The New Age of Leather

posted by Madame Bubby

International Mr. Leather 2019

Now that I am in the autumnal phase of my life (early autumn, mind you), and International Mr. Leather is fast upon us (its fortieth year!), I share again a paragraph I wrote a few years ago about this event:

“The leather community has entered a new age. It's no longer so much on the margins, even of the gay community. I even argue it's lost something of its edginess, its element of taboo and danger. Where do I, who was trained by a master who was influenced by hardcore Old Guard, fit into this picture? I'm still exploring that question, but I hold fast to the core values of mutual respect/courtesy and a desire to learn and grow in the scene I experienced through the years with the many leathermen I've known since that first day in 1991 when I entered the leather mart.”

I still agree with many of the ideas in the paragraph, but I am revisiting with another concern, one that is more focused on demographic. To what extent is the leather/BDSM community, still primarily gay and male, aging out? Or, perhaps, the real question could be, how is transforming itself as its social and cultural context changes?
 

International Mr. Leather, 1979
International Mr. Leather, 1979

Some of the changes that have developed I see paralleling with mainstream social progressive movements. 2010 was particularly significant when Tyler McCormick competed as Mr. Rio Grande Leather. When he won the contest, he made history three ways: first transgender IML, first IML to use a wheelchair, and first IML from New Mexico.
 

Tyler McCormick
Tyler McCormick

Yet, I've also noticed that the traditional leather/BDSM club social structure, based upon I claim a kind of lodge/fraternity model, seems to be less popular than before. Perhaps I am landing on a cliché or stereotype here rather than a more nuanced interpretation, but these groups are aging, and younger guys (not just millenials) aren't necessarily seeing them as a prime, exclusive space to discover, learn about, and grow in, their complex sexuality.

The line of mentoring I experienced in this community seems to be less certain. Just because a young guy says Daddy, teach me, doesn't necessarily mean anymore a serious ritual of initiation. It could mean a quick fuck. It may have always been that way to some extent, and gay sexual spaces have always been commodified in various respects (thinking of bathhouses, another space that seems to be much less ubiquitous than before), but this is the age of nanosecond ratings, the Yelp/Amazon world. Of course technology has played a part in a fluidity that risks diffusiveness, and of course social media apps have changed drastically how one lives physically and mentally as a sexual person.

Perhaps the gay male leather/BDSM club, used to be the center of this world, forced in the past to into a fortress-like mentality because of its taboo activities in a world just starting to tolerate LGBTQ persons, is now shifting to one point on a spectrum.

Overall, I am concerned that future generations will forget about or even claim is outmoded this point of origin in spaces like the Gold Coast Leather Bar and the Chicago Hellfire Club. But without this history of external and internal courage and danger and respect and conflict, there wouldn't be persons today engaged in transforming it.
 

Chicago Hellfire Club

International Mr. Leather, 1979
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The Wonderful Land of Twitter

posted by Madame Bubby

Twitter logo

The Tweeter in Chief make may make some think the social media platform of Twitter is a hellscape. I suppose that depends on who you are and your previous level of social and intellectual engagement.

In my case, and perhaps my perception will change (not that I would enter #MAGA land; I currently find the #Resist echo chamber comforting, and who wants to hang out in Mordor), but I feel I have entered an enchanted forest.

I decided to activate my personal twitter account which I had opened a few years ago partly out of boredom and partly out of a what I felt to be a pressing social need to spread pro-labor union information.

Three weeks later, a world famous opera singer and I are following each other. Her name is Karita Mattila. She is a world famous soprano. Every gay man needs a diva to worship, and it took only one day for me to join her circle of Twitter buddies. And of course, most of us are gay.
 

Karita Mattila
Karita Mattila

A Reform Jewish rabbi, Danya Ruttenberg, has engaged me and like my tweets which have ranged from a discussion of a Hebrew term in Leviticus and the psychosocial pereceptions of clergy.

Wayne Kostenbaum, a nationally acclaimed gay author and I have gotten to the point where we have exchanged direct messages. He thinks I am cute.

I am now tweeting on a close to equal level with other academics in the fields of English and religion. I don't feel excluded like I did on some of the more traditional listservs or in real life.

And, let's just say, already I have moved from tweeting to direct message to texting with a hot young number in grad school in English literature. In one day.

On the lighter side, I am now part of the Old Hollywood club on twitter. I spent last afternoon tweeting around with a wonderful person, joking about the dowager/old lady roles in 1930s Hollywood. Perhaps not the same dynamic as actually being with the person physically, but how long would it take one to physically find someone who would know who Dame May Whitty was?

You are what you make. I wouldn't have been able to do all this if I hadn't already been an exciting, diverse, intellectually curious person. But the fast-paced medium of Twitter has enabled me to somehow share my interests in a more integral way which actually seems to contradict the nanosecond pace and spatially diffuse nature of the platform.

And Bijouworld's Twitter is currently mushrooming, especially since The Rialto Report tweeted:

“We’re proud to announce that Valparaiso Pictures/Permut Presentations have snapped up the screen rights to our article “Centurians Of Rome: How a Bank Robber Made The Most Expensive Gay Porno Of All Time.” We look forward to bringing it to the big screen!"

In one day, we gained 55 followers!
 

Centurians of Rome images and bank robber/film financer George Bosque
Centurians of Rome images and bank robber/film financer George Bosque

Now, I don't want to live on Twitter (perhaps the initial beginner's excitement will die down), but I feel the same way I felt when I discovered the internet back in 1998 and made some interesting connections on listservs (many of which have fizzled out slowly, given the more socially restrictive nature of the medium and just the fact that people do change).
 

Twitter logo bird holding sign that says: Yup, I tweet too much! Get over it!

Whatever happens, I will enjoy and perhaps be in a better position to learn if the cyberexperiences don't always develop in a socially and psychologically healthy way.

And follow Bijouworld on Twitter. Our always “kick-ass” account is really hopping now, revealing we are truly leading now in the fields of gay sexuality, LGBTQ history, and film studies.

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Escape Into Sex

Bijou Video’s social media is literally out of this world, and a major social media blitz by our esteemed videographer Miriam Webster actually increased sales and customers. I credit the brilliant Miriam with this development, and we are actually going to feature a different movie on Twitter and Facebook every Monday. Call it Movie Monday, and Monday rather than Blue Monday might actually end up being for our customers and social media followers Sex Monday. 

I do wonder though, as I’ve also noticed on Twitter even more retweets of our posts than usual, if what is really going on is an escape into sex. Yes, escaping into it, but what is it an escape from? The obvious answer: the profoundly shocking upset to America that occurred on November 8.
 

People crying after election

Yes, so shocking, to the point where I actually called my mother (we don’t communicate frequently). There’s that line from the movie Mildred Pierce, “everyone has a mother,” and in my case, I felt like my mother was all I had. We wept together for about half an hour. 
 

Mildred Pierce

Now, I wasn’t necessarily escaping into my mother, but the election, especially for those in what are now liberal enclaves (I hate having to use that word, but it is true), triggered a descent into the most fundamental core, so deep, like the tohu-va-vohu of Genesis 1 (the primordial, undifferentiated waters, like the amniotic waters of the womb) of our personal and social psyches. And in that dark place everything gets mixed up together, what is taboo and what is pure, what is violent and what is peaceful, what is evil and what is good. It’s the place where we decide whether to cross or maintain boundaries, build walls or make bridges in the world. 
 

Tohu-Va-Vohu - Anne Cameron Cutri

Sex is crossing a boundary, physically, mentally, spiritually. I wonder if this crisis just made people unconsciously desire to do so, to cross that boundary, to voluntarily experience the petit mort of orgasm, especially in a situation where they felt utterly helpless and powerless. And the orgasms perhaps were even more intense, more powerful, given the raw emotions surging through the person. There’s an intimate connection between sex and violence, and perhaps the external climate violence we are all experiencing viscerally connected with our sex drives, like an electrical charge so strong it could blow a fuse. 
 

Guy jacking off

I know in my case my horniness has literally skyrocketed, and I experienced some of the best kinky sex play the weekend after the election to the point where my playmate and I even decided to commemorate the day in the future. Yes, we were escaping from the election and into sex, but I think we were also in our own way taking back the night because in, around, and above those dark, primal waters is a living, breathing spirit. 

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The Fascination with "Retro"

 

Lately I've been something of a social media maven for Bijouworld and its ancillaries, Bijou Video and the Bijou Theater. In addition to our Facebook,Twitter, and Tumblr sites, we just started a couple of Pinterest sites, Bijou Vintage Gay History, and Bijou Vintage Gay Erotica. Because we do specialize in vintage (or retro) gay sexuality, I've noticed we seem to be, I guess the term is, “trending.” 

And it's not just the usual older folks sitting on the porch, “I remember when” … I am thinking of the whole Mad Men cult, and even some short-lived show on TLC that featured women trying to live exactly like they were living in the 1950s (kind of like a retro Real Housewives!). 

 

Mad Men


It's like anything retro exudes some kind of fascination that I think goes beyond nostalgia. I wonder if it's because so much of the retro items we've been posting and repinning were lovingly created. It's not like someone just took a picture with a digital camera. These items, ranging from a late nineteenth century tobacco box, or even a magazine cover from a 1940s muscle magazine, show a real attention to detail and design. Imagine trying to create these items without today's technology. 

Here's a couple of images we either posted or repinned: 

 

Victorian Mustache Wax

 

Vim Magazine, November 1940

I'm not saying that art becomes less than great because it's easier to make, but in the social media world, where a post can become ephemeral in one second, our retro images and movies can evoke beauty with a capital B in addition to hot with a small h.

 

Oh, there is a difference! 
 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Check out our pinterest sites for more retro items.

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Help! I'm Addicted to Pinterest

Help! I'm Addicted to Pinterest

 

I've set up some “kick ass” Pinterest boards for Bijouworld in order to increase our social media outreach. 

Last weekend, I was particularly bored, so I decided to use my expertise to set up my own personal Pinterest boards. I spent two days creating pins and repinning and liking pins. Yes, I fear I have become addicted. I've even started doing it from my phone. Yikes! 

So - what is Pinterest and how does it work? According to this article, Pinterest is a social network that allows users to visually share, and discover new interests by posting (known as 'pinning' on Pinterest) images or videos to their own or others' boards (i.e. a collection of “pins,” usually with a common theme) and browsing what other users have pinned. 

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