“How does one get started in the leather community? It seems very complex.”
Woody Allen once said, “80 percent of success is showing up,” and I agree, especially when you want to be involved with a community. The next step is to be friendly and nonjudgemental. We get enough judgement from the outside community, we don’t react well when we start getting it in our “safe spaces.” Lastly, try to fit in. You’re looking to join an established community of like-minded individuals. Show them that you are like-minded. We recognize that we are all different, but we need similarities to bind us together before we can celebrate those differences fully. The rest of this column is just unpacking those three suggestions.
Many people “test the waters” at a large, well publicized event. There are advantages and drawbacks to this. One of the advantages is that you won’t be the only new face to the regulars, one of the drawbacks is that you’ll be one new face among many. Also, large events tend to pull the regulars into volunteer roles, which means everyone is so busy making sure that you have a good event, that they may not have time to talk with you one on one. Don’t be offended if that really hot guy with a clipboard rushed past you and doesn’t take the time to check you out out or say hello. Chances are, there is something else that needs his attention.
Let’s say you’ve decided NOT to attend a big event, but want to meet people at the bar. Pay attention to the bar schedule. There are, of course, some people who are out at a bar every weekend. Some other people only show up when their interest-group is having a bar or club night. When you arrive it will seem like everyone knows everyone, or there are disparate groups that don’t intersect. It’s true, that a lot of us know each other. It is equally true that many of us like meeting new people. Just because we are talking to the friends we already know when you arrive, it doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to make a new friend. Also, if you pay attention to the disparate groups, you’ll see that there is crossover and intersections within the various groups and there are not as many “cliques” as it first appears when you walk in the door.
Don’t snub the first person to talk to you, he could be the welcoming committee from one (or all) of the groups, and may be coming over to bring you into a circle. He might also be new, or could just be interested in getting to know you himself. If he starts to ask what you’re into, be honest. If you’re new, and don’t know, say so. He’ll either leave you alone if he’s looking for someone with more experience, or he’ll introduce you around if he’s an ice breaker. He may also offer to teach you. Use common sense and caution when learning anything from someone you meet at a bar. A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t get in a car with this person, you shouldn’t go into a dungeon with them.
Once you have joined a conversation, be friendly and nonjudgmental. Conversations can go quickly from fisting to quiche recipes to flogging to plans for next weekend. Don’t make a face or criticize the guy who like to put a ton of shiitake mushrooms in his quiche, just because you think that the cooking mushrooms will leak moisture into the eggs causing them to be too runny, and the quiche will never set right. At least wait until you know him well enough to know how he’ll respond before you say anything like that. (And maybe try his quiche first.)
Try your best to look the part. Nothing screams “I don’t belong here” like a loud Hawaiian shirt, shorts, flip-flops, spray tan, cologne and hair gel. You may think that these things make you look hot, and you may be right. In certain circles you may be the life of the party. In other circles you’ll stick out like a sore thumb, and let me explain why:
– I happen to like kissing guys aggressively, and passionately. Often times this means grabbing their hair and pulling their lips to mine, and keeping a grip on their hair while I do it. If your hair is stuck to itself, or full of product that is going to coat my hand; I am not going to like it, and therefore won’t want to kiss you.
– I like to wear leather. Leather is a very porous material, that has a tendency to trap environmental scents and not let them go. If you touch my leather and you’re covered in perfume, it may take me months to get your smell off me, if I can get it off at all. Maybe that’s a good thing if it’s your natural smell and we’re partners; but if I just met you, and it’s perfume, more than likely it’s not a good thing.
– Skin tastes good. Spray tan (lotion, deodorant, etc.) does not. If I want to put my mouth on your body; I want to taste you, not the product that you’re wearing.
– As for the flip-flops: Most leather bars are dark, and many of the other patrons are wearing hard, heavy boots. If you value your toes, you may want to reconsider your choice of footwear.
– The shorts we can likely work with (especially in Arizona!) but the Hawaiian shirt? If I want to pull you into a dark corner and do dirty things to you, you’ll want to blend into that corner. If your shirt is so loud and so bright that it attracts the attention of the bar staff (or other patrons), I may not get to do those dirty things to you.
I recommend a simple, solid colored (I recommend dark colored as well) shirt, jeans, and solid colored, close-toed shoes. This is not an environment where you do not need to be the prettiest peacock to get attention, you just need to be interesting.If you are not a bar person, many of the organized clubs have social events outside of the bars, that you may be interested in. Even when we’re outside the bar, a group of leather men is not too difficult to identify. Show up, be friendly, and try to fit in, and you’ll manage just fine. You’ll learn to navigate the other complexities as you go.