Leather :: Another Year, and Looking Ahead
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Like many of us often say to ourselves around this time of year, 2017 went by quickly. Despite the national political churn and angst so many of us are experiencing, it still whizzed by, at least for me.
As I look back on the past year, it's been an interesting one for those of us who live and play in the realm of the adventurous in sexuality and relationships. Rather than recount a lot of specific events and happenings, it's the trends I've noticed that I find particularly fascinating, and perhaps provide some insight into our future.
As many know, I've been an activist for wider PrEP adoption and acceptance. For me, this was the year that PrEP took hold in a significant way and forever changed the sexual landscape, including for us kinky people. I'm noticing a tangible and obvious uptick in the level of sexual activity amid our kink, whether at play parties or privately.
PrEP, combined with the widely publicized research that concluded that those who are HIV-positive and on treatment with an undetectable viral load can't transmit the virus, has recalibrated men's perspectives about risk levels.
Perhaps that's why I've noticed that sex seems to be back among gay men. By that I mean, while we still revel in leather, kink and all the many variations of erotic options, guys seem to be having a lot more actual sex nowadays. (And yes, I know kink is sex, but you know what I mean.)
Of course, sex never actually went away. Guys have been boinking all along and always will. But the openness about sex, especially among so many of the younger guys, harkens back to the day when gay men weren't afraid of it. This year feels like a tipping point for fully embracing our sexuality again. It's been a long time coming.
The #MeToo phenomenon and other consent discussions lurched to the forefront of the national cultural conversation. Since consent has always been a big topic of discussion for kink players, it's no surprise that it's reinvigorated that same discourse among ourselves.
If nothing else, it's a reminder that even for those of us who have championed consent over the years, we should remain vigilant.
This might also be a slice in time during which us kinksters can better educate the non-kinky among us on how we approach our play thoughtfully and consensually. Sure, even us kinksters have consent issues within our ranks, but we have the experience and tools to help both ourselves and others do better.
Polyamory and open non-monogamy certainly came into the mainstream this year. High profile articles in some top magazines were among the many ways the general public learned of this way of looking at configuring relationships.
I think kinksters have always been more open-minded about non-monogamous and polyamorous relationships. Perhaps, like with consent, this is something we can share with others to broaden their minds too. It's all about options. There's no one right way to do anything, relationships included.
The national political landscape in which racism, misogyny and transphobia have reared their ugly heads has prompted our own scene to entrench further with strategies and more robust dialogue for better inclusion and awareness. These maladies certainly reside in our own kink and sexuality communities, but we're getting better.
The last reflection on 2017 is not a pretty one. It's the tendency for some of us to engage in rabid and often vitriolic callout behaviors. One public misstep by someone and people are often ready to pounce with the meanest, nastiest and most negative of assumptions and assessments.
Even when a misstep is a serious one, calm discourse is still likely to bring about better changes than lobbing emotional grenades. Yes, let's all work toward being the best we can be, but sometimes our reactions, especially in the rapidly repeating echo chamber of social media, could be more tempered.
Excessive word-policing falls into this same camp. Never assume others have the same language baseline as you, and never assume someone is necessarily using language to specifically incite or discount. Let's cut each other some slack.
Leather lookout for 2018
Looking ahead, there are some other things I'd love to see the leather scene focus on.
Let me dispense with the most obvious need. If we let the residents of the White House and their supporters continue to decimate our freedoms, LGBTQ people and all who are kinky could see their rights whittled away. Do whatever it takes to resist those efforts. I know it can be exhausting to resist non-stop, but sadly that's what's needed right now.
I'd like to encourage leatherfolk to stop continuing to primarily fundraise for external, non-leather causes and instead begin to turn more of their efforts to raising money for us, for our own institutions, organization, clubs and causes.
Yes, it's wonderful to raise money for great causes, but our institutions and organizations need money to survive. We are continuing to see our gathering spaces dwindle. When an organization or event wants to rent space, those fees are skyrocketing. We also need to keep supporting our existing kink-friendly bars and businesses or they'll go belly up and that would hurt us all.
Nonprofits that serve the leather and kink communities seem to barely get by. One glaring example is a recent fundraiser to help keep the SF Catalyst dungeon and community space on Folsom Street open. Catalyst is the most active and heavily used space in all of San Francisco for our kinky communities, and yet we can't seem to garner enough financial support to ensure its continued secured viability. That's terribly disheartening, and we can do better.
Another thing I'd like to see continue to happen is to build upon the inclusivity we've fostered for people of color, various genders and gender expressions, and trans folk. Here in San Francisco we seem to do a darn good job of figuring out how to appropriately all mix and mingle, but also sometimes segment into our own sub-groups when it's important for us to commune and play with those of our own identifications. I think the Bay Area can serve as a model for how that's done well elsewhere because I see some other parts of the country struggling with this.
So, let's all make this year the best we possibly can. Here in the Bay Area we're luckier than many in that we're moving in good directions already and simply need to maintain that course.
Ms. San Francisco Leather
The biggest local leather title contest for women, Ms. San Francisco Leather, happens on Saturday, January 13, 2018, at SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan Street in San Francisco. Doors open at 6:30pm. The contestants will compete for the 2018 title, taking over for last year's winner, Azalea, who has served as an exemplary Ms. San Francisco Leather 2017.
This year's contest welcomes a new Producer, Daddy Sal Hopkins. I've known Daddy Sal a long time and there are few locals I consider as honorable or competent. Daddy Sal has a long history of leadership in the Bay Area women's leather community. The contest is in good hands.
To introduce more diversity on the judging panel, the contest will have seven judges this year. They are: Vick Germany, Head Judge; Leigh Ann, Ms. Santa Clara County Leather 2018; Geoff Millard, Mr. San Francisco Leather 2017; Tracy Wolf, Women's International Leather Legacy 2011; Ms. V, International Ms. Bootblack 2007; Queen Cougar, Ms. San Francisco Leather 1993; and girl kim, who has been active in the local BDSM scene for the past 15 years.
For the men reading this, please note that the contest actively welcomes everyone from all walks of our leather and kink scene to attend. While it's a women's contest, it's an event everyone can attend and support.
More information can be found at www.mssfleather.org.
Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. You can reach him on his website, www.bannon.com