Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

What is 'Real?'


Element Eclipse shows paddle pride at 2013's Pride parade. photo: Rich Stadtmiller
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There is a malady that seems to impact some of the leather and kink scene. It creeps in and taints social interactions, play and relationships. It holds people back from having the kind of sex they want. It gives newcomers to the scene yet one more hurdle to jump over in order to enter our world. And while I contend it's less of an issue here in the Bay Area where we talk more openly and often about kink, it's still something we deal with too.

What I'm talking about is when people declare who is "real" and who is not. What do I mean by this? Some examples might help.

You see a kinky online hookup site profile stating "only real Dominants need apply." You hear of a Daddy who declares that a guy isn't a real boy because he doesn't conform to the Daddy's rigid definitions of a boy. You are told that someone can't possibly be a Master because you heard they like to submit sometimes too. A submissive tells you that a Dominant isn't real because he didn't carry out a scene per the submissive's narrow view of what that interaction should look and feel like. A BDSM educator teaches that earning one's leathers through some protocol-driven series of steps is the only way one can consider themselves a real BDSM player. A young guy wearing his first piece of gear to an event is declared not a real leatherman by some arrogant bystanders because he's not worn it properly. The list goes on, and it's all total crap.

Anytime I hear such nonsense I typically feel that insecurities are to blame. People like to believe that they are the real thing, so they judge others, usually unconsciously, in the hope that this will somehow make their shaky confidence in themselves more solid. Of course it does not. The more we put down others the more we reinforce that which is inside of us that fosters the lack of confidence in the first place. It's a no win scenario, yet it plays out far too often.

As with so much in life, what is real or not in leather and kink is very much in the eye of the beholder. What might resonate with you as real might not resonate with someone else. Our personal backgrounds, identities, mental erotic landscapes and other things that make us and our life situations unique are far too complex and individual to allow us to declare that one way of being is real and another is not real.

The next time you read or hear someone say that they are a real player, a real Dominant, a real leatherman, or a real whatever, pause for a moment and let it sink in. What is this person really transmitting? What does it say about them that they must elevate themselves at the expense of others?

If you are a newcomer to leather and kink and you read or hear such things, take the wise advice a friend of mine used to say all the time. "The red flags are not waiving you in." Proceed with caution because most seasoned and reasonable kinksters can see through such self-important pronouncements as evidence of insecurity or someone posing as something they really are not.

The Leather contingent led by a flying of several flags at 2013 Pride. photo: Rich Stadtmiller

As the leather and kink scene continues to change and reconfigure, as all things in life do over time, we are all likely to hear about more people who try to label themselves as real while condescendingly stating that others are not. We must resist this tendency if we find ourselves doing it.

We must call others out when we read or hear them doing it. If two or more people are being, playing and relating in kinky ways that works for them, and they are all doing so consensually, no one has a right to say that who they are or what they are doing isn't real. Not me. Not you. No one. You may not find it personally attractive. That is your right. But no one has a right to deem someone else's erotic identity, play or relationship as less than another. To do so is to harm our scene terribly, and we just can't stand for that.

With that off my chest, here's some things going on in the Bay Area you might want to know about. Since we're in the midst of Pride Week here in San Francisco, you might want to check some of these events out. I'm not going to go into too much detail about where and when, because you can see all of that in the calendar section that accompanies this column.

On June 27 there is the Bare Chest Calendar Investiture at the Powerhouse, a Mr. S Leather Fist City party, and the meeting for Sober Kink Together. For those unaware of it, the Sober Kink Together group meets every Friday and it's an incredible local resource for those kinksters among us who are challenged by substance abuse.

Christopher Swanson and Erich Lopez at Pride 2013. photo: Rich Stadtmiller

On June 28 Mr. S Leather hosts its Locker Room anniversary party. You can stroll from there just a short way to a beer bust fundraiser for the Leathermen's Discussion Group and then again a short distance to a rubber pride party. Finally, kinky gay men can finish their night with a play party from the men of GearUp.

Sunday, June 29, is the Pride Parade and if you are of the leather or kink persuasion and want to march with the Leather Pride Contingent, they welcome your participation. Leather, gear or kinky garb or some sort is encouraged, but all are welcome. As of the publication of this column I did not have the specific lineup location for the Contingent, but you can usually ask one of the Parade volunteers at the lineup location and they can direct you to where to find them.

An introductory session to a bigger workshop titled Get More of the (Kinky) Sex You Want is at Magnet, our fantastic local gay men's health center, on July 1.

Celebrate our independence with a dress code enforced party at the SF Eagle called Kontrol. For those in the South Bay, the Santa Clara County Leather Association is having a bar gathering for those interested in their organization.

Finally, Whips in the Park, one of the more unique events happening locally, is a chance for kinksters to throw some whips together in a park. If you've never thrown such a whip (think bullwhip), this is a great chance to socialize and perhaps learn a few things.

Enjoy, and keep having a kinky good time!

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. You can reach him at


Leather Events, June 27-July 12, 2014

There's always a lot going on in the San Francisco Bay Area for leather and other kinksters.

Pals at a recent Eagle beer bust.
photo: Rich Stadtmiller


Fri 27

Bare Chest Calendar 2015 Investiture @ Powerhouse

Launch of the 2015 calendar with Sister Jane D'oh hosting and providing the blessing for the vests and Team 2015, 1347 Folsom St., $5, 7pm.

Fist City @ Mr. S Leather

Men's fisting party. 385A 8th St., $20, 8pm.

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

Officially a CMA meeting, but open to all Anonymous 12-step Fellowship members, 4058 18th St., 9:30pm.


Sat 28

Locker Room Anniversary Party @ Mr. S Leather

The Locker Room turns 4 this year and we're celebrating, 385 8th St., Noon.

Leathermen's Discussion Group Pink Saturday Beer Bust & Fundraiser @ SF Eagle

Fundraiser for SF Leathermen's Discussion Group, 398 12th St., 3pm.

Show It @ Powerhouse

Rubber Pride party, 1347 Folsom St., 5pm.

GearUp Men's Play Party @ Mr. S Dungeon

A friendly erotic space where kinky men can socialize with, learn from, and play with other men, $20, 385A 8th St., 9pm.


A kinky make-out session at the 2013
Mr S Pride party. photo: Rich Stadtmiller

Sun 29

Leather Pride Contingent @ SF Pride Parade

March with the Leather Pride Contingent in the SF Pride Parade. Check with the parade volunteers onsite for lineup location.


Tue 1

Get More of the (Kinky) Sex Your Want: Free Intro! @ Magnet

Do you like kinky sex or are you curious to explore your kink-edges? 4122 18th St., 7pm. Tickets at 09_Leather_2614.docx


Fri 4

Santa Clara County Leather Association Bar Schmooze @ Renegades Bar

Informal social where friends, prospective members and anyone else who wants to relax, laugh, talk and hang out with like minded people, 501 W. Taylor St., San Jose, 9pm.


Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

Officially a CMA meeting, but open to all Anonymous 12-step Fellowship members, 4058 18th St., 9:30pm.


Fri 11

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

Officially a CMA meeting, but open to all Anonymous 12-step Fellowship members, 4058 18th St., 9:30pm.


Sat 12

Whips In The Park @ States Street Playground

Casual social event where kinksters can throw whips together, 186 States St., down the hill from Corona Heights and the Randall Museum, 1pm.

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