Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 33 / 17 August 2017

Relationship choices grow


Three men show affection at last month's Up Your Alley street fair. photo: Rich Stadtmiller
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A friend of mine recently told me a story about his first date with his husband. During that date, my friend's future husband said to him during their date conversation, "Tell me about your constellation of intimates."

This is the most succinct and gentle way I had heard yet on how to ask someone you might be interested in dating or seeing regularly in a sexual or intimate way about their current relationship configuration.

The question was even more wonderful because it shunned the default societal assumption that someone must necessarily either be single or have a maximum of one intimate partner. The question opened the door to an array of options from the start.

Historically, this column has aimed for an audience of mostly LGBTQ leather and kink folk and that's still usually its focus. But sometimes trends I see happening in the kink world are a microcosm of what's beginning to percolate in the greater overall population.

One such trend is the more pervasive embracing of the multitude of alternative relationship configuration options. Yes, those have and do exist in all types of non-kink communities too, but I've noticed that leather and kink folk seem to have been on the cutting edge of this trend, or maybe that's just the group on which I was focused. Regardless, it's certainly been something I've observed among kinky people for a long time that I now see transpiring among an increasing number of non-kinky friends and acquaintances.

For many years, our kink scene has fostered the concept of the "leather family" or some variation which I contend is our own unique variation on polyamory. There are other such kink manifestations of this concept. For example, pup-identified guys might consider themselves part of a bonded pack.

Let me say up front that I am not making a case for any particular form of relationship. Options. Choices. Freedom. Those are what we need in life and that goes for relationships too. Whether one chooses to remain single, be monogamous, or be a radical polyamorist, it's all good. The only criteria by which we should judge relationships is do they work for us. Period.

Imagine not that long ago when being gay or lesbian was not an option. The only choices you were given in society were to be heterosexual or endure endless hate, violence or even death. In some parts of the world, that's sadly still the case. But elsewhere, as our options, choices and freedoms have grown, so has our level of happiness and self-acceptance. It's the same for our ability to choose relationships that also make us happy.

Polyamory is one way of doing relationships nestled among a range of choices such as strict monogamy, highly managed non-monogamy, free open relationships, managed loving and romantic relationships with more than one person, and a more free and self-determined choice of how many people one loves.

Ryan "Wry" Mantione of, a series of workshops held nationally on polyamory, some of which are archived online. photo: Kyle Rea

I don't have the space here define each of these. Truthfully, even the experts on these relationship categories don't all seem to agree on common definitions. But if you imagine a relationship spectrum from classic monogamy to relationships entirely defined by the individuals in them with no social pressures to conform, all the options are there somewhere along that spectrum, as is the quite valid choice to operate as an entirely single person.

I contend that there is no one correct way to do relationships. I think society is finally starting to wrestle with this notion. The standard for a long time might have been two-person, monogamous relationships, but that standard is quickly changing from a standard to one of many choices. If diversity is such a worshiped concept, as it should be, then why shouldn't diversity in relationships be as readily accepted?

Do I think the masses of LGBTQ people, kinky or otherwise, are going to flock to multi-person relationships? No. At least not immediately. But the trend toward more open or polyamorous relationships is clearly evident and I expect the explorations of these choices to continue to grow.

For those who choose to be single or in a monogamous relationship, I hope for an environment in which those are seen as conscious choices that make the parties involved happiest and not simply a default to which they felt compelled to adopt.

If you're wondering where you fit into the relationship spectrum because you don't fit some definition, you're not alone. Even among many polyamorists there is a trend to resist becoming trapped by rigid definitions and more conventional relationship cultural habits and dictates.

This was clearly highlighted when I recently overheard Ryan "Wry" Mantione make a comment during a polyamory panel presentation he was leading and of which I was a panel member. Wry runs a series of such workshops nationally and his work can be followed at

As we five panelists talked to the room of 50-60 people, Wry, who has his finger on the pulse of the national sentiment regarding polyamory more than most people, made a comment that sort of surprised me. He said lots of younger polyamorists have begun to move toward what's referred to in poly circles as "relationship anarchy" (often called 'RA'). Think of RA as relationships not bound by rules to the extreme except for those agreed upon by each individual and everyone involved. While RA can be hard to define specifically, I think of it as an approach to polyamory that leans heavily in the self-determination direction.

Wry had this to say about RA.

"The growing rift in the non-monogamy community really got kicked into high gear after 'More Than Two' was published in 2014. Some vilify hierarchy as inherently flawed, while non-hierarchical styles obviously appeal to the growing number of heartbroken secondaries. Thus, the conscious choice to move toward Relationship Anarchy as a Utopian ideal has been accelerating. Personally, I still see chosen, descriptive hierarchy as unavoidable, even in RA."

That's quite a mouthful and a lot to wrap one's head around, but Wry's comment highlights that even among those who are embracing non-monogamy and polyamory, they don't all agree on how to approach it. And that's exactly how it's supposed to be because the only person who can decide if a relationship style is right for you is you. That's the era of relationship freedom I hope we're heading toward, where everyone decides what works best for them and their constellation of intimates. I want the constructions of social conventions to give way to a focus on individual happiness.

Yeah, I know we're not there yet, but I can dream.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. You can reach him on his website,


Leather Events, August 18 – September 1, 2017

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

Fri 18

LDG Fetish Fair Cocktails @ Powerhouse

Start off the weekend by coming together to celebrate at the Powerhouse. Casual social time to hang out and get to know people outside of a traditional LDG program. 1347 Folsom St. 7-9pm.

Exiles Program: Sadistic Rope Play / BUTCH Voices! @ Oakstop

This program open to BUTCH Voices conference attendees. There will be a hands-on workshop on sadistic rope play. $10 for nonmembers, $5 for members. Open to all women (and those who identify as "other than male") who are 18+. 1721 Broadway, Oakland, 7:30-10:15pm.

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

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

Gear Party @ 442 Natoma

Gear play party (leather, rubber, harnesses, etc.) for gay men. 442 Natoma St., $15 (requires $5 membership), 10pm.

Sat 19

LDG Whips in the Park @ Duboce Park

Enjoy this annual tradition of "Circus Training" in Duboce Park during LDG's Fetish Fair Weekend. Bring your favorite whip and enjoy the time being together learning from each other. Duboce Ave. between Scott St. and Steiner St., 11am-2pm.

LDG Fetish Fair Kinky Social @ Mr. S Leather

Need to get a fix of gear and have a great time doing it? Stop by Mr. S to shop for the latest gear, enjoy favorite kinks and socialize. 385 8th St. 2-4pm.

LDG Fetish Fair Sampler @ SF Catalyst

Come learn about new and favorite kinks. Space opens at 5:30pm with Education Samplers starting at 6:00pm. There will be three rounds of Education Samplers (6:00pm, 7:00pm & 8:00pm) with engaged, hands-on education from informed kinksters. Signup sheets and details posted at the event site and online. 1060 Folsom St., 5:30-9pm.

Mr./Ms. Alameda County Leather Contest @ Hayward Veteran's Memorial Hall

Find out who will be the next Mr. and Ms. Alameda County Leather 2017. 22737 Main St., Hayward, CA, 6-10pm.

GearUp Weekend and SF LDG Play Party @ SF Catalyst

Join men for a night of kinky play and fun. Must be 18+ to attend. Volunteers get in for free; $20 general admission; students, military and first responders (with ID), and first timers $10. 1060 Folsom St., 9pm-1am (doors open until 11:30pm).

Sun 20

LDG Fetish Fair Meet Up to Eat Up @ The Market

Get together before LDG's Beer Bust at the Eagle. Time to come together, grab some food and socialize before heading over to the Eagle at 3:00pm. 1355 Market St Suite 100, 1-3pm.

LDG Fetish Fair Beer Bust @ SF Eagle

Come enjoy the annual Beer Bust with jello shots, food and the sexy men of LDG and YLDG. This is a fundraiser for SF Leathermen's Discussion Group. 398 12th St., 3-6pm.

SF girls of Leather Debauchery @ White Horse Bar

The San Francisco girls of Leather (SFgoL) have been invited back again as the beneficiaries for Debauchery. 6551 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 7-10pm.

Mon 21

Ride Mondays @ Eros

A motorcycle rider and leathermen night at Eros, bring your helmet, AMA card, MC club card or club colors and get $3 off entry or massage. 2051 Market St.

Wed 23

Leather/Underwear Buddies @ Blow Buddies

Erotic fun for leather and gear guys, $15, 933 Harrison St., 8pm.

Fri 25

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

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

Gear Party @ 442 Natoma

Gear play party (leather, rubber, harnesses, etc.) for gay men. 442 Natoma St., $15 (requires $5 membership), 10pm.

Sat 26

BDSM Play & Wrestling Party @ SF Catalyst

Men's BDSM play party and SF Grapplers are coming to show the fun of wrestling. Bring your singlet, Speedo, spandex, or jockstrap, or any sports gear, really, and maybe discover the fun of wrestling. All male-identified people interested in BDSM and 18+ welcome. If you haven't been to a 15 party, request an invite at 1060 Folsom St., 7pm-12am.

Sun 27

Beer Bust @ SF Eagle

Support Folsom Street Events and the upcoming Leather Week. 398 12th St., 3-6pm.

Leather Cruise Beer Bust @ The Lone Star Saloon

Have a beer and support the upcoming Golden Gate Guards' leather cruise. 1354 Harrison St., 4-8pm.

Mon 28

Ride Mondays @ Eros

A motorcycle rider and leathermen night at Eros, bring your helmet, AMA card, MC club card or club colors and get $3 off entry or massage. 2051 Market St.

Fri 1

Sober Kink Together @ Castro Country Club

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

Gear Party @ 442 Natoma

Gear play party (leather, rubber, harnesses, etc.) for gay men. 442 Natoma St., $15 (requires $5 membership), 10pm.

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