Friday, August 25, 2000

A Leatherman Looks at the Presidential Race

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #137, August 25, 2000)

Recently I wrote a column comparing the way we select the President of the United States with the way we select International Mr. Leather. On further observation I’m beginning to think this year’s presidential election has more in common with a local leather contest—one of those contests where the promoters have been able to come up with only two contestants, and as you watch them onstage you wonder if either of them will be able to serve the title properly. Forgive me for delving into political waters again, but it is, after all, an election year. This is what one leatherman thinks about the presidential race so far.

First of all, neither of the major candidates has said anything about being kink-friendly. In this post-Monica age (have you forgotten about Monica? The folks in Washington, D.C. haven’t), where Altoids and cigars are considered kinky and where the pendulum continues to swing further toward “traditional family values,” I think it will be quite awhile before a presidential candidate courts the kink vote. So we shall have to judge them on other criteria.

By almost any criteria (on second thought, delete that “almost”), I don’t like Bush and don’t want to see him in the White House. It’s appropriate that I live in Minnesota; according to Newsweek, Minnesota is the only state that’s more or less a sure thing for Al Gore.

So I guess that means I cast a vote for Gore as my “George W. Bush over my dead body” vote. But I’m not all that excited about Gore, either, because he hasn’t given me much to get excited about. Aside from the legendarily wooden way he presents himself (which I guarantee you would not score big points in a leather contest), he hasn’t really said much of anything about anything. So far, he’s a blank. His wife, Tipper, seems to have taken firmer stands on more issues than he has. I sincerely hope he is able to better define himself before the election in November.

The news media are constantly pointing out that this is the first presidential race where both candidates are of the boomer generation. Is this really the best my generation can do? Are we boomers really that lightweight? Eight years ago I thought Clinton, also a boomer, was lightweight—now, compared to Gore and Bush, he seems like a brilliant statesman.

If this was a leather contest, and I was judging, I would watch the proceedings and I would mark my score sheet. And I would do so secure in the knowledge that most leather contests are set up so that if none of the contestants receives a certain minimum number of points (usually 70% of the maximum number of points possible), the title will not be awarded. This is another instance where the leather/BDSM community has come up with a way of doing things that society in general might do well to follow.

Contrast this with the way a presidential election works: no matter how turned-off the electorate becomes, no matter how many voters stay home, each state’s electoral votes will go to one candidate or the other (barring a third-party-candidate upset). Theoretically a president could be picked by only 10% of the country’s eligible voters, even if the other 90% were so disgusted with both the candidates that they decided to stay home on election day.

In this country there’s no such thing as a presidential no-confidence vote. You can vote for a third-party candidate as a way of saying you don’t like either of the two major-party candidates, but that’s usually called “throwing away your vote.” I say “usually” because Jesse Ventura proved that if enough people feel enough disenchantment with the two major parties, a third-party candidate can win. Will Nader or (perish the thought) Buchanan pull off a Ventura-style upset nationally? Wait and see.

I suppose we can take some comfort from history. Just as the leather nation has survived the occasional lackluster titleholder, the United States has survived the occasional lackluster president. Even so, whether we’re talking about a Hobson’s choice between leather title contestants or one between presidential candidates, the lesser of two evils is a better choice than the greater of two evils.

One final thought: Al Gore made history by selecting as his running mate Joseph Lieberman, the first-ever Jewish candidate on a presidential ticket. That started me thinking about other Presidential barriers that have been broken, such as presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in 1960 being the first-ever Roman Catholic on a presidential ticket (he won), and vice-presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 being the first-ever woman on a presidential ticket (she and Walter Mondale lost).

How long will it be before we have a self-proclaimed member of the GLBT community as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate on a major-party ticket? Or the first openly-kinky candidate? Or maybe even both at once? It could happen one day, and that day might be sooner than you or I expect. But it won’t happen through apathy and hiding. It will happen through involvement and pride. Be proud enough this year to get involved in the political process—even if that involvement is “only” paying attention and voting intelligently, and encouraging others to do the same. I said it before and I’ll say it again: This election is too important to tune out.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Duluth/Superior: Kick-Off Cocktails for Pride in Boots & Leather (in conjunction with Twin Ports Pride Festival)
Friday, Sept. 1, 4-7 PM, The Main Club, 1217 Tower Avenue, Superior, WI
This is the kick-off; other Pride in Boots & Leather events are planned as well throughout the weekend, so it will be worth the trip north. For full details contact Bob Jansen, owner of the Main Club, or send an e-mail to For information about Twin Ports GLBT Pride Festival events visit Bonus: In addition to the above events the Great Northern Classic Rodeo will be held at the Superior Fairgrounds (4700 Tower Ave., Superior) at 7 PM on both Friday, Sept. 1 and Saturday, Sept. 2 and at 2 PM on Sunday, Sept. 3.

Friday, August 11, 2000

BDSM Party Raid in Massachusetts

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #136, August 11, 2000)

Also a new International Ms. Leather and a Drummer Update

The recent raid of a private BDSM party in Attleboro, Massachusetts has lessons for everyone reading this magazine, whether you’re into leather/BDSM or not. Cops, courts and the laws of the land are not kind to those who practice ANY kind of “alternative sexual practices”—and if it’s not one-man-one-woman-missionary-position, it’s considered “alternative.” Until that situation changes, we all need to be aware of what’s going on out there, and what we need to do to keep ourselves out of jail and out of the court system. (Information about the raid was supplied by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, hereinafter referred to as NCSF.)

On Saturday, July 8, 2000, beginning at approximately 10:30 PM, police broke up an SM party in Attleboro, Massachusetts, and two individuals were arrested. The party was private. All guests were over 21 years of age and were well known by the host. A donation at the door (to cover food and rent charges for the space) was requested but not required.

Thirty-five to 40 people were at the party at the time the police entered the premises. How the police discovered the party is unknown; according to police and news reports, they were in the building on an unrelated matter. Neither the host nor any guest at the party saw a warrant at any time, despite repeated requests to see a warrant.

The host had his wallet, Palm Pilot, and employer-issued laptop computer seized by the Attleboro police. Also seized was a printed copy of the guest list, in which attendees were identified by their screen names only. Other personal property (which belonged to the host and was being stored on the premises) was seized, including clothing, a TV/VCR, stereo equipment and personal financial records. Equipment bags belonging to the host and many guests were also confiscated, some without property receipts from the police. So far, nothing that was seized has been returned to its rightful owner.

Benjamin Davis, the host, and another guest were arrested. (Another person was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant—that the police later admitted had been dismissed a year earlier). Davis was arraigned on 12 charges:

• “operating a business without a license” and “keeping a house of prostitution” (because Davis asked for donations at the door)

• possession of an item of “self-abuse” (in Massachusetts, as in many states, it is illegal to own an instrument for “self-abuse”—this includes sex toys of all sorts)

• assault and battery of a police officer (see “If It Happens To You,” below)

• and eight counts of possession of a dangerous weapon. The State Judicial Court of Massachusetts has ruled that items such as riding crops, whips, kitchen type knives, walking sticks, broom handles, flashlights, etc. can be “dangerous weapons” depending “to a certain extent on the context in which it is used.” (Commonwealth v. Appleby [300 Mass. 304 (1980)])

The guest was charged with one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. The alleged “weapon” was a large wooden kitchen spoon (some reports call it a “spatula”) with which she was spanking her partner. Spanking your sexual partner, even with his or her consent, is against the law in Massachusetts.

A prominent Massachusetts law firm, with experience in this area of the law, has agreed to take the case, and a defense fund is being established. Donations can be sent via the Bisexual Resource Center, a kink-friendly, non-profit community group based in Boston, who have volunteered to act as a holding account until further notice. (Checks may be made out to “BRC” with “PDL” in the memo line, and mailed to Paddleboro Defense League, Cambridge, MA.)

As might be expected, every newspaper (and most of the television and radio stations) in the Boston area have covered the raid and are continuing to report on the situation, as well as producing many articles and pieces about the SM-Leather-Fetish communities. For the most part, the reporting has been fair and unbiased. Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagen even wrote a hilarious column pointing out the absurdity of the dangerous wooden spoon (worthwhile reading at This represents progress: the media focus has generally been less on the titillating aspects of the party and more on the overbearing manner of the Attleboro police and the cluelessness of the prosecutors and courts. At least one newspaper ran photos of Davis and the guest, however, which raises ethical questions regarding the right to sexual privacy. The NCSF reminds us that “it took many years before the media stopped harassing gays and lesbians using similar tactics.”

If It Happens To You

Still, the media is making progress, which seems to be more than can be said for the police and judicial system in Massachusetts. And we in Minnesota can’t afford to be smug—I remember being at one recent party in Minneapolis that was raided. The host spent the night in jail after being arrested on trumped-up charges that were later dropped. And some of us may travel to Massachusetts or other states and suddenly find ourselves embroiled in a legal nightmare that seemingly came out of nowhere. Here are some recommendations from the NCSF to minimize unpleasantness if the police come calling.

• Stay calm. If the police question you, be respectful, polite and courteous and use common sense. Don’t take a “bad attitude.” No matter how much you might want to, taking a swing at someone is not a good thing to do right now.

• You have the right NOT to make statements. You have the right NOT to incriminate yourself. You have the right NOT to allow a “consent search” or a “voluntary entry” of your car, your property, your home, or your place of business.

• Try to handle the police inquiry outside the door, not inside your home. If the officer(s) demands entry, voice your objection, then stand aside.

• If the officer(s) believe there is a domestic violence call, volunteer for your partner to talk to the police.

• Transport all equipment in a secure (closed) container and in the trunk of the vehicle. Do not consent to a search.

• If you are arrested, do NOT make any statements, and ask for an attorney.

• Remember that some items commonly found in equipment bags (double-edged blades, regulation issue handcuffs, etc.) are considered contraband in some states. To paraphrase the U.S. Customs Service, “Know Before You Go.” For example, in Massachusetts items such as dildos and vibrators are technically classified as items of “self-abuse” and could be subject to confiscation, arrest, and penalty. As laughable as that sounds now, you won’t be laughing if it happens to you.

For updated information about the Attleboro Raid and the legal defense committee, visit The NCSF website’s URL is

Jo Blas wins International Ms. Leather 2000

PHOTO: Jo Blas

The International Ms. Leather (IMsL) 2000 contest was held July 22 in Toronto. San Diego’s Jo Blas won the IMsL 2000 sash; Christine Baker of Calgary was first runner-up and Crickett Watkins of Chula Vista, CA was second-runner-up. In the concurrently-held International Ms. Bootblack 2000 competition the winner was Michael Ann of Colorado Springs, CO.

Megan DeJarlais, IMsL 1998 and associate producer of IMsL 2000, was pleased with this year’s event: “Even though the contest was smaller this year [because it was outside the U.S.], people really seemed to enjoy it. We had many comments on how smoothly the event ran, and the hospitality shown by the city and the hotel was outstanding.”

Going to Drummer? Stay in the Drummer Bunkhouse

The International Mr. Drummer 2000 contest has come up with a novel approach to accommodations at their host hotel, the Suncoast Resort Hotel in St. Petersburg, FL. The Drummer Bunkhouse is a barracks-style lodging facility for men only during International Mr. Drummer 2000 Weekend (Sept. 14-17). For the set price of $100, guests may stay for up to three nights. Reservations for the Drummer Bunkhouse will be granted only to International Drummer Weekend package holders.

The Drummer Bunkhouse will offer army cots or air mattresses, shared showers and bathrooms, and air conditioning. Bring your own sleeping bag or linens. Guests will be entitled to use of the swimming pool and other Suncoast Resort facilities. There will be security posted at the door throughout Drummer Weekend, but there are no lockers or locked storage facilities, so bring a locked suitcase or bag. Space is limited to 100 to 150 men. Reservations will be given on a first-come, first-served basis by e-mail or call (10 am to 10 pm EDT). Weekend packages are still available by visiting the International Mr. Drummer website ( or by calling the above telephone number.

Upcoming Leather Events (for Calendar section)

Atons Leather/Levi Night
Saturday, August 12, Buca di Beppo (2728 Gannon Rd., St. Paul)
Presented by the Atons, open to all. Call the Atons HotLine for more information and to make reservations. Information is also available at the club’s website: