Sunday, March 9, 2014

Going to IML... and still Thinking about Leather Titles

Chicago!  Chicago!  I bought plane tickets.  The flight is booked.  There’s no turning back.  I’ll be joining Loki and Nitro at International Mr. Leather (IML) in Chicago in a couple of months.  I’m really stoked.  The biggest thing I’m stoked about is, of course, the big Woof Camp mosh.  Last year it was over 110 pups and 60 Handlers.  Wow…  I can not wait.  In truth, I’m really going to Woof Camp, and IML is secondary to that.

Of course, beyond the mosh, I’m also looking forward to meeting new people and pups and (I hope) making new friends, but I’m not so much interested in the actual IML title contest.  In fact, I won’t be surprised if Sir and I skip the contest proceedings.  Generally, I don’t have any real interest in these leather title things.  I’ve been to SELF three or four times, but we always skip the contest show.  I’ve written before about my outlook on these title contests – which is why if you looked at the 2014 NCLC judges you may have been surprised to see who was there.  (Well, I told them, “If you’ve got the balls to ask me, I’m not going to say no.”  LOL.  But seriously, I’d like to see more puppies judging leather contests... and I'm about to explain why...)

A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation about title contests w/ some friends, and one of them characterized my position as thinking the contests were “stupid.”  That’s not exactly right.  I think if I were going to use a single word it might be “pretentious.”  Or maybe “misleading” would be even better.  Many people seem to take these titles so seriously and seem to think that those who hold them represent our community leadership.  Sooooo not true.  Who, seriously, would use an event structured on a beauty pageant to choose their leadership?  As one friend of mine often said, he never wanted to run for a title b/c he could get a lot more done w/o one.  The leaders (those getting things done) are usually not the titleholders (there are, of course, exceptions) any more than Ms. North Carolina is the Governor.  (Although in our case, she'd probably do a better job.)

As I understand it, these things began originally as the leather bar equivalent of a drag show – meant for entertainment – and they served the purpose of selecting the centerfolds for Drummer Magazine.  At beast, you get an entertaining show and a pretty face to go out and be a community ambassador – a la Ms. America.

On that level, I don’t think they are “stupid.”  But it’s just an entertainment on basically the same level of a burlesque show or a beauty pageant… or a dog show!  I have even come to really like the idea of the puppy titles.  (Not saying I’d ever run for one… but I won’t say “never.”  Just: “very unlikely.”)  But basically, w/ the pup titles, we’re talking about a dog show – w/ human dogs!  How cool is that, right?  And being pups, naturally we’re going to keep it silly and fun – as it should be.

Or we’re not.

And here’s the damn problem.  When the two “competing” International Puppy titles started up a couple f years back, it (apparently) turned into this big, stupid battle.  Now, fortunately, I believe the battle was actually only ever among a very small group of pups and Handlers (mostly those involved in the production of the two events, I suspect), and the bulk of our community didn’t care.  I like to say: We pups are so cool that one international titleholder isn’t enough for us.  LOL.  But the fact that some people were responding to this “split in the pup community” as if it were anything remotely worth taking seriously just shows how divisive and corrupting these tiles have the potential to become once anyone starts to regard them as anything more serious than they really are.

Here’s my analogy: the difference between a good contest and a bad one is the difference between America’s Next Top Model and Ru Paul’s Drag Race.  Okay, so I haven’t seen either show – ever – but from what I understand, America’s Next Top Model plays it straight (no pun intended) and takes itself all serious (which is absurd) where everything on Ru Paul’s Drag Race is (as it should be) tongue-in-cheek and done w/ a wink and quotation marks.

That’s why I want to see more puppies on the judges’ panels.  And furries.  (But of course, furries ruin everything…)  I know a lot of the oh-so-serious, stick-up-their-butt, high-and-mighty Leather w/ a capitol-L folk look down on us (puppies and furries… and age players and drag queens), but I think they often need us for a reality check – to remind them that this thing we do, we do for FUN.  And, frankly, sex – especially kinky sex – is always silly and fun and goofy when you think about it.  It’s about inclusiveness, but it’s also about keeping it real, and grounded, and reminding us all not to take ourselves too seriously.  (And sometimes the best sound you’ll hear in the dungeon isn’t an orgasmic moan but a loving, silly pup’s squeaky toy.)

Do we need these titles? I don’t know that we need them, but maybe as an excuse to get us all together at a big convention it doesn’t hurt… and I am really, really excited about IML/Woof Camp.  I guess my thing is that I just see the titles contest as an excuse for the gathering and not the reason.  Your thoughts?

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