I’m Alexander Cheves, a writer, author, and sex educator. My nickname is Beastly. I give adult advice on this blog — no question is off-limits. To ask me something, email AskBeastly@gmail.com or send a message via the Ask Beastly contact form.
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I am new to the leather / BDSM community after ending a 28-year monogamous relationship. How can I best learn about the culture and norms of this community? Thanks in advance.
Hi aspiring kinkster,
I’m guessing you were not allowed to explore kink in your last relationship, so first let me offer some congrats for being free. That may be a harsh or insensitive thing to say following a breakup, and I’m sure the separation was painful, but you’re in a place now where you can explore things previously barred to you, and that’s worthy of congrats.
How to learn kink? Look to the internet. That’s an obvious answer but a good one. Kinky people have an unprecedented degree of access to kink culture — more than any generation before them. The internet is not perfect — it’s filled with misleading and inaccurate information — but it’s a good place to start if you don’t know what kinks and fetishes you’re into. I wrote some slideshows for The Advocate on kinks and fetishes — like this one, this one and this one — and on this blog alone, you can find info on fetishes like gags, pup play, fisting, even pregnancy fetishes and bug-chasing. The internet can show you what porn, images, and ideas you respond to. I discovered my love of fisting by stumbling onto fisting porn.
That said, I believe digital communities should be seen only as supplemental to physical ones. If you live in a very remote place, you should try to travel to kink gatherings like International Mister Leather in Chicago, Mid-Atlantic Leather in Washington D.C., Dore Alley in San Francisco, the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco, Folsom Europe (in Berlin), CLAW, and others.
It’s not hard to find digital communities. For many, social media has become a digital kink community — albeit a heavily sanitized and stringently moderated one. Some people enjoy blogs and web forums; others find their community on Twitter. But these do not replace authentic human interaction. We kinky people still desperately need our physical spaces, and this is why it is urgent that we protect the few that remain. You may not realize this, but leather bars — and gay bars in general — have been shuttering across the country and across the world since their heyday in the 70s and early 80s, and some were lost in the COVID-19 pandemic. You must go to a leather bar, the nearest one you can find, and you must talk to people there.
There are few cultural norms of the kink community that are standard. Kinky men in Amsterdam likely have a wildly different perception of their fetish lives than people in Atlanta. Some kink and fetishes scenes are more popular in Europe than they are in America (rubber), and vice versa. But generally speaking, most kink scenes are divided into two kinds of practitioners: top/dominant and bottom/submissive. Some guys are both — what we in the U.S. call “switches” — but many people seem to choose one role or the other, and that’s true regardless if they’re into bondage or baby play (paraphilic infantilism — involving no actual babies).
Beyond that, there are micro-cultural norms within different kink scenes, but even these vary from place to place. Leathermen and leatherwomen tend to view their scene as the original kink community, because leather is, and they often practice various rituals and protocol associated with leather and are stringent about titles. Fisters, in contrast, hardly see themselves as part of the BDSM world at all; they have almost no titles and protocol, many are decidedly not kinky besides fisting, they prefer rubber over leather, yet they tend to be close-knit, well-connected, and enjoy celebrating their scene visually (with red hankies, socks, and harnesses, etc.).
But the fisting and leather scenes where you live may be completely different than what I’ve described. Wherever you are, your local and regional kink scene will be shaped by your location, your language, and the way your culture views sex in general. This is partly why online content has limited value: tips from a professional BDSM master in Los Angeles may not apply to where you live. This is why it’s necessary to meet local kinksters (kinky people). Try the gay fetish app Recon, which is like Grindr for kinky guys.
Come frolic with us.
Best place to start in kink? I’m a 60 year old bear daddy, with no Kink Experience.
Most of my above answer is applicable to you. The best place to start is your nearest leather bar. I understand that might be two hours away from you, but I still think it’s the best place to meet others. Do some research online about the closest one. Then download Recon.