I’ve spent a great deal of time over the past year being a good listening ear for my friends as they navigate their way in the community. A great majority of them are either producers of contests and events, or titleholders…and sadly, there appears to be an abundance of seriousness and resignation with all of the ‘political’ crap that comes up for them.
Plain and simple, the most important component of my leather life is the PLAY.
It’s not that I don’t care about the politics…it’s just that, I lose my hard-on when they come up.
As my husband and I wind down from the intense whirlwind of the various events we have attended the past few months, and get the suitcases reorganized and sorted for teaching at the next gig, I always get a little childlike glimmer as I look at all the toys we incorporate into our ventures. I look at some of the larger items that he built that exist in our playroom..such as our bondage box..and always say, “think it’ll fit this time??” I always continue to be amused at some of the overtly complicated postings of political disarray on the various leather and kink sites; the ongoing debates of what “traditions” are or should be…the various allusions to feuding among titleholders and Machiavellian individuals they have to contend with in their communities or circles. Then there’s the inflammatory reactions to published works …many of which have titles with the word ‘handbook’ or ‘manual’ in them. And let’s not even delve into the debates
around exclusionary playspaces. Where’s the fun??
Leather and kink, to me, is and always has been very simple, yet so many feel an inherent need to bring complication to it. To me, the core element is the dynamic of PLAY.
Think about it. Your greatest transformation and growth occur when you’re in the domain of playing. Think about that connection you have with someone in the dungeon…the intensity of their gaze, sadistic and evil..yet so incredibly arousing your heart is pounding and your body is weak and your breathing is heavy..the way their hand touches your bound body, letting you know that they have full control of what happens to you…what you FEEL or allowed to feel. Think about the endorphins, the hormones….the adrenaline….your chemistry being altered and surging just by the experience of the afflictions, intense….yet hypnotic. There is no past…no future….only the now…the moment by moment of every exchange of power, of energy..increasing with each lashing, each punch, each drop of wax. You hear the Dom’s voice, their breathing, their laughs of evil….perhaps you feel their mouth or tongue…you register their unique scent , mixing with yours. And most of all…the “you” that has been so familiar all this time…the identity you believed yourself to be…all suddenly changing. Reaching what you proclaim to have been your limitations and yet, the trust you feel is immense, and the power of what is happening is so exhilarating that you give a nod to your captor…and together you go further that you imagined you could do. Maybe you’re the one controlling the scene, feeling the incredible catharsis that is occurring as a result of the parameters you’ve orchestrated. A person or persons have enabled you to create an incredible moment…perhaps several…as a result of your skill, your prowess…and most of all you’re ability to instill trust. You feel a surge happening in the dominance you have over your sub, your prisoner, your pup. The game is
in motion…there is a point of arrival….but the journey is just as amazing. The scene concludes…perhaps with an orgasm or an outburst of tears. The trajectory has been reached … the aftercare ensues. And we reflect on who we’ve become as a result of going there. We are changed. Complete.
Or…perhaps you’d rather talk about fundraising…?
I have always found that my greatest growth happened as a result of what went on in the dungeon. What transpires in there is profound and non-linear. It is there that I have found my deepest bonds with others. It’s the kind that takes you beyond the threshold of standard one-handed masturbation and puts you in the context of bliss. I know when my husband/boy and I play…if he can still form full sentences at the conclusion of the playscene, I’m off my game.
So what are the components of play?
Well, Psychology Today sums up play as having the following characteristics:
-It is self-chosen and self-directed, with no pressure to engage or quit.
-It is conducted for its own sake, not because there is necessarily a ‘goal’ to be reached
-It is carried out in accordance with self-directed, mental rules.
-It is non-literal, imaginative, and marked-off in some way from reality.
-It involves and active, alert, but non-stressed state of mind
Now I understand that this approach may seem a little too simple. You may be reading this thinking “there is SO much more to what leather is about…there’s honor there’s traditions there’s a feeling of brotherhood and families and guidance, community work and charity …”
*Shudder*….I’ve been a titleholder twice….I remember the language I had to put in my speech in order to survive the scoring of the judges.
All that is mentioned above, I accept, and have experienced, and even strive to uphold. I am a presenter and when I educate I make a point to be true to our history for the most part. But, I firmly believe that there is a strong element of sexualized play that lays underneath this that we seem to deny. And I believe we would have a lot less negativity in the culture of leather if we embraced this more. We have new generations expressing an interest in what it is we’re doing and they want to be a part of it. But then they see the cattiness and drama and say, “no thanks”. We have to remember that for most of us, the first thing that had us being our venture into leather was the arousal we felt when we saw it on someone sexy.
If you’re having a negative reaction to what I’m saying, take a little closer look….as PLAY is a wonderful thing. Back in the 80’s I was a Theater Arts major at UCLA – I know, BIG surprise right? – and during my time there I had the pleasure of taking a course in Children’s Theater and Creative Dramatics. I will never forget the day we met our professor, who I had envisioned would be a kind of matronly “Miss MaryAnn” type, who instead turned out to be a very stern-looking Twyla Tharp clone with eyeglasses that made her look like a bee. She walked in, scanned the room, and opened the semester program with a warning: “For those of you who have come here with the immature belief that you are going to have it easy because you are playing to an audience of children, I shall tell that you will be broken here.” Yikes…John Houseman was kinder in the Paper Chase. “A child is perhaps the toughest critic you will ever face as a performer. And they will let you know it, right then and there…and you will never be given another chance with them.” Well I can’t say
this was a surprise to me – I knew kids were brutal…I had read Lord of the Flies after all. She continued: “However, what you are about to embark on here is paramount…because theater, and playing in theater or any kind of artistic endeavor, speaks to a child in a way that an authoritative figure cannot. And when done well, you provide a space for the child to grow in infinite ways”.
It was incredibly inspirational. And it dawned on me how true this was.
As children, we would throw ourselves into a world of play with complete commitment, a hundred and ten percent. There was rarely any consideration of where the “moment of arrival” was..the key was being IN it. The “means” were more important than the “ends”. Sandboxes suddenly became fortresses to protect. The sofa cushions would be arranged to create an ornate secret hide-out where we could gather to discuss world espionage. And the intimidating tree in the back yard…normally too high for us to climb…would suddenly become a beanstalk, and we would push ourselves to climb higher with the hopes of reaching the giant’s house. The “space” was sporadic, free- flowing….and perfect for nurturing our development. It would promote creativity,autonomy, and socialization. We became better children as a result of going there. And we always had new found energy to come back for more.
This is what is so wonderful about being kinksters and leatherfolk. We still have access to that domain. We can still engage in those “worlds” where cathartic exchanges occur, and grow as men and women as a result. And we have the added bonuses of hormones, endorphins, developed language, and intellect. Not to mention some degree of street wisdom. I think all too often, we forget this…or neglect the importance of it. Maybe we get caught up in things we believe are so serious…that we lose sight of the very thing that brought
us here initially.
Never underestimate what engaging in play can do for you and others in leather. If you have reached a point where you are feeling a sense of negativity or resignation with your leather journey, I invite to go back to that ‘root’ where it all began for you. Seek out the playmates you trust, schedule those flogging, cutting, or bondage sessions. Get back to that freedom you had to feel the power exchange. And when you are at an event or contest or fundraiser, and you see others suddenly engaging in play…SUPPORT it. It’s vital to who we are.
Remember everybody….this shit is supposed to be FUN!