO: Michael deLeon and Philip Oakes

In a very close contest Michael deLeon won his second leather title at the Mr. Minnesota Fantasy 1997 contest held Sunday, April 13 at The Saloon; Philip Oakes was runner-up.

Current International Mr. Fantasy Kevin Watson and his partner Thom Sloan traveled all the way from Albuquerque for this event, for which Sloan served as tallymaster and Watson as a judge. In addition, Watson and troy (Minnesota Drummerboy 1994, Great Lakes Drummerboy 1995) presented a fantasy featuring sleight-of-hand, or more correctly sleight-of-fist. Contest producer and Master of ceremonies Dale Willman (Mr. Minnesota Fantasy 1995) jazzed up the door prize drawings by turning them into an episode of “Let’s Make a Deal.”

There were only two contestants this year, but they were two great contestants. That made for an consistently entertaining evening—and some very tough decisions for the judging panel. Oakes was a strong competitor with good stage presence. His men’s room fantasy was simply but powerfully staged and was charged with erotic energy—the kind of erotic energy which should be on display in his upcoming Catalina video (he goes before the cameras in May). This may have been his first leather contest, but I certainly hope it’s not his last.

Michael deLeon is a founding member of Ballet of the Dolls and an owner of Wolf Productions, makers of heavy-metal bondage and fetish equipment. His spectacular industrial-strength fantasy brought all these elements together with impressive results. deLeon, who is also Mr. Minnesota Leather 1996, now goes on to compete in the International Mr. Fantasy contest in Omaha in mid-August. (Hello to my readers in Nebraska! Of course I’m planning to make the trek to Omaha for Fantasy Weekend. See you then!)

* * * * *

I always enjoy it when the Twin Cities Gay Mens Chorus does leather-themed material. Their recent concert opened with a suite from Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”; this is music around which some wonderful leather fantasy performances have been built. Then, in Out Loud’s segment, we were treated to some hot Latin dance moves—including Tom Lehrer’s “Masochism Tango”! (To the gentleman in the harness: You wear it very well. If you wanted to wear it more often, we wouldn’t mind at all.)

* * * * *

Elsewhere in this magazine is a feature called Lavender Forum. Every issue a topic of community debate is presented, with various people discussing the issue in print. The Monday after the magazine comes out a group discussion is held at a local coffeeshop.

I wrote one of the viewpoints for this issue’s Lavender Forum topic: “Is SM a sexual orientation, or is it an internalized system of violence?” I invite you to read this issue’s Lavender Forum. Then I invite you to show up at Anodyne@43rd, 4301 Nicollet Ave. S., on Monday, April 28 at 7:00 pm and participate in the community forum.

I have a fantasy regarding this event. In my fantasy, so many people show up in leather that we can’t all fit in the coffeeshop. Furthermore, everyone gets a turn at the microphone so they can say why they were attracted to leather and/or SM in the first place, and what it means to them now.

The point of this fantasy is not necessarily to change the minds of the people on the other side of the issue. I think it’s to our benefit to think about why we value this lifestyle and this community, and it’s to our benefit to have a forum where we can share our thoughts. If we spend a little time in contemplation, some of us may feel a certain amount of pride in who we are and what we’ve become, and some of us may find ourselves feeling grateful we’re in leather. Pride and gratitude are good things to feel.

Upcoming Leather Events

Lavender Forum Public Discussion
Monday, April 28, 7 pm, Anodyne@43rd (4301 Nicollet Ave.S.)
See this column for more details.

Other Upcoming Events

May 30-June 1: The Knights of Leather present Knights Tournament Nine. This year’s theme: uniforms! The site, a private camp within a 16,000 acre wooded state park, includes cabins with military bunks. Weekend events include opening ceremonies, presentation of colors, workshops, demonstrations, fantasies and a “uniform banquet fit for officers.” Dungeon space is available all weekend. For more information: write Knights of Leather, Minneapolis MN.

July 18-19: Mr. Minnesota Drummer and Drummerboy Contest at the Club Metro Underground. Current International Mr. Drummer Kyle Brandon will be here as well as management from Drummer Magazine in San Francisco.

Friday, April 11, 1997

Donnie Russo: In His Own Words, Part 2

(Published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #49, April 11, 1997)

PHOTO: Donnie Russo

Photo by Ken Binder

Here’s more of our conversation with adult-video megastar Donnie Russo, continued from last issue.

His films: I don’t know how many movies I’ve made, probably about 300 now. The movies I’ve done for my own company—those were my fantasies, basically, and I love people coming into my world. And you call me sick, degenerate, kinky, however people label it—it’s just that I know how to express myself, and I have no qualms about it, no reservations. I don’t look at sex as being dirty or perverted. Even bondage, watersports, or even scat—if you’re into it, you’re into it, and that’s your prerogative, you know, and you have a choice. I was able to employ my emotions and my fantasies and then allow people to view them. And that’s where I did very well, because my realism came across.

Even in my normal life off the screen it’s no different. It’s not that every guy I come home with I piss on, or he pisses on me, or we get into a bondage scene or leather or uniforms. Sometimes it’s just about making love. It’s trial and error. Some people don’t like spitting—I do, I get off on it. You gotta try it before you knock it. I hate it when people say, “Omigod, how can you do that?” Have you ever tried it? If not, then you’re not an authority to even speak on it.

Work ethic: When I’m in front of the camera I give my all. Like I always tell every guy I film: It’s up to you how you want to come across. If you go out drinking and getting stoned the night before a shoot, it’s gonna show the next day. That’s not fair to the people who you’re gonna be with or to the people who watch the films. If you’re just doing it for the money, just go out in the street—it’s easier. Seriously.

Safe sex: I always fuck with a rubber now. I believe we’ve all been exposed to HIV and the AIDS virus, and it’s just how the body responds to it. I mean, I’m not old, but I’ve been sexually active probably for at least 24 years. In 24 years, especially coming out in 1977 and 1978, and fucking around in the early 80’s until it was really brought to our attention—I just feel we’ve all been exposed, there’s not one of us that hasn’t. I’m negative, but I always act like I’m positive. You have to—each and every one of us has to. Just because your statistics show negative, that doesn’t mean nuthin.’

Longevity: I’ve lasted a long time in the porn industry, and I’ve lasted a longer time in the community. You figure I’ve been at least a good 17 years working in the clubs in New York. Last summer a kid stopped me on the street and said, “Hey Dinosaur!” So I said to him, “Excuse me??” And he said, “Hey Dinosaur!” And I said, “I beg your pardon, who the fuck are you callin’ Dinosaur?” He said, “You, because you are one. Don’t take it wrong, I’m a dinosaur too.” He says, “You know, you’ve lasted, you’re around. I remember you as a kid, man, and that’s why I call you a dinosaur. I don’t remember too many people ’round here, ’cause they ain’t around no more to remember.”

And all of a sudden reality comes into play, and it’s like, wow. Seventeen years later, man, and I remember. I got pictures of me, sixteen, seventeen years old on the corner of Christopher Street. And I’m still here.

Aging and change: I got pictures of me at home, and people go “Who’s that?” And I tell them that’s me, and they fuckin’ fall over! I mean, I looked totally different. My hair was halfway down my back, my waist was 24 inches. You would not recognize me. Age came into play and grabbed me. It’s so weird to think of all the people who coached me all these years and said “Oh, don’t worry, wait until you hit this age, you’re going to start gaining weight.” And all of a sudden, I did. I grew out of my boyhood and went into my manhood. And I often reflect on that when I see myself on the films. You’re caught in time. And people, if they never bought another film and they have a film from six years ago, they’re going to fantasize about him. They’re fantasizing about that guy on the screen, and if they meet me now, it’s like two different people.

Even today at the signing (at Rainbow Road), I was looking at all these old videos, and it’s such a throwback. You’re immortalized, you’re totally immortalized. Why me? I would never dream of this ten years ago. I would have been like, “Yeah, sure.” It’s so spooky.

Personal philosophy: I have my own ethics and my own way of life, and I look at life totally different than most people. I see death every day of my life, and I understand how short life is, because I walk downstairs in the funeral home (as was explained last issue, Donnie and his family are in the funeral business, and he lives above the funeral home) and I see babies, children, adults, middle-aged, elderly, and so forth. So my perception of life is that it can be over quick, just like that. So enjoy it, keep it simple, be yourself, have fun. You’re dead longer than you’re alive.

Upcoming Leather Events

Mr. Minnesota Fantasy Weekend ’97:

Leather Meet & Greet
Saturday, April 12, 9 pm-1 am, Gay 90’s Men’s Room Bar

Contest and Show
Sunday, April 13, 6-10 pm, The Saloon
Meet the contestants and current International Mr. Fantasy Kevin Watson on Saturday night. On Sunday, this year’s contestants put it all on the line—who will be judged the hottest man with the hottest fantasy? (And who will win the weekend packages to the International Mr. Leather and International Mr. Fantasy weekends which are being given away?) Come and see.

Community Fundraiser
Sunday, April 20, 4-9 pm, The Saloon
Hosted by Mr. Northwoods ’97 Colin Spriestersbach; proceeds benefit Queer Street Patrol and B.D. Chambers’ participation in the Minneapolis-to-Chicago AIDS Ride. Community organization booths, artist exhibits, 10 cards, raffles, prizes.

Other Upcoming Events

May 22-26: International Mr. Leather Weekend, Chicago. It’ll be here before you know it. For information, or to charge tickets, call 1-800-545-6753 or e-mail to Visit their comprehensive web site at, featuring everything you ever wanted to know about the contest. While you’re there check out the pix of this year’s contestants, including our own Mr. Minnesota Leather ’97 Kevin Cwayna.

May 30-June 1: The Knights of Leather present Knights Tournament Nine. This year’s theme: uniforms! For more information, write Knights of Leather, Minneapolis MN.

July 18-19: Mr. Minnesota Drummer Contest. Details next issue.