- Sex & Drugs
- 19 Jun 19
Whether rocked by biker gangs, pop stars, glam rockers, out and proud leathermen or sadomasochists, leather has been a firm fixture of modern pop culture since the late 20th century. Fetish gear has crossed over into the mainstream time and time again, as those on the fringes of society use the material to express their sexuality.
IT wasn't long after my return from the largest leather competition in the world for male candidates - aptly named the International Mister Leather (or IML for short) competition - that I was struck by how pupil-like I felt in contemplating what leather means to me!
I know that might sound odd, but I am reminded of the feelings that surrounded the post-summer holiday essays, mandated by every teaching establishment on your first day back to school - artfully designed to ease teachers and students alike into the realisation that "yes, this is it: the next nine months of my life decided".
I suppose the knowledge that I will spend the next eight month of my adult life not just as Mr. Leather Ireland 2019 but also, since Sunday 26 May, as the 2nd Runner-Up International Mister Leather 41, feels quite similar. I have, as a member of the IML family, the privilege of being able to access a platform for change, as well as for community representation.
To be totally grandiose, with power comes certain responsibilities: to support my IML Jack Thompson, the first Trans POC to take the title (#JackIsMyIML), and also to use my own platform as a representative of Europe and Ireland well!
It is a buzz - of course it is. But there is a bit of trepidation too. Did I really know what I was getting myself into? What will the future hold? All I know, for now, is that I've left Kansas and have firmly landed in Oz! The adventures which follow remain to be seen!
For the uninitiated, the competitive world of leather pageantry is a stalwart aspect of leather culture across Europe, the US and the rest of the world. It magnifies some of the best aspects of the culture and what makes it tick Ð for it really is more than a bunch of people playing adult dress-up!
But, as anyone who has been part of the scene will know, leather pageantry really only encompasses a minute aspect of the infatuation, and of the community that shares it.
For people who are seriously into it, leather becomes a fetish. Like any fetish, there are a multitude of definitions, as individual as the person experiencing and embodying them. Leather can be a sensory kink: there is something deeply alluring about the creak of a well-worn leather jacket, the smell of a new pair of gloves, the feel of a new pair of jeans. Or it can be about power play Ð whether by giving a tangible physical presence to a dominant mentality and personhood, or by signifying a physical step into an alternative state of mind for the wearer.
It can, of course, also be primarily about sex. Let's not forget sex!
For some, that is all that leather is: a material that induces a state of horniness or readiness to have and to enjoy sex. And that's totally cool.
There are different ways of looking at this. For me, the interest extends beyond the essentially straightforward - albeit also intrinsically complex - element of having a fetish for the stuff. Rather, leather, and being part of the community which surrounds it, is about deviance.
This is a word which holds a lot of connotations - and not all of them positive. In this context however, it is actually something rather useful!
How I understand, explore and respond to thoughts, ideas, issues and feelings about sexual identity and the role of kink has been shaped by my background as a community development worker. Deviance essentially means stepping outside of the social norms. In the case of community work, this act is often an important driver for social change. So too with sex and identity.
Owning a queer sexual identity is a radical act of politicisation in itself. It screams in the face of society: "I am here, and I have value!" It pushes observers out of their comfort zones and, ultimately, helps to expand the word views of those who encounter it - or, at least, who encounter it with an open mind!
Think about it: how many of you, the readers, have only discovered a new kink after stumbling across it online or by reading about it in Hot Press? It was there, of course. But you hadn't identified it. Now you have, you can do a bit of exploring.
The leather community typifies that kind of engagement, with its celebration of the queer body in all its shapes, sizes, colours and interests! Whether you flag red, yellow, or grey (some homework for you readers: google the gay hanky code - but don't go appropriating it!), there is a respectful space in which experiences can be explored and shared! The leather community celebrates otherness, and enshrines a space for exploring yourself, your identity and your interests.
Here in Ireland, we're lucky enough to have an amazing kink and fetish scene, which Ð as it happens Ð caters to the queer, pansexual, heterosexual, and any-mix-of-the-above crowd. In a society which has suffered generations of sexual oppression, there really is a burgeoning sexual revolution taking place! And what a wonderful, inspiring thing that is.
Dublin has a plethora of leather social events, groups, and clubs, which provide a safe space for enthusiasts and newbies alike to explore kink and fetish. As Mr. Leather Ireland 2019, a big aspect of my platform is discussing kink and fetish publicly, and breaking down the stigma attached to deviance, by helping people to own itÉ and to have fun along the way in doing so!
If you'd like to find out more about the Irish Kink and Fetish scene, you can find out all you'd like to know through following the work of the Irish Kink Collective. For more information on its work and the goings-on of the Irish Kink community, check out my Facebook page (Fionn Scott - Mr. Leather Ireland 2019), and check out my social media @GenialMiscreant on Instagram.
Leather is a turn-on. It is about the look. It is about the feel. It is about the smell. It is about the special noise it makes when someone walks or sits down. It is about its aesthetic appeal. It is about the way in which it creates a new skin, evoking urges and atmospheres that are outside the realm of the everyday. That have a primal quality. But it is about more than that too.
For those of us in the leather community, here in Ireland and further afield, there is an inexpressible aspect to its beauty, to its appeal. Therein lies the bond. We know. We share. We are. All deviant. You could be too!