Leather vs. BDSM
by Philip the Foole
Posted with the author's permission
foole (at) icehouse (dot) net
4 Feb 2006
Philip the Foole describes himself as "a highly trained, professional stunt pervert." His sexual orientation is "Bi Poly Switch. I'm not indecisive -- I'm greedy." He has presented his "Erotic Takedowns" workshop, blending bondage, SM, martial arts, and humor, around the country. Jay Wiseman was kind enough to describe him as a perverting influence in the opening credits of "SM-101." email: foole (at) icehouse (dot) net
I highly recommend attending these big regional gatherings if your budget can handle it. It gives you a chance to learn from some of the best national workshop presenters. Being around a bunch of fellow leather and BDSM enthusiasts is a great way to overcome the lonely "I'm the only one" feeling. I've attended Southplains LeatherFest every year since I moved to Texas from Spokane, and I've always felt very much welcome and at home.
Some historical background on the terms "Leather" and "BDSM":
Historically, gay servicemen returning from WW II joined together in motorcycle clubs which formed the core of today's "leather" movement. Leather is a very practical material to wear to reduce "road rash" when you fall off a motorcycle. These early bike clubs are now sometimes called "Old Guard Leather," often with a nostalgic "Those were the good old days" tone. Most folks who come from this tradition call what they do "SM" or simply "Leather." The term "BDSM" has never been in widespread use in the gay community. The NLA (National Leather Association) is an example of a large national group that derives from this tradition. Over time, many lesbians, hets and bisexuals have joined the originally all gay male leather groups, and today people of all orientations are welcomed at events such as Southplains LeatherFest.
By comparison, "BDSM" is a term that originated more recently, in the Internet newsgroup alt.sex.bondage (which evolved into soc.subculture.bondage-bdsm), and in the Human Sexuality Forum on Compuserve, specifically in "Section 7 of HSX" founded by Gloria "Different Loving" Brame in 1987. There was considerable overlap in membership between these two Internet groups. The portmanteau acronym "BD/DS/SM" (Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission, Sadism & Masochism) was an effort to create an "umbrella" term that would reconcile several different factions. Some members of these forums felt little identification with the non-consensual torture fantasies of the Marquis de Sade (from whose name "sadism" is derived) or with the fur-fetish slave novel "Venus in Furs" by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (from whose name we get "masochism.") The term BD/DS/SM was soon shortened to "BDSM" which came into popular use on both alt.sex.bondage and HSX in early 1991. Groups who come from this traditon tend to call themselves "pansexual" rather than "leather." In practice, "pansexual" groups tend to have more hets and fewer gays and lesbians than "leather" groups, where the ratio is reversed. This is less a matter of discrimination than a reflection of the fact that people tend to hang out with those they perceive as being similar to themselves, and where they are most likely to find sex partners of their preferred type.
I was a member of one of the early gay "leather" clubs and was also one of the early users of the Internet "BDSM" forums, so I feel equally comfortable (or equally out-of-place) in both groups.
Here's part of the welcome message I wrote for the WichitaFallsBDSM Yahoo group.
All sexual orientations are welcome, including gay, bi, het, lesbian, trans, top, bottom, dom, sub, master, slave, switch, inflatable vinyl pool frogs, "undecided" and "other."
Your Humble Jester,
Philip the Foole
Bi Poly Switch. I'm not indecisive -- I'm greedy.