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Blog

San Francisco Leathermen's Discussion Group

Filtering by Category: Programs

Like Groundhog Day for Bondage: LDG Dungeon Tour A Success

Eric Burkett

By Eric Burkett

Two men are up against a post in a darkened dungeon on the edge of the Castro. One, wearing motorcycle gear, is seated on a low stool with his back to the post while the top, one of the owners of this particular dungeon, is standing over him, repeatedly thrusting his knee hard into the seated guy's nuts. Music, dark and moody synthesized organ, floods the room.

Several other men, standing at the edges, watch. Some are intent upon the scene before them. Others are investigating pieces of equipment, such as the St. Andrew's cross, and various erotic posters hanging on the wall. 

This wasn't a play party. It was Leathermen's Discussion Group's dungeon tour, which on March 21 gave 60 guys the opportunity to see and explore three well-established dungeons and playrooms in San Francisco. Yeah, demo sex certainly happened but, in one of those only-in-San Francisco events, many of the observers were picking up tips for their own dungeons and playrooms, or the spaces they hope to construct themselves some day. 

Shuttled from one location to another in a chauffeured tour van, the group – divided into smaller groups of 15 – spent the evening of March 21 noshing, chatting, cruising, and observing their way through the dungeons scattered around the Castro. The event was a successful fundraiser for LDG but, for many of the men on the tour, it was a rare chance to visit, as one man put it, the “holy of holies,” the private dungeons of San Francisco's leather and kink men.

While the demo continued in the dungeon, several visitors had moved to the room next door where they enjoyed refreshments and the opportunity to talk with Gary, the other half of the dungeon's owners. Questions ran the gamut, from inquiries about the dungeon's complex soundproofing and details about the large bed (“Which weighs about a ton,” Gary said) to the more nitty-gritty: how much did it cost the two men to build their space and what was the permitting process like?

Gary recalled the uncomfortable matter of wondering how to describe the room to city permitters, which was quickly allayed by an inspector who arrived, took a look at the space, and casually observed “Oh, a dungeon.”

As the 45-minute visit wound to a close, another group arrived several blocks away at the dungeon on Noe Street. It's an elaborate construction - “a technical marvel,” offered one visitor – entirely befitting its owner, Bob, a former engineer. Mechanized platforms and wall mounts dominate the well-lighted room, although they're matched by an enormous collection of handcuffs on another wall. Bob has been collecting them since he was a kid, he explained. 

Inside the marvel, the demo volunteers, Brent and Santiago, were going at it. Brent has Santiago tied to a cross as he works his bottom's cock and strokes his ass. The ropes binding Santiago to the cross match his red jockstrap and blindfold, one visitor noted.

“Thank you,” replied a smiling Brent. “We are gay, after all.”

The two men had been performing for a couple of groups already, an experience Brent described as “Like Groundhog Day for bondage.” 

Outside in Bob's backyard, guys milled about, chatting and drinking after they'd seen enough of the dungeon. Jim, a handsome guy with gray scruff and a 19-year resident of San Francisco, enjoyed the tour. 

“This beats the hell out of Disneyland,” he said, adding that, like many others on the tour, he was planning his own dungeon and looking for ideas. And, like many others, his own space offered up its own series of challenges.

“My place needs to be soundproofed,” he said, adding “Let's put it like that.”

While visitors stood back and watched at the other two locations, things at the 15th Street playroom were picking up steam. Not only were there two demos going on – there might have been more save for a couple of volunteer cancellations – visitors were getting in on the act, too. While one volunteer was strapped onto a hanging bondage board, and another was being single tailed on the large St. Andrew's cross, a visitor – Craig – was being strapped into Sparky, a heavy bondage chair replete with binding straps, a rim seat, and a set of blinders, designed to sit on either side of the subject's head and block his peripheral vision. 

The 15th Street playroom is the oldest of the three and, while all three have been changed and remodeled over time, this one is probably the most organic of the bunch. While the other two were the results of years of planning and deliberate design decisions, the dark red room at 15th Street has evolved a little less deliberately over the years and, as several visitors noted with a smile, smelled more like sex.

Once he's out of the bondage chair, Craig reflected on what he'd seen on the tour (“Nothing surprises me in this town,” he said). Impressed with the carpentry of the cross he'd seen in one dungeon, he realized, too, the best model for his own space might be one of the dungeons he toured before he arrived at 15th Street.

”I'm also anal retentive,” he said. “My dungeon would end up looking like Bob's.”


 

Leather Titles, or The Mirror of Erised

Erik Will

Joe Gallagher, Race Bannon, Graylin Thornton, Eric Paul Leue, and Bob Goldfarb

Joe Gallagher, Race Bannon, Graylin Thornton, Eric Paul Leue, and Bob Goldfarb

Race Bannon, BAR columnist, author, and one of four panelists for our January 28th program entitled ARE LEATHER TITLES NECESSARY? concisely sums up the conversation: it was all over the map. 

We had four sexy and intelligent men with varying levels of experience in the leather title system, and, as one might expect, the conversation was pretty freewheeling.

What is clear to me—from our initial brainstorms on the topic, questions which poured in from our anonymous poll, facebook messages and public comments,  the panel discussion itself, and from people's reactions afterwards—is this: expectations are entirely UNCLEAR.

Contest producers have expectations, contestants have expectations, spectators have expectations, and the WINNER has expectations.

Layer on another axis of expectation: Bar titles, versus city titles, versus regional titles, versus international titles.

Layer on another axis of expectation: an exponentially growing community of people made up entirely of contest producers, judges, contestants, winners, and whiners.

Now let's add words like Community. and Service. and Mentoring. and History. and AIDS Epidemic.

Finally, let's not forget that in the midst of this title ecosystem forming, an entire generation of men was lost to us, and we now have a brand new generation of men entering the scene who—thank fuck—have literally no experience living in terror that the most important expression of their sexuality and manhood will unquestionably kill them in a horrible way.

To me, the leather title system as a whole is The Mirror of Erised - or "The Mirror of Desire" from the Harry Potter Universe. This mirror was inscribed with a mysterious phrase: "Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi." Read backwards, as in a mirror, you see "I show not your face but your heart's desire:" When someone looks into the mirror, they see the most desperate desire of their heart. You have a clear idea of what you see, but those around you do not. Everyone at every level of the contest system seems to have a desire which may or may not be clear to anyone else, and which may or may not line up with anyone else's desperate desire of their hearts.

I don't mean to sound glum about this. In fact, I am excited that I was asked to judge this year's Mr. San Francisco Leather Contest on March 7th, 2015. For context, this is the first contest I have been asked to judge. I have been asked to compete, but I never have. I (as a representative of LDG) have been asked to sponsor a new feeder contest, and we sidestepped that. I have attended many local contests. I know lots of contestants at every level. I have a relatively fresh view of all of this in general, because I came out into the leather/kink community only 4 years ago. LDG is a constituent member of the San Francisco Bay Area Leather Alliance, which is also the "owner" of the Mr. San Francisco Leather title. Just for fun, I am also the primary architect behind what will (hopefully, if the Apple/Android Store goddesses are agreeable) be the first SF Leather App - an iOS/Android app which will not only serve as the contest weekend program, but also be updated throughout the rest of the year to be a useful Leather/Kink Community Resource.

So, with that in mind, I am looking forward to seeing how this contest thing works behind the curtain. I will do my very best to judge the contest based on what the stated expectations of the contest owner is. I will make sure that the contestants I talk to understand what they're being judged on and why. I will talk with my fellow judges to make sure we are on the same page, using the same scale and set of shared values.

I will throw one final parallel in here to close: The amount of (mis/non/loaded)communication that leads to unfulfilled expectations feel very much like people who want to reproduce some load-blowing scene they saw at a dungeon party, but don't know how to negotiate it. So they fumble their way through it, trying to make it look hot, perhaps desperately hoping the other person is getting something out of it, but ultimately failing because they didn't sit down to talk about what it was they wanted to get out of it.

So, in conclusion, negotiate your scene, and know wtf you are getting into before you own/produce/contest in/spectate upon/win a leather title. ;)