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Tech your kink

by Race Bannon

Brian "Bolt" Donner, renowned Alpha pup and leatherman. photo: Bryan Patrick Photography
Brian "Bolt" Donner, renowned Alpha pup and leatherman. photo: Bryan Patrick Photography  

American writer David Wong once said, "New technology is not good or evil in and of itself. It's all about how people use it." I agree with that sentiment. (Read his book John Dies at the End by the way. It's awesome.)

I've worked in and out of the tech industry since the early 1980s. I've seen tech evolve over decades into something that's now pervasive in all aspects of our lives. So, it's no surprise that developments in tech have crept into our sexual and kink lives as well. I think it's for the better generally, but ultimately each person can be the judge of that.

Because I think technology will continue to have a rather sweeping impact on our sexualities, I was glad to see the San Francisco Leathermen's Discussion Group (LDG) hosting a presentation by nationally renowned Alpha pup and leatherman Brian "Bolt" Donner on the topic titled "Flagging Bluetooth - Kinky Tech." I figured I would take this opportunity to pick Bolt's brain a bit. I've known Bolt for many years and always respect his take on current trends and happenings among kinksters.

Bolt makes his home in Cincinnati, Ohio. He placed second runner up at IML 2015 as Mr. Tri-State Leather, is current producer of Mr. Cincinnati Leather, President for Titans of the Midwest, a founding member of the CNKY Ruff Pups and the Cincinnati Sisters. By his own definition he is a bondage switch, alpha pup, graphic designer and illustrator, enthusiastic educator, dad joke enthusiast, giant comic book nerd and aggressive hugger.

Bolt has always enjoyed exploring tech and gadgets. More specifically, one of the pups in his pack (named Cage) lives far enough away that they started exploring how they could do Dominant/submissive play remotely. The LDG class was Cage's original idea and he's helped Bolt with most of the necessary research.

One of Bolt's big fetishes involves a type of automated setup (think the Saw movies, but with sex instead of murder) and he likes exploring devices that help with that fantasy scenario.

Lately I've been personally focused on the idea of building community, especially the various sub-communities that when put together create a bigger tent of adventurous sexuality we can all share. When I asked Bolt if he had any specific advice on how to best use technology for kink connections and organizing, he offered some insight.

"My sense of things in the world is that we're going to be approaching tech more as an augmentation and assistant rather than a machine doing all the work," he said. "Many I know find using only tech to connect (like through the hookup apps) to be pretty empty. But using tech to help with connecting and organizing, disseminating information, recording and broadcasting happenings alongside real-time interactions, seems to be adding a new dimension of connection."

This is a message I try to drive home to people. Tech of any kind, be it social media, apps, remote play devices, or other technologies, are wonderful connection, organizing and play mechanisms, but their true power is fostering the opportunity for eventual in-person interactions. Ultimately our sexualities are about people. Even solo sex usually involves mental fantasies involving others. Tech can help us in many ways to achieve more in the flesh meet-ups, gatherings and play.

There are likely some interesting uses of tech for kink and erotic play yet to come. Bolt said that when his LDG class was first conceived two years ago, they focused on Bluetooth and app-based devices for play. And while there are some really cool things you can do with such tech, he thinks we're also starting to see some of its limitations. Kinky tech's certainly been advancing, but not at what he'd call breakneck speed.

However, with that, Bolt said he's seen some interesting developments such as things made using 3D printing. Pieces like chastity cages and restraints can be more precisely customized to a person without the same high cost for production. While such things are still in early stages, Bolt points out there are some bright, kinky folks out there likely to produce some quite cool stuff in the future we might not even imagine today.

While my column often focuses on the LGBTQ leather, kink and sexual communities of the Bay Area, I know many of my readers don't live in places with a dense collection of kinksters. When I asked Bolt if he had any favorite uses of tech in his own sex life, his answer made me realize that advances in sexual and kink tech can be a gateway to helping people everywhere explore their sexualities more fully.

"Well, I don't have many local play buddies where I live, so I'll often use tech to connect with and chat (and sometimes remote play) with more distant people. I haven't yet invested in all the things I hope to build into my ultimate playroom."

Over time, these uses of tech for the entire range of our sexual explorations are going to grow and mature. When they do, learn how to use them properly and safely, and have a rocking good time with them.

Mike (winner, left) and runners-up Justin and Chico at the Tom of Finland look-alike contest portion of the Litquake event Beefcake: 50 Years of Tom of Finland, held Oct. 17 at the SF Eagle. photo: BARtab  

Litquake Honors Tom of Finland
I was honored to judge a Ton of Finland Look-alike contest at the San Francisco Eagle on October 17 and it was so much fun. So many hot and sexy men displayed a wide range of portrayals of the look Tom of Finland made famous in his art.

Ultimately, I struggled to pick three finalists from the more than 10 competitors who had to come on stage and strike an iconic Tom of Finland pose.

So, I decided to let the audience help me by registering their favorites with applause for each. A stunningly sexy man named Mike won, but truthfully all of those who entered did Tom proud.

The contest was just a part of a Litquake fundraiser, Beefcake: 50 Years of Tom of Finland. Litquake is a wonderful endeavor that sparks critical conversations and inspires writers and readers to celebrate the written word with diverse literary programming, interactive workshops, and a ten-day festival.

Litquake wanted to celebrate 50 years of Tom of Finland's revolutionary Kake comics that was first published in the U.S. in 1968. The always-stunning Honey Mahogany emceed the evening. Jon Ginoli of Pansy Division performed. Wonderful music was provided by DJ Bus Station John. Sexy dancers Justin Hall and Mark Rooke kept our erotic juices flowing.

Terry Beswick of the GLBT Historical Society read a hot original poem honoring Tom. Dian Hanson, known as one of the most cerebral pornographers in America, and who also served as Editor for Tom of Finland: The Complete Kake Comics, beautifully reflected on her involvement with Tom's works. It was a truly fun evening that came together through the great organizing efforts of Marke Bieschke of 48 Hills.

The Litquake event is a prime example of how various aspects of our local culture, literature, music, silly fun, sexy people, and leather and kink, can all blend to produce something unique and fun for a wide variety of attendees. More of this please!

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Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist.


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