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"Yet, when he enters his Leather world, it is as a collared "dog-slave". He eats from a bowl on the floor and gives his Master whatever pleasure his Master requires. "

Warning: The Language Herein Is Offensive
by Jack Rinella

Of course a headline like the above will entice more readers than it will deter. But you've been warned. This column is about humiliation, mostly verbal abuse, and has explicit examples. Stop reading now, or endure the profanities that follows at your own risk.

Over the holidays my good friend John invited me to a Friday evening party where I met many of his associates from work. That meant, of course, that most of the people there were neither leather folk nor homosexuals.

Eventually a tall, powerfully-built man began to ask me about myself. I'm sure you're familiar with the usual questions about "Where do you work?" and the like. "I write", I replied. "Write what?" he asked. Well you get the picture.

In short order I was telling him about my next column -- on humiliation. The woman sitting next to him joined in the conversation. "What do you mean?" they asked.
By the end of the conversation, the gentleman wanted to read the column. I guess there are more open-minded straights than we queers realize! Or is it that we are so fascinated (straight, queer, and bi) by humiliation that it transcends sexual orientation?

My trusty dictionary says that to humiliate is "to lower the pride or dignity of; mortify." Humiliation uses the word "degradation." It's certainly a practice that flies in the face of empowerment, encouragement, and edification. Humiliation is about as far from PC as you can get. It smacks pride right in the face.

In fact, that smack is very much like a slap. There's something about a slap that is humiliating.

Most humiliation takes the form of verbal abuse, as in "Suck that cock you god damn mother-fucker." From there we can go easily down hill with phrases like "Take my prick you ass hole." In a conversation recently (that prompted this column) an acquaintance told about being called "cum tongue." That was a new one for my list, to be added to shit sucker, fuck hole, fuck face, faggot, and hole. My favorite is "toy" and that isn't short for Tolstoy.

"Jack, how can an affirming and loving person like you get into this stuff (read shit)?" you wonder. Questions like that are what make this column thrive.

The answers are more difficult. In fact, I'm not sure I can give an answer, though that won't stop me from trying. In essence it boils down to balance. Why does a prosperous, intelligent, and successful person enter the "dark" world of Leathersex seeking to be humiliated? To regain and maintain his balance. Let me cite a favorite example.

Charles is a loan officer at a major metropolitan bank. He is responsible for the management of loan portfolios worth millions of dollars. He grants or denies credit to Fortune 500 corporations throughout the Midwest. He is wined and dined by men of power and prestige. Yet, when he enters his Leather world, it is as a collared "dog-slave". He eats from a bowl on the floor and gives his Master whatever pleasure his Master requires. His "two lives" are in complete juxtaposition. Each of them is real, vibrant, and fulfilling. Each balances the other and makes the other possible, desirable, and sustainable.

Show me a one-sided coin. None exists. The round Yin-Yang symbol, with its equal and contrasting white/black design illustrates the principle of complimentary balance.

There's probably more than that going on as well. It is a matter of need. We feel a certain way, for reasons that may or may not be clear, and those feelings urge us, sometimes even demand, that we have an appropriate experience to satisfy the need.

I see leather play as allowing us to satisfy needs within a "culturally acceptable" framework. I hasten to add that it is acceptable within the leather culture and at best only tolerated or ignored by other cultures. Satisfaction comes with catharsis.

Retreating to the dictionary again, catharsis is "a purifying or figurative cleansing or release of the emotions or of tension, especially through art; a technique [in psychology] used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing repressed material to consciousness."

I admit that there are negatives involved here. The need to be humiliated may be based on self-loathing, on guilt, on some kind of condemnation felt from others, manifested as ill feelings towards oneself. To think that all human needs are pure and wholesome is unrealistic. To ignore and repress them is drastically more naive and, in some cases, dangerous.

Western civilization recognizes the polarities that surround and under-pin our universe. We see the complements of night and day, light and dark, give and take. We have learned, though, to equate opposites in terms of good and evil, to affirm one side as better than the other.

Yes, there are things we ought to avoid, actions to shun, just as there are things that are better done than not. What, though, if we were to embrace both as equal, to somehow see all things as one, to rest in the middle, balanced and centered?

The Shakers' song, "Tis a gift to be simple," is exquisite in urging us to be what we are meant to be. That, I think, brings us to facing, experiencing, owning, who and what we are intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually. Wholeness can not be found by denying or emphasizing. It must rest in awareness of its whole self.

I have long seen my feelings of gayness as worship. It was only a few months ago, as I was masturbating that I "discovered" the complement of worship: revulsion. Can we worship without reviling?

That night, as I jerked off in my candle-lit bedroom, I began to explore another side, another kind of reality. I don't know where it leads, what it means, but the new territory, I am sure, holds a side of myself, a part of my growth and enlightenment, that is a necessary part of my journey.

The young man who asked about humiliation and the stranger who wanted to read about it are simply looking to meet deep and hidden needs. We have this conceit concerning the way we ought to go. We are prejudiced that it must be one way or another.

We deny there can be health in sickness, life in death, empowerment in belittlement. But are we sure? How many times are we deceived by the appearance of opposition?
What if seeking the Truth demands knowing the Lies? Oh, what conversations Plato, Aristotle, and I could have! And what do you think?

Copyright 1996 by Jack Rinella. This material may not be copied in any manner. For permission to reproduce this essay, contact

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