Race Bannon AKA member LoneWolfPig 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 article he talks about his first encounter at the infamous Mineshaft sex club in New York.
It was 1978. I was 24 and living in New York City. I had just moved there to pursue the next phase of my dancing and acting career.
Having been actively kinky since I first sought out and walked into Chicago's Gold Coast leather bar in the early 70s, I had to visit the infamous Mineshaft sex club the first night I landed in my new city.
I dropped off my bags at my new apartment, changed into nighttime cruising clothes, and headed to this iconic sexual institution.
Finding the club was tricky. There was no entrance sign, but friends had blazed the trail and I knew how to find it. It was in the meat packing district. At night it was a grungy place that made it an even hotter location for a sex club.
I made my way up the entrance stairs to be met by the doorman. He greeted me with a firm "Are you sure you know where you are?" This was not entirely unsurprising. Lore had it that the club had a reputation for turning away anyone they decided did not fit their edgy leather aesthetic.
At the time, I was young and cleanshaven. I was in New York to work as a dancer. No facial hair was the preferred dancer norm. Without my usual mustache I looked quite young, not at all like most men who made it past the Mineshaft doorman.
For 30 minutes the doorman steadfastly kept pushing back on me entering. I explained how kinky I was. I explained I had frequented some of the world's most notorious leather bars. Finally, he relented.
It was summer and warm. I went immediately downstairs, stripped off my t-shirt, unbuttoned the top buttons of my jeans to expose a jock, and dove into the sea of men erotically pulsing to the driving beats coming through the speakers.
Within minutes a handsome man walked up to me, scanned me up and down with his eyes, and said, "Do you want to take me home and beat me?" I was stunned. That was perhaps the most direct cruise I had ever experienced, especially for heavier kink. I turned him down because in the moment the allure of exploring this infamous club was greater than the possibility of beating a sexy man. He gave me his card. I recall he was the Vice President at a major television network. I never did call him.
I walked to the piss bathtub in which a hot man was waiting. I pulled out my cock signaling I was ready, but then a muscled, mustached hunk walked up and it was clear my piss was not wanted. I put my cock away and moved on.
Despite having frequented the leather scene for a few years, I felt out of place. I did not quite fit in, but the erotic tension and heat in the place was too strong to ignore. I kept walking around. Few showed interest.
Finally, a man in a sling, legs in stirrups, glanced my way and waved me over. His ass was already opened and used, covered in Crisco, still hungry. I greased my arm and went in.
An hour later the doorman was making his way around the club and noticed me standing at the sling, arm inside the man's ass nearly to the elbow. The doorman leaned in and whispered "I guess you know where you are" and gave me a smile.
After giving the man the sling ride, I moved on to exploring the rest of the club. I still felt out of place. I looked so much younger than most of the guys. I was not wearing any of the fetish garb some of the guys were. I was not presenting with my usual 70s mustached gay clone look.
The fisting scene would end up my only connection that night. I felt like a fish out of water, yet I knew this is exactly where I should be. These were my people. This was my clan. This is where I belonged. I put on my shirt and went home.
The club doorman felt bad about giving me a hard time at the door. He never again charged me to get into the club. Years later he would end up doorman at another leather bar down the street from where I lived in Los Angeles and we would chuckle about the Mineshaft.
I visited the Mineshaft dozens of times. Each time I met more guys with whom I clicked. It became my main hunting grounds. I explored more kinks. I began to be accepted and became part of that city's inner leather world.
So, why do I mention this apart from the story itself?
As someone who entered the leather realm at a young age, I was often discounted. Even when I had experience and skill beyond my older counterparts, there were times I was relegated to the fringes of the groups of leathermen with whom I craved to connect. That I was typically attracted to men older than me did not always help the situation.
I persisted. Over time I proved myself. Eventually I was accepted. It did not come quickly. In the mainstream gay world I did well sexually and socially being younger, but my youth was often a detriment to my kink explorations.
It is not uncommon to hear guys say how difficult it is to crack the code of entering the kink world. Young men are often compartmentalized with a set of assumptions that are not accurate. Newcomers of any age can be judged as unworthy of attention. Those who do not fit a certain idealized physical mold may be glanced over. Men of color face the added hurdle of systemic or overt racism.
Much of the world is now rightfully grappling to better understand the need for greater inclusion and diversity in all walks of life. The kink world is no different. Of course, our individual sexualities like what they like, but as a collective subculture we must make our venues, events and social circles more welcoming of all. I had the privileges of being white and reasonably attractive with a dancer's fit body. I still struggled with acceptance initially. I cannot fully appreciate those who have higher hurdles to climb.
If you find yourself having a difficult time cracking the code for entrance into whatever kink world you want to enter, keep persisting. Do not be dissuaded from the erotic life you deserve. It will not always be easy. There will be rejection. Even as our world hopefully becomes more accepting and less discriminatory, there are still going to be challenges. Find those who see the beauty you already possess. There are welcoming people who will open their arms, individually and as a group.
Do not give up. Your presence is needed. Your erotic self deserves full expression. Every gay man who abides by decent, consensual behavior deserves a place at the kink and fetish table. Let us all try to make room at that table while encouraging every gay man who wants to be one of us to do so. We will all be better for it.