The year ahead - leather and kink in 2019

  • by Race Bannon
  • Wednesday January 2, 2019
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More fun, less pageantry in the Leather community? An IML sendoff at The Powerhouse. Photo: Rich Stadtmiller
More fun, less pageantry in the Leather community? An IML sendoff at The Powerhouse. Photo: Rich Stadtmiller

The holidays are behind us and we're about to embark on a new year. I don't adopt New Year's resolutions. They've never worked for me and I'm not sure they work for most people who create them. My life takes too many twists and turns to stick to a few envisioned habit changes or objectives a year's time out.

A wish list though is sometimes an empowering exercise. So, I'm going to make this column a self-indulgence reflecting my hoped-for outcomes for 2019 for leatherfolk, kinksters, and anyone who resides outside the societal norms for sexuality and relationships.

In preparation, I asked many friends and associates within the various related communities what they'd like to see in the coming year. My wishes were inevitably honed by that feedback, but I take full responsibility for this list.

Here's a bit of what I hope for in 2019. Some of this is about the Bay Area and some can be considered universal.

Soon ground will be broken on the construction of the Eagle Plaza outside of the SF Eagle bar, the first such public gathering space to honor the leather world. Word has it that they still have a small shortfall in their fundraising to complete the project. I hope the community can donate or rally sponsors to fill in the gap.

Rachele Sullivan (center) cuts a ribbon at the June 2018 opening ceremonies of the Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District. photo: Liz Highleyman  

San Francisco achieved something remarkable last year. The formation of the Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District became a reality. It was a long and bumpy slog, but the San Francisco Board of Supervisors blessed the District, another first of its kind in the nation.

I'd like to see the District grow and thrive to become an effective community-driven mechanism by which we maintain and grow our city's leather and LGBTQ communities. This takes robust involvement by as many stakeholders as possible. I hope plenty of folks jump on the bandwagon and help with this worthwhile endeavor.

I talk with a lot of the bar and venue owners and producers of events. In some cases, attendance is down. We need to reverse that trend. Our city is still lucky enough to have places and events where we can gather. If we don't frequent them, giving them our cash, they're not going to survive. I can assure you then everyone will be complaining they have nowhere to go. Let's keep our spaces open and active. Get offline and go out.

The SF Catalyst, managed by the San Francisco Bay Area Alliance, has been serving not only as a play space and dungeon, but as a de facto kink community center for a wide variety of groups and projects. We know that the building in which it's housed is likely to fall prey to building development in about a year's time.

While we do have another great dungeon space with SF Citadel and we need to also keep them open and alive, right now I'm not aware of any adequate replacement for SF Catalyst and that's a big deal. Many clubs, organizations, groups and producers will suffer the loss of one of our community's more important assets and the void it will
leave will be considerable.

I'd like to see the community put its collective minds, talents and money toward creating a new space to take the place of Catalyst when it's gone. Perhaps the new Leather and LGBTQ Cultural District can be the mechanism from which such a permanent kink community center might blossom. I think it's something a world-class kinky city like San Francisco deserves.

More play, less ____
When I asked people what they'd like to see for our scene in the coming year, without a doubt the most common refrain was "more play, less [fill in the blank]."

It seems that the leather scene has begun to see quite a revival of its former highly sexual self. There was a time that for various reasons, some quite sound, the sexual aspects of what we do as kinksters was downplayed in favor of more technical forms of BDSM and kink along with a bevy of events that sometimes seemed to be stand-ins for sex and play.

That's just fine on its own. I'd certainly not want to see fewer events overall, but I think something vital can be lost when the more physically intimate forms of sex are eschewed.

Over the last year I've seen a surge in the number of sex parties and BDSM play parties at which sex is more openly encouraged. I'd like to see this trend continue. Finding the physical spaces in which to have such gatherings will be the biggest challenge, but I'm hoping we can rise to that challenge.

There's also nothing keeping individuals from hosting their own smaller versions of such parties. Back in the day that's how it was often done — small play and sex parties for a few people that met at someone's home or at a privately rented space. More of that please.

Another common new year desire I heard often was for fewer title contests and generally less emphasis on them overall. I was surprised, but often this was as common a wish as wanting more sex and play. I think that says a lot.

When it comes to contests, I try to remain neutral like Switzerland much of the time. I write about them. I attend them. I've judged them. I have a bucket-load of friends and acquaintances who are titleholders or otherwise involved in the contest scene. I certainly might have my opinions about them but being one of the more regularly published voices of the leather scene I feel it's not my place to squelch any faction of our scene that seems to have its adherents.

But ignoring how many people seem to bristle at the abundance of contests and the inordinate amount of focus they draw in terms of our resources and efforts would also be wrong. So, let me just say here that a lot of people don't share the enthusiasm for contests and titles that others do, and I think this needs to be recognized and acknowledged.

Finally, another of the more common wishes for the coming year among kinksters was for some version of "less drama." As one person put it, they wished "to lower hypersensitivity so that we are not at each other's throats for slights or faux pas that were probably not meant the way they may be perceived."

Yes, social media has provided a megaphone effect for any slight or misstep, whether seemingly trivial or truly important. No one is likely to deny that our online world ramps up our ire, egos and soapboxes significantly. Continuing to allow this is not something we should encourage.

I hope everyone tones down the nastier of their rhetoric and increases their levels of kindness and compassion for others' views and situations. It takes a village, but sometimes the villagers are carrying pitchforks and that's not at all helpful.
Think about what you'd like to see manifest in the coming year, then make it happen!
Happy New Year!

Race Bannon is a local author, blogger and activist.

For Leather events, visit