Who are These Leather People, and Why do We Need to Include Them? Kink History, Culture, Communities and Dilemmas

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1 Who are These Leather People, and Why do We Need to Include Them? Kink History, Culture, Communities and Dilemmas Richard A. Sprott, PhD Executive Director Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities CARAS

2 Acknowledgements This presentation relies on and incorporates the intellectual work of the following people: Richard A. Sprott, PhD Robert Bienvenu, PhD Kathy Sisson, MA Ryan Witherspoon, MA Steve Stein

3 Where we are going Overview of BDSM/kink Subculture dynamics History Current dilemmas and issues Advantages of inclusion?

4 What is BDSM? ondage & iscipline omination & ubmission adism & Often synonymous with: Kink, Fetish, Leather, S&M, Sadomasochism BDSM may take form of: A practice A lifestyle An orientation asochism

5 What is BDSM? Common Components: Consensuality Mutually defined activities (shared understanding). Eroticization of power via dominance & submission. Role playing or fantasy (usually an erotic context). Intense sensory stimulation and/or phys. restriction. Not all components must be present (except first two), but often are.

6 Roles in BDSM Top/Dominant (Dom/Domme) Bottom/Submissive (Sub) Switch Role preference can shift over time. Role preference somewhat gender-neutral: Conflicting data on whether male-dominant, femalesubmissive role preference more common. Switch role may be less common in hetero populations; may be more common in queer/bi/trans populations.

7 BDSM Play Scene = Single session of BDSM play. Scenes can be as brief or long as players desire. Common Scene Structure Negotiation (limits, preferences, safety) Play (resolution mutual or unilateral, eg: safeword) Aftercare (eg: caring, affection, coming down ) Successful BDSM scenes found to lower both participants cortisol levels and enhance relationship closeness (Sagarin et al., 2009). Subspace: A pleasurable altered state of consciousness many bottoms/subs report during an intense scene.

8 Common Types of BDSM Play Impact/Sensation/Pain Play e.g. Spanking, flogging, whipping, caning, touch, tickling, hot/cold. Bondage/Restraint Restraining, restricting, or tying a person up. Psychological/Role-play Intense mental/emotional stimulation, eroticized roles, rituals, rule compliance. Edge Play Denotes greater risk, higher intensity, or considered more transgressive than common play.

9 Some Sub-communities in the kink world M/s community Master / slave Pup community and Animal Play community Furries Age play, Littles scene Rubber, Gear, Uniform scenes Fisting community

10 Where BDSM Happens Private homes/play parties. BDSM/fetish clubs, dungeons (private & public). Professional dungeons (99% male clientele). Notes: BDSM now far easier to stumble upon than before. Public clubs, internet, wider media exposure. Pros: More interest --> less stigma. Cons: Less mentorship, harder to self-police. Most large cities have BDSM communities.

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12 Gay/Lesbian/Queer vs. Straight BDSM Leather usually refers to gay/lesbian BDSM. LGBTQ & hetero BDSM communities often segregated. LGB participants may be more likely to discover/pursue BDSM later in life than hetero pop. Establishment of sexual orientation appears to usually predate exploration of BDSM. Preferred BDSM activities may differ from hetero pop. e.g. Gay men: Anal activity, wrestling, uniforms, special equip. (gear), hypermasculinity.

13 Power Exchange in BDSM BDSM involves a consensual exchange of power: Sub grants temporary & limited power over themselves. Dom grants Sub power over scene rules, limits, duration. Play mutually constructed via both parties desires & limits. Negotiation, use of safe words/signals, and aftercare establish and maintain consent. Power Exchange requires communication and TRUST.

14 D/s Relationships Some incorporate Dominance/submission (D/s) into relationship framework itself. Periodic or 24/7 i.e. Total Power Exchange (TPE) Common D/s Relationship Traits Titles e.g. Master/slave, Daddy/boy or girl, Owner/pet Rules, Rituals, Protocol Incorporates D/s into everyday life. Forms/Conduct Modes Protocol often adjusted/surreptitious in public, at work. Even in TPE, sub maintains basic civil rights. Consent, right to enter/exit relationship, live in real world.

15 Leather/Kink/BDSM qualifies as a recognizable subculture There are basic necessary elements for a group or network to qualify as a subculture: story of origin (community history) established codes of behavior (ethics) a way to pass down a system of shared meanings (education, mentoring) resources and encouragement for individuals to develop a sexual identity (events, ways to meet play partners, workshops)

16 Pre-History of Sadomasochism (SM) Many practices and relationships that are today associated with SM have a long history, such as flagellation and domination/submission within a sexual context. Many of these practices are addressed in distinct literatures, both scholarly and fiction, outside of the medical literature. E.g., Cooper s The History of the Rod (1988 [1870]) Gibson s The English Vice (1978) Largier s In Praise of the Whip (2007) Relevance: These practices predate modern conceptualizations of SM and today do not indicate association with the modern BDSM community, which is a distinct subculture that did not emerge until the twentieth century. Situations in which SM practices may be present can be completely external to the BDSM community, and not guided by norms extant within that subculture.

17 SM Subcultures: Heterosexual Fetish (c. 1933) Earliest U.S. center was New York City, c This seminal group is linked, across generations, to today s SM community. The early American network had direct European and Australian influences. Distinctive subcultural vocabulary and norms, including terms such as bizarre and kink, and recognition of the importance of consent, framing of activity as erotic play. Charles Guyette, NYC, c. 1935

18 SM Subcultures: Heterosexual Fetish (c. 1933) Earliest organizational foundations were commercial, centered on erotica producers and sex workers (e.g., professional dominatrices). Dedicated formal support organizations beginning in 1971 in NYC, The Eulenspiegel Society (TES). Second support organization, Society of Janus (SoJ) in SF, in 1974 Charles Guyette, NYC, c. 1935

19 SM Subcultures: Gay Leather Distinct trajectories of early development in four American urban centers: Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco. Early subculture embraced a highly masculine, male sexuality that incorporated dominant/submissive (D/S) sexual play, in opposition to feminine homosexual stereotypes prevalent at the time. (c. 1954)

20 SM Subcultures: Gay Leather Motorcycle Leather was a later motif and subcultural marker (late 1950 s). D/S sexuality, not leather, was a common feature in early groups. Earliest organizational foundations were bars and motorcycle clubs, later social organizations such as the Chicago Hellfire Club (1971). Book The Leatherman s Handbook published in 1972 (c. 1954)

21 SM Subcultures: Lesbian SM (c. 1978) Later development as a distinct subculture, linked to existing het and gay groups. SAMOIS, a vanguard lesbian SM organization, held its first meeting in San Francisco on June 13, Book Coming to Power published in 1981, igniting a firestorm in feminist lesbian circles

22 SM Subcultures: Lesbian SM (c. 1978) Lesbian activists have been immersed in debates surrounding SM and have made significant contributions to cultural theory addressing SM; e.g., Gayle Rubin, Pat Califia. Affinity to elements of gay leather culture, including leather style and appropriation of sexual outlaw status.

23 Pansexual, National Efforts and Organizations form in 1986 August 13, 1986: first national community activist organization formed October 1986, conference Living in Leather had 99 attendees The first leather contingent marched in the 1987 Gay and Lesbian March on Washington. Representatives of 92 SM organizations were part of the contingent.

24 BDSM Community Today The American BDSM Community today is composed of approximately 1,000 organizations and groups around the country, with national-level organizations providing a forum for ongoing community development, activism, and research Leather Leadership Conference (LLC) National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) Leather Archives and Museum (LAM)

25 BDSM Community Today Although there remain distinctive subgroups and internal debates over various issues, today s BDSM Community has embraced norms of Safe, Sane, and Consensual, and a framing of SM as erotic play and eroticizing power expressions, as defining characteristics. Large Community Events: Shibaricon in Chicago (600+ attendees) International Mr. Leather in Chicago (2000+ attendees) Fetish Fair Fleamarket in Boston (3000+ attendees) Folsom Street Fair in SF (300,000+ attendees)

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27 Some Current Dilemmas and Issues Stigma and Prejudice Attacks from LGBT people Attacks from mainstream Fifty Shades of Grey: sudden mainstream attention Consent and entanglement with legal/justice system Lost Generation: AIDS and the loss of a generation Transgender inclusion Coming Out Lack of Racial/Ethnic Diversity?

28 Black/African American BDSM community resources Black Beat, an organization that runs BDSM events for people of color - they can be found at the following link: In addition, there is a good documentary called "Kink" that focuses specifically on people of color and BDSM. In addition, there is an entire section in this documentary that discusses the role of faith, specifically Christianity, and it's relationship to BDSM in a VERY positive and accepting light.

29 Example of stigma bondage_dominance_submission_and_sadomasochism_why_s_m_will_never_go_mainstream.html But if you can t accept consensual domestic violence as just another lifestyle choice, that doesn t make you a prude. It makes you perfectly normal.

30 Problematic assertions BDSM is a lifestyle, not an orientation You should hide it, don t flaunt it (it should stay in the bedroom) BDSM is violence and involves harming others by its very nature (SM is about pain) BDSM is dangerous physically and therefore shouldn t be accepted BDSM makes it awkward to fight violence against women D/s relationships are violations of consent

31 Example from LGBT community https://ncsfreedom.org/press/blog/item/op-ed-kink-as-thenext-lgbt-rights-frontier.html Kink as the Next LGBT Rights Frontier Op-ed posted online at The Advocate, taken down after 12 hours, in Dec Taken down because the comments were extremely negative towards the article.

32 Why should we include leather/ kink/bdsm concerns?

33 Some reasons to include Leather/BDSM/Kink is an aspect of sexuality for many LGBTQI people hard to ask people to leave their one part of sexuality at the door when the issues are directly about sexual health, rights, freedom. Issues around Kink can be bridges to others outside of LGBT communities allies, alliances, greater understanding Leather/kink communities have wisdom and experience around consent, and insight into power and power dynamics.

34 The Essence of BDSM What s the point? Enhanced trust, communication, passion. Sexual/physical/emotional pleasure. Catharsis, transcendence, excitement. BDSM is (supposed to be) a joyful experience. Subjective experience of BDSM is usually (hopefully) pleasurable, positive, playful, erotic, intense, hot, fun. BDSM offers valuable lessons, even for vanilla folk: Setting, maintaining and communicating boundaries. Enhancing trust, communication and intimacy. Generating and harnessing erotic power and energy.

35 contact Richard Sprott carasresearch.org Thank you for your time and attention

36 References Sisson, K. (2007). The cultural formation of S/M: History and analysis. In D. Langdridge & M. Barker (Eds.), Safe, Sane and Consensual: Contemporary perspectives on sadomasochism. (pp ). New York: Palgrave MacMillan. Bienvenu II, R. V. (1998). The Development of Sadomasochism as a Cultural Style in the Twentieth-Century United States. Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Stein, S. (2012). Twenty-Five Years of Living in Leather: The National Leather Association, Palm Coast, Florida: Adynaton Publishing.

37 References Barker, M., Iantaffi, A., & Gupta, C. (2007). Kinky clients, kinky counselling? The challenges and potentials of BDSM. In L. Moon (Ed.), Feeling Queer or Queer Feelings: Radical Approaches to Counselling Sex, Sexualities and Genders (pp ). London, England: Routledge. Connolly, P. (2006). Psychological functioning of bondage/domination/sado-masochism (BDSM) practitioners. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 18(1), Cross, P. A. & Matheson, K. (2006). Understanding sadomasochism: an empirical examination of four perspectives. Journal of Homosexuality, 50(2-3), Dancer, P. L., Kleinplatz, P. J., & Moser, C. (2006). 24/7 SM slavery. Journal of Homosexuality, 50, Durex. (2005). Durex 2005 Global Sex Survey. Retrieved from sexualwellbeingsurvey/documents/gss2005result.pdf Janus, S. S. & Janus, C. L. (1993). The Janus report on sexual behavior. Oxford, England: John Wiley & Sons. Kleinplatz, P. J. (2006). Learning from extraordinary lovers: Lessons from the edge. Journal of Homosexuality, 50, Kleinplatz, P. J. & Moser, C. (2006). Sadomasochism: Powerful pleasures. New York, NY: Harrington Park Press. Moser, C. & Levitt, E. E. (1987). An exploratory-descriptive study of a sadomasochistically oriented sample. The Journal of Sex Research, 23(3), Nordling, N., Sandnabba, N. K., Santtila, P., & Alison, L. (2006). Differences and similarities between gay and straight individuals involved in the sadomasochistic subculture. Journal of Homosexuality, 50(2-3), Ortmann, D. & Sprott, R. A. (2012). Sexual outsiders: Understanding BDSM sexualities and communities. New York City: Rowman and Littlefield.

38 References Richters, J., Grulich, A. E., de Visser, R. O., Smith, A. M., & Rissel, C. E. (2003). Sex in Australia: autoerotic, esoteric and other sexual practices engaged in by a representative sample of adults. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 27(2), Richters, J., de Visser, R, Rissel, C, Grulich, A, Smith, A. M. A. (2008). Demographic and psychosocial features of participants in bondage and discipline, sadomasochism or dominance and submission (BDSM): Data from a national survey. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, Sagarin, B., Cutler, B., Cutler, N., Lawler-Sagarin, K., & Mantuszewich, L. (2009). Hormonal changes and couple bonding in consensual sadomasochistic activity. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, Sandnabba, N. K., Santtila, P., Alison, L., & Nordling, N. (2002). Demographics, sexual behaviour, family background and abuse experiences of practitioners of sadomasochistic sex: a review of recent research. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 17, doi: / Weinberg, T. S. (2006). Sadomasochism and the social sciences: a review of the sociological and social psychological literature. Journal of Homosexuality, 50(2-3), Wiseman, J. (1996). SM101: A realistic introduction. 2 nd edition. San Francisco, CA: Greenery Press Wismeijer, A. a J., & Van Assen, M. a L. M. (2013). Psychological Characteristics of BDSM Practitioners. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, doi: /jsm Yost, M. R. (2010). Development and validation of the Attitudes about Sadomasochism Scale. Journal of Sex Research, 47(1),

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