century Americans consider themselves cultured, civilized,
and far removed from the passions and animal urges of
primitive mankind. But scratch the skin of any one of
us and you'll find the primal beast. Scratch it the wrong
way and you have the riots of L.A. Let it rip at its worst
and you have the ovens of Nazi Germany.
The fact remains that it will be scratched. For all our
centuries of culture, we are still clad in a civilization
that is merely a thin veneer.
I believe that the heart of mankind is beautiful. Goodness
and kindness flows in our veins. Yet realism, my years
of reading the daily newspaper, of walking past the panhandlers,
of hearing crying children, all reveal a human condition
not as pleasant as we might hope.
New Age gurus speak of Mankind's dark side; Catholics
call it original sin. Name it what you will, deny it if
you like, but lurking beneath the veneer is danger. We
live in world that represses that danger, allowing it
to simmer and rage in quiet desperation.
are not allowed to feel. It is wrong to be angry. There
is no space for the revelations of base instinct in the
sanitized world of 1992. But they remain there nevertheless
and they will be confronted.
Therein lies the advantage of Leather.
Leather, in each of its various scenes, lets us get in
touch with the primal issues of life and death, fear and
bravery, violence and peace. It hearkens to a primitive,
basic, corporal existence -- almost (but not quite) the
law of the jungle. The attraction, unspoken perhaps, that
Leather holds is both its contradiction to societal norms
and the primal impulses it satisfies.
Naked bodies in heat. Pain and pleasure. Brute force and
sweat. Leather and chains. The struggle of bondage, the
reddened ass in a whipping scene, the service of a slave
to his Mistress. Each of these brings us into contact
with deep and often hidden desires.
They are passions too polite for a law abiding democracy.
But they are real. To deny them is to deny our inner selves,
to say we have no dark side. To express them wantonly
is to court disaster.
Society has pushed these primal urges to hunt, conquer,
dominate, to flee, surrender, serve, far from its respectable
pretenses. Yet they lie not far below the board room table
or the cafeteria lunch counter. And denied expression,
they rear their ugly heads in spousal beating, child abuse,
addictions, power plays and other forms of "acceptable"
Leather offers their release without the destruction they
might otherwise cause.
As one of my readers said on Audiotext last week, "I
like Leather because it is permissive. People into Leather
live and let others live as well. They may not like my
fetish, but they respect me enough to let me practice
it without criticism."
In fact it offers more than a permissive space. It supports
and gives a framework in which to explore one's feelings,
one's fantasies. The three guidelines of safe, sane, and
consensual, maintain safety yet create a broad platform
from which to experience the dark side of life. In Leather,
fantasies can happen, new realities can be explored.
Animal rages and faces its prey. The Warrior fights and
is fought. The Victor overcomes -- or meets defeat in
the process. Fears are faced and vanquished.
Experiencing one's limits, anguish, alternate ego, and
suppressed desires is a learning and cleansing process.
We face our fear, our selves, our lusts and our power.
Our deeply hidden drives find expression. And so we resolve
the doubts and the passion, giving vent to them and bringing
them into a manageable, understandable light.
The dungeon is no place for therapy, the whipping post
no place to work out one's anger, but there are deep feelings
that do find safe, protected, controlled expression. We
release our fears, our passions, when we don our leathers.
Many a bottom has smiled on Monday morning as he or she
sat at their desk, the pain on their asses still lingering.
They know what most of their co-workers may never learn:
we can live our fantasies and face our fears. The real
self can emerge from behind the mask of culture. As fully
functioning members of American society, we can find the
equilibrium between beauty and the beast.
Our primal selves can be as much a part of reality as
the facade of day-to-day living. I may put aside my harness
to go to school or I may shed my dog collar before I get
on the train on Monday morning, but the inner me can prosper
as I find my limits, my self, and the true depth of my
1999 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in
any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact
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