Friday, November 20, 2009

Leather Life: A Valedictory, of sorts

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #378, November 20, 2009)

Back on June 9, 1995, one of the features of the first issue of Lavender Magazine (then called Lavender Lifestyles) was the first edition of this Leather Life column. Since then, for almost fifteen years, the Leather Life column has appeared in all but a few issues of Lavender.

The magazine recently decided to change the editorial direction of the column appearing in their Bar Scene section. So the column you now are reading will be the last every-issue installment of the Leather Life column. Henceforth, the Leather Life column will appear quarterly.

With so many items still on my “future columns” list, I am surprised, and somewhat saddened, to see the column’s frequency being reduced. But there’s much for which I am thankful. Because of this column I have met many fine people and had many great experiences, the memories of which I will always cherish.

I am very grateful to Lavender for giving me the freedom to write what I wanted to write, and for not editing me too much. I have enjoyed having the support of everyone who has been a part of Lavender over the years, including editors, art directors, office staff, ad sales reps and fellow contributors.

Special thanks to George Holdgrafer, who has been with the magazine from its beginning. My deep gratitude to Lavender’s publisher, Stephen Rocheford, who always has had the good sense to know that a publication, if it is to survive, must be run as a self-sustaining business, not a social cause. That, I think, is one reason why Lavender is the longest-running GLBT publication in the Upper Midwest. I always have been proud to have my column appear in its pages.

Thanks to everyone at for linking to Lavender’s website, thereby including me in their fine slate of leather writers. Thanks to my partner, Bill, for reading each column moments after it’s been written and offering helpful critiques.

Thank you to everyone in the leather/BDSM/fetish community—individually for being who you are, and collectively for creating such a vibrant community and culture that has given me so much to write about for all these years. Leather Life has always been your column—I’ve just been the one who happened to be writing it.

And finally, thanks to you, the person reading this column. Whether you’re leather, BDSM, fetish or none of the above; whether you’re G, L, B, T, heterosexual, pansexual or refuse to be labeled; and whether you picked up the magazine and flipped to this column, or pointed your browser to Lavender’s website and found the column there—thanks for reading. I’ll be back with another edition of Leather Life sometime next spring.

Friday, November 6, 2009

You are under my power . . . Erotic Hypnosis and BDSM

(Leather Life column published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #377, November 6, 2009)

Focus your attention on the swinging pocket watch. You are getting very sleepy . . . you are under my power . . . you will now quack like a duck . . .

That’s what most people think when they hear the word “hypnosis.” But some folks in the leather/BDSM/fetish community are discovering different, and more interesting, uses for hypnosis and trance.

The eleventh annual Hypnocon gathering was held in Minneapolis Oct. 9-11. Focusing on recreational hypnosis by men and for men, it attracted recreational hypnosis enthusiasts from across the U.S. (It was held the same weekend, and in the same host hotel, as Gaylaxicon 2009, a GLBT science-fiction/fantasy/horror convention.) There’s also a Hypocon event in the UK.

One of the organizers of this year’s Hypnocon was a gentleman named Mark Warner (not the senator from Virginia), who told me how recreational hypnosis differs from stage hypnosis or therapeutic hypnosis: “It’s personal and private. It often has a sexual edge. It places emphasis on trust and connection, and it creates an exchange that challenges and reveals.”

The focus of this year’s Hypnocon was education about hypnosis and opportunities to experience trance in a safe and sane environment. According to Warner, “The event wasn’t a hypnosis performance. It was a learning event for guys who were curious and it was a social event for guys who let trance enhance their lives.” (Warner emphasized that clinical hypnosis, also called hypnotherapy—which people might use to quit smoking or lose weight—“is a serious field of practice. That ain’t us.”)

Hypnosis is a natural addition to a BDSM tool box because it adds a whole new dimension to the concept of power exchange. Under hypnosis a person can vicariously yet convincingly experience scenes and fulfill fantasies that either would not be possible or would not be safe if attempted in reality. In Warner’s opinion, “Recreational hypnosis transcends BDSM. It’s limited only by imagination and the resources of memory and emotion.”

Warner also points out that recreational hypnosis can add spice and depth to fantasy and fetish roleplaying for people interested in vampires and werewolves, for men who want to explore being feminized, for masters wanting to reinforce a submissive mindset in their slaves, for those interested in transforming into a robotic (“bot”) state, for devotees of puppy or pony play, or for those exploring many other leather/BDSM/fetish interests: “For all these areas, recreational hypnosis is an outlet. And that’s important because we all have strange desires from time to time.”

Next year’s Hypnocon #12 will be held in Seattle.