s/m - l e a t h e r   h i s t o r y


Two of my essays are of historical interest, though both touch on political and social issues still current today. They are offered here as Word documents in Adobe Acrobat format. The Acrobat Reader is a free download available from www.adobe.com for both PC and Mac platforms.

In 1990, the year leading up to the tenth anniversary of Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA), which i had co-founded, i was asked to contribute an essay to the first serious nonfiction collection of writings about s/m and leather by leatherfolk themselves, which was being edited by Mark Thompson. The finished essay appeared in March 1991 in GMSMA’s 10th Anniversary souvenir program book and in November 1991 in the landmark anthology Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politcals, and Practice published by Alyson (a 10th Anniversary reissue appeared from Alyson in 2001 with a new preface by the editor). In the section titled "Six decades of shadow dancing," the 1940s are represented by a reminiscence from Samuel Steward, better known as the pioneer gay s/m erotic writer Phil Andros; the 1950s by my friend and mentor Thom Magister’s essay "One Among Many: The seduction and training of a leatherman"; the 1960s by an appreciation of artist Chuck Arnett by Jack Fritscher, the editor most responsible for making Drummer what it became; the 1970s by Gayle Rubin’s definitive history of The Catacombs, San Francisco’s "temple of the butthole"; the 1980s by my essay about the founding of GMSMA and the Lesbian Sex Mafia in New York; and the 1990s by editor Thompson’s "Black Leather Wings," about the androgynous Leather Faerie movement.

Few phrases are simultaneously as revered and as reviled among leatherfolk as "safe, sane, and consensual." For better or worse, it seems i must confess/claim authorship of it—though hardly responsibility for every subsequent use and misuse since i coined it in 1984 for GMSMA. The first time i told the story of how that happened was at the Leather Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., in April 2000, but my views on the subject continued to evolve, and i no longer allow reposts, reprints, or quotations from the LLC draft version.

 


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