So, I take great pride in my personal Recon profile, and at risk of sounding arrogant, I’ve only just realized there are a great many people who’ve been “watching” that profile for years.
Chuckling…I’ve always known my profile was good, that is, as a writer, I’ve always made sure that the profile “stood out,” so to speak. I made it funny, I made it sexy, I intentionally made it very visual; like slave Phil encourages on this very website, I broke the profile’s text into short, easy-to-read segments to avoid those “big blocks” of words that many well-intentioned Recon members inadvertently create.
I also very purposely told STORIES in my profile, to provide its readers a glimpse into who I am as a person. For many years, my profile featured a story that began, “THE JOURNEY FROM BONDAGE TOP TO SIR has had many bittersweet moments…” I loved that story, so much that I kept it front-and-center for almost eight years of constant rewrites. I mention this because, as of a few days ago, I finally took that story down as I’d thought of something better.
Here’s what replaced it:
“I consider myself a member of “the NEW Old Guard,” with reverence/respect for the long-established rules, protocols, dress codes, behavioral standards, support of local neighborhoods/charities, etc … but ALSO with the realism that in order to survive, the current BDSM community needs to make a few careful, strategic changes to stay relevant in the evolving modern world (and to keep the doors open to the sacred places where our brotherhood communes).”
October 1st, 2022 marked my return to public life after a seven-year hiatus from the Chicago Leather Community. When I stepped away in 2016 (for personal reasons), I left behind a BDSM world that was still governed by the rules of the Old Guard. Bars still had dress codes. Leathermen still had reverence for the gear that they wore. IML, though in decline, was still a “thing.” Back in 2016, I would walk into my favorite Leather Bar on a Saturday night, and the place would be slammed, with shoulder-to-shoulder Muir hats & Garrisons, bare chests & black harnesses, and boots of every size, style, and color. For a dude in the suburbs, going to a fetish bar had always been an “event” for me, a night I looked forward to all week long – in the same way a bored-with-his-fat-wife straight man looks forward to Wednesday bowling league with the guys.
But the Leather Bar I found three months ago was a whole different world than the one I’d been visiting since the mid 1990s. Guys were walking around the clubroom in sandals & socks, with bright-screened iPhones invading peoples’ privacy like spotlights. No one was wearing leather. Nobody had a knowledge of the club’s 45-year history. The crowd had a completely different feel, in that everyone seemed to be there to cruise, rather than share the camaraderie that binds our communal BDSM brotherhood. Sure, there were a few Old Guard Daddies holding court in the clubroom corners, but as far as the rest of the bar was concerned, it may have well have been a Halsted martini bar. It was…horrible. Not the Leather Bar itself of course, but in what the bar had been forced to become as the current social/hookup apps had eroded the bar’s bread-&-butter clientele, and relaxing long-established standards was the ONLY way the place could keep the lights on.
I cannot even begin to describe the sadness I felt on my drive home, later that night…
So, what can we do?
How do we reverse this trend, before our community is lost forever?
HOW do we modernize the BDSM world, while still maintaining reverence/respect/remembrance for those who came before?
First off, I genuinely believe we must bring back the Old Guard dress code immediately. This sandals & socks bullshit? It needs to stop now. Yeah, a formal dress code will scare away the Halsted drunks with much-needed credit cards in their pockets, but like working for an evil company that pays a big salary, we have to make a very hard moral decision. I, personally, would rather tighten my belt a little if it means flushing out the douchebags who though paying customers, are only really there to take lookie-I’m-in-a-leather-bar selfies. Let’s clear out the posers, then immediately/aggressively reach out to our original “base,” and welcome them back HOME with the widest open arms possible.
And I should also clarify that “formal dress code” does not mean pricy, top-of-the-line, custom fit leather gear. That shit’s expensive. The only Schott clothing item I own is a 20-year-old beat-to-hell leather vest that I wear every weekend because I love it so much. I’m lucky in that I have a few nice biker’s jackets, but most of my fetish clothing was purchased online, from discount leather retailers that I found with a Google search.
To me, “formal dress” means “just take it as seriously as you can.” If you can’t afford the good stuff, that’s fine. Grab a black or white T-shirt, and a decent pair of jeans. Vests and harnesses are very inexpensive, so you might consider getting one of those…but again, if you can’t afford it, that’s okay. Just do the best you can. Yeah, boots are great, but your favorite pair of Nikes work too. Chuckling…just please leave the flip-flops at home, and if it looks like something that you’d wear for the sole reason of pissing off your parents, please leave that at home as well.
Next, the phones. Yeah, that’s a toughie. I maintain a strong online presence myself (mainly because of my occupation), but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t use the social apps because of their ease of use (and the way I’m able to “screen” people, rather than waste hours chatting them up at the bar, gradually steering the conversation towards dark/intense kink play). Before I enter the bar, I always refresh my iPhone’s Recon app – so other members will see my “distance locater” function. Like slave Phil says, like it or not, in the modern world, social apps/internet sites are how most Leathermen meet today – and that’s not going to change. Especially for those of us who live in the burbs, an hour’s drive (one way) to the nearest club.
But there should be an etiquette when using a phone in a bar. Do your social media in the front bar, as texting/chatting in the clubroom is disrespectful. If you do need to stay “connected” in the clubroom, then wear a smart watch that’s linked to your phone. When you receive an important message, you can discreetly read it on your wrist, and step into the front if it requires an immediate response. And also, for the love of Christ, DIM YOUR DAMN SCREEN already. You’re not Norma Desmond ready for a close-up, especially if you’re my age…
Next comes my favorite topic: PROTOCOL. All I can say is to LEARN IT. And that can be done easily with a simple online search. Here’s my favorite article on the subject – it’s from The Advocate, in 2017:
Educate yourself on the basic do’s & don’ts of a Leather Bar, and do it before you step foot in the door. Yes, of course, the Kink Community welcomes everyone, and you don’t need to look like one of the Village People if you’re just in the front shooting shit over a casual game of pool.
But when you’re in back, especially when you’re in the back, you must…have…RESPECT…for the forum, and understand why it is the way it is, the way it’s always been, and the way it always must remain. To me, the clubroom is sacred…the holiest of a Leather Bar’s hallowed ground. Even as a “young” Leatherman (and at 53, I still consider myself to be young in the BDSM world), I am offended by the careless, the gawkers, the stupid, and forgive me for using the same word twice, but the douchebags who stagger into the clubroom every weekend – with an iPhone in hand, Cosmopolitans on their breath, and the desire to get their dick sucked in the corner because their Grindr trick ghosted them.
And we ALL must work together, gloved hand in gloved hand, united as a single Leather Family, finding ways to stay relevant in the modern, technology-driven world while at the same time, NEVER forgetting our communal past – and acting on every possible way to incorporate Old Guard standards into a current world that seems to have none of its own.
I intend to revisit this topic on a regular basis going forward, as I have much more to say.
But for now, I’ll keep this short essay short, and end with a single-word question: