Monday, June 22, 2015

Traditional vs. Modern Leather… and Puppies

At SELF last weekend, I caught a Puppy 201 class that was one of the best discussion classes I’ve seen in years.  It was a class by Sir Justin, IPTC Trainer 2014, and the class was on pup roles… sort of.  The class was something of a bait-n-switch.  It was about pup roles, but really it had a lot to do w/ the general new guard/TNG/kinkster scene and how it differs from traditional leather… and how pups exemplify that.  It was a good discussion that offered a helpful new paradigm for understanding the community, past and present.

Sir Justin began by drawing a contrast between “traditional” leather and “modern” leather/kink.  “Traditional” is the word he proposes to replace “old guard.”  I totally agree w/ this!  “Old guard” was coined by Guy Baldwin c.1989 and recently even Baldwin has said that he regrets the term b/c it wasn’t the best choice for what he wanted to describe, and people have misused it to mean all kinds of things.  For the most part, it’s come to refer to something that never really existed – at least not like the way most people mean when they say “old guard” or, “I’m old guard.”

Not long ago, I did some research on my own (mostly using the website of the fantastic Leather Archives and Museum – check it our) and wrote a series of three posts about this topic, which I think still has gotten more hits than anything else I’ve written (over 1400). 

So, if I could get three wishes from the Leather Jinni, one would be to do away w/ this term “old guard” and the muddy and inaccurate concept that goes w/ it.  Let’s just stop using it!  I like “traditional” so much better.  For one, something doesn’t become a tradition until after the fact, right?  “Traditional” is an inherently backward-looking term.  So “traditional” leather self-evidently isn’t something that started in the 40’s or 50’s or even the 60’s.  It’s the Baby Boomer leather culture that congealed mostly in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s.  I also like “traditional” b/c something doesn’t have to be based in real history to be a tradition.  Hanukah is a perfectly valid tradition even though almost all archeologists and Egyptologists agree that there never was a time when all the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt, the pyramids weren’t built by slave labor, there was never a mass slave exodus from Egypt, and Ramesses the Great didn’t drown under the Red Sea.  None of that matters in as much as Hanukah is still a perfectly good tradition that does the things rituals and religious institutions are supposed to do.  Or take Christmas.  December 25?  Nobody has any idea when Jesus of Nazareth was actually born.  So we can, likewise, talk about the tradition of awarding the master’s cap w/o having to claim that, “This is really how it was done back in the 40’s by the old guard.”  So far as I can tell, the master’s cap didn’t become a tradition until the 80’s or 90’s.

What else became a thing around that time?

Recently Master Ron K was on the KinkyCast podcast.  One of the things he talked about, which I found to be rather interesting, was that the word “slave” is not the best, healthiest word we could choose.  “Slave,” he argues, is an inherently negative, pernicious word.  By calling our submissive partner our “slave” we tack on to them all of these negative associations and it ends up sabotaging the relationship and perpetuating the stereotype that BDSM is inherently abusive and the people in it are “fifty shades of fucked up.”  The label is “a disempowering, energy sucking kind of thing” (Master Ron K), and while we continue to use it, we will continue to see Masters who abuse their partners and justify it by, ‘He agreed to be my slave,’ and submissive who continue to allow themselves to be abused.  Language influences attitude; attitude influences behavior.

This Master/slave dynamic is now traditional leather… but it’s a great example of how traditions don’t often perfectly reflect history and most traditions don’t go back as far as we think.  According to Master Ron K, this use of “Master/salve” stems from the 1980’s and early ‘90’s.  Prior to that, “master” referred primarily to a mastery of skills (recognized by the community) not a role in a relationship dynamic (i.e. “He is my master.”)  Jack Rinella wrote: “You can read [Larry Townsend’s] Handbook, for instance, all you want and you'll find only few references to slaves… You see, a person into Leather in those days was called an "S" or an "M," which stood for sadist and masochist and had little or nothing to do with dominance or submission.  Even the words top and bottom are rare in the Handbook, as they were rare in the seventies.”  I don’t think D/s or M/s was a big part of the Leather scene until after AIDS scared everyone off from raunchy, primal sex.

Okay, so that’s traditional leather and where (I think) it comes from.  Now, let’s contrast that w/ modern leather/kinksters.  Start w/ puppies.  Puppy play started in traditional leather clubs as a way to punish misbehaving boys and haze probies through public humiliation and degradation.  But modern the puppy scene is not about humiliation but fun and play; it’s more silly and has less structured D/s dynamics; it looks more like having a loving pet than a “slave”; and we have a lot of overlap w/ furries and primals – groups still sometimes shunned by traditional leather men.

In modern kink (and puppy dynamics) w have less rigidly defined roles.  I’ve frequently said that I don’t think of myself as “a submissive” in some generalized sense.  Rather, I say, “I submit” to two specific people (well, now going on three).  However, I don’t walk intoa  dungeon or leather bar w/ the expectation that I am going to “lower my eyes” to anyone but my Ma’am and Sir.

Instead of clearly defined roles of Master and slave – and you absolutely can NOT be both, right? – we have more fluidity.  I remember one switchy guest who was on the NoSafeWord Show talking about all the shit he would get from his fellow leather men by showing up at events wearing both his master’s cap and his slave collar.  Traditionalists would be all, “You can’t do that!”  But modern kinksters are much more comfortable w/ switching – and sometimes two partners may even switch off roles together (as our current joke that Hunter is my Alpha and my omega – LOL).

In place of M/s, puppies organize around a looser, more organic, pack structure of Alpha, beta, and omega.  I often confuse people coming from a traditional leather perspective b/c Cuddles is collared to me as my omega.  However, I’m not a switch, and I’m not a Dominant or a Top.  For me, beta/omega is much more of a mentor/mentee relationship, or big brother/little brother.  But I don’t generally order him around, and I don’t generally Top him…

Another trait of modern kink is that complex polycules are a lot more common.  Traditional leather was patterned on either military chains of command or Victorian manner house hierarchies.  However, what’s becoming the norm in modern kink is complicated families where A might be over B and C, but B and C are equal, and B has D, E, and F under him, but only D is also under A where E is collared to both B and F, and A is married to G, but G isn’t kinky and has little to do w/ the rest of the family, and…  I call them “complex polycules”: when your poly family structure maps like a carbon polymer molecule.  If anything, we look more like dog/wolf packs.

Let me highlight two more differences here.  In traditional leather, you started at the bottom (as a submissive probie) and had to earn your way up (to Master).  (At least, that’s the tradition, we can disregard how often that was actually the case.)  Now it’s not uncommon to have a 20-something “Master.”  Many traditionalists mock this, but it’s a legitimate sign of changing times.  Hunter is currently acting in a Dominent role to me w/in our pack structure, even though our difference in years and mileage is pretty significant.  (I started going to fetish clubs when he was in the 3rd grade, and I identified as a puppy before he hit puberty.)

Finally, traditional leather is insular and exclusive; like a biker gang, you had to earn your way in.  Modern puppies tend to be among the most open and accepting segment of our community.  Puppies just want to play get scritches, so we’re usually cool w/ all types of people regardless of gender, orientation, or whatever their particular kink is.  At least that’s been my experience.  Whenever “issues” arise about furries showing up at a mosh or female pups joining the mosh, it’s almost never the pups themselves who have the issues; it’s the Handlers and the event organizers and the leather guys coming out to watch.  The puppies are usually just, “Yea, more people to play w/ me!”  And frequently the puppies are the first ones to lend support to outsider groups like transgenders, furries, ABDLs, etc.

Puppies are kind of on the outer edge of the leather community right now.  Sir Justin made the point that we are largely modern fetishists coming into traditional spaces (leather bars, runs and title contests), and that can be a source for friction and misunderstanding.  Both sides need to have understanding for one-another, and that’s where this new paradigm seems very useful.  I know, the more I thought about it after Justin introduced it, the more it made sense to me.  Your thoughts?

Until next time, may a doggie bag always reward your wait.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

SELF 2015: Puppies!!!!!

Okay, I have had some issues w/ SELF (Southeast Leather Fest) in the past.  Partly stemming from organizing the con around a title contest that I, honestly, have little interest in (just not my cup of tea).  Partly from that I feel it’s overpriced; it cost more than Frolicon and I think the day pass costs more than Dragon, but there’s not enough bang for your buck.  Hell, at SEBB you get just as many classes, a puppy mosh, a photo shoot, and a free lunch, but the early bird price is $10!  (No, that isn't a type-O.  $10.)  The class line-up at SELF always seemed too narrow (compared, again, w/ something like Frolicon).  We would go as a pack, teach a Puppy Play class, and enjoy one-another’s company, but the Con programming itself always left us kind of lukewarm…

Well, I will admit, I was very impressed by how much of that has been fixed.  Pretty much all of that has been fixed (expect the price – but at least now you get more for your money).  The class line up was better and more diverse.  Even the crowed seems to be showing more diversity: more gay men, TNG, fetishists, and non-traditional leather types. I will tip my hat to Lady Catherine and her crew and say, “I am impressed. Well done."

So down to the meat of it (Mmmmm… Meat!):  Cuddles and I managed to arrive early Friday morning in time to get registered, find Hunter, and go to the 10am puppy class.  It was “Obedience training” w/ Sir Justin and Pup Tork (IPTC 2014 titleholders).  This was a good class – especially the hands-on part where pups paired-up w/ a Handler, they blindfolded us pups and had the Handler’s lead us through an obstacle course w/o speaking… then they blindfolded the Handlers and we got to play seeing eye dog for them!  It was a good exercise.

We had just enough time before the mosh to rapidly get checked into our hotel room, change cloths, and grab a snack.  The puppy mosh was fantastic!  There was the three of us, two female pups, and three or four other male pups at various times.  I was in my black zenti with my rubber hood.  I was really glad there were sufficient Handlers (including the wonderful Sirs Justin and Rob) that Hunter was able to pull on his Dalmatian zenti and join us in the mosh in pup-mode.  That made me extra happy.  He’s been in Handler/Top-mode a lot lately, and I like to see him be able to keep balanced.  Of course, he was still a very Topy puppy…

One year ago, last time we were at SELF, Hunter was my omega, and I was holding his leash (and there was no way I would ever let him pin me in a mosh).  Over the last 6 month, since our Sir moved to DC, Hunter has been exploring his dominant side more.  We had a great scene together at the last Atlanta Dominion party where he Topped me (tied me up, fucked my face, and milked me).  So, I talked w/ my lovely Owner, Shdwkitten, about allowing Hunter to explore being Dominant to me, and she granted her permission.  So this weekend I was working on being in a more submissive headspace w/ Hunter (e.g. sitting at his feet during class, etc.).  It’s sometimes odd since he is so much younger and less experienced than me and I was often holding his leash not that long ago.  Our joke became, “Hunter is my Alpha and my omega.”  So not only did he pin me in the mosh but he also proceeded to bite me… hard… repeatedly.  The first time he pounced me all four Handlers came over and gathered around us to see if I was okay.  Hunter kept attacking me, and they could see that I was rock hard, so they correctly figured out that I liked it.  They continued to watch less b/c they were concerned than the fact they were enjoying the show.  ;)

Once the mosh ended and we got back up to our hotel room, Hunter did something about my getting hard.  He locked me in a chastity cage.  As of that date I was already at nearly 2 weeks w/o cumming…  Next, Hunter proceeded to put Cuddles in a straightjacket, gag, and hood and chain him to the bed.  Then, while we waited for or dinner to be delivered, we both proceeded to edge the pug and turn him into a moaning, pleading puddle of goo.  Cuddles got off just before our food got there.

Ma’am and Poet arrived at the room not far behind our dinner.  We hung out and I got my rubber suit on.  The plan was for the puppies to rush the stage at the opening of the contest show.  While we waited for the show to start, we got a pack photo made by the SELF photographer. 

 Then, the show started and seven puppies rushed Optimus (the MC) on the stage while “Who Let the Dogs Out?” played.  It was awesome fun!  Unfortunately, my kneepads slipped.  I foolishly wore my soft, slip-on pads rather than my strap-on skateboard pads.  Dumb.  This resulted in small tears in both knees of my rubber suit.  Fortunately, the awesomely talented Poet can patch them, but it meant my latex skin was out of commission for the remainder of the con.  (This tuned out to be okay b/c the hotel AC broke down the next day and it would have been too hot for rubber anyway.)

We skipped the rest of the stage show to head upstairs and get changed, hung out w/ friends… wandered… visited the men-only dungeon… saw a St. Andrew’s Cross get literally destroyed (Hulk smash!)… and Hunter found a hot guy to spend the night with.  I spent the night cuddling w/ my omega pup… locked in chastity.  Bark.

Saturday started way too early w/ a 9:30am puppy class: “Training the Trainer” w/ Sir Rob and Sea Wolf (Southeast Pup 2015).  Our friend Gator joined us for the day.  He’s curious about puppy Handling and wanted to come to the classes today to do some research.  He also surprised me w/ a gift: a very cool acrylic paddle w/ a picture of a wolfhound etched into it.  It looks great!

After the class we gathered at a prearranged meeting out on the patio where a little surprise was awaiting Cuddles.  NCMaster presented our pug with a great-looking pair of leather boots.  We’ve all watched little Cuddles grow a lot over the year or two, and now he’s stepped up to help run Charlotte TNG, so this was a very nice way of recognizing him… and it meant we could get rid of his ugly shoes.  He had these awful, brown, slip-on things.  We tried to set fire to them but they wouldn’t burn.

Gator had lunch w/ my pack offsite, fun was had, and we made it back in time for Sir Justin’s class in “Pup Roles.”  This was one of the best classes I’ve seen!  It’s not just about puppy roles and dynamics w/in pup packs – it actually applies to much of the modern fetish/BDSM/TNG/New Guard scene, and a lot of it resonated w/ our pack and poly family.  I want to write more about it, but it will have to be a separate post…

Next was the final puppy class, “Advanced Pup Training” w/ Rob and Sea Wolf.  I am so thrilled w/ how SELF stepped-up their puppy game this year: four classes and a mosh!  It’s great to see so much support for our piece of the community.

After that class we had to (try to) grab a quick bite in the hotel restaurant before the 7:30 puppy photo shoot.  It was a “business dinner” so we could talk about plans for the puppy programming for next spring’s Frolicon.  Frolicon is also stepping-up its puppy game.  I will be teaching two pup classes, we will have a mosh, and Gator is going to host a Puppy Olympics.  Lots of fun for puppies to be had at Frolicon next year!  (And my pack is going to be soooo busy…)  Well, the service in the restaurant was so slow we actually didn’t get our food or have time to eat before we had to go to the puppy photo shoot.  But we did make it.  

After that, Cuddles and I said our goodbyes to folks and departed.  (Apparently there was a Mama’s Family photo shoot afterwards, but nobody told me, so Mama’s Wolfhound was AWOL.)

I had so much fun at SELF.  Loved meeting Sirs Justin and Rob, and pups Sea Wolf and Tork.  It was nice to get to know Gator a little better.  I really had a great time w/ my wonderful pack mates: Cuddles and Hunter.  Being there to give Cuddles his boots was special.  It made me so happy to see Hunter have such a good time at this event.  I had a great time w/ him in the mosh, and I’ve also been really impressed w/ how he’s growing into being a Handler and Alpha.  I am always happy to have Hunter hold my leash…  And right now he’s also holding the key to my chastity cage.  Unless Ma’am lets me get off sooner, Hunter is making me wait until the next Dominion party… in like 4 weeks.  Little bastard.