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“When I knew better, I did better” – A Keynote on Accountability

Posted by Sarah Sloane on May 6, 2017 in Polyamory, relationships, Speeches

This keynote was written for the first annual Chicago Non-Monogamy Conference, held on May 6, 2017. I was honored to be asked to provide the opening keynote of the weekend, and to start the day’s conversations with a talk about accountability. I hope you enjoy it!
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How To Not Suck at Online Dating

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Dec 19, 2015 in communication, How-to, relationships

So, I’ve been doing the online dating thing for over a year and a half now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s pretty awesome. I’ve met some awesome folks (some of whom have become friends, some of whom I’ve had some (redacted) fun with, and some of whom I had some (redacted) fun with and have moved forward to having relationships with). However, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a bunch of things that folks can do to be more successful at it, and so, in the interests of making your online dating better (and saving myself from having to read more cringe-worthy profiles and emails than I have to), here is my list of Shit That You Can Do To Make It Better:

1. Your profile photos should not include the following things: a photo of your chest, belly, and hips devoid of facial features; photos of you and groups of friends that don’t point out which person you are; photos of gorgeous scenery in some foreign place but do not include you (or a great story about that photo in the comments); photos of your cats, dogs, or kids. It should also go without saying that, unless your profile is on a site that is specifically made for sex hookups, definitely don’t include a photo of your genitalia.

2. Make the first move, but don’t be dumb about it. Read the entire profile. If it says “don’t send me a message that just says hi”, don’t do that. If it says “tell me why you want to connect with me”, do that. Avoid calling the recipient anything like “honey”, “baby”, “sweetheart”, “handsome”, “ladie”, “miss” or “mister”. Put your best foot forward. If you do not have a best foot, then figure out the best way to frame your not so good foot.

3. Repeat after me: you do not need to engage people who are not worth your time. Now repeat it again. Every time you get a message from someone who breaks one of your cardinal rules (see number two, above, for example), you do not owe them a reply. You don’t owe a reply to the person whose profile says that they’re cheating on their spouse if you aren’t up for that. You don’t owe a reply to anyone. It’s your damn profile, and it’s your damn time. Use it wisely.

4. If you are looking for casual sex, say so. If you’re looking for relationships only, say so. If you are monogamous, say so. If you’re a poly person, say so. Do not hesitate to ask for what you want. It makes life a lot easier.

5. Use grammar and spell check on your profile (and on your messages, if you have difficulty getting your point across). The more important intelligence is in a potential hook-up, the more important your profile and messages are. As an example, the person who said I was a “beutiful ladie” did not get a reply from me. Nor should they. You are allowed to not know how to write poetry, but you can at least take the extra two minutes to make sure that you’re not offending someone.

6. The thing that you think of as a limiting factor may be the thing that someone else sees as a quality feature. Let your freak flag fly a little. Total dork for video games? Don’t write three paragraphs about it, but do say that you’re proud to have the high score on Gyruss at that video arcade across town (uh, cuz I do, and my sweetie thinks it’s hot to watch me get my gamer groove on). Love going to Ren Faire? Put a photo up of yourself in garb (along with the other pics) and talk about how tasty any food is when it’s served on a stick and costs four times the gross national product of many small countries. Trust me, someone(s) out there are going to see that, and voila! A kindred soul connection can happen.

7. Use the improv concept of “yes, and!” as your guide with online conversations. Don’t just regurgitate information and answer questions. Ask questions of your own. Volunteer a piece of info about yourself. Be curious about the other person. Ask why they got a particular tattoo, or what they loved about the book that they said they read last, or whatever. Conversations fizzle when they’re one-directional, and they fizzle even faster when the conversation is solely about “what are you into”. Everyone wants to know that the other person is curious about them. Be curious, and expect curiosity.

8. It’s not the end of the world if you hear “no”. It’s not a referendum on your value as a person, a potential partner, a lover, or a friend. It’s just a “no”. And yeah, it feels super personal and can drain the air out of your balloon faster than most anything else, but it’s just a “no”. Shake it off, move on, and look for the “yes”. Because there are a lot of options for “yes” when we’re not hung up on the “no”.

I wish you luck in your online dating exploration. If you have great tips to pass along, drop ’em into the comments section!

 
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Beyond The Love Keynote

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Dec 14, 2014 in Polyamory, relationships, Speeches

As some of you know, I recently was asked to deliver the Friday night opening keynote for Beyond the Love, an amazing poly-centered event in Columbus, OH. This is an event that delights me, both heart and soul, and I was really honored to be asked to participate. If you’d like to watch it, just click the video below!

Again, my deepest gratitude to Dan, Dawn, and Karen, whose energy is devoted to creating the special, sacred place called Beyond The Love. If you’re poly, or poly-curious, the next BTL will be in late 2015; come out & join us!

 

 
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The Poly Manifesto; or, a treatise on how Sarah does non-monogamy

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Nov 26, 2013 in communication, introspection, Polyamory, relationships

I talk about having written this in some of my poly / non-monogamy workshops, and occasionally I get asked for a copy. I review this every year or so to make sure that it’s still the framework for my relationship decision making; so far, it’s held up to that review for about 6 years. I’m posting it here primarily for folks who want to create their own mission statement (or manifesto, if you’re being very Marx-ish), so they can see what someone else has put together and hopefully take some inspiration on topics or concepts.

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Sarah’s Poly Manifesto

1. I am responsible for my own life, my own happiness, and my own well being. That responsibility for myself must take precedence in my life; if I cannot take care of myself, then I have no way of taking care of or being a support for anyone else.

2. No matter how many partners I may have, I still need to be ok with being by myself. Nobody can live in a constant state of companionship, and I am the one that has to look at myself in the mirror and be happy with what and who I see reflected back at me.

3. I will generally not make agreements in relationships that do not permit me to express myself in a way that feels authentic to me. If I do, then I am prone to resentment if it continues.

4. When it comes down to it, each relationship is important and deserves to be treated with the same consideration and respect as any other relationship. Classifying relationships as more or less important is likely to lead to frustration and neglect.

5. I embrace a hierarchy of needs, as opposed to a hierarchy of people. If I’m on a date night with one partner, and another partner calls with an emergency, my decision of who to be with will be based on where the need is greatest. Likewise, I expect to give my partners the same consideration and not make their decisions more difficult by doing anything less than supporting them.

6. I embrace sexual responsibility. I make my rules about safer sex behavior in conjunction with my other partners, but I do not let them make my final determination about what is appropriate. I am clear with new partners what my rules are, and I advise current partners of any changes in either the people I am having sex with or my decisions regarding my safer-sex practices, so that they can make appropriate decisions for themselves.

7. I do not believe in a “veto” per se; I expect that if I have issues with someone that one of my partners is dating, I will be able to talk to that partner and have my concerned listened to, but I also believe that respect goes both ways and I should respect their decision unless it creates major chaos and drama.

8. I don’t want or need additional chaos in my life. My main request of my ongoing partners is that they not bring anyone into my personal life that will create more chaos or strife.

9. I do not automatically share my partners. Sex or play with me does not involve anyone else, necessarily, unless that has been negotiated separately. I also generally am not interested in dating people who are already engaged in a relationship; I prefer to not date a relationship, as the dynamic doesn’t feel manageable for me.

10. I engage in some relationships that include an ongoing power dynamic. However, no relationship that involves a power dynamic with me should be interpreted as having any power dynamic in any other direction with any of my other partners.

11. The things that will win my heart are the same things that I anticipate offering a partner – patience, honesty, generosity of spirit, humor, candidness, trust, and honor. The things that will lose my heart are abuse of trust, dishonesty, selfishness, irresponsible sexual practices, and lack of consideration.

 
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Subversively Sex Positive

Posted by Sarah Sloane on May 25, 2011 in Articles, introspection, Polyamory, Queer, relationships

Photo courtesy of Bixentro from Flickr

I love doing what I like to refer to as “subversive sex positivity”. It’s the integrating of sex, gender, and orientation-positive concepts into our daily language and actions. It’s the act of informing people about alternative gender and sexuality without preaching (or often even explicitly telling them). It’s the process of normalizing things that most of our culture does not see as normal, simply by treating them as such. And it’s a great way to carry the message of healthy sexual expression out into the world in ways that don’t target us. I’ve made a list of some of the ways that I’ve seen others do this…

1. Ask people what pronoun they prefer, what they refer to their partner as, and how they label (or choose not to label) their relationship. Even if the answers are exactly what you expect that they’ll be, by asking them you show them that you respect them and wish to use words and phrases that are appropriate and welcoming – and you may even end up with them asking you WHY you said that, which gives you a chance to talk about non-normative sexuality & relationships.

2.Separate gender and sex. “He” does not necessarily have a penis, and “She” may not have a vagina. Using terms like “girl parts”, especially around people who may be transgender or non-gender normative can leave them feeling left out and disrespected. And before you say you don’t know anyone who is trans…how do you know you don’t?

3. Use correct terms. It’s a vagina, a vulva, a penis, a clitoris, a prostate, a scrotum. There is plenty of room to use slang terms, but when we’re trying to be clear in our communication, using accurate terms helps.

4. If you’re corrected about something sex or gender related, apologize and move on. If you say “he” and are told that the person with whom you’re speaking prefers “she”, then just say “thank you for telling me” and use the pronoun or name that you’re asked to use. Most people are happy if you do your best to use their preferred names or pronouns (especially if you knew them when they were going by another name), and an apology and a renewed effort to be consistent is the most respectful thing you can do.

5. Make no assumptions. Just because someone has a penis doesn’t mean they like to use it to have sex, or even like it touched. Just because someone has a vagina doesn’t mean they want to be penetrated. Not every gay man likes to receive anal sex. Not every woman has problems with orgasms. Not every man is able to have them in the way that our culture says they should. Allow people the space and room to define their own desires, and the support they would like (if any) in speaking out about it…as well as their right to privacy, should they not feel the need to tell you.

6. Even if you don’t “get it”, don’t shame it. Many people who are happily monogamous don’t understand on a personal level why or how someone can have multiple relationships. Some people don’t understand how anyone could be attracted to someone of the same gender. And some people don’t understand how anyone could be happy having missionary position sex. You don’t have to understand it – but ideally, you will choose to respect their choice and support them in it.

 
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The Reinvention of the Wheel of Life…

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Dec 3, 2010 in communication, introspection, relationships

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned this year is that I’m still not too old to change.

When it comes to kink, I’d been through a couple of “drought” years – well, not a drought, but in comparison, far below my previous history and my desires. I sort of knew it was happening, and had simple reasons why (and even simpler attempts to change it, which didn’t work well)…but in the end it comes down to this: I was afraid.

I tend towards having ongoing relationships with people I play with; not necessarily that of a lover (though sometimes that’s the case) but certainly a friendship with an extra dollop of respect. And when I have an ongoing relationship with someone – I make myself vulnerable. I can’t do it any other way – especially when the quality of our interactions are laced with the dynamic of power, I have to share some of the essence of who I am with someone in order to have the depth of experience that I crave.

But being vulnerable means being open to both the pleasure, and the pain, of intimacy. It means that the words “I like you” and “you could have done better” strike me more deeply. It means that I run the risk of being hurt. And I’m a Capricorn – stubborn, calculating, scheming, ever feeling the need to control my environment…so running that risk is scary as hell for me.

I have been fighting that for the past few years. I’ve had a few relationships with people (some still going) where I knew that I was holding myself back from being as present with them as I could be. I can sort of tie it into a few relationships that ended in ways that I would have chosen otherwise, but the reality is that I have pushed myself back from the world to avoid the bumps and bruises of wrestling with real life relationships.

It came to a head this spring. Read more…

 
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Bullying Vs. Building Bridges: My speech at the Poly Pride X Rally

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Oct 13, 2010 in Articles, communication, Polyamory, Queer, relationships

As promised in various places, the following is the text of my speech from last weekend’s Poly Pride Rally, sponsored by Poly NYC.

It is my honor & privilege to be here today to speak to an amazing group of people who stand at the intersection of two communities that nourish & sustain me: the queer community, and the polyamorous community.

2010 is an amazing time to be queer in America. On the surface, our social and legal standing looks a bit bleak; the headlines reflect the bigotry of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the hatred and bullying aimed towards our LGBTQ youth, and the lack of legal marriage & partnership rights in almost every state in this nation. But underneath – we are making progress towards our goal of taking our place at the table of equal rights. Legal decisions are starting to move our way; public opinion is changing, slowly but surely, and more and more allies are standing with queer and trans people as we move forward in claiming those rights.

The queer community did not get here by telling heteronormative people that they’re wrong; in fact, we got here by doing the exact opposite – by building bridges. We got here by coming out as queer, by living our lives with our families in our communities, by letting our neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances learn about our similarities, rather than focusing on our differences.

The polyamorous community can learn these lessons, too. I read poly blogs and websites, and listen to podcasts that often proudly exclaim how much more “normal” and better polyamory is than monogamy; this is not only inaccurate, but it’s incredibly counterproductive. Polyamory is a relationship style that requires different skill sets, different types of exploration, and a different intent; it’s neither better nor worse than monogamy, it’s simply different. Some people are cut out for one, others are suited for the other, and still more can adapt to either, based on circumstances and partners.

Yet when people who choose monogamy, as well as those who are beginning to explore their relationship orientation, hear these “better than” statements, it separates them from us, and deafens them to our message; we are criticizing the way that they choose to have relationships, and we become the same kinds of bullies that we decry. We gather no champions outside of our community, and even more, we push away our partners and friends who consciously choose monogamy because of their own needs and wants.

Instead, let’s learn from the experiences of the queer rights activists. Let’s engage in conversations about polyamory from a perspective of conscious consideration and talk about how our relationship structures are important based on our own needs. Let’s talk about open relationships as part of the spectrum of consensual healthy relationships, not the ONLY sane choice. And let’s reinforce that healthy relationships are our birthright, even if our relationships don’t look like those of our parents, our neighbors, or our legal structures. Let’s show the rest of the world smart, healthy examples of open relationships, and let’s celebrate our love as one of the unalienable rights that we are entitled to: life, liberty, and the pursuit of OUR happiness.

 
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Sexerati Bed Death

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Jul 16, 2010 in communication, introspection, relationships, teaching

Sometimes, it gets a little old to me. I feel like I talk about so much about sex, but have so little of it, that I’m a fraud – an educator who is all talk, no action; who can’t do, so she teaches. The sad thing is that many of my friends who are long-term sex educators, sex workers, and performers all commiserate about it.

“How many of you are convinced that your customers have more sex than you do?”, I asked at a recent event held at a very sex-positive shop. Every one of the half-dozen staff present raised their hands.

“How often do you have kinky sex?”, I’ve asked my perverati friends. Some of them are getting it on, all the time; others confess (yes! confess!) in quiet voices that they have “vanilla” sex almost exclusively.

So, when I went through two years of libido coma, it didn’t occur to me that something was wrong. Really. I was teaching over 100 classes a year (which, while it looks great on the resume, is pretty craptastic on the free-time front). Of *course* I was too tired to be creatively kinky, especially from the top side of things. I was traveling too much to maintain much in the way of relationships.

And after sharing – nay, preaching – about the importance of personal boundaries when it comes to sex work of all kinds…imagine my shame and shock when I realized that I’d been screwing myself over for two. bloody. years. I let things that hurt push me back into the cavern of my sexual isolation – the loss of relationships and lovers, the stress of travel, the fear of being vulnerable, the ease with which I avoided possible entanglements involving lube or toys. And what I ended up with was feeling distanced not only from my lovers and from people who I really do like and really do want to play with…but also, feeling distanced from myself.

I started talking about kink & sex because it was such a valuable part of my life; a part that I’d shredded, examined, processed, raged at, ragged about, celebrated, denied, and reinserted into my psyche in my late 20’s. Empowering my own ability to be a sexual being, guiltlessly kinky and joyfully queer, turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. My self esteem took a ride up to the Mile-High Club when I realized that I could actually be externally who I was internally without being afraid of it. So, when this all took a back seat…I started feeling like a bit of an automaton. Like someone who talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. And that meant…time for a serious talking to with myself, and some reprioritization.

But like many minor miracles…the one step of saying “that’s it – I’m done with this bullshit” started making the changes happen. Within weeks, I found out my libido had shaken off the scent of the mothballs that it had been packed in, and was off on its own making sexy play plans with folks. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had to push it a little. I made a decision to engage in some sort of play with someone at every event that I’ve been to this year, and so far, I’ve been quite (suprisingly, to me) successful at it. And the play has been good – really good. I feel released; I feel more in touch with my whole body and my libido than I have in a very long time.

Lesson acknowledged, Universe. Don’t become so focused on what I am that I forget about who I am. Gotcha.

 
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Questions and answers

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Mar 13, 2010 in relationships, teaching

I get asked a lot of questions. I get asked a lot of similar questions. So why not answer them here? Then I can just point and say “Go Look!”.

1. My mother knows I’m dating multiple guys. She doesn’t know that I date people that are not guys, or people that are not guys by her own 1950’s biological definition. She doesn’t need to know that, but if she finds out, I’m okay with it. I figure she’s lived long enough to not have to deal with information that she may not really want (and my mother is the queen of denial – come on, after 5 months of living with my future ex-husband, she toured our tiny apartment with it’s one bedroom, and then asked me “well, where do YOU sleep?”)

2. No, I don’t make a living from speaking at BDSM events. I don’t make a living from any of my speaking engagements; in fact, after it all added up, last year I spent thousands on traveling to events, covering my expenses over the weekend, and doing crazy wild stuff like grabbing a $4 coffee from the hotel because I was groggy. There’s one major reason why this year I’m saying no more often. I really hate to do it, but there ya go.

3. Yes, you can ask my partners to play. No, I don’t mind (unless you have teh crazy in which case I’ll have a side talk with my sweeties, then deal with it, because it’s really their decision and not mine). They are fully aware of the information that I want, and I trust them to abide within whatever agreement they and I have set up.

4. Of course you can become a successful presenter! The real stuff that it takes? The guts to put yourself out there constantly and take risks (see: Lee Harrington), wacky charisma that leaves attendees at your classes wanting more (see: Graydancer), amazing teaching ability (see: Lochai), a willingness to talk honestly & compassionately about the really tough subjects (see: Mollena Williams), and the ability to gracefully recover from looking like a horse’s ass (see: me). Also, the ability to negotiate and beg for money, OR a lot of money so you can actually go everywhere that asks you.

5. Yes, I’m in alcoholism recovery. Yes, you can drink around me without me feeling uncomfortable. Yes, I will kick your ass out in a New York Minute if you’re drunk or obnoxious. Yes, I’d REALLY prefer that you ask me before lighting up some weed. And yes, I’d be happy to join you for a cigar.

6. Barriers for everything. Yes, really. No, not even if you’re tested and clean. Kthxbye.

7. My cats are like my kids. Really. I don’t care how pathetic it sounds. Call them anything derogatory or treat them callously, you’ll never come back to my house again.

8. I hate talking on the phone, for the most part, unless there is a serious reason for doing so. I don’t know why – I used to chatter for hours with friends on the Bell system. Now, it’s texting or quick calls, unless I’m out of town and just miss the hell out of you (in which case, you’ll know).

9. Yes, I am unashamed about my FarmVille habit. Please send free gifts.

10. Die hard liberal with a dollop of fiscal conservatism and an occasional streak of anarchy. Yes, I voted for Obama. No, I never voted for Ross Perot.

11. Please, yes, leave me with the illusion that I sing well. I still harbor a secret desire to win a Grammy or a Tony for my vocal stylings.

12. Speaking of which, Bette Midler and Madeline Kahn are my primary role models. Others of the “star” variety are Gilda Radner, Queen Elizabeth I, a few Catholic saints, Mother Teresa, and Sting.

13. “Coaching” is not my secret code for pro-domination. I’m a coach, business and personal (which does include BDSM but is not all that I do). I’m not a prodomme; I’d be happy to refer you to some great ones, though!

14. I limp because I was born with a disorder called Congenital Pseudoarthrosis in my left leg. I had a lot of surgeries in my teens, and was in a cast for years. Trust me, I barely notice the limping and often don’t even notice that I’m in pain for it.

15. …what questions did I miss that you wanted the answer to?

 
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What Is Leather Worth?

Posted by Sarah Sloane on Oct 22, 2008 in Leather, relationships, teaching

My friend, Edward Dain, is one of those people that I love to listen to, and to read. I hang out at his home a few times a year with his family, we mutter on the phone about the trials and tribulations of life, and I send him adult movies from my collection to share with his partners…so I guess you could say that we’re friends. He’s also one of my more thoughtfully prolific FiendsList members on my ComatoseJournal, so I get to read his processing on occasion, and a while back, I asked him to expand on one of his posts. He graciously agreed to do so, and he sent it to me a few days back. I wanted to share it with you all, so this week, he is going to challenge your brains, instead of me. I’m putting his bio & contact info below the essay, so if you’d like to contact him and carry forward the discussion, please feel free to do so!

What Is Leather Worth

Without falling prey to some sort of fannish worship of that which never was, I do find some of the values of “Old Guard Leather” (as a variety of people describe them) to be important on a personal and a community level – and congruent with the values held by the people who had a strong impression on me when I was first entering the Scene. These values continue to be equally, if not more, important to me now as well. Some people might say that this makes me an elitist. I say that it takes more than words or a membership card to be part of the tribe.

And before anyone thinks that I am in any way or sense claiming to be “Old Guard Leather”, let me give them a virtual slap upside the head. I would likely give an Old Guard Leatherman hives – I am so far afield from that community (or even the not-so-New Leather either) that it is rather amazing that I even identify as a Leatherman. But that’s also a function of time and space. There is no Old Guard now. The few that survived passed through a hell of blood and tears and were irrevocably changed as a result.

It is a different world now, the community that defined them is gone, and I was never part of it.

For those of you who want to follow along at home, I would suggest reading Guy Baldwin’s essay, “Old Guard”: It’s Origins, Traditions, Mystique and Rules“, his presentation at the 6th Leather Leadership Conference, and Joseph W. Bean’s essay “Old Guard? If You Say So”. Those are decent enough places to start.

These values are what speak to me-

Clothing: Leather was the marker, but you had to earn it. Collars, Covers, Flagging, it all has its roots here. Oh – and don’t scare the old ladies.

Do you know why I don’t wear more Leather? Because unless I’m riding, I haven’t freaking earned it yet. Boots and belt are the basics, and I skate by with the jacket and gloves because I ride and do rough body play. My slave Keris has been in my service for over almost two years now and has one piece of Leather other than her chain – though truth to be told, she deserves another piece at this point. I’ve just been looking for the right one.

And if you can’t wear it where you work, it has no place on the street. If you have a question, then change when you get to where you’re going.

Chain? Yes, you read that right. Not all Leather is made of dead animals. Instead of a collar, she wears a custom-made chain around her waist. Much easier to explain, hide, or otherwise pass off in a vanilla setting – instead she gets complimented on her “industrial jewelry.”

And I still flag the way I learned 20+ years ago. It’s hard-coded into my kink – but that is a whole different story.

Manners & Protocol: Bottoms defer to Tops, but “time in grade” is worth more than titles, offices, and leather worn. You give your respect to your elders because they’re your elders “unless and until” they prove that they don’t deserve it. Be polite. If you aren’t then you’re not worthy of respect yourself (even if that other guy was an asshole). The titles that matter don’t come with a sash. Keep your hands to yourself unless given permission otherwise. Don’t be stupid and overindulge in substances, and don’t give the community a bad name for that or any other reason.

Yeah, this sort of thing struck home is a humorous manner when a mutual friend put some tooth-marks on Keris without asking permission soon after she started wearing my chain and my blood-pressure went through the roof. I laughed at myself as I watched the reaction, but it was still there.

And it would be there again if it happened again.

Values and Characteristics: Honesty. Reliability. Honor. Integrity. Generosity of time and spirit. Trustworthiness. Responsibility. Respectful for self and others. Being of sound mind. “A life that worked” aka “Financial Stability”. “Genuine and Personal” “Sense of humor”. Camaraderie. “A sense of appropriateness and good manners.” Wanting to do more than just watch.

Another piece that many people don’t seem to get is the notion that your behavior reflects on those people around you. If Keris acts poorly in public, it’s a poor reflection on me, on our Household, on my Leather Family, and on the Scene. Same thing for me. Same thing for Phoenix, my spouse. We’re part of an organic, dynamic network of Leatherfolk – in a way that many, perhaps most, people in the Pansexual Community just don’t relate to.

What you say and what you do is who you are.

It is just that simple.

Your place in the Leather Community is only as strong as the Leather Family you have. They are the ones who decide if you belong, not you.

It’s more than going to the local Eagle and owning a full set of leathers, a flogger and some nipple clamps.

Leather doesn’t end at the door to the dungeon. If you can take it off at the door to the dungeon, then it’s just a sexy costume – and that’s not Leather.

All of this created and creates a culture of exclusivity instead of the false inclusivity of much of the modern Scene. In theory, and often in practice, there was little or no place for the Five Geek Social Fallacies – because it was dangerous to let the wrong people in. You couldn’t be a member of the in-group until you proved that you were worthy of membership by displaying these characteristics. It also required hunting out the right places and the right people – something that wasn’t anywhere near as easy as it is now.

Similarly, attitude and experience trumps technique. As Gayle Rubin puts it, “Paint By Numbers BDSM” isn’t Leathersex – and that certainly isn’t what I learned I learned and it isn’t what I practice. For those of you who might be wondering, I had never read through or owned a “how-to” book on BDSM or Leathersex until I started graduate school. Aside from a handful of passages from The Leatherman’s Handbook that I had read over the years, all my learning came from three places – doing, being done, and reading porn (I read The Story of O and the Kama Sutra when I was around 10 or 11, I bought a copy of a Marquis de Sade reader when I was 16). Oh, that’s right – I also had the entries, such as they were, on kink from The Joy of Sex and More Joy of Sex. They were certainly informative… not! There was also a big book titled Erotic Art of the East – lots of nice shunga in there as I tend to recall.

Technique is the most easily learned and the least important part of Leather and BDSM. You can teach a monkey technique. You can memorize safety acronyms until you can recite them in your sleep. Attitude is part of an intrinsic learning process not any sort of extrinsic validation of skill.

Sweat. Blood. Tears. Cum. Screams. Moans. Laughter. Growls.

This is where you learn attitude.

Not in a book.

Not taking a class.

Not watching somebody else.

By having your life in someone else’s hands.

That’s what Leather’s worth.

Your life.

The life of your partner.

The lives of your Leather family.

Copyright 2008 by Edward Dain

“Edward Dain” is the long standing pseudonym for a “squicky, neoshamanistic, Ordeal Path, Leatherman.” Also known to describe himself as “so Queer I can curdle milk”, he’s been actively and knowingly kinky long enough to be embarrassed when people ask him when he started – given his tender age of 39. Currently holding a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology, he just defended his doctoral dissertation, an interdisciplinary clinical guide to BDSM for mental health counselor. You can reach him at edain (at) squirrelsnest (dot) org.

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