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"Our intimacy is more than sexual...Our closeness allows us to know each other's thoughts, to sense what the other is feeling, to open to each other knowing that our sharing is safe, appreciated, and important to the other."

The Intimacy of Leather
by Jack Rinella

One of Karl Marx's premises deals with the alienation of men and women from various components of their lives, such as the land, or nature, or the means of production. Though there is a great deal about which Marx and I would disagree, I do think that our feeling of separation is critical and sometimes overwhelming.

Satisfaction is at the core of human motivation. No matter where on Maslov's scale one might find oneself, we seek to find ways to meet our needs. For most of us, thankfully, what Maslov classified as "lower needs", such as food, shelter, etc., are well met in our society, and so we look to fulfill our "higher" needs for things more intellectual, emotional, or spiritual.

Art, culture, family and, friends are all important avenues to those satisfactions. None of us, of course, are ever really, finally satisfied, at least not that I have ever found. Even the most scrumptious dinner is digested, leaving us craving another meal in due time. Even the most die hard evangelical sings "I want more of Jesus".

One satisfaction achieved generally uncovers another waiting desire. Such is life. No reason to complain, just a chance to better understand and enjoy.

When I write that bonding is one of the goals of leather sex, I am simply acknowledging our ever felt need for intimacy: to be close to another, to know and to be known in our deepest, most private, and personal aspects. Of course there are many, I am sure, that prefer to maintain their aloofness, their apart-ness.

Likewise there are times when even the most gregarious and extroverted among us needs to retreat into a private quietude. It may be said that in this day and age we lack sufficient privacy, enough quiet, but that is matter for another column. Even so, scripture says, "It is not good for man to be alone."

What critics and strangers to leather both miss is the depth of knowledge engendered by consensual acts of sadomasochism.

I'm writing from my own experience, frequently echoed by other leather folk, when I say that one of the greatest pleasures of SM is the intimacy that it fosters between top and bottom. I'm not myopic enough to think that SM is the only way to develop close relationships.

Indeed there are a myriad of ways to bond, to know one another, and to connect with others. Leather, though, does offer a unique view of the other, an intimacy of connection that can pervade and enhance the lives of two people. Pain, bondage, servitude, sexual activity, role-playing, and all the other SM "things" that we do, develop special feelings between those who do them.

Let me explain by example. When a top plays rough with his or her bottom's nipples, both pleasure and pain are engendered. The pleasure obviously bonds the two together, giving each of them their respective joys. The pain also causes various feelings and not all of them are unpleasant. Each feels one side of a complementary experience of control, for instance.

The top controls. The bottom is controlled. It is a short step to transforming those feelings of control into surrender of one self (the bottom) to the will of the other. The bottom feels that his or her tits now belong to the top. There is a sense of unity in this as one gives to other and the other takes to make the gift his own. This giving and taking is intensified as both the pain and the pleasure increase.

For those unfamiliar with tit play, it may be difficult to image that both pain and pleasure can increase simultaneously, but that is my experience and the experience of many who enjoy tit work. The sharing of nipples between top and bottom then dissolves into the desired intimacy as a very real sense of unity grows between the two participants. Between leather folk who know how to "work" nipples, the intimacy can grow even deeper, become significantly easier to realize, and develop to the point that even brief, passing touches can arouse the feelings I've just described.

The tit play described above is meant to serve as an example. Similar experiences can be engendered by many other SM activities as well. Needless to say, fisting, bondage, discipline, and body worship create sensations of intimacy. The person who surrenders him or herself to being tied up can feel that same sense of giving, without the attendant pain. The restriction of movement heightens one's sense of surrender. The sight of a bottom powerless to move creates a strong sense of control.

The scene is then set for increased intimacy. The ropes become an extension of the top as they hold the bottom, caressing him or her and being continually felt. Bondage has the ability to bring the bottom into a surrendered and quiet space. It often sends him or her into an inner meditative space, sometimes called an alpha state, after the type of brain waves they engender. This state is very restful, comforting, and has a feeling of immensity.

For me, it feels as if I am opening up to a magnificent universe, even entering it. Paradoxically, the feeling of this universe, rather than cold and aloof, is warm and peaceful, and creates strong feelings of security. In it, I feel at one with all creation and therefore at one with the one who has tied me and brought me to this wonderful inner place. In real terms I sense myself opening to my own soul, which is the universal soul we all share.

For the moment, there is no distinction between me and thee. In the experience of bondage, I know that we are all one and our separateness is simply another kind of illusion, life being so much more than we will perceive on this planet. I first discovered these various entries into intimacy with the bottoms with whom I played.

The expressions of joy on their faces, the retelling of their experiences in my dungeon or bedroom convinced me that there was more to SM than pain or sexual release. Continued exploration, reading of leather literature, and frequent discussions with other leather folk has only confirmed my early beliefs about the satisfactions that leather offers. When I decided to find a Master who could induce those same feelings in me, my search took me into a relationship, now more than a year old, of slavery, the result of which has been incredible joy, excitement, and deep satisfaction.

It is in a master/slave relationship that intimacy has the potential of reaching degrees not often found among two people. Again, I can speak from my own experience and know that the few who have experimented with mastery and slavery will often ratify my words. Integral to the foundation of a "successful" master/slave relationship is a depth of trust and commitment that each gives to the other.

My master and I have tried to make our relationship as complete as possible. I am willing to give all, he is able to take everything. The give and take has created a bond between us. I am his without reserve. In return, his being my master is without limit. He enjoys reminding me that "Every fucking ounce" of me is his. I revel in the knowledge that all of him is connected to me.

Our intimacy is more than sexual, though it's no secret that there's a great deal of that as well. Our closeness allows us to know each other's thoughts, to sense what the other is feeling, to open to each other knowing that our sharing is safe, appreciated, and important to the other.

Enough of my Christian heritage remains that I expect an after-life of intimacy with the god-head, whoever they (or we) may be. In no uncertain terms, though, the experiences of intimacy that I've known through leather sex are a wonderful foretaste of what can be, not only "in Heaven" but in this lifetime as well.

The separations that Marx saw, the alienation that we all feel, are only illusions. We are one. May your life be filled with the satisfaction that dispelling that illusion can give.

Copyright 2000 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact mrjackr@leathermail.com

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