Race Bannon AKA member PigMaster4PigSlave has been an organizer, writer, educator, speaker and activist in the LGBT, leather/kink, polyamory and HIV/STI prevention and treatment realms since 1973. In this first article in an ongoing series he talks about embracing change on the fetish scene.
To my fellow Recon members, hello. I've been honored to be asked to occasionally write for this esteemed site. I didn't hesitate to jump at the offer. Among gay men interested in fetish, kink and leather, Recon has long been the reigning King of connection mechanisms throughout the world.
So, having this platform available is a humbling experience. My hope is that I can offer readers information and commentary filtered through my unique perspective as a long-time leatherman and avid BDSM/fetish practitioner. The tentacles of my sexuality and relationship work intersect across the worlds of kink, LGBTQ, HIV/STI prevention and treatment, and non-monogamy/polyamory.
This hodgepodge of backgrounds gives me what I believe is an ability to identify the commonalities across those realms and offer useful insight and analysis. Of course, you as the reader will ultimately be the judge of that.
One of the topics that seems to consistently percolate within North American, European and other fetish scenes is change. Changes in fetish garb. Changes in styles of sexuality. Changes in kink self-identifications and cultures.
Some roll with these changes rather easily while others resist them with every ounce of their strength. I contend embracing change is the only path to true fulfillment if one's to continue to navigate within gay male fetish life happily.
Another way to view these changes is as the natural evolution of kink. Charles Darwin, the father of the theory of evolution, once said "It is not the strongest of species that survive; nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the most adaptable to change." As it is with evolution generally, so it is with those of us who consider ourselves kinky, whether a weekend warrior or 24/7 lifestyler.
Generally, complaints bemoaning the loss of a past version of the fetish scene decry how people dress, identify, behave, gather and play today.
"The scene isn't what it used to be."
"Those younger kinksters don't respect the old ways."
"The scene has moved online."
"We're losing our bars."
"I just don't understand why so many guys are wearing sports gear now."
"Our community has been diluted with too many people who aren't really kinky."
The list of complaints grows daily, but all seem to center on the futile resistance to change. Everything changes. Everything. Nothing remains constant over time. I'm not sure why this truism isn't as easily applied to fetish and kink, but many seem to feel that the erotic environment on which they initially imprinted must remain static and stagnant if they're to continue to be a part of it.
If you feel that way, good luck with that. The pain one brings upon themselves with such resistance is considerable while learning to accept and adapt to change can bring such joy.
When you're a student of various life philosophies you'll repeatedly stumble upon the concept of attachment. It's posited that attachment leads to much of life's suffering. Everything, everyone, every tradition, every society, every subculture is ephemeral. Fetish, leather and kink are no different. The sooner an individual accepts that, the happier they'll be. If you resist accepting change, in my opinion unhappiness is essentially a foregone conclusion.
Scan online, walk into a leather bar, or attend any of the major fetish events and you'll quickly notice a vast array of erotic interests and fetishes and how they present in the modern men's communities. The factions are continuing to grow and solidify into distinct groupings with some developing entire networks and social mores that bind them with those unique shared erotic commonalities.
Pups. BDSM. Rubber. Sports gear. Rope work. Leather. Uniforms. And so much more. When you do a member search on Recon, you're currently given 26 sexual interests to help hone your search criteria, and those 26 are just the tip of the kink iceberg. The list of erotic interests and trends is ever expanding with the various subsets within the larger body of kinksters overlapping in constantly morphing ways.
I don't see such morphing and adaptation to be much different than the organic way any community or subculture evolves. Change is the only constant. It's why I find it amusing when anyone harkens back to "the way it was." I have too at times I must admit. But there is no way anything can remain fixed in time. That's just not how things work. Everything changes.
However, the fetish and leather scenes have their fair share of men who refuse to accept that the scene looks and functions differently than it did when they came out into it 5, 10 or 25 years ago. They imagine one of those science fiction scenarios in which time is magically frozen.
That's why you'll run across a constant churn about traditions, history, protocols and other such things because people want to believe that some golden era of fetish in the past was the ideal and that what we have now is not. I disagree. The landscape of today's kinksters is vast, diverse and rich with more experiences, events, social life and play opportunities than ever before. Recon is a linchpin site that binds much of that together.
Yes, our scene presents and functions differently than it did in the past. So what? Most of life from the past looks and functions differently today. Many would call it progress. Personally, I like that fact that my sexuality and the communities in which I enjoy that sexuality aren't boxed in by rigid definitions and structures that might keep me from exploring my own path, whatever that might be.
One thing we must accept in order to come to peace with all this is that while there are still certainly overlaps among the various kink and leather sexualities and corresponding communities, those overlaps might be less than in the past. The scene is far less monolithic today. I see that as a good thing.
There is a natural human tendency is for us to want to feel that we belong to something special. If the culture in which we commune changes over time into more diverse groupings, in time each of those groupings will want to exert their specialness and form their own separate social circles, language, identifiers, and so on.
Thus, while the terms "fetish" and "leather" meant one thing a few decades ago or even a few years ago, it now might mean something entirely different to many. I refuse to get too worked up over how it's all changed. I don't want to be one of those cranky old guys ranting about younger people or scene newcomers who don't "get" the men's fetish and leather cultures. Believe me, they get it just fine. It just doesn't look the same as the sexual culture I came out in during the early '70s. And that's quite just fine with me.
Race Bannon has been an organizer, writer, educator, speaker and activist in the LGBT, leather/kink, polyamory and HIV/STI prevention and treatment realms since 1973. He's authored two books, been published extensively, spoken to hundreds of audiences, created the world's largest kink-friendly psychotherapist and medical referral service, was a leader of The DSM Project that led to a beneficial change in the way American psychotherapy views BDSM, founded a groundbreaking alternative sexuality publishing company, been an internet radio sex talk show host, received national and local awards, and appeared in numerous documentaries. He currently also writes for the Bay Area Reporter and on his blog