If you're first discovering your interest in bondage and domination, you'll enjoy keeping Jack Rinella's latest book handy. It's a dictionary of terminology, so you'll never again have to ask "what does that mean?" and wish you had a Google key in your head. The book will be released in September. For more information, please visit Jack on the web at http://www.leatherviews.com/jackswriting/dictionary.htm

Dispelling the Myths about Leather

by: Jack Rinella

Some think that if you walk into any BDSM gathering, it must be in a bar. The people are all arrayed in various stages of dress, modeling an assortment of leather, Levi, and other kinds of uniforms, threatening each other with piercing stares. They sip or chug their drinks with indifferent nonchalance, occasionally striking up conversations in hushed tones. Some may play darts or pool; others circle the area like sharks seeking prey or pace about like caged lions. A few, dressed in more common street attire, hover on the fringes, desperately hoping to enter this erotic world, terrified that they'll never survive the ordeal if they do.

For them, this is the world of BDSM, but it isn't what it appears to be. In fact, the scene I just described belies the truth of the Fetish community. Without actual experience, one only sees its exterior expression. Its heart is far differently clothed. Let me dispel what I call the "Myths about Leather." I've gleaned these from the many questions asked of me by readers who aren't into kink and are often afraid to find out what it's like.

"It's All Pain." Leather's ruff and gruff exterior and the notoriety given to activities such as whipping, piercing, and paddling lead one to believe that the main emphasis of fetish play is pain. It looks like we are all sadists seeking someone upon whom to inflict harm.

The number of Fetish folk who thrive on injury is remarkably small, even minuscule. Even those who are into spanking, whipping and such use pain as a pathway to pleasure. Seldom, if ever, is it an end in itself. In fact, the vast majority of tops, when inflicting pain, are careful not to hurt their partners. Injury is never part of a good BDSM scene.

Fact is, most folks into fetish play avoid pain, and it is often omitted
from scenes entirely. If it is part of the scene, it is only a small part of it. In any case, without the assent of both parties, there ought to be no pain at all.

"You're either a Top or a Bottom." The casual observer sees that members
of the Leather community are either dominant or submissive. They hesitate to join in, since they are often reluctant to categorize themselves along such strictly drawn lines.

Appearances indicate that there are more bottoms than tops. In actuality, most fetish players go both ways. Many, in fact, switch often, sometimes
in the same scene with the same partner. No one is going to expect you to act the same way every time with the wide variety of men and women you meet.

There are those who are strictly top or bottom, but in the majority of instances, roles for play are determined by mood, the participants, and their levels of experience. Many people start their fetish journey as one and move to the other role as they gain experience and learn more about their own preferences. It takes time to figure out what you really like. Experienced fetish players have spent years becoming who they are. We know it will take you time as well.

"You Have to Own Leather." One of the major blocks to entering the fetish world is the cost of the "uniform". Leather, latex, exotic costuming and shoes, and the myriad toys associated with fetish play are not cheap. Dress codes seem to have been posted to keep people out, especially those who don't have the resources to "dress for the occasion."

In truth, there are ways to explore your fetish interests without mortgaging your life for the costume. Many groups will let you join them wearing simple attire. For areas requiring more stringent dress, evening wear is often acceptable. On more than one occasion I've loaned a piece of leather to a friend.

"It's Dangerous." In the age of the Epidemic, safety in sexual activity is an accepted requirement. Fetish play seems dangerous, but actually provides an arena for sexual activity that is safer than more "vanilla" scenes. Clean toys and role playing don't transmit venereal disease. You can't get sick from the working side of a clean paddle!

Very satisfactory BDSM play can be done without fucking or sucking. Activities such as verbal abuse, body worship, and bondage don't exchange body fluids. Many scenes end with the participants masturbating, a safe way to get off.

Many public play parties, especially in the heterosexual scene, actually forbid sexual activity. They realize that sex is a private matter and ought to be done in private, at least when it's a matter of law and keeping the venue open for another play party later.

"Fetish Play Has Got to Be This Way." The purists among us may certainly take exception to this remark, but the fetish world only asks for three conditions: Make it safe, sane, and consensual. Beyond that there is no one way to be part of the fetish scene. As everywhere else, variety is the norm in our world. Meet the participants, and you'll see a wide range of tastes, activities, and preferences. We're all different ages, body types, personalities. Top, bottom, switch; physical, psychological; committed, promiscuous, looking for a special one; carefree, strict, easy-going; leather clad, satin ruffled and practically nude.

The truth of the matter is that very few of us are purists. We leave those feelings for the judgmental and the righteous who are quite welcome to practice their masochism in a right-wing church meeting.

"There's a Lot of Protocol to Learn." This myth is like the one above. Having gleaned their information from sensationalistic stories that titillate with endless Master/slave routines, those who don't understand the essence of Fetish want us to believe that there are all sorts of established and rigorously-enforced modes of behavior, that BDSM must be done in a very certain, prescribed way. Nothing can be further from the truth.

The hallmark of real fetish folk is our rugged independence. The old guard were freedom-minded individuals who tolerated lots of shit because they wanted to be tolerated as well.

That's not to say that some folks don't have protocols. They do. But the wise among them realize that what they expect, they expect of themselves and their partners. They do not impose their ways on others. They are tolerant and accepting of those who live their Leather life differently, understanding that it takes all kinds to make the world go round and that variety, not conformity, is the spice of life.

"I can't bother anyone." OK, maybe there is a lot to learn. We love teaching novices. Helping someone else know more about our world is a real turn-on for most of us. We love to show off what we know, talk about our favorite fetish, and brag about what we've done. Go ahead, we want you to ask us.

It's also fun to find a novice. He or she reminds us of what we were like. We love to see the recognition of discovery on the your face. We know that you are important to us and to our futures. We want you to join us. Remember that we all started somewhere. Even Jack Rinella had to visit a Leather club and tie someone up for the first time. There is, after all, as Mom says, a first time for everything.

You see, we're into leather and lingerie and bare skin. Being terrified and being pampered and being beaten. Laughing and screaming. Older people and younger. Short scenes and long term commitments. The fact is we're just like everyone else, seeking to find ourselves and our pleasures. When you walk into that dimly lit, mysterious gathering, there is one idea you can rely on: these men and women into fetish are just as human as the next person. Get beyond the myths and you'll find why they're my favorite kind of people.

Have a great week. You can leave me email at mrjackr@leathermail.com or visit my website at LeatherViews.com.

©2001 by Jack Rinella, all rights reserved.

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