Often we have found that new guard or generally queer people have a strongly biased opinion about consent, roles and polarization in Traditional Leather and BDSM. Many people think that Leather is sexist and some other have asked us “is Old Guard Leather sexist”. We’d like to tackle down the issue, as we find this is very important to understand.
What is sexism and is Leather sexist ?
Accordingly to “Science Direct” the definition of Sexism is
“Sexism is gender-based prejudice or discrimination. As with other forms of prejudice and discrimination, it functions to maintain status and power differences between groups in society
Wondering if is Old Guard Leather sexist, we can safely say that first of all, sexism is Gender Based, and aims to impair to a female person to achieve the same status as what a male one could, having direct prejudices on them. Sexism is also usually humiliating, demeaning, hurtful, abusive and worst of all, indirect and shady in most of its expressions. All of this, is the contrary of what a Master or a Sir in Old Guard Leather does to a sub or how he acts, as you can read in my boy’s article about Humiliation and degradation
The definition of sexism, seems to us, refers in the specific on a non-consensual dynamic, where the discriminated gender carrying person has not asked to be put in such a position, while actually and rightfully demanding an equivalent position and treatment in society.
As a group and also as men, we absolutely agree that in the human built society, every person should have the same rights, the same value, the same treatment and the same possibilities, where for sure no discrimination on gender, sexuality, race, color of the skin, religion or any other personal choice or distinctive trait should ever been done nor supported. Values and principles of the society humans have built extend not only to sexism though, but in general to polarized exercise of power. Here after, a few examples.
If you’d seen in the middle of the street a cop fucking in the ass a handcuffed prisoner while muffling his mouth with a handed glove, would that be ok? Of course not.
If you’d seen in the middle of the street a group of skinheads spitting, pissing and putting their boots on a person on the ground, would that be ok? Of course not; you’d call the police.
If you’d seen a man being hanged by his wrists and flogged and whipped to blood, would that be ok? Of course not. It would be torture.
All of what’s stated above, just like sexism in its more violent and outrageous expressions, are violations of human rights.
But how comes then that all of these things are also part of BDSM and our identity, our sexual life and our relational one as well? Because there’s the missing element in all the previous stated situations: consent, and mutual enjoyment.
What is BDSM about? Is it sexist?
Amongst all of the things BDSM is about, of which you can read more extensively here and here, BDSM is about hyperpolarized relationships where one side is Dominant, and the other is submissive. One is Alpha, the other is omega. One is in charge, the other obeys. It stands for Bondage / Discipline, Domination / Submission, Sadism / Masochism.
Especially, BDSM focuses its engine on the consensual authority imbalance between the two parties. This is exactly what people seek for, especially when it comes to the Leather scene, yet it’s hard to admit the contradiction for many of them apparently. For some reason it’s difficult to admit that while you can and should fight a for an ideal to better the society you live in, you also have deep inside of you the entity you fight against. To make a clear example: just because as an activist I have been fighting against homophobia and internalized homophobia, does it mean I don’t carry homophobia inside of me as well? of course not. To consider this something negative or to deny this simple truth, would be conveniently naive and not constructive.
Just like Panty Bliss once said in a brilliant speech she gave to the public, it would be impossible when you’re born and raised in a world dipped in homophobia (but this applies to any of these dark/negative energies) to somehow manage to grow up unscathed from it. We all carry inside the same symbols and socially inherited cultural backgrounds, be them positive or negative, and acknowledging it is the first step to build better version of ourselves.
So what is, under this light and for the sake of the topic we’re writing about, what so many gay men nowadays seem to have trouble admitting to themselves? A sexualization and attraction for Dominance and Law enforcement in the most traditional meaning, and often, even of sexism. Just think about the countless gay men with a fetish for married men, where the presence of the female part of the equation is fundamental for that fetish. It almost seems as just because they are rightfully fighting for a more welcoming, positive and just society, they should deny their own private sexual nature as individuals. Is it wrong to work for a more democratic and free society and then inside of your household to keep up a strictly conservative, even gender polarized environment? No.
Because one thing is the society we must all live in together, and of course we must come to compromise and respect one another, even when we come from different backgrounds or lives different lives, but another thing is our private existence as individuals and the relationships we create with other consensual people that share our same vision and ideals.
What is the Leather Fetish about? Is it sexist?
So what do people into Leather usually like? Boots, Uniforms, beards, mustaches, manly men, cigars, smokes, batons, Law Enforcement, Search Gloves, Military, and so on.
Now, I believe it’s difficult to say that these people get a cerebral hardon thinking about these Dominant Law Enforcement people executing their function in a soft, politically correct, glittery and playful way. I don’t believe they have a hardon thinking of being dominated by a Drag Queen or a feminine twink, and I don’t believe they are sexually attracted from what they preach to seek. Does this mean that we have something against Drag Queens, feminine people or other similar other variations of human nature? Absolutely not. It means that we like them and respect them but we don’t believe they are exactly what people with a fetish for Leather think about when they fetishize Leather. Nothing more, nothing less.
Maybe, or even probably, in the future this will also start to change, when the cultural background and symbols of society will be completely changed, when mass media will propose to people and kids a completely different imaginary of these symbols, things will change also in the way we fetishize Domination and submission. Can this be part of the future of BDSM? Yes! But that’s not Leather. Leather has a History, a reason to exist, and it’s in the very same name of the fetish, Leather; it’s a fabric that connotes a very specific time in history, a very specific group of people wearing it, and a a very specific use of Uniforms, Boots and so on.
I am sorry if the occasional radical queer reader will feel hurt and excluded by this statement, but this has to do with the constant need to feel like they’re entitled to everything, always; and it actually has nothing to do with being gay, it has to do with their personalities. Talking about “tossing the toys out of the pram”.
What is a fetish fueled by?
Fetish, often stems from trauma.
As stated before, if you saw a group of men stomping on another man on the ground, pissing on him, spitting on him and so on, it would be something tragic and very wrong; why then is this a very frequent vision outside of a Leather bar (or inside of it)? Because there’s consent.
Thanks to fetish, that visually and conceptually negative/abusive dynamic, is exorcized to something pleasant, empowering and engaging for all the parties involved. Fetish is the way the human brain is able to exorcise trauma, taking away the trauma’s power over the individual (fear, anxiety, phobiae), allowing the individual itself to overcome trauma and dominate it (I choose to do this in a safe environment, with people I trust).
There is always a set time in youth where we are impressed or shocked by something we are exposed to, especially when it’s traumatic, and when we are able to evolve from it, often it can become something else; but it stays part of our lives. Sometimes it becomes the enemy of a fight you want to bring on. Some other times, it becomes a fetish of yours. Often, it can become both, and this contradiction is as safe and ok (as long as consensual) as human nature is: complex and contradictory.
Think about some of the main and most common fetishes that are around:
Law enforcement & Military as connected to traditional masculinity concepts and Domination/submission.
Most probably if you have this fetish, you were exposed at a young age to visuals or direct experiences that have impressed you, where policemen, military people and other Law Enforcement personas were expressing what you encoded as masculinity and Domination. It could have been on mass media or it could have been in person; it could have been something horrible and negative, or even something perfectly normal: this doesn’t really have to do with what you saw, it has to do with your uniqueness as an individual and how you’ve received it.
Men smells, dirty socks, used underwear and sportswear
Possibly you started to know you were homosexual (or bi..) at a younger age when you were still going to school and played sport or hanged out in a locker room with other boys. You knew you were attracted to the environment, but you weren’t ready to process it or weren’t allowed to express it. Therefor, every symbol that held your desire for contact with other males in that environment, attracted you. The used clothes, the smell of sweat, all of the things that made those boys present and sexual through your senses. You could have been even bullied, or not ever been bullied: this doesn’t really have to do with what you experienced, it has to do with your uniqueness as an individual and how you’ve received it.
Choking fetish, Breath Control
This deepens a bit the analysis of the possibilities as the human brain is a very, very complex work of art. Sometimes we fetishize not directly visual stimuli, but mere experiences. Experiences such as fear, anxiety and panic can be oppressive, but they are also a normal experience in life. When these emotions have been set in place by determined situation which held a specific value in an individual’s history, they can be fetishized as well. Who would say that feeling that it’s hard to breathe or even impossible to breathe, is a pleasant experience? Well it can be one, it all depends on your personal history and your absolute freedom in having a fetish for whatever has a personal meaning to you. As usual, it doesn’t have to do with the original meaning of the act; it’s about how you’ve received and processed this emotion.
Spanking, Dad/son dynamics, Physical Discipline
Maybe you grew up without a father, or with a very absent father figure; maybe instead you had a perfect example of a loving father, but you perceived it differently as you had the need of a different father figure due to your personality (example: need of more discipline or need of more understanding instead of only discipline and so on). However it went for you, you have experienced something that impressed you in your house with your parents involving being punished or spanked, or the lack or too strong presence of the Father figure in your early years of life, have determined for you a strong impression that you have processed as a fetish when adult. Does it destroys the magic of the Fetish? No, it simply proves how all fetishes are, on different levels, natural and often the healthiest evolution from trauma.
Dealing with the Duality
When I was asked if I believed that true Leather Fetish / Leather Culture is sexist, I immediately thought about this article. Instead of keeping up with a useless witch hunt on twitter, I preferred to answer broadly with our point of view on the matter, as the whole aim of the LeatherBigWold project and the Haus Mein Gott Project is mainly there to inform, educate and raise awareness on who we are, what we do, what we approve and what we disapprove. We hope that by now is clear that we don’t support at all any kind of discrimination on the public society in which we all must live in as “people”, but we also do not want to endorse the wrong turn that gay activism took in normalizing everything for everyone, no matter what it takes. That’s because by doing that, as we said in our specific article on the problem, modern queer culture (not differently form the modern general society), is flattening all culture’s differences, wiping away from history determined cultures that have a reason and right to exist, for the benefit of commercialization, fashion and easy access to everything. This aspect of culture globalization really is the toxic invisible enemy, as while you think your’e fighting for freedom, you’re actually denying those who are different from you to have their own identity.
But there’s a problem. All of these people acting like heroes online (as it’s easy to be a hero on a keyboard, while it’s a little bit less easy not to judge a book by its cover, and taking the time to examine the situation before shouting) suffer, in our humble opinion, from a consequent painful schizophrenic dynamic: by the fear of being judged as inconsistent and hypocrites, they try to extend their very right social fights to other individual’s freedom of having their own natural, primal consensual identity. So you get to see situations like these ones:
people lecturing you about being abusive for defending your culture through elaborated articles available to everybody online, and one hour later they retweet a findom guy who says “pay me, faggot. Give me what’s mine and starve to death like you should”.
people ranting about how disgusted they are by the “toxic masculinity” examples, and if you visit their twitter feed they only retweet content where the same examples of “toxic masculinity” are penetrating, fisting, using/abusing smaller guys.
people making gay life all about being positive and welcoming on the outside for their perceived social gain, and occupying 80% of their time with their friends talking badly behind the shoulders of everyone for the most void reasons.
I believe this is also one of the true consequences (probably with the best starting intentions) of a mishandling of the fight against internalized homophobia, where we work so hard (somebody with a pure heart, somebody just to get followers and validation) to advocate for ideals that we perceived as widely shared, but that don’t completely belong to our nature and history as an individual; is this wrong? No. This can actually be elevating and wonderful. But then, if we don’t acknowledge and we actually keep denying our true primal nature, and find a way to let it live in a consensual, positive and respectful way, we start building up inside a sense of self judgment, discomfort and pain that we project on others. In the specific, all of this self hate is projected onto those ones who have no problems in publicly standing for thoughts and values which don’t align with the painful duality denial they are trapped in. Yet, the assumption that these two different people are enemies, si completely inaccurate.
All of these groups of people, as already stated, can be composed both by genuine folk who walk their talk and really believe in what they fight for, and other who are just impostors, trying to get through their day with their perceived sense of belonging. But sticking to people who are genuine and really believe in what they preach, I believe the only difference between the first and the second group, is that while the first thinks that having a duality inside of them is sign of Hypocrisy, and get mad to those who try to make the best out of the duality, the second group think that the first one is living in hypocrisy, and that it’s showing up by the amount of rage, aggression and intolerance they show towards the second group.