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Leather: Contests -and kink- in context

by Race Bannon

At the Mr. West Coast Rubber 2020 contest (left to right): Matthew Jensen, Producer; Reid Dalgleish, Mr. West Coast Rubber 2010; Eleven, Mx. Rubber San Francisco 2020; Mark Weston, Mr. West Coast Rubber 2020; Nico Watson, Mr. San Francisco Rubber 2018 and 1st Runner Up Mr. International Rubber 22; and Rodi Coderage, Mr. Midwest Rubber 2018 and 2nd Runner Up Mr. International Rubber 23. photo: Rich Stadtmiller
At the Mr. West Coast Rubber 2020 contest (left to right): Matthew Jensen, Producer; Reid Dalgleish, Mr. West Coast Rubber 2010; Eleven, Mx. Rubber San Francisco 2020; Mark Weston, Mr. West Coast Rubber 2020; Nico Watson, Mr. San Francisco Rubber 2018 and 1st Runner Up Mr. International Rubber 22; and Rodi Coderage, Mr. Midwest Rubber 2018 and 2nd Runner Up Mr. International Rubber 23. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

Contests for leatherfolk and other variations of kinksters are ubiquitous. Contests have skyrocketed in number.

While perhaps controversial, I'm comfortable saying that while there are intersections between contests and other elements of kink, the contest world can effectually be a unique kink unto itself. Is it a fetish? I'm not sure, but it's been suggested it is or can be. I'm not sure that matters though.

What we know is contests are numerous and appear to be sticking around.

We need some perspective on such contests. In the interest of full disclosure, I have a leather title myself with my partner (1991), my ex was International Mr. Leather 1989, I've judged dozens of contests, and my network is awash in people who produce, volunteer for, or compete in contests. This gives me a vantage point from which to offer some observations.

Here's my first request. Can we keep contests fun? In far too many cases we have lost the prime directive of contests, fun for the audience and participants. If it's not fun, what's the point?

Too much self-congratulatory back-slapping, whether arm-length contestant and judge biographies read aloud, every titleholder present getting stage time, and other insider proceedings need to be eliminated or drastically tightened up to not bore the audience into nonconsensual submission.

Perhaps some of the downturn in fun is that we've taken contests too seriously. Some are under the mistaken impression that contests are a system by which we pick leaders. They're not. They're contests. Much of the disconnect comes from many believing contests are an objective exercise to select leaders. Nope.

Are there titleholders who become leaders, or were they already leaders? Absolutely, but I have yet to see a notable cause and effect. I contend the majority of those who are or become leaders would take that path, title or not. At best their title gives them some temporary notoriety, but so many disappear into oblivion after their year. I'm not sure that represents the qualities of a true leader who works for their communities before and after a contest.

Regarding the judging of contests, I consider the results so profoundly subjective that one would be hard-pressed to make a strong case that they're remotely objective.

I have judged dozens of contests. I have said then and now they are subjective affairs. The randomness of questioning, the silliness of most pop questions, summing up someone's leather "look" based on one's personal hotness bias, picking attractiveness you personally find sexy, judging a fantasy that's essentially an erotic theater performance, and resonating with a speech's message because it syncs with your worldview, are all rather nebulous criteria. It's fine for a fun event, but how is all that anything other than massively subjective?

Most contests these days must actively seek out contestants because the masses aren't clamoring to compete in them — not a resounding endorsement for contests effectively identifying community leaders.

Sex! Let me say that again. Sex! Can we keep the sex and eroticism firmly entrenched as the foundation for why the contests exist? Contests grew from a scene founded upon radical sexuality and the identities they spawn.

It's sometimes difficult to discern that a contest has any deep erotic roots whatsoever. It's as if the sex is intentionally squelched out of the proceedings. I fear some of this is because there's such a short fuse on certain people's sensibilities that contests don't want to offend those for whom they are political affairs more than sexual and fun ones. That saddens me. They should always be sexual, social and fun. Any related politics should be secondary and not heavy-handed.

Once someone wins a title, social media often blows up with so many announcements, fundraisers, appearances and online chatter that it sucks the air out of the room. Self-promotion becomes priority one.

As a self-promoter myself, I get that, but when many titleholders start vying for the same virtual public space, it gets crowded. This can give newcomers or outsiders the impression that contests are the most important things for kinksters. They're not, and if they become so, someone let me know so I can exit the scene, at least the public aspect of it.

The skewed visibility of titleholders and the pomp and circumstance surrounding them gives the public the perception that the core impetus behind leather and kink — sex, play and the connections they foster — takes a back seat.

I and others did not make the case for kinksters to live openly and proudly only for our sexuality to be relegated to back burner status.


Mark Weston, the new Mr. West Coast Rubber 2020. photo: Rich Stadtmiller  

Mr. West Coast Rubber 2020
Speaking of contests, San Francisco was home this year to the 15th anniversary of the Mr. West Coast Rubber 2020 contest, held March 6-8.

With a meet and greet held at the Powerhouse on Friday, the contest took place at the SF Eagle on Saturday, with a victory party at the SF Eagle on Sunday.

As a clear illustration of the sex and fun I'd like to see more prevalent, and as evidence that often the rubber guys seem to know how to have more fun than many in our scene, the Saturday contest after-party was held in a sex venue. Imagine, a contest elevating sex and play to its rightful place in our culture. More of this, please.

Tasked with judging the two contestants, Frankie and Mark Weston, were: Matthew Jensen, also Producer; Eleven, Mx. Rubber San Francisco 2020; Matthew Jensen, Mr. Regiment 2016; Nico Watson, Mr. San Francisco Rubber 2018 and 1st Runner Up Mr. International Rubber 22; Reid Dalgleish, Mr. West Coast Rubber 2010; and Rodi Coderage, Mr. Midwest Rubber 2018 and 2nd Runner Up Mr. International Rubber 23. Master of Ceremonies was Joël Royal.

The winner of Mr. West Coast Rubber 2020 is Mark Weston. May he and the rest of his rubber community continue to foster the playful and erotic scene for which the rubber crowd is known.

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist. www.bannon.com

For previous columns, and leather events, go to https://www.ebar.com/bartab/leather-kink


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