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San Francisco Leathermen's Discussion Group

Filtering by Category: Uncategorized

HIV, PrEP, and STI Resources

Erik Will

Our friend Race Bannon collected this list of info, and I think its important enough to share.  

HIV (including PrEP) and STI Resources

March 15, 2013: Condoms 70% effective at HIV transmissions and low condom usage:

Remove Weinstein Petition:

May 1, 2014 Weinstein Blog Post in FrontersLA:

Condoms not approved for anal sex:

Rather have HIV than diabetes:

The following article from BETA makes reference to some of the latest studies that show that people with HIV viremia consistently suppressed to undetectable levels (that is, not spiked by long-untreated GC or chlamydia, or by use of hyperstimulants or large doses of alcohol) do not transmit HIV to ininfected partners.

Condom usage efficacy:

Research team at The Hunter College Center for HIV Educational Studies and Training ( CHEST ) against Weinstein's PrEP stance:

Clinton Fein comes out as a Truvada Whore:

Michael Kaplan's Leatherati deconstruction of Michael Weinstein and Eric Paul Leue:

67 HIV groups back PrEP:

Facebook Post on my wall May 15, 2014:

Regarding the AHF and Weinstein Controversy: From my friend Keith Folger:

"AHF provides substandard care, has no hospital privileges for any of its physicians, no referral network to speak of. Please someone tell he how they are doing a good service, in spite of their leader. AHF came into SF 10+ years ago and were told then, we have adequate enough HIV services in the City. They said FU, we are going to set up shop anyway, using part time physicians and start stealing your limited Ryan White dollars. Oh, did I mention the reason they are limited? MW went before congress and persuaded them to redo the formula for how communities HIV services are funded. He cost SF alone something like $12M dollars annually which the City has backfilled since. He is worse than egotistical, he is dangerous and his clinic's are not needed. He poached Mom's pharmacy so that he could gain a foothold in the Castro. Let him have what he already has but quit trying to force your way into a community that does not want you."

The Sword AB1576 commentary:

NYTimes article on HIV Sexual Revolution:

Peter Staley on HIV prevention today:

Damon L. Jacobs blog post about PrEP not being for cowards:

AHF not paying Maitri:

Why I'm a Truvada Whore:

Dr. Judy Auerbach interview:

Dr. Judy Auerbach on people not using condoms:

YouTube video regarding AHF and money practices:

AB1576 peititon:

PrEP efficacy based on adherence study:

Condomless Sex and Gay Men,

From Adam Zeboski: Thank you BioCentury TV, for this awesome debate. Dr. Richard Elion from Whitman-Walker Health in DC has his #PrEPfacts down! I'm super impressed. The guy from AHF seems to be making it up as he goes on. No thank you Weinstein for continuing to spread your moralistic misinformation with the world. We all know you're the "Tea Party" of the HIV/AIDS world.,

WHO recommends PrEP,

Project Inform PrEP Doctor Discussion Pamphlet,

99% efficacy, plus PrEP effective if taken just 4 days a week,

Dr. starting PrEP,

Eric Paul Leue's response to Vince Andrews' Leatherati article,

Historical rise and fall of Gonorrhea rates,

Facebook Comment by Eric Paul Leue July 12, 2014: I am just going to say it: HIV is incurable and other STIs are not. Only 16.7% of 7000 people use condoms for every anal/vaginal intercourse. Syphilis, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia can all be transmitted through oral sex too. The goal of preventing one STI can not stand in the way of preventing a second one and vice versa. This has absofuckinglutely nothing to do with Big Pharma or Big Government, this is about ending an epidemic. I disapprove of the high prices of Truvada, but the cost has nothing to do with the efficacy that BY FAR outweighs the efficacy of condoms AND prevents transmission not only on the dick, hole and vagina but in the ENTIRE body.

Race Bannon's and Luke Adam's Test, Treat, and PrEP 2011 article,

Al Jazeera interview with Damon Jacobs and Dr. Fauci,

AHF Board:,,,,,,,,

AHF revenue growth graphic from Peter Staley, AHF Revenue Graphic from Peter Staley.jpg in my files, data comes from AHF's 990's (deep inside, where they report audited numbers), along with Weinstein's publicly stated budget claim for 2014. It's almost all from their pharmacies.

PrEP Adherence Curbs HIV Transmission in Straight Couples, starting to shoot in Las Vegas due to SB 1576,

AIDS Conference and the promotion of PrEP,

iPrEx OLE found that PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV in MSM/TGW, even when some doses of the daily regimen are missed. No study participant who took PrEP 4 or more times per week became HIV-infected. The study measured participant use of PrEP in dried blood spots (DBS), a novel and highly sensitive biomarker of long-term PrEP use discovered and developed at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Among those receiving PrEP in iPrEx OLE, HIV incidence was 4.7/100PY if drug was not detected in DBS, 2.3/100PY if drug concentrations indicated use of fewer than 2 tablets per week, 0.6/100PY for use of 2 to 3 tablets per week, and 0/100PY for use of 4 or more tablets per week (P<0.0001). There were no infections at visits where DBS sampling indicated use of 4 to 7 tablets per week. The DBS concentration associated with 90% reduced risk of HIV acquisition was consistent with use of 2 to 3 tablets per week.

"Daily dosing of PrEP is recommended, because it helps foster the habit of consistent PrEP use and increases drug levels in the body, providing the best safety cushion for individuals who occasionally miss doses," said Dr. Grant. "At the same time, these results demonstrate that PrEP remains highly effective, even in real-world circumstances in which adherence may not be perfect."

Biomedical and behavior treatment suggestions from JAMA,

From Damon Jacobs on Facebook about condom use in PrEP studies: Yes - variations in condom use was considered. 2499 men in six countries (including U.S.) were selected for enrollment iPrex in 2007 because they were not using condoms consistently and were at high-risk for HIV. Half were give given Truvada, and half were given placebo, no one knew who receive which. Condom use was inconsistent amongst participants, as it had been prior to the study - meaning some said they used them, some said they didn't. But having such a large sample helps to mitigate individuals variants in condom usage. This is one of the slides presented to the FDA on 5/10/12 while Truvada was being considered for approval. It demonstrates variations in adherence amongst the group that received Truvada, but shows that adherence was higher with the participants that were "URAI" - Unprotected Receptive Anal Intercourse. In other words, people who didn't use condoms in iPRex were more likely to take Truvada consistently than those who reported condom use. Not a single person who took Truvada 7 days a week became HIV+ . [graphics referenced saved as Damon Jacobs Graphic.jpg]

From Damon Jacobs on Facebook: And according to the new information this week from iPRex OLE... "Adherence was 69% higher in participants reporting receptive anal sex without a condom, 57% higher in participants reporting more than five sexual partners in the previous three months, and 40% higher in participants with a known HIV-positive partner, indicating that people were adjusting their PrEP use according to their perceived risk of acquiring HIV."

From Damon Jacobs on Facebook: On the resistance issue: Not a single HIV negative person in any research study, nor real-world setting, has become resistant to Truvada. The only instances of resistance have occurred when someone who didn't know they were already HIV+ began using Truvada without using in combo with other meds. This is why it is SO important that people begin using Truvada for PrEP with a medical professional who can screen for HIV first.


My Facebook comment on someone's thread about PrEP: Ugh, I hate that many of these opinions are mired in misinformation and, frankly, wishful thinking. In a well known and respected study only 16.7% of 7000 people used condoms for every anal/vaginal intercourse. And as was pointed out, almost no one uses condoms for oral sex during which the S/G/C assortment of STIs can all be transmitted. There is this odd assumption that condom usage is widespread and consistent. It is not. None of the data shows that. What the data does show is that a very large percentage of people do not use condoms at all and another large percentage use them only occasionally. To drone on with the message that the only way to address prevention is to use condoms is to push a whole bunch of folks into a model that has frankly begun to fail rather than succeed (see my past article from 2011 for a bit of an explanation why the biomedical is succeeding where the behavioral model was failing). Every time someone shouts to the rooftops that condoms are the only viable option for prevention they simultaneously send a misguided message to all those people who don't or won't use condoms that they are not protected. That's just bullshit. PrEP, for example, has a higher rate of efficacy at reducing HIV transmissions than condoms (yes, higher). So who is more protected? HIV is not curable. Everything else mentioned is curable. Why is it so difficult for people to realize that the use a condom every time message is not right for everyone. If it's right for you, awesome. Keep doing it and I and others will support you. But judge others for making alternative, well reasoned decisions and you will be called out as part of the problem and not part of the solution. [including link to my Test, Treat, PrEP article]


Zero HIV Infections When PrEP Is Taken 4 or More Times a Week,


Truvada: It's Time To Take the Fucking Pill,


AB1576 B.A.R. article,


Christian Walters' PrEP checklist post,



LISTEN UP, PERVERTS!: A Triumvirate Manifesto (Master Skip Chasey)


(Keynote address at South Plains Leather Fest/International Master/slave Contest Weekend, March 9, 2014) 

Thank you for your kind reception and for your attendance here this weekend.  As I said when I was invited to give this keynote, it’s an extraordinary privilege to be given a forum to formally address one’s peers, one that I do not take for granted, and so before I begin I want thank the South Plains producers for their trust and confidence.  It’s my sincere wish that when I’m finished you’ll continue to feel that your trust was well placed.  That said, the older I get and the longer I do this, the less I seem to know.  If I do many more of these, I’ll soon not know anything.

When Master Jim, with the encouragement of the slave marsha and Sir Cougar, invited me to play a part in this milestone anniversary conference, he said that they felt I was the ideal choice because of my longtime participation in both of the communities that SPLF-IM/sW focuses on: the Leather community; and the Master/slave community.  They felt I could provide an informed, dual perspective on the state of our deviant union.  That reasoning resonated with me, and since it’s hard to say no to Master Jim—and even harder to say no to Sir Cougar—I readily accepted.

Truth be told, I thought this particular address would be a breeze.  Many of you have no doubt attended one or both of the terrific pair of presentations Master Jim and slave marsha have individually given entitled “Listen Up, slaves!  What Your Master May Want You To Know But Won’t Tell You,” and “Listen Up, Masters!  What Your slave May Not Say, But Really Wants You To Hear.”  I figured I would just piggyback on their idea and give a “listen up” talk of my own, with the only difference being that I would have to handle both parts of the equation.  No problem.  I would just put on my Master’s cover and make a list of those things that I want you leatherfolk to know about the Master/slave community, and then put on my leatherman’s chaps and do the same vis-à-vis  you M/s-D/s people.  Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.

(Some of you are already sensing the schizophrenic challenges that lay ahead for me.)

It wasn’t too long, however, before I realized that South Plains caters to not two, but three different radical sex communities:  the M/s-D/s community; the Leather community; and the fetish/kink community.  I suspect that many of you understand why I’m distinguishing “Leather” from “fetish” and “kink,” and for those who don’t I’ll be explaining my take on those distinctions a little later.  For now, it’s enough to say that because of this it quickly became apparent that anything beyond a superficial approach to this address would necessitate my speaking to, and speaking as a member of, all three of these communities.

It was then that the process of crafting this keynote took an unexpected, and for reasons that I’ll share with you momentarily, an undesirable turn.  But it also forced me to think deeply about the things I’ll be addressing and to get very clear with myself about where I stand on all of them.  And that’s the first point I want to make: what you’re about to hear is a set of personal observations and opinions.  Although I’m given to believe that others share my points of view, I don’t pretend to be an official spokesperson for any of these communities.


So, with that caveat, why was realizing that I would need to distinguish Leather from kink such an unwelcome development?  Well, because that meant I would have to share with you my take on what Leather “is”…a topic of oftentimes heated public discourse that I have until now successfully avoided. There are many reasons why I’ve chosen not to express any of my thoughts and feelings on the matter until now, none of which I need go into.  But I will say that chief among them is the unshakable belief that it doesn’t really matter.  What’s happening is happening; what will be, will be, and I can either accept that reality and continue to grow (both as a kinkster and as a person), or I can dig in my Wesco-shod heels, become stagnate and die before I die.  Besides, anyone here who knows me knows that engaging in public controversy is simply not my style, particularly when doing so will only add more fuel to the fire.  As I see it, the “Leather debate” has much in common with the ongoing creationism versus evolution debate, in that each side is vehemently standing its ground and making anyone with a different point of view the enemy, much to the larger community’s detriment. Because of that, you’ll be happy to know that in finalizing this address most of what I initially wrote regarding the isness of Leather is now on the cutting room floor, and I’ll be limiting my “What Is Leather?” commentary to only a handful of essential truths that, in my experience, are either glossed over whenever the Leather debate occurs or have never been publicly broached, at least not as far as I know.

But again, let me remind you that what you’re about to hear is simply one man’s opinion, albeit an opinion begot from having spent almost four decades thus far in the clandestine world of Leather.  Next June will mark 40 years since I first crossed the hallowed threshold of a leather bar (for the record, it was the Ramrod in Phoenix, Arizona).  Although things at that time were already changing, I came out at the tail end of what’s been lamentably labeled “the Old Guard” (another debate I’ve declined to participate in).  While that doesn’t mean you must therefore accept what I have to say as gospel, it does, I hope, mean that you won’t dismiss it out of hand.


It’s my position that even though they share many of the same ideologies and practices, Leather and kink are not synonymous.  A large part of the confusion, I’m afraid, is the fact that a lot of leathermen and women—myself included—have for years been lumping the various practices that make up the menu of BDSM under the general umbrella of “Leather.”  However, notwithstanding that most of these practices are cross-cultural with respect to the consortium of subgroups that comprise the larger kink community, the fact that one engages in them does not automatically make one a leatherperson, and here’s the primary reason why:

Leather was first and foremost the expression of a specific homosexual identity.

Let me say it again.  The kink subculture we call Leather came into being solely as the result of a particular and explicit expression of homosexuality, and, for its first several years, primarily male homosexuality at that.  Leather as we’ve come to know it was birthed from the reactions of a subpopulation of American gay men to a specific social perception, namely that they were contemptible sissies.  But for their genitalia, post-WW2 America didn’t even perceive male homosexuals as men, certainly not “real” men.   Leather, with its hypermasculine attitudes and iconography, was my forebears’ way of saying, “Oh, yeah?  Well, fuck you—I’ll be more of a man than you could ever hope to be.”

Because of this, the fundamental criteria for cultural legitimacy as a leatherman or leatherwoman have until only recently been a homosexual orientation and a sharp bend toward kinky sex; one without the other was simply not enough.  Please believe that I’m making no value judgment in saying that, none whatsoever—I’m merely stating a fact.

”Vanilla” homosexuals were societal outsiders, as were heterosexual kinksters; leatherfolk, on the other hand, were the outsiders among the outsiders.  SPLF-IM/sW is in part a Leather conference because its founders and owners—Master Jim, slave marsha, Sir Cougar and Mark Frazier—are all leathermen and leatherwomen, and their Leather sensibility permeates this event.

Leather’s hypermasculine ideal no doubt held a genuine erotic charge for the gay men and, later, butch lesbians who adopted or otherwise embraced it, but full disclosure necessitates my pointing out that it was also a coping strategy for dealing with the horrific projections of an unenlightened society.  It was likely an unconscious defense mechanism for the internalized homophobia that Leatherfolk undoubtedly wrestled with as well, but as any student of Freud can tell you, protecting one’s psyche in such a manner can have both positive and negative consequences.  At the risk of being branded a traitor to the tribe, I must say that with its denigration of the feminine and its disparagement of homosexuals who did not meet its butcher-than-thou standards, early Leather, particularly as a coming out process, fostered much that was psychologically harmful—something that’s rarely, if ever, acknowledged in the various histories of Leather presently available.  But, let me hasten to add, given the times it was the only way that those gay men and lesbian women knew how to deal.

It might surprise you to know that there was little communal recognition of the BDSM that’s part and parcel of Leather experience.  Instead, early Leather broadly and imprecisely categorized its practices simply as “rough sex.” and a leatherman’s rough sex scenes, consciously or unconsciously were in many ways rites of passage into an exaggerated form of manhood.

The point I’m trying to make is that historically Leather has had strict requirements for membership, and these restrictions have led to it being over-romanticized by a whole host of interlopers, and by a few insiders as well.  “But what about Leather today?” you may be asking.  Well, the first generation of leathermen and women have all but left us, and with each new generation the qualifications for being designated a leatherperson became significantly more relaxed.  You need no longer be born into Leather; you can now be adopted or otherwise fostered and granted associate membership.  Hell, nowadays you can sometimes even buy your way in.  The one thing you still cannot do, however, is commandeer a place at the Leather table.

Interestingly, even though the Leather gateway has been widened, and even though, through a confluence of events, the number of people publicly indulging in kink is at an all-time high, the percentage of kinksters who actually are leathermen and leathewomen is dwindling.  Indeed, even the kinky young gay men now coming into the scene don’t by and large identify with Leather; instead they’re all about fetish and “gear.”  There are, I believe, two primary reasons for this phenomenon.  Firstly, what it means to be a “real man” has been hugely redefined over the last 60 years.  “Macho” is now far removed from “manly,” and the balance of strength and sensitivity that one derives from the healthy integration of both the masculine and the feminine elements of one’s psyche is the new Holy Grail for men of all sexual orientations.  Secondly, homosexuality is significantly more accepted here in the U.S. and in Canada and Western Europe as well.  Because of these developments, the hypermasculine persona that leathermen heretofore idolized and embodied no longer serves much of a needed purpose beyond the fetishistic. I personally don’t feel any of this is a calamity; rather, I see it simply as the evolution of my species.

If leather is dying, it’s dying a natural death.

In light of everything I’ve just said I would be remiss if I didn’t at least briefly address the MDHL movement (“movement” being my word, not theirs).  For those of you who until now have not heard of MDHL, it is not the latest designer drug.  MDHL is an acronym for Male Dominant Heterosexual Leather, and while it’s a relatively recent phenomenon, it has already spread from coast to coast.  Let me be clear that I categorically support and affirm the idea of consciously created community, particularly when it’s created around well-thought precepts and a shared set of values, as is MDHL.  However, based on what I’ve read on numerous MDHL websites, and by what I witnessed first-hand while attending a recent MDHL event, it seems to me that it’s been built on a foundation composed at least in part of Leather myths and legends.  Furthermore, because of their heterosexual orientations, the men of MDHL, many of whom I count as friends, simply do not and cannot possess the psychosexual makeup of the gay leathermen they so clearly admire and so strongly wish to emulate.

As a leatherman, I must confess to feeling a certain dismay regarding the wholesale appropriation of Leather culture that’s been taking place during the last several years, not just by MDHL but by much of the larger kink community as well.  However, since I’ve learned only too well that I create as much suffering by taking offense as by giving offense, I’ve chosen to largely ignore it.  Besides, my vexation over what I perceive as rampant Leather squatting may simply be an unconventional variant of the archetypal tension that naturally exists between Pioneers and Settlers. Whatever the case, it would, I believe, be more in keeping with its principles of “honor, integrity and respect” if MDHL proclaimed itself “Leather-inspired” and its members “Leather devotees” rather than the unqualified Leather label it prescribes for both.

Public reaction to that last statement will no doubt crash Fetlife’s servers.


Okay, with that long introduction to what will now have to be a relatively short speech, what do I as a leatherman want the rest of you perverts to know?  Well, for starters, our history is not your history.  As the late Jack McGeorge impressed upon me, you heterosexual kinksters have your own long and glorious history...learn it and cherish it!  If you don’t know where to begin, my scholarly friend Master Bert Cutler highly recommends Rob Bienvenu’s eye-opening dissertation “American Fetish” or, more modestly, his own pre-Ph.D. essay entitled “The Development of the BDSM Community in the U.S.”  Whatever you do, please stop co-opting our Leather history for your personal advantage.

Next, don’t look to leatherfolk for guidance on your public covering and collaring ceremonies—such things were never a part of Leather.  I’m not saying that collarings and coverings didn’t sometimes happen, they did, but when they did they were usually private affairs involving only the individuals—rarely more than two—directly affected.  It wasn’t until the expansion of the M/s community following MAsT ‘99 that I even ever heard of, let alone attended, a public collaring ceremony.  As for covering ceremonies, with Hardy Haberman’s permission allow me to read to you some excerpts from a self-described “rant” he recently posted on Facebook:

This is a Muir cap.  They are called this because they were (first) manufactured by the Muir Cap & Regalia (Company) in Toronto, Canada.  It is not a “master’s cover” to me, it is a frigging hat and I like the way it looks when I wear it.  It makes my dick hard, and guys who react the same way find it appealing and are attracted to me, and it therefore serves its purpose.  It signifies one thing: that I’m into leather.

The silver brim used to mean I’m a Top. Bottoms wore them too, back in the dark ages of the 1970s, but theirs had no decoration.  Muir caps were quick and easy symbols to let people know what role you played in the dungeon and the bedroom.  They were not awarded by any committee or group.  

Today, some folks like to make a ceremony over the gift of a “cover.”  It’s a way to show you respect someone in your family or community.  Nice idea, but it does not automatically bestow on the wearer any power or rank.  So enjoy your covering ceremony…embrace it as a new tradition…but do not rewrite my frigging history and try to pass it off as truth.

For those who don’t know Hardy, and around these parts, I don’t know how you couldn’t, he’s a long-standing leatherman of good repute, and you’d be a fool to challenge his take on this bit of Leather history.  To it I’ll add only the following confirmation from Guy Baldwin, whose experience echoes my own:  “When it comes to my cover”—this is Guy speaking—“I, like every good leatherman of my day, bought it.”

Lastly, taking on our trappings doesn’t make you a leatherperson any more than droopy britches, thuggish behavior and incorrigible homies make Justin Bieber a gangsta from da hood.


So now putting on my Master’s cover, here’s what we M/s-D/s people want you to know.

First off, in granting or taking on the honorific of “Master,” we are not attempting to signify communal rank, status or any sort of expertise.  For us, “Master” denotes a relationship role, period.  You leatherfolk reserve the “Master” honorific for those among you who have demonstrated great expertise in one or more fetishes or who by their longevity and wisdom have achieved elevated communal status, we get it, but we don’t get why the manner in which we choose to use the word upsets you so.

Just like same-sex marriage is a threat to conventional marriage only if those in conventional marriages are insecure or have low self-esteem, unless they have a very fragile ego our less-restrictive use of the “Master” honorific shouldn’t pose a threat to those among you who’ve been bestowed that title by your local communities.  (And for the record, we think there are more self-proclaimed “Masters” among you than you let on.)

Second, we know the governmental powers that be scrutinize us to a much higher degree than they do you.  We understand that our country’s legal system will often turn a blind eye to your SM escapades but that our 24/7 D/s lifestyle is virtually always an invalidating taboo.  We’re working on changing that, but in the meantime please don’t throw us under the bus in your efforts to achieve greater social acceptance.

And third, unlike you leatherfolk and kinksters, our primary reason for engaging in SM—and by the way, not all of us do—is not to facilitate an enhanced sexual experience, it’s to support and strengthen the D/s dynamic that is the cornerstone of our primary relationships.  Because of that, our relationships are not necessarily sexual ones, which is why we’re able to cross sexual orientation and gender boundaries in our SM.

And as a personal aside, notwithstanding the unkind insinuations of some of my former club brothers, the fact that some of my D/s relationships have involved biological females (of all orientations) does not mean I’ve given up my gay card.  Even though I sometimes cross the vaginal curtain I’m still a Kinsey 6…or at least a 5-1/2.


Finally, here’s what we kinksters have to say to you Leather and M/s folk:

Lighten up, people!!!  You are sucking all of the fun right out of this thing that we do.

You call them “tools,” we call them “toys;” you call it “work,” we call it “play.”  Potato-potahto.

Poly is a relationship choice, not a competitive sport.

SM need not define you to be a quality play partner; bedroom-only kink is not necessarily a stepping stone to greater perversion; and D/s doesn’t have to be a lifestyle in order for you to be a valuable member of this community.

Finally, mind-blowing sex is what first drew all of us to kink, and it’s what continues to drive most of us at some level.  Please don’t discount that or disregard the sexual components of BDSM in your fervent exploration of its other intriguing facets.


So that’s it—that’s my triumvirate manifesto.  What’s the takeaway?

Well, the cynics among us might conclude that the grass is always browner on the other side.  For the rest of us, however, who have a stake in the building of our tribe, allow me to end this address on an up note by saying that just like the ego and the shadow both complement and counterbalance each other so that the little “s” self can function at an optimum level, each of our subgroups brings with it unique gifts and eccentricities that keep the larger community in check and on course.  So my kink is not better than your kink; your lifestyle is not more authentic than mine.  We are more alike than different, and there’s more that unites than divides us.  Because of that, we need neither compromise nor assimilate to strengthen our family ties.  But if vibrancy and diversity is what we’re aiming for (and I truly hope that it is), then celebrating, not tolerating, must be our watchword when it comes to our marvelous differences.

Thank you for listening.

Copyright ©2014 by Skip Chasey. All rights reserved.

LEARNING ABOUT LEARNING (November 19, 2012 — Patrick Mulcahey)


(Keynote speech delivered at Leather Reign in Seattle) Good evening.  It’s a pleasure and an honor to speak with you tonight.

A little over two years ago, I heard a rumor that shocked me:  the San Francisco Leathermen’s Discussion Group was about to fold.

LDG, as we call it at home, was conceived in 1996 by the late Salem Bucholz as a monthly reading-slash-discussion group for leathermen.  It met in living rooms.  Among the earliest topics we find “The Bible and Homosexuality,” “Homoerotic Images on Greek Vases,” a discussion of the infamous Spanner Case moderated by Peter Fiske, and even something called “Leather Discussion,” I’m guessing about leather care, since it was led by Daddy Alan Selby, originator of “Mr S.” and so much else in our San Francisco scene.

That first year also saw a smattering of what we’d consider more standard entry-level presentations:  fisting by Bert Herrman, bondage, flogging, boots.  But what gave LDG its specific flavor was a sense of “something for everyone,” a place where newcomers of any age could rub shoulders and make friends with the city’s most seasoned and celebrated leathermen.

So many of our organizations have life spans shorter than a poodle’s; in dog years, LDG is almost a century old.  When I came back to the public scene after some years of activism around AIDS and homelessness, I came back to LDG.

I called the leather friend, Troy, who’d been chairing LDG.  Yes, he said, it was true.  He and his team were worn out.  No one had stepped up.  No programs were scheduled.  They were ready to let it go, unless — was I interested in taking it over?

Was I?

I have a long but not very illustrious history in leather.  I never had anything I thought of as a “leather education.”  It never occurred to me I was supposed to.  I learned to tie up boys at Camp Twelve Pines — all due respect to Midori, the world’s foremost bondage instructor is still the Boy Scouts of America.  When I started tying up older guys for less innocent purposes, I paid attention when their shoulders hurt, their hands got numb; I made adjustments, I learned.  I never heard I should be worrying about nerve damage until I’d been at it for thirty years.

I learned how to use floggers, whips, toys by playing around with them on my own, or having a friend show me the basics.  It just didn’t seem that hard to figure out how to do the things to another man I was so highly motivated to do without killing or maiming anybody.  And without ever attending a class.

I knew kink classes existed, but they were never on my radar until people started asking me to teach them.  I said no.  Honestly?  I thought “classes” were something straight people did.  They didn’t have leather bars, they didn’t have leather clubs, maybe they didn’t have friends who could come over and say, “Pinch the skin, point the needle away, and keep steady because he may jump.”

But suddenly it seemed all my friends were “teaching” and/or “taking classes.” Everybody couldn’t be wrong.  Come to think of it, did I not have great yawning gaps in my leather prowess?  What did I really know about flogging?  I still use only one hand.  What did I know about fisting?  Only how to do it.  What did I know about fireplay?  Nothing, especially Why?  And those were just the F’s!  The vogue of “kink classes,” the very fact of them, was turning me from a happy, confident leatherman into a guy who felt inadequate to detain a willing bottom without nerve damage.

I think it can safely be said that the most resounding success of our education scene is to make us all feel inadequate.  To instill in us the belief that the things we do are rarefied and exacting, and it would be foolhardy to attempt them without authorized instruction.  It’s the same strategy used to sell us mouthwash and underarm deodorant:  “Without us, you’ll never get laid.”

So I did exactly what it seems we’re all expected to do:  I started taking classes and saying yes to “teaching” them.

Teaching felt good.  I made up handouts.  My way was the right way.  I was an authority.  I think it can also be said that kink education has been a splendid success at making our educators feel good about themselves.

“Taking” classes, on the other hand, was the most alienating kink experience I ever had.  In one class a woman wearing a miner’s light raced the clock to put a hundred needles in a man’s scrotum.  Never heard the man’s name or heard a word from him.  None of the forty of us in chairs was close enough to see her place the needles.  But she finished with a triumphant flourish because she beat the clock.

Which leads me to a third truth, this one about kink-education demos:  what is being demonstrated is never what the instructor says it is.  That “teacher” demonstrated self-absorption, indifference for her partner, and the implicit belief that leathersex is all about personal achievement.  Nobody left knowing how to use needles, but people walked out thinking they knew what it should look like from a distance.

My education in leather, such as it was, happened not in classrooms but in relationship.  The men who helped me learn how to do what I wanted — and often, what they wanted done to them — had an investment in my getting it right.  And they liked me.  If you think about the essential things you do every day, isn’t it the same?  How did you learn to brush your teeth, comb your hair, shave or put on makeup?  How to ride a bike, wipe your ass, shell a hard-boiled egg, how to give a blowjob?  (Which I’m sure can cause nerve damage if done incorrectly.) Somebody who loved you showed you the first time, or the first few, and you took it from there.  It wasn’t an experience of “education.”  It was the experience of a trusted relationship guiding you toward your health, your independence, your goals and desires.  And aren’t those lowly activities more like what we do in leather than Algebra, Chemistry, Spanish 101?

It’s not that the classroom is good for nothing.  It’s just no good for the way we typically use it.  The traditional classroom is great for storytellers, performers, gifted lecturers; for town-hall discussions; for conveying specialized information, facts, with visual aids.  I learned a lot in Driver Ed, about motor-vehicle law, braking distances, internal-combustion engines.  What I did not learn in class was how to drive.

All these things went through my mind as I talked to Troy.  My troubled relationship with the idea of leather “education.”  My private conviction that our concept of it took a wrong turn somewhere in the 1980s (like so much else).  My equally strong conviction that the Leathermen’s Discussion Group could work.  I’d seen it work.  I didn’t know why it worked when it still worked, but I wanted to try and figure it out.

Helpful friends advised that hot demo programs showing hot sexy stuff would pack the room again.  Problem is, I looked back and that’s what LDG had been doing:  saline infusion, pumping, CBT, bondage, fucking machines.  I do believe that demos have their place (more about that in a minute), but once you’ve run the gamut of the fundamental, what, twelve or fifteen — then what?  Start over?  Does it ever feel to you like demos are just an endless loop?

I don’t know how to run an organization, but my friend Brian had management and PR experience, and I thought he might.  All I wanted to do was the programming.  So together we took on LDG.

Our first program was attended by four men.  Three, after one got indignant and stormed out.

Our second program drew about ten.

The third month we had the writer of DemonicSex Comics, a hot, honest, beautifully twisted guy who laid himself bare for us.  We had about thirty men that month.

Fakir Musafar, Jim Ward, Mollena Williams, Peter Fiske came and bared their souls for us too.  Peter did a whip scene with my slave so instantaneous and profound it took your breath away.  Then came July and Dore Alley and our panel discussion “Is Leather Dead?” with Guy Baldwin, Race Bannon, Gayle Rubin and Michael Thorn.  Brian thought we might have a big turnout, so with the help of Folsom Street Events, we rented a big room in the LGBT Center.  Which had the good grace to look the other way when over 300 people showed up.  Thankfully, nobody called the fire marshal.

We outgrew our old meeting room and Mr S. offered us a new space that seated 100 or more.  Now every month we’re at or over capacity there too.

The resurgence of LDG is not my doing: let me say that straight up.  There’s been a happy confluence of factors in my local men’s community that’s made us stronger and more cohesive than we’ve been in decades.

What I can say is that my little experiment in leather education didn’t fail.  It showed me some things I didn’t know about teaching and learning, and confirmed a few things I’d always suspected.

I’d like to finish by telling you about seven of those lessons.

1.  The experience of our coming together in numbers is more important than what we came together to learn — and more educational too.  Very few of us who were at our “Is Leather Dead?” discussion could tell you what the panelists said.  But none of us will forget laughing at the same jokes, applauding or booing the same remarks; that sense of shared values, and a shared experience of them; the understanding that what was happening between us in that room was the answer to the question.

2.  I believe we learn by experience and no other way.  Not being a cognitive scientist, I can’t offer you proof, but I am not able to disprove the proposition either.  Imagine a yoga class, a drawing class, in which all you did was watch and listen.  Preposterous.  You need the experience in your body and in your consciousness.

I’m using the term “by experience” here in the broadest sense.  Physical, emotional, sensory, psychological, aesthetic, even spiritual experience are our greatest — and I think our only — teachers.  Poets, performers, shamans, artists can kickstart our learning because of their power to make us feel, to awaken in us an experience of the subject; to inspire us to want to know more and become self-teachers.

And yes, there are those rare private experiences of enlightenment, when suddenly the answer to a problem we have wrestled with or to a gap in our knowledge drops into our laps, out of a tree or a book or from the lips of another person.  Those moments are impossible to plan, by their nature.  But our concept of education seems overwhelmingly to presume that those moments will happen while we’re lined up in chairs watching someone get poked or paddled.

3.  Decide who your audience is and be faithful to them. 

There’s a huge divide in leather and kink more real and more consequential than the age-old divisions between gays and straights, men and women, Old Guard and no Guard.  I’m talking about the unbridgeable gap between players who seek sexual connection with partners and those who employ the apparatus of kink to keep sex at bay.

If what I consider the means is what you consider the end, then our teaching and learning will be at cross-purposes.

LDG is for men who like sex with other men who like sex.  We like it in a house.  We like it with a mouse.  We like it in the rain.  We like it on a train.  We like it here and there.  We like it anywhere!  Those are my peeps, that’s who I’m working for.  Yes, we have a small but loyal following of women and straight guys who say they benefit from what we do.  They know we’re not going to tailor presentations to them, and they’re good with that.  They don’t want us to.

So I don’t plan programs for the sex-avoidant.  We all know what those look like:  complicated demos with fire and very sharp things and pulleys on the ceiling.  The technical ante is upped because the play’s not a prelude or a vehicle to anything.  No doubt both the pleasures of the flesh and the pleasures of the rollercoaster can make the spirit soar, but neither the journey nor the destination is the same.

4.  Our kind of learning happens most organically in the context of a relationship. 

Skills can be taught — just not the way we’re doing it.  Mentoring and peer-education models are manifestly superior to the “classroom” approach we default to.  The LDG Mentorship Program we started in March, led by Dr Richard Sprott, may be the most potent and valuable project we’ll ever undertake.

And peer education brings into play the sometimes unformed but always developing relationship we have with others of our community.  Last month one of our board members launched an event he called “Whips in the Park.”  Over twenty men showed up that first Sunday to throw their snake whips, signal whips, bullwhips in the bee-spangled sunlight of Dolores Park.  It’s a safe bet that none of those guys would trade that afternoon for a dozen classroom presentations on the singletail.

I work with another Bay Area project called Leather Traditions.  We average about one program a year, devoted to authority-based relationships, M/s and D/s.  Three programs ago we noticed it always seemed to be the same people registering.  Obviously they liked us.  Weren’t they telling their friends?  Were we just “educating” the same thirty or forty men and women over and over?

I would suggest that those faithful attendees attribute the excellence of their learning experience not just to us or to our presenters, but to the comfort and familiarity of being in the same room with each other, again and again.

5.  The presenter is more important than whatever you say the topic is. 

In 2011, I asked Mark Frazier to come and close out our year with any program of his choosing.  Breath Play, he decided.  Naturally, the safety police were roused from their slumber, Jay Wiseman was quoted at length, guys grumbled “Who cares about breath play?” — and to tell you the truth, I don’t.  But I do care about Mark Frazier, who has to be one of the finest, most authentic, most resourceful leathermen who ever lived.  Watching him negotiate and bond with his demo partner, seeing the mixture of fun and solicitude in the way Mark handled him, hearing Mark’s blunt assessment of the safety issues:  these were the real lessons conveyed.  At the end of the night, this group of guys who didn’t care about breath play formed a double line leading out the door and down the stairs for a chance to have Mark Frazier put them in a headlock and make them pass out.  No lie.

6.  A leatherman’s story is his most valuable asset, the most powerful truth he has to tell — or to teach.  And I have to believe the same is true for leatherwomen.

Recent calls for BDSM teacher training and certification make me want to cry.  The creation of an entire class of kink teachers armed with better classroom tricks seems to me an advance in a catastrophically wrong direction.  Come on. What we’re doing now in our conferences and workshops is working so well, turning out such a superior breed of kinkster, that all we need to do is standardize it?  Is becoming one of us really so similar to becoming a medical assistant or a flight attendant?

I’ve been working with a wonderful guy named Erik Will, who took over as LDG Chairman in March.  I heard someplace that the first thing you should do after accepting a leadership role is to identify your successor, so I zeroed in on him.  He’s fairly new to the community, but he’s a fast learner.  In fact, if you know Erik, you know he’s fast in every way.

A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, he said to me, “Do you think we could ever get Laura Antoniou to do a program?”  I wonder if his parents were ever prouder of him than I was right then.  He didn’t want Laura because of her classroom skills, formidable as those may be.  He didn’t want to watch her do CBT.  He’s impressed with who she is and what she’s created in the world and he wants to know more.

It took Laura about three minutes to say yes.

7.  If we must demo, then let us demonstrate values, not “skills.” 

Demos for instruction between people who hardly know each other are boring.  Yes, with showmanship, they can become entertaining, but for the wrong reasons: What It Is That We Do is not performance art.  Watching seasoned, committed players in the dungeon will always be more educational because of the values that inform their play:  care, humor, understanding, trust, tenderness, lust, sadism, communication.

Of all the values we could conceivably choose to demonstrate in our teaching, technical proficiency has to be the most trivial.  And the classroom method by which we communicate it is mostly an exercise in passivity for the student and in self-promotion for the “teacher.”

I know what you’re thinking.  “People love our demos.  Newcomers flock to our demos!”  I’m sure they do.  But what newcomers say they want to learn is almost never what they need to learn.  They’re almost always parroting the priorities driven into them by the most plodding Kink 101 sources:  technique and safety.

Well, in the immortal words of Miss Jean Brodie, “Safety does not come first.  Goodness, truth and beauty come first.”  If goodness, truth and beauty do not animate our play, our relationships, our teaching and our learning too, then I have no fucking idea what we are about.

The Religious Right is correct about one thing:  values do belong in the classroom.  (But not theirs.) Education is fundamentally about values.  How can anything be taught without some cultural agreement about what is important to know?  About what is true and what is beautiful and what we aspire to?

Let us name those things.  Let us elevate them.  The rollercoaster people, the performance-art tribe, the 50 Shades crowd will not agree with us about what they are, but it’s okay to leave them behind.  That is their comfort zone.

And once we understand what we have that’s worth learning, please, let us have a little more humility about what we teach, and a greater respect for it.

Thank you.


Patrick Mulcahey

Victory for Gay Marriage: DOMA Struck Down and Prop 8 Dismissed!


leather equalityHi everyone. Today is a historic day for marriage equality, albeit a mixed week for SCOTUS decisions.
Prop 8 was dismissed, which means Judge Vaughn Walker's decision stands. In other words, same sex marriage remains legal in CA.  DOMA was overturned entirely which is entirely wonderful.
We know that some of you will want to be in the Castro tonight celebrating with your loved ones, and we hope you have a fantastic, safe time.
For some of us though, we can think of nothing better than celebrating these victories with our leather brethren. Tonight's program THE MEN’S LEATHER/FETISH SCENE IN EUROPE VS. IN THE U.S. — with Jack Duke, Thib Guicherd-Callin, Jonathan Schroder, Tim Vollmer  will go on as planned, though we plan to take some time from the program to celebrate our victories.
We hope to see you there!

(RSVP on Facebook or Fetlife)

"Dear Patrick..." (April 2013 GROWING PAINS)


Everyone says “No touching without permission,” but what about hugging as part of a hello or greeting?  Most times I'm already in role, so is my slave, and it's invasive to be hugged and touched in an unsolicited fashion.  I haven't yet created a snappy, respectful retort to keep my space touch-free.  Got any suggestions? How about “Please don’t hug me”?  Prefaced with a friendly “I’m happy to see you too, but…”?  Your friends cannot know their warmth feels like an intrusion to you unless you tell them.  Until you do, you’re exactly like the scene bottom who complains, the day after, “No, I didn’t tell him to stop, but he should have known!”

I won’t ask why for you being hugged is incompatible with being a Master.  You get to decide that.  I am curious, though, how being “already in role” is relevant?  Sure, life circumstances can prompt some Masters and slaves to toggle the dynamic on and off.  But you don’t really expect your friends to know when you’re “on” and when you’re not?

Repeat after me:  The roles and rules of my relationship apply only to the people in it.  Meaning that if you want a no-hugging policy, it has to be 24/7.  Friends don’t make friends guess which you you are being tonight.

There is a real joy in being able to feel, for a weekend or an evening, that our Master/slave community holds basic values and practices in common; and we can live out that fantasy with close M/s friends, or at “high protocol” gatherings where the ground rules are spelled out in advance.  But even in those situations, people make mistakes.  So it behooves us to remember that nothing is so un-Masterly as losing your shit over someone who’s trying to be nice to you.


My Master's follow-through is lacking on the discipline side.  I need the discipline and reinforcement, or why call me a slave?  How can I broach this topic diplomatically?

Discussing this with your Master is not optional.  I don’t think we can quite say that knowledge = power in M/s, but until you speak up, you’re denying him or her the power and the possibility of fixing the problem.

“Diplomacy” is a red herring.  You’re feeling conflicted because you’re forgetting that all you have to (and all you ought to) give your Master is information.  “You’re lacking in follow-through, I want discipline and reinforcement” isn’t information; it’s a demand that comes bundled in blame.

Slaves don’t tell their Masters what to do.  Not because it violates the “128 Slave Rules,” but because it violates their longing for and commitment to surrender.  So what slaves do is to bring reports from the interior, describing as best they can what they’re experiencing.

It will take some introspection for you to figure out what that is.  It’s much easier to find fault with Master than to pinpoint the lack you’re feeling.  Do you feel adrift?  Lonely?  Unappreciated?  Unnoticed?  Bored?  Do you feel futility in your service, that it doesn’t matter if you get it right or not?  Do you feel pressed for time or feel you have too much time on your hands?  Do you feel you’re going to waste?

“Discipline” may mean many things.  It may mean structure:  the rituals, protocols, rules, standing orders that give shape to your role and establish expectations.

It may mean consistency.  Maybe the structure’s in place, but lapses in compliance are shrugged off rather than caught and corrected.

It may mean punishment (or “funishment”), especially if there’s a role-play element in your dynamic, or if you as a slave find comfort in stringent accountability.

It may mean something else I’ll call present attention.  Some Masters think of slaves as wind-up toys:  inform them what their duties are, then Master can go back to channel-surfing.  A slave needs to feel that Master is noticing, commending, interjecting, countermanding, exercising those consensual authorities he or she holds in trust.  My slave puts it this way:  “I need to hear my Master’s voice.”

There’s no guarantee this necessary conversation with your Master will lead to a resolution for you.  Master may be too far away to fix it, too busy, too inexperienced, too indifferent to the kind of control you crave.  What do you do?

You can create your own structures, or try to.  Slaves do this all the time.  Kneel when you enter the room.  If Master doesn’t say, “Quit that,” you have a new discipline.  Give Master a cloth napkin while you use a paper towel.  Set the table with the good silver for Master while you use the beat-up stuff.  Etc.

Anyone who thinks the slave is powerless to shape the dynamic hasn’t been around M/s much.  Slaves are idea-generators, the very best kind:  shoot down one idea and they won’t whine about it, they’ll come up with another.  The worst thing that passes for “discipline,” in my view, is the Master who rejects the slave’s every effort at ingenuity with “Do it my way.”  Hell, man, if that’s all you want, try Burger King.

Patrick Mulcahey

 (First published in Growing Pains, newsletter of the Society of Janus) 

"Dear Patrick..." (February 2013 GROWING PAINS)


"Watching people play is both sort of boring and sort of uncomfortable for me. I was raised as a super conservative Catholic schoolgirl (complete with all-girls high school) so maybe I'm still trying to break out of that. Where are the inspiring places to go and watch?" Okay, maybe the problem is you. If you can’t break the joy-killing stranglehold of that Catholic girls’ school, enlist the help of a therapist from the Kink-Aware Professionals list, some of whom advertise with SOJ.  (None of them close by?  Lots of counseling is done by Skype these days.  Better the right therapist on your laptop than the wrong one in the building next-door.)

But your complaint is common enough that primary suspicion falls on the play you’ve been seeing. 

Public play seems to be in crisis, locally, nationally and every which way, for lots of reasons:

  • An education scene that emphasizes technique and safety over passionate engagement.  The result is a shitload of play that manages to be complicated, clinical, stagy and boring all at the same time.
  • Scene etiquette that drives serious players away.  Talking and laughing in the dungeon, uninvited touching (of bound bottoms yet!), screechy scenes that demand everyone else stop and watch Me, me, me! or move somewhere else.
  • Dungeon monitors who are poorly trained, intrusive, or forever off monitoring the Doritos.
  • “Nanny rules,” imposed by venues or municipalities, insisting on gloves and latex barriers or prohibiting blood, piss, wax, electro play, insertive sex.  Experienced players and players with fluid-bonded partners feel competent to assess and address for themselves the risks they take.  At home they can.
  • The loss of brick-and-mortar leather/kink spaces, meaning fewer and more crowded dungeons, more competition for equipment, meaning not more but fewer opportunities per capita for play.
  • Lack of quality control.  Somehow the notion has evolved that a play space is a public accommodation, like a movie theater, and the cost of admission should be all it takes to get in the door.  Which in our fewer, more crowded spaces adds up to more dreariness per square inch.

Newcomers to our scene bring talent, heat, perspective and energy we would languish without. But when the new and awkward are learning from the only slightly less new and awkward, we have reason to worry about the quality of play being modeled and emulated.  We need balance.  We need environments that attract players of all levels of experience and expertise, where the play on view expresses our longing, our passion, our values — is play that inspires, as you put it.

I don’t think you’re looking for new locations.  Few public dungeons are as roomy and well-appointed as our own S.F. Citadel.  What I think you want are different assemblies, different mixes of people, or maybe even just a little redirection. (Try approaching one senior person, even the party host or a dungeon monitor, to ask:  “If you were starting out, which players here would you watch and learn from?”)

Only you can say what turns you on, what genders and orientations and modes of play you find meaningful to watch.  Where does that community of players come together, and how often?  Sometimes it’s at regional events.  I’ve seen superb nuanced play at Southwest and Northwest Leather, at South Plains in Dallas, at Leather-Levi Weekend up north every August. I notice that a number of conference and event producers have begun to dispense with barrier rules and prohibitions against sex, which to my thinking is a step in the right direction. 

If you already know players you trust and want to see more of, why not organize your own party?  Rent public dungeon space on an off-night, or ask around and buy a couple of hours in one of our local private dungeons.  Don’t forget the Center for Sex and Culture; Carol and Robert are nothing if not game.  Hell, almost any garage or basement can be outfitted for play.  My friends Race Bannon and Larry Shockey have a handout on how to throw play parties; look me up and I’ll send you a copy. 

Patrick Mulcahey

(First published in Growing Pains, newsletter of the Society of Janus) 

BDSM Education, Has It Gone Too Far? (October 12, 2012 — RACE BANNON)


This post is a general response to a lot of online posts and discussions lately surrounding the topic of education within the BDSM and kink communities. I’m probably going to get a lot of crap for what I’m about to say, but so be it. Also, please realize that I say what I’m about to say as someone who values education considerably. I write about education a lot. I manage the education function in a large corporation including the development of instructor-led classes, e-learning modules, job aids, knowledge repositories and informal learning empowerment. One of my former careers is corporate trainer. I have an extensive background teaching kink classes and facilitating kink education events that goes as far back as when that trend began. Education is near and dear to me. So with all that said, I think the kink community (BDSM in particular) has gone off the deep end in terms of placing extensive education so front and center as essentially a requirement to being adequately kinky. I think this is a dangerous road to go down. My reasons for this opinion are many. Quite a few of these points were also brought up during the recent Leatherati Online Town Hall on the subject.

While there are many variations of kink classes, I’m going to focus specifically on BDSM education here because that’s been the focus of most of the kink education being done today, at least in the circles within which I run. And I will admit to some redundancy here having said some of this before elsewhere, but I think it’s worth repeating.

I think we have set up a false impression that for someone to be a skilled and safe BDSM player one must necessarily submerge themselves in a plethora of classes. That’s simply not true. For one thing, I contend that I could teach someone enough basic BDSM technique and safety guidelines in about a day to satisfy the bulk of a kinkster’s needs in order to have a safe and fun BDSM life. Would they know everything? Of course not, but the truth is most BDSM players don’t want or need to know everything. They simply need to know a few basics regarding the specific types of play that work for them and their partners. I don’t think there’s a BDSM player walking the Earth today that could honestly say they know how to do everything there is to do in BDSM with the utmost skill and confidence. That’s because few people want to do that. We like what we like. We might gaze from a distance upon various kinds of BDSM play and find it interesting, but when it comes to our own erotic lives we might have very little interest in such play.

Many people today are mingling amidst their fellow kinksters with an ongoing sense of self-doubt bolstered by the belief that is hammered home to them repeatedly that all good BDSM players are constantly taking classes and mired in a lifelong, never-ending formal educational process. Of course they feel this way. This is what is being fed to the newcomer BDSM player time and time again. Go to all the conferences and go to all the classes. Attend all of your local BDSM educational events. Read all of the books on the subject. Oh, and while you’re doing all of that, make sure you have a detailed knowledge of our history and current hot topics. It makes one wonder how anyone can find the time to actually play. Honestly, if you were just dipping your toe into the bathwater of BDSM to see if you liked it, wouldn’t you be dismayed and likely dissuaded if presented with all these supposed requirements. Many are.

We are doing our fellow kinksters no favors by promulgating this belief system. In fact, I think we’re doing our newcomers, and even our old timers, a tremendous disservice by doing so. You can get more details about my thoughts on this in my post, Can We Become Erotically Over-Educated?

The entire realm of “education” in BDSM is getting muddled. Far too often I’m hearing the education moniker being applied to BDSM technique classes while what I consider the far more important aspects of the learning that we do informally, in discussions and through experience relegated to the nice to have category. BDSM, like all good sex, must be rooted in passion, connection and individuality if its to rise to the levels of bliss and erotic contentment. That is never learned in a classroom. That is never taught by a teacher. It can be talked to, discussed and shared between players, but it can’t be taught. And if something that is so integral to the joy and meaning of good BDSM can’t be taught in the classroom, why are we focusing so much of our efforts on classroom-based education. We should be fostering more mentoring, socializing, playing, discussion and personal sharing opportunities. Yet we don’t. Go to any of the many BDSM-focused conferences or local classes and you’ll most often see a bunch of people in chairs staring at an instructor in front of the class detailing how to connect shackle X to chain Y. Useful knowledge perhaps, but it is simply the technical detail that must serve the overall BDSM experience. It is not the experience itself. We must never forget this.

I talk more about this in my post, Are Our Educational Efforts Backfiring?. I won’t reiterate what I wrote there again here, but suffice to say that I believe that many of our current approaches to BDSM education don’t optimally serve either newcomer or experienced kinksters, and they might actually be setting the entire movement back.

Add to all of this the fact that education in the general community is currently undergoing a transformation from a nearly entirely push (classroom) to more of a pull (self-education and informal learning) paradigm. There has been strong evidence for years that classroom-based teaching is not always the best way to learn things. It has significant shortcomings, especially for certain subjects. I contend that classroom-based teaching is one of the worst ways to learn BDSM except in certain specific instances. BDSM is about relationships. The entire experience takes place within the context of people interacting and doing things together. The classroom model of teaching is typically a passive experience for the learners and that does not engage their learning much at all. You simply can’t teach in any effective way the core attractions of BDSM, yet we think we can. I don’t think we can even always teach the mechanics all that well since how they’re applied in BDSM varies so much person to person, as it should since we’re all unique. We must move beyond the classroom model and into more engaging and effective approaches. We need to reduce the number of classes we teach and replace them with informal social learning opportunities. At the same time, we must consider that much of the supposed education we push out to kinksters really has no place in a classroom at all. There are simply much betters ways to foster the growth, connection and skill among kinksters.

One of the greatest minds of the BDSM scene and a friend, Tony DeBlase, hammered home to me repeatedly that we must never become slaves to technique. We must never elevate technique to a place where it trumps the internal connections and visceral erotic joy that good BDSM brings about. To do so does, in my opinion, demean BDSM and relegate it to nothing more than a bit of technical acumen rather than the mechanism by which people intimately connect. I fear that how we’ve come to approach educating our own kind is indeed often demeaning the experience and that gives me tremendous pause and concern.

Race Bannon at

We Need to Let the Younger Guys Take Over (September 7, 2012 — RACE BANNON)


Before I start rambling here, let me state upfront that this post is specifically for gay leathermen. It’s not a topic that’s as relevant for others. With that said… Today I had a chat with a casual friend of mine who is a long-time leatherman. He was excited that a former leather bar of ours here in San Francisco, the San Francisco Eagle, is reopening after being closed for a while. The entire kink/leather community here in San Francisco is hopeful that the new bar will offer us yet one more venue in which to meet and socialize.

During our chat my friend started to say something like (not an exact quote) “Our entire scene is built on the foundation of us older leathermen.” I think he even used the term I’m not a huge fan of, the Old Guard. His tone and fervor seemed to indicate that he believes the bulk of the scene is in our hands today. I took exception with him.

No, I’m not saying that leathermen did not, indeed, build the foundations upon which much of what we today refer to as the modern leather/BDSM/fetish community has flourished. My friend though was implying that even today’s modern leather/kink scene is primarily fueled by us (yes, I’m one of them) older leathermen. I contend it is not.

All around the country and in Europe I’m seeing younger guys stepping up to the plate and taking charge of our clubs and organizations, events, venues, retailers, and so on. Yes, us older guys still have our place. We are still vital members of this community. We still contribute on all fronts. Many of the younger guys do look to us for information and wisdom. But far too often I see many older guys like myself failing to step aside on the kinky path to let the younger guys do their thing unencumbered.

At times I sense my older leathermen peers adopt an attitude that implies they are doing it all correctly and the younger guys must replicate what we do, how we dress, how we socialize, how we play, and how we identify with our kink. I think that’s a recipe for the atrophying of our scene, not its growth.

Change is inevitable. It’s one of the few universal constants. If anything in the universe stays the same, it eventually withers and ceases to exist. Why should we think the kinky scene we all love is any different. Change is good, not bad. Change breathes new life into things. And typically a large part of the energy for such change, no matter in what context, comes from younger people. So it is with leather and kink.

To the younger leathermen’s and kinksters’ credit, they have generally been quite inclusive of us older guys. I have rarely felt any sense of youth entitlement or feeling left out of things because of my age. Sure, younger guys at times want to be with their own kind. Good for them. That’s natural as human beings that we sometimes aggregate in clusters of those who are most like us. But overall I find the younger men ready to embrace and include us older guys in their midst.

The younger guys bring with them a new perspective on the leather and kink scene. They often dress differently than the classic leatherman. They often play differently than the classic leatherman. They often socialize differently than the classic leatherman. They often see their erotic identities differently than the classic leatherman. I think this is a good thing. I love to see our scene grow and morph into a wider variety of erotic and identity expressions.

So, I’m one old leatherman who is quite happy to wave the younger kinksters past me and encourage them to do the things many of them are doing so well. I’ll continue to contribute in the ways I can. And when you mix it all together, you have a healthier and better leather and kink scene. There is room for everyone.

Race Bannon at

San Francisco Leathermen’s Discussion Group 15th Anniversary (December 17, 2011 — RACE BANNON)


Good afternoon. Welcome to what I personally consider to be an event that marks an extremely important milestone in our local kink and leather scene. I think it’s safe to say that LDG has established itself as one of the more important education and social resources within our community here in San Francisco. I’d like to add my thanks and congratulations to everyone who has been involved in making LDG the successful and highly valued institution that it’s become. I must admit I found it somewhat amusing when I was told that the history of LDG began in 1996 when Salem Bucholz organized a few guys to get together to discuss kinky topics and that erotic Greek vases was among the first of those topics. Yes, LDG was born, in part, from a discussion about erotic Greek vases. I think that’s sorta cool, and it’s illustrative of the fact that you never quite know where something you start is going to go. So if you have an idea for something that might benefit the kinky community, take inspiration from LDG and go for it. Salem, along with Alan Selby, who led the first LDG discussion meeting by the way, Don Thompson and perhaps others whom I’m neglecting to mention, started something incredibly special that we are here today to celebrate.

I was told that the original vision Salem had was to get guys together to talk about something within the kink spectrum while also fostering camaraderie outside of the bars. In that sense, perhaps he was prescient in seeing what we now so clearly know – that we must foster socializing opportunities outside of the bars that had formerly served as one of our primary central meeting places. LDG serves as one of those great socializing opportunities that also educates and informs us at the same time.

Rather quickly the casually organized group morphed into a discussion group tackling a broad range of topics that spanned the entire realm of leather and kink. Education had become its focus and by around 1997-1998 it was well established that education would remain its primary focus as it is today.

LDG has since had a wonderful history of people who have taken it upon themselves to continue as the driving forces behind LDG. I could begin to name names, but I fear I will miss someone and there are a lot of important people who have contributed to LDG along the way. Some in big ways, some in small ways, but valued contributions all. I think I speak for everyone in this room when I say thanks to all of you, every single person, for helping to continue this tradition of discussion, learning and community that LDG has become.

The true impact that LDG has had upon the community isn’t necessarily best represented by how long it’s been around or how many discussions or presentations it’s hosted, but rather the impact it’s had on the people who attend LDG events. And LDG has impacted many lives in profoundly positive ways. I asked some people if they would share with me how LDG has benefited them and they generously did so. Out of respect for their privacy I’m not going to name names, but they represent a diverse cross-section of the people I’ve seen attending LDG events over the years.

One of the most moving comments came from someone who said “I guess for me, LDG is giving me sort of what feels like a 'last hope' in making my dream of being a leather boy come true.”

Think about that statement for a moment. My “last hope.” I saw this person at a recent LDG event and I could see how engaged they were with the presentation, and LDG may be responsible for this person staying within our fold when he might otherwise have left in frustration. How amazing is that?

Another person told me that “LDG has been, for me, a symbol of what I think community organizing should be at its best. Over the past couple of years I have witnessed their dedication to camaraderie, members building relationships that bring amazing opportunities for the group and the larger community, a deep respect for history but not at the expense of including new ways of thinking, and an understanding of the power of marketing. This is in sharp contrast to what many other groups suffer from – in-fighting, officers that are over-committed, and disrespectful communication.” And they added “Thank you to LDG for setting the bar high and giving the rest of us something to aspire to.”

I think that clearly pays homage not only to the founders and subsequent stewards of LDG through the years, but also to the current folks managing LDG who are doing such a great job. You do give us something to aspire to.

Someone else gave me a bit of background on himself and I think that his background clearly illustrates why LDG’s inclusiveness of newbies and the curious is so important, and then he mentions why LDG is so important to him. His story is worth hearing.

“When I came to San Francisco in my mid-twenties I’d been playing in leather and kink for a few years. When I turned 21, I hit every old-school guy’s bar and leather bar available. I didn’t own, and couldn’t afford, any leather but I’d heard that tight 501s, white tee-shirts, and boots were acceptable gear for boys. That’s all I had, so for many years, that’s what I wore. Eventually, I saved to buy my first belt, which ended up being used on me a lot.” Then he joked that he wished it hadn’t taken him so long to buy that damn belt!

“Moving to San Francisco was a dream. I was a kinky hippie. Where else should I be? I hit the ground running, horny, hot, and ready to find men who would work me over. I guess I started really playing here in 1995 by swallowing the nervous lump in my throat and finally taking out ads in the Bay Area Reporter. The more I played, the more I wanted to play but, again, it was without community or guidance or fellowship. At that age, whether I knew it consciously or not, I was hungry for community.”

“I really don’t remember where I first heard of LDG, but I think it actually was an ad in the Bay Area Reporter. This was probably around 1996 or 1997. I remember going to a lot of LDG meetings. I felt like such a newbie and I was, a newbie in the community I’d been hoping I’d find eventually. I made so many friends at LDG meetings and after many meetings we’d hit SOMA Leather bars for a drink and cruise guys.”

He mentions that due to scheduling conflicts he as away from LDG for a couple of years. His schedule freed up and he said: “LDG was the family, the group, the organization I came right back to. LDG will always be my home base, no matter where I go or whatever organizations and clubs I may feel a part of or support. LDG is home… it has been since I moved here.”

Home. To call something your home is a powerful and telling statement. What is a home? It is a place where you “live,” and I contend that LDG offers the kinky folks of San Francisco just that – a place where they can truly live and be who they are in a safe, caring and nonjudgmental atmosphere. The value of that cannot be emphasized enough.

Lastly, in addition to asking people who attended LDG events for their thoughts, I also asked some of the key people who were involved as LDG organizers for their thoughts. One stood out in particular from someone with heavy involvement in the early years of LDG.

“Through all the blood, sweat, and occasional conflict that it took to keep LDG surviving through its 15 years, and despite our different perspectives and experiences, it is undeniable that all the people who have committed so much time and energy over our history have shared a common vision. That common vision was that the San Francisco Bay Area leather scene would be stronger and more cohesive through what we created and have maintained – an organization that could foster community, teaching, learning, hands-on, and sometimes hands-in, kinky experiences for both newcomers and experienced players. And we all shared the realization that unless each and every one of us stepped up and got the job done week after week, we would feel like we had let our community down. For all of us, that was simply unacceptable, and it remains unacceptable to those who are carrying the torch now. We should all refuse to accept that a leather capital like San Francisco can ever lose an asset like LDG – luckily, it seems we don’t have anything to worry about.”

Let me add to this person’s commentary and say that based on my observations of LDG lately, that person is correct that we don’t have anything to worry about. The recent history of LDG suggests that it’s serving the needs of San Francisco’s leather and kink community admirably and the popularity of recent events suggests they are reaching out and engaging some folks who perhaps haven’t always felt part of our community.

There is an old Kenyan proverb that states “Having a good discussion is like having riches.” LDG is one of those elements of riches that we in the San Francisco Bay Area get to enjoy over and over because of great people who give a damn that the rest of us have the fulfilling and enjoyable kinky lives we want and often need.

To everyone in this room who had or has anything to do with organizing LDG, I thank you on behalf of the countless folks you’ve helped over the years. To those who are no longer with us, but have done the same, you are in my thoughts and you have our collective thanks. And to those here today, and those not here today, who attend LDG events, it is you who make the discussions and presentations come alive. Keep coming to LDG events. It feeds the kinky soul.

Congratulations to LDG on 15 wonderful years. As for the future of LDG, I hope I’m at their 20th, 25th and 30th anniversary events because I think it is more important than ever to maintain things like LDG’s education and discussion events. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can replace the power that face-to-face discussion and communal learning has to empower and bond people.

Thank you for your time.

Race Bannon at

It’s Sunday and I Want to Talk about Love (January 27, 2013 — Patrick Mulcahey)


(Keynote speech delivered at the Southwest Leather Conference 2013)

It’s Sunday and I want to talk about love.

Not “the Love that moves the sun and other stars” as Dante puts it, but the love between human beings. And I want to talk about Butchmanns, and about the maturing of our Master-slave community, and about my own.

I wonder if I can convey to you how it feels to stand before you in this room. Back in its younger years (and, I suppose, mine), Southwest Leather was the first leather conference I ever attended, in this same hotel. I’d only ever gone to big rowdy men’s events like International Mr Leather, which nobody would call a conference. Here is where I had my first exposure to Master Rick and slave Tina, who’ve become family to me; to Master Steve and his blustery good nature; to sweet excitable Master Taino, who introduced himself by saying, very nicely, “Don’t you know who I am?”; to Master Z, also a friend now, but at the time a hot fantasy DILF; and the astonishing Wayne Brawner, whom I watched throw a long, long whip at a small jumpy woman and make it coil around her ankle like a kitten curling up to sleep.

Southwest Leather, though, was not my first contact with Butchmanns. I have looked in vain for it since, but I have a powerful memory of running across (in the 90s, I can’t say just when) an early Butchmanns website, or possibly just a webpage authored by someone driven a little gaga by the thought of Butchmanns. I suppose I must’ve told my trusty search engine — anybody remember Excite? — to find me something about GAY MALE LEATHER MASTERS AND SLAVES. I was used to relying on porn for Master-slave imagery, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it.

Well! For once Excite deposited me somewhere truly exciting. There was a black-and-white photo of a windswept desert place: a few sun-bleached outbuildings, I think some wire fencing, a fringe of dusty shrubbery, low merciless hills in the background. No human presence. Ideal for an alien or non-alien abduction. The text, there wasn’t much of it, talked elliptically about Butchmanns slave-training camp. My hair stood on end as I read you could dispatch your would-be slave to Butchmanns, to surrender his clothing and all resistance to the demands of two implacable seasoned instructors.

What could be more awesome than that? And I surmised that one of those fearful Master trainers must be the titular Mr Butch Man.

Okay, my memory’s never been any match for my imagination, which I’m sure shapes my recall of that first encounter with the Butchmanns brand — but it didn’t feel so far removed from my overheated Master/slave fantasies. I remained in the dark about who trained the Masters, if such a thing was even done, and whether they were allowed to keep their pants and their inhibitions. But theirs was the role my fevered libido liked to cast me in: The One Who Is Surrendered To.

Alas, I had one glaring deficiency: the lack of a surrenderer. Butchmanns seemed to be doing a brisk business in them, and I only needed one or two.

Truth is, now that I look back, I had already met a few such men, without understanding what drew me to them.

My very first man, a complete surprise. He was a flight attendant. (So maybe not a complete surprise.) It was about three in the morning. We were strangers, relieved to be escaping the same nasty mescaline-fueled party. We walked. Forgettable words were exchanged. He turned to me in the dark. If I’d shifted my face just a quarter turn, that would have been the end of it.

His kiss felt like the antidote to a slow poison. If he was prepared for the fierceness that erupted between us, I was not.

That was the first time I made love. Rough as it was, I’d be lying if I called it anything else. I never saw him again. But because I knew love had happened, I couldn’t ignore it, I couldn’t forget it.

This, by the way, is how most of us with non-standard orientations discover it. It isn’t the sex. Sex I’d had before. It’s that other thing.

Love can lead you to who you are, but you have to follow.

I’ll gloss over the part where, because I couldn’t ignore or forget it, I found myself committed to an adolescent psychiatric ward.

Nobody really wants you to love the way you want to love. They want it locked down and channeled toward real estate and onesies and plasma TVs.

Then there was Bill, the first man who ever called me Sir. I’m not kissing and telling today; I would change his name out of courtesy if I could remember it. I never called him by it. He kept suggesting “boy,” but he was almost twice my age and I could hardly spit the word out. Mostly I just grunted and heaved him around. It was all so new and thrilling to me, and I was such a polite young man, that sometimes I got confused about which one of us was “Sir.” He’d crack a quick little smile when that happened, and we both understood that slip of the tongue represented something true, because Bill was training me.

Bill loved me but I was too wildly ignorant of my own nature to return it. He had a collar in a drawer that he put on when I came to see him. Now I can guess at the need it answered for him, but at the time I thought collars were toys, like cockrings.

Then there was Renzo. With him, I carried a leather collar and put it on him when he knelt. Renzo had been a victim of serious violence, sexual violence that had come close to killing him. He wore the scars of it, like the runes of a dead language, all over his beautiful furry body.

When we played, Renzo made me tie him up. He was afraid if I didn’t, the memory of that old trauma would overwhelm him, and he’d lose control and hurt me. I was worried that what we were doing was wrong, was harmful to him. He said, “Shut up and do what you came to do.” In time I began to understand he wasn’t reliving the attack that scarred him: he was un-living it, triumphing this time, robbing it of its power to terrify.

There were men I loved on loan who belonged to somebody else. Men who couldn’t decide if they were afraid of me or of themselves. As in the natural course of things, there were outbreaks of heartache and dread; but it seemed to me that the closer I got to what I would now call a power dynamic or authority-based relationship, the happier I was, and the more freely I loved and was loved.

Was it just the time? Sometimes I wonder. Was something happening to all of us in the 90s? Nowadays we can’t shut up about same-sex marriage, but back in the bad old 70s, there was a great and ultimately fatal sadness in the attachments I tried to make. We didn’t know what success at love between two men would look like. We’d never seen it. Some laws had changed, but the way we’d been raised to think about ourselves and what was possible for people like us was not legislatable.

Certainly the following decade changed us, when we were visited by that terrible socio-politico-medical scourge that threatened to erase us from the planet. We lay down in the streets, we marched on Washington, we took every stranger’s death personally. We smuggled medications from Mexico and Japan through Customs for men we would never meet with names we would never hear.

Maybe you can’t really know love until dying is at least a nodding acquaintance.

Whatever the reasons, by the mid-90s, in my world of gay men and leather, we all seemed able and open to love: it was a love stampede. (There has to be a country song by that title.) We knew what we wanted, and that was a heart connection, whether for an evening or a season or a lifetime.

So why am I yammering on about love? It’s not Valentine’s Day. This is Southwest Leather! It’s about The Woo, not The Wooing!

Well, maybe the distance between the two is not so unbridgeable as we tend to think.

I met a man who wasn’t like any other man. I felt I knew him before I was born. I felt we were made from the same clay by the same hand. I felt he should belong to me, almost the way at a party you reach for one leather jacket in a pile of leather jackets, or one half-empty glass on a table full of half-empty glasses, and say, “This must be mine.” Even his name was mine.

People I hardly knew had been calling me “Master” for some years, to which my response had always been, “Uh, no.” But here was my slave — at some level I knew that the minute he walked through my door. So I must be his Master. But how?

And just when I needed you, so serendipitously it could almost make me believe The Universe sent you (but not quite), Butchmanns jumped off my monitor screen and into my life, in the form of Master Skip and SlaveMaster.

I had been to MAsT and D/s discussion groups and support groups for Dominants, etc., but never had I heard a coherent philosophy of the Master-slave dynamic the like of which those two men presented. For the first time I heard out loud things that I knew to be true but nobody said on Recon — for instance, that the slave must be in service to something higher than the Master’s crotch. I heard other ideas entirely new to me that I recognized were true as soon as I heard them. Master and the slave as Jungian archetypes. Locating the M/s connection not in the body but in the spirit.

Between them they articulated an entire mythology of consensual Mastery and slavery, including even something like a creation myth, embedded with stunning metaphorical insights. I was fed up with hearing, in my discussion groups, slaves compared to cars and toasters and so on, as “property.” Imagine how thrilling it was for me to hear, in SlaveMaster’s words: A slave is owned in the same way that the Master owns his own hand. The Master expects the same obedience from his slave that he does from his hand. The Master cares for the slave as he does his own hand.

The Butchmanns philosophy, if I may call it that, is not monolithic, I know. Distinct differences in the styles and practices of its chief proponents are easy to spot. But it is consistent enough and powerful enough to have helped lead thousands of us, myself included, on the path to sound relationships with our slaves or Masters, in fulfillment of our most profound longings, for wisdom, intimacy, self-acceptance, self-definition. Butchmanns’ founders and instructors gave us a whole new lexicon with which to talk about how our relationships work: “heart of a Master,” “slave heart,” “orders from the Universe,” and let us not forget, “the Woo.”

Hell, now that MAsT is part of Butchmanns Inc., it’s no exaggeration to call Butchmanns the home of the international Master-slave community. Such a distance we’ve come since that windswept, wire-fenced, sand-choked compound that filled my head with “Yes, Sir, Mr Butch Man!” fantasies.

Have we maybe come too far? Might a mild correction be in order?

And why is it, if we’re honest, that so many of us quietly feel we don’t measure up to the Butchmanns standard?

Partly it has to do with that most traditional Sunday subject: religion. Like it or not, Woo is now an amateur religion. It doesn’t make any money. But it has a deity, a.k.a. the Universe, a rough cosmology, an epistemology (we know what we know because the Universe tells us so). It has high and low priests and diehard adherents and even a few fairly sacred texts. It’s a pretty loose and gluten-free religion. It goes down easy, and it’s a simple matter to ignore the parts you don’t like. (Unlike some of the more established religions, where 80% of what you’re told makes you mentally stick your fingers in your ears.)

I can’t in all honesty do that anymore. As I say, I know and love Master Skip and SlaveMaster. If they tell me they are receiving and transmitting orders and messages from the Universe, I absolutely believe them. But I’m going to ask for the reciprocal courtesy when I tell you the Universe isn’t talking to me. I don’t think I’m defective or stuck with a broken receiver. Do I hear voices? Yes, and all of them are mine. I recognize their fear, their fake outrage, their sadness, their longing all too well. I make the best decisions I can by the light of my conscience and nothing else. It does no good to tell me it’s really the Universe or my neural pathways calling the shots. I don’t experience that. I don’t believe that. I don’t think I should have to.

The other part — and by now you’ll have guessed where I’m going — is that there seems to be no room for ordinary love in the Butchmanns scheme. I love my slave. I don’t want to overcome loving him or pretend not to love him, and I decline to indulge in the customary hairsplitting about loving and being in love. It’s taken me almost sixty years to figure out who I am when I love and how love happens for me, and I’m not giving that up. Again, I do know there is no rigid “Butchmanns scheme,” it’s more like variations on a theme, but love seems to have a bad name in all of them. If any of you Butchmanns instructors cops to being in love with your Master or slave, you’re very quiet about it. Leading those of us who confess love to feel like very slow learners.

I’m trying to make an observation, not an accusation. You are all too good, too humble and too kind to tell me or anyone, “You’re doing it wrong.” Let me give you the closest analogy I can think of:

When I was just thirty and traveling in South America for the first time, I got lost a lot. I would stop and ask directions, then promptly ignore them and get even more lost. Upon examining this pattern, and with a shock of horror at myself, I recognized that somehow by osmosis I had absorbed, from television or God knows where, some preposterous stereotypes. When anyone spoke Spanish to me or even English with a Spanish accent — which was everyone I met (hello, it’s South America) — I mentally dismissed whatever they had to say. I mean, I’m asking where such-and-such a museum is, and some local resident is telling me, but the look on my face, which they see perfectly well, is saying, “That’s all very nice, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

We Masters and slaves who claim love out loud are very familiar with that look. But love is our country, we live here! It’s perfectly safe to believe that we know our way around it.

Granted, it only seems fair that we who love are the ugly stepchildren of M/s, since in mainstream culture, love is The Shit. All the songs and the stories are written for lovers and about lovers. But you know? That radio love is not for me either. I think my slave nailed the reason the day I dragged his ass down to Mr S. to get him outfitted with new leathers. Most of you know him as quiet and mild-mannered, and he is; but take him shopping — for himself — and suddenly he’s Spartacus. “I hope you don’t think I’m like one of your soap-opera characters!” he snapped at me on the way home, eyes blazing. “Buy me a big shiny present and I’ll dance around like a little girl? I don’t think so!”

Did I mention that my slave is also very smart? In those mainstream depictions of love, there always seems to be some kind of submerged, unacknowledged quid pro quo going on. “I did X for you, so I expect you to do Y for me.” (Which is like a meta-country song title.) I bought you dinner, you better put out. Unclog the sink and I’ll forget the lie I caught you in. And so on.

I don’t bargain with my slave. Hey, those nice new leathers were never going to belong to him. And he’s not in charge of meeting my needs: I am.

Most of the centuries-old conventions of romance are, let’s face it, fucked up. To be worthy of him, a lady must always say no to the hero’s advances. (What, he refuses to join a club that would have his member as a member?) Fortunately, there comes a point when he knows her better than she knows herself and sweeps her off her feet despite her resistance. (Down at the courthouse we call that rape.) He doesn’t burden her with his troubles, such as the mad ex-wife in the attic. (Details!) Her love so improves him that he gives up his old habits and bad companions — a development common as crabgrass in romance and as rare in real life as the Rapture.

It couldn’t be more apparent to men who love men and women who love women that that shit doesn’t apply to us. When my slave comes home with flowers, I don’t think, “How romantic,” I think, “Oh, we’re having company for dinner.” I appreciate how difficult it must be for you of the heterosexual persuasion to break free of those persistent roles and images, but it has to be done. What’s the alternative? Discounting love because you notice the version you were handed is synthetic is like refusing to wear cotton because cotton candy once got stuck in your hair.

Butchmanns, I love you, and I want you to change. I’ve had some sleepless nights about saying these things to you in your own house, but I decided it would betray our friendship not to tell you truthfully what I think and feel.

It’s not your fault that no other model of Master and slave is so persuasive or widely embraced. Nor are you responsible for the way your message can be corrupted in transmission, as is inevitable when big important ideas enter a subculture numbering hundreds of thousands. I can’t be the only one in this room who has seen the emotionally stunted prop themselves up with the dogma that Love is weakness and has no place in a power dynamic!, to entrap partners in technically consensual but actually abusive relationships, because they heard that’s how it works if you’re doing it right.

Not your fault. But perhaps not entirely beyond our power to address.

When I say change, you have every right to give me That Look again and say, “That’s nice, go build your own desert sandbox.” But maybe you’ll see your way to enlarging the sandbox we’re already in: you’ve done it before. In the dark ages of M/s (and, Master and slave was an erotic authoritarian dynamic, expressed in SM practices designed to subjugate and “break” the slave for the Master’s pleasure and convenience. It was you who insisted that SM was optional, sex too; that what linked Masters to their slaves was something more fundamental than gender or orientation. And okay, we’re convinced: our community is full of non-sexual M/s dynamics in which we see all partners are happy and fulfilled. Is there any other measure of success?

So might it be possible for the pendulum to swing back, just a little, and readmit to the fold those of us who love sex and SM — and each other?

I don’t believe love can ever be the enemy of happiness or goodness or growth. It’s the fear of losing love that drives us to desperation, that tempts us to desert ourselves in hopes of impersonating someone more lovable than we think we are. As I told you once, Master Skip, I consider M/s my protection against that fate. The one sure way I know to lose my slave’s respect and obedience is to pretend to be other than I am.

I will confess to you all I did that once — it was only for a moment — and it was almost the end of us. We came back from that catastrophe once; I’d be a fool to risk it again.

I’ve said enough, I’m sure more than enough. I ask you to receive it with an open heart. It is offered in thanks for what all of you have done to support me in coming into myself and coming finally into love. It brings full circle across the years that first day I sat with you, here in this room, never thinking, never dreaming, of this distant, joyous, unlikely Sunday to come.

Thank you.

Patrick Mulcahey