Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Psychology of leather, part 2


San Francisco author and sex therapist David Ortmann. (Photo: Scott Brogan)
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The following is the conclusion of my interview with David Ortmann, a San Francisco-based psychotherapist, sex therapist, and author. His areas of clinical focus and study include the sexuality of the BDSM, Kink, Fetish, and Leather communities, and more. Thank you, David, for taking the time to share your expertise!

Scott Brogan: Aside from the Daddy/boy and Master/slave dynamic, open relationships seem more prevalent in the leather community than in the greater gay community. Is this because the leather community is generally more promiscuous? Is it the leather/fetish dynamic?

David Ortmann: Well, not all Daddy/boy and Master/slave relationships are open, and I don't think queer or kink communities are more promiscuous in general, but we have the liberty to say how and when we have sex, a freedom that, oddly, came out of social oppression.

There are evolutionary, socio-economic, and religious reasons for monogamy, but it's a relatively new concept, born of a need to keep agrarian, heterosexual families together. Later, this became about land ownership and finance. Monogamy has more to do with capitalism and law than about love and romance. Families stayed together because they had to, and monogamy fit that reality. That isn't the socio-economic case today.

I'm not criticizing monogamy. It's one way to form a relationship. I will criticize judging other models as substandard. What a sadly limited way of viewing human relations! The idea of people having sex with, even loving, people other than a primary partner is strangely inconceivable in America. Remember when Mo'Nique disclosed her open relationship with her husband, Sidney? Sometimes it takes a public figure to fracture a social taboo. Marlene Dietrich wearing men's suits (a practice common for women in Weimar Republic Germany) upon her arrival in Hollywood in 1930 was a scandal! Naturally, Dietrich wore them anyway, had an open marriage, a child, and was openly bisexual. In 1930! This isn't new, but we still gorge on sensationalism in America. Would you rather read about Mo'Nique and Sidney making breakfast together, or would you rather read about Jude Law diddling the nanny?

If people were encouraged to honor their desires, we'd see a lot less failed "monogamous" relationships and hear far less about "cheating." Maybe your relationship is exclusive, open, or in transition. Maybe you're having sex three-to-four times a week, or maybe playing chess is more fun right now. It's only for the people in that relationship to decide. Not me, not you, and not society.

Are Americans too puritanical about sex compared to other societies? Is this a reason for the negativity and shame attached to sexual acts? Are we preoccupied with worrying about who's doing what to whom?

I love America because, in theory, we have the freedom to choose who and what we want to be. In practice, we have a lot of work to do, because we rarely live up to those ideals. America is young compared to European cultures. We're in our adolescence, and adolescents act out. It's part of being young. Unfortunately, religion and morality play an inappropriate role in civil liberties in the United States, and sex is one of that particular hydra's most popular targets. We've still got a lot of growing up to do.

Based on your experience, how do you see our community evolving?

I love the expansion! I mean, who heard terms like Gear Play and Puppy Play 10 years ago? Now, people are barking in singlets. It's great! But with expansion comes the inevitable territory-staking. "This is mine!" There's a lot of talk about "spaces." Male spaces, female spaces, gear spaces, leather spaces, sober spaces, animal-friendly spaces, scent-free spaces, oy! Sometimes I just want to yell, "Relax, people! Stop acting like the sandbox isn't big enough. It is. Borrow someone's pail. Share a shovel. Go ahead. See what happens. Enjoy!" It's easy to become uber internally focused and engage in a lot of in-fighting and backbiting. I challenge us to find more effective uses for that energy. Oppressed minorities turning against ourselves is nothing new: we've seen it in the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, and Gay Liberation.

There's a huge network of people out there, across America, not to mention the world, they may not wear leather or neoprene every day, or be privileged enough to attend Folsom every year, but they are there. They're our brothers and sisters. They're family. This is much bigger than San Francisco. We're everywhere.

I was at a wedding in the deep South a few years ago. My boyfriend and I chose to slow dance together at the reception, and no one even raised an eyebrow. Later the bride and groom quietly took me upstairs and showed me their big, solid, four-poster bed. "This is where he ties me up," the bride glowed. "It's really sturdy," the groom said, blushing just enough to make it real. We really are everywhere.

Information about Ortmann's work and practice are available at

Coming up in leather & kink

Thu., Jun. 2: Locker Room Thursdays at Kok Bar SF (1225 Folsom). 9 p.m.-close. Jockstraps, gear, singlets, etc. Free clothes check. Go to:

Thu., Jun. 2: Underwear Night at The Powerhouse (1347 Folsom). 10 p.m. Wet undie contest and drink specials. Go to

Thu., Jun. 2: Newcomer's Series Class at the SF Citadel (1277 Mission). 7:30-10:30 p.m. Go to:

Fri., Jun. 3: Truck Wash at Truck (1900 Folsom). 10 p.m.-close. Live shower boys and drink specials. Go to:

Fri., Jun. 3: Michael Brandon presents Locker Room at The Edge (4149 18th St.). 9 p.m.-12 a.m. Hot go-go dancers, shot specials, and more. Go to:

Fri., Jun. 3: Go-go Studs at Kok Bar SF. 11 p.m.-close. $2 cover after 11 p.m. Shot specials. Go to:

Fri., Jun. 3: Test Drive at Truck (1900 Folsom). 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Featuring DJs Guy Ruben and Alexis Blair Penny. Go to:

Sat., Jun. 4: Alameda County Leather Corps' Leather Elegance at Elios Family Restaurant (260 Floresta Blvd., San Leandro). 6-10 p.m. Tickets: $40/$70 per couple. Benefits the Alexander Hamilton Post 448 of the American Legion. Go to:

Sat., Jun. 4: Hot Nerd – Revenge of the Nerds at Kok Bar SF. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Wet wedgie contest, $100 prize. $5 cover, or free with proper nerd attire or valid library card. Go to:

Sat., Jun. 4: Luscious – Elegantly Waisted at the SF Citadel. 8 p.m.-1 a.m. $25 plus Citadel membership. Corsets admired but not required. Go to:

Sat., Jun. 4: Steamworks hosted by Michael Brandon at The Edge. 9 p.m.-Midnight. Go to:

Sat., Jun. 4: All Beef Saturday Nights at The Lone Star (1354 Harrison). 100% SoMa Beef & Co. 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Go to:

Sun., Jun. 5: Castrobear presents Sunday Furry Sunday at 440 Castro. 4-10 p.m. Go to:

Sun., Jun. 5: PoHo Sundays at The Powerhouse. DJ Keith, Dollar Drafts all day. Go to:

Mon., Jun. 6: Happy Hour After Gym at Kok Bar SF. Mondays are all day happy hour; Tue.-Thurs., 6-9 p.m.; Fri. & Sat., 4-9 p.m. $2.75 beer & well drinks. Go to:

Mon., Jun. 6: Peer Rope Workshop at the SF Citadel. 7:30-9:30, doors close at 8:30. $10. Go to:

Mon., Jun. 6: Dirty Dicks at The Powerhouse. 4 p.m. $3 well drinks. Go to:

Tue., Jun. 7: Radical Slavery presented by Keri at the SF Citadel. 8-10 p.m. $20. Go to:

Tue., Jun. 7: Busted at Truck. 9 p.m.-close. $5 beer bust, 9-11 p.m. Go to:

Wed., Jun. 8: SF Pride Leather Contingent Meeting at the SF Citadel. Go to:

Wed., Jun. 8: Golden Shower Buddies at Blow Buddies, a male-only club. Doors open 8 p.m.-12 a.m. Play til late. Go to:

Wed., Jun. 8: Bear Bust Wednesdays at Kok Bar SF. $6 all you can drink Bud Light or Rolling Rock drafts. Go to:

Wed., Jun. 8: Nipple Play at The Powerhouse. 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Specials for shirtless guys. Go to:

Wed., Jun. 8: SoMa Men's Club. Every Wed., SoMa Clubs (Powerhouse, Truck, Hole in the Wall, Kok Bar SF) have specials for those who wear the Men's Club dogtags.

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