You’re not still having boring old vanilla sex, are you? That’s for amateurs. True lovers of naked fun time are like explorers, venturing out into the world in search of a bold frontier of sexual adventure. Last weekend in Chicago, thousands of such happy people gathered for International Mr. Leather, an annual convention for sexy garb and friendly schmoozing.
We traveled to IML last weekend to check out the scene, tweak a few nipples, and strike up a conversation with the assembled throng of nearly-naked men. We thought it was just going to be a raunchy hookup scene — but surprise! While there’s certainly plenty of sex to be had, there’s so much more to IML than sex.
1. Leather Conventions Are Like Adult Summer Camp (Very Adult)
On of the first things we discovered at IML is that, like summer camp, you get out what you put in. Hang back and hide shyly in your room and you’ll have a boring time. Sneak off into the bushes with a friend, and you’ll happen across some fun. And if you want to sidle up to some nerds and talk about comic books, you’ll find yourself able to do that as well.
We made this discovery on the first night of the convention, loitering around the hotel lobby. In every direction there were guys in jockstraps, in pup hoods, and leathery harnesses, and it looked like the only reason anyone was there was for penetration and ejaculation. But then we heard a bunch of people — all of whom were wearing next to nothing — talking about the new Captain America movie, and suddenly we were deep in a discussion of comic lore. The next day, we met a lawyer at the leather mart, and made some chit-chat about some much-needed reforms at the Social Security Administration. And on the final day, we learned from a bootblack what kind of lotion was the healthiest for our leather couch.
Lesson learned: IML is whatever you want it to be.
2. Rope Burns Take About A Week To Heal
A lot of IML guys arrive a few days before the convention, or live in Chicago year-round. We got there on the Tuesday before festivities started, and stayed a full week. It was on that very first night in town that we saw some other early celebrants at a bar: dressed up in their leather harnesses, they were gabbing about plans for going to the competition. Most were gesticulating and happily holding beers, but one couldn’t because he was bound up in rope with elaborate knots. It was pretty hot.
Related: Meet Five Heroes From The Leather Community
Fast-forward one week to our last day in Chicago. We went to the same bar and happened to run into the same group of guys. Most were now wearing normal street clothes, but the one who’d been tied up was shirtless. And he had very faint red bruises along the sides of his body that matched the knots we’d seen a week earlier. He explained that he was tied so tight that the rope left red marks, and he was marked as a rope slut for the entire duration of the conference. And that made him delighted.
3. The Leather Community Has Deep Respect for Sobrie
We’ve been to a lot of conventions, but we’ve never been to one that paid so much attention to sober living (the men at the bar notwithstanding). There were regular groups in the schedule to meet up and talk about being off booze and other substances. There were multiple mentions of recovery groups during the leather competition. And many of the men we met spoke openly about going to AA or rehab or detox.
What’s up with that? Maybe kinky people are more open about sharing experiences that other people might be to embarrassed to discuss openly. Or maybe the leather community is more susceptible to addiction for some reason.
There’s also the possibility that for some people, leather has taken the place of less healthy communities. For all the shortcomings of drinking and drugging, at least it’s something that you can do with other people. When a person gets clean, they might be look for better ways to meet people, aching for new companionship. That’s something the leather community provides.
4. Anyone Can Be Mr. Leather
One of the few structured events of IML is the actual International Mr. Leather competition. Men from all around the world work their way up through a pageant system that’s very much like Miss America, and then finally stand on stage in Chicago to compete for the title of the world’s best representative for the community.
Increasingly over the last few years, the contestants have been fascinating diverse. Men of different ages, races, and economic advantages all compete; and during this year’s competition, the stage was graced by contestants, guests, and judges of varying gender expressions and abilities. There was a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence sitting in the front row of the audience. Behind her was a guy in sports gear and a diaper.
You might think of just a generic tough-guy leather cop when you imagine Mr. Leather, but that’s certainly not the case anymore. There are still no women competing in the Mr Leather contest. but might some day change, too.
5. Leathermen Are Super Cuddly
Sometimes cuddling leads to sex, and sometimes it’s nice to just have a really long hug. We’ve never seen so many arms around shoulders, embraces, and heads leaning on shoulders as we did over this Memorial Day weekend. Who’d have guessed that beneath the gruff exterior, the cigars and bears, and the police uniforms, there might be a big soft huggy teddy bear?
As it turns out, a lot of leathermen are naturals at nurturing. Pups seem to have learned this lesson better than anyone else — we saw lots of dudes in dog collars on all fours, rubbing their heads against the legs of sirs so that they could get scratched behind the ears and tummy rubs. At the end of the night, some tired bears lounged in a cuddle pile against a pillar in an upstairs lobby. And when the crowded parties forced everyone to press together, nobody complained.
So sure, you can go to IML looking for the best sex you’ve ever had, and more power to you. But if that’s all you find, you’re missing out on a lot of the very best experiences.
Having frequented leather bars back in the 1980’s quite regularly I have no problem with what goes on inside. However I do find that “parade”/outside exhibition disgusting. These are nothing but exhibitionist who give the crazies of the rightwing a reason to protest helping those with HIV who can’t afford their meds. I know I sound like an old prude but I feel “certain” things need to be kept indoors that pertain to sex.
Topher DiMaggio is physically perfect, but I hope that’s just a random pic and he wasn’t actually there. Leather scenes typically promote pretty risky behavior. The whole “pig” thing seems to be an exclusively leather scene thing. It also seems that “pig” is code for dirty inside and out. This writer is trying really hard to make it seem like harmless fun, but the leather scene is full of the most apathetic, reckless, diseased burnouts around.
@Masc Pride…….once upon a time there was an organization called NOW (National Organization of Women). They were fighting for equal rights for women. All of a sudden groups of frustrated lesbians started showing up at rallies held in NYC and San Francisco complete with leather outfits, pulling/leading each other around wearing dog collars…the whole shabang. Many people got angry and asked them were they aware that the rally was about equal rights and uplifting women, not showing DOMINATION of women by other women.
It seemed almost as if they were being paid to do it (which to this day I bet they were) just to humiliate the group itself. NOW simply stopped holding public rallies in NYC and San Francisco because of those women who simply didnt get it. Every thing went indoors (as in auditoriums) soon after but sadly the membership dropped to the point where the organization has been all but forgotten. I give it another five years before the same thing happens to gay pride parades.
PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID
Bullshit article. At least have the courage of your proudly pervy convictions instead of trying to vanilla-washing it. It’s like you’re embarassed of the reality or something
Oh and can we not with the “vanilla”-shaming… stop oppressing MY boring unadventurous identity! Bwaaaaaaah
PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID
Is my Granny okay to sit in on the knife play workshop …double fisting was too full (aptly enough)
I totally agree with you about Topher. As one of the few real gay men in gay porn and demonstrating some longevity, he is a treasure. From what I have gathered from friends, he is demanding on the set, but has given generously of his time to help various charities.
He has been publicly quoted as being very picky about his choice of sex partners and is tested regularly, so I think your description of him as “dirty inside and out” is off base. To that end, I think you definition of pig is incorrect. As I understand the term, it refers to someone with a voracious sexual appetite.
Lesson No. 6: It’s all a costume. I learned this lesson when I overheard two guys, fully-decked-out in leather and standing in SO FL’s summer heat, trading cheese-cake recipes.
Many of these guys were molested as kids and have never gotten the mental health treatment they need.
As long as it continues to be held in Chicago IML will be the ugly stepsister to all the other truly international leather competitions.
Welcome to social media where everyone’s opinion is weighted equally. Even and especially the uneducated. I find every comment above to be not only incorrect and uninformed but abhorring. The leather community was there to be my family when I did not have one. They made me welcome when I was outcast by the rest of the greater GLBTQXYZABC community. I am not a sexual deviant because I wear leather. I am a man who has stood for nothing other than absolute acceptance and non judgment of anyone who is willing to stand by the same mantras. I love my brothers, and my family and I will do ANYTHING for them. That all being said, I will take this one step further…. My name is Woody Woodruff, I’m not hiding behind false profile names or avatars. Im not some gross stay at home deviant that is stricken with disease, trying to get 50 guys over to my place to pound on me the entire day. Look me up on Facebook please I challenge you. I’m a man who loves my community which includes even you who judge me as you are the most in need of the realization that you too belong and can be part of something greater. I’ve raised millions of dollars for those who do not have it and cannot, and I am only one member of this great community. The vast majority of us do. I aim to make people feel better about themselves by showing them their own self worth by just being their true and honest friend. ALL are welcome here in my community, as long as you are welcoming yourselves. And finally I personally invite you each to come out and see me at any leather event and learn first by my side hand what you do not see from the outside, even if you think you have been down this road before in the 80s or before. I challenge you to accept this invitation and furthermore think of all that I have stated above with this question. What have I done to better my community and or world?
@DaddyCub: oh and by the way about the article itself… I LOVE The article. Its not only accurate but light hearted. THANK YOU QUEERTY!
“Deep respect for ‘sobrie’ ” – LOL.
A lot of the comments on this article are deeply uneducated on the Leather community. I know a lot of people in the leather BDSM community and am part of it if a small part. I have worked in many aspects of the GLBT community over the years – from mainstream political groups, to arts organizations to professional organizations and I have NEVER and I mean NEVER seen as much focus on giving back to the community as much as I have seen from the leather community. There are so many fundraisers/charity events etc etc held by leather title holders, leather bars/organizations etc etc almost every weekend. Its hard to even keep track of. People disparaging the leather community don’t really know the leather community. Please reach out and get educated.
Take a walk on the other side: Boink (or whatever ) a leather man in a sling !!!
My name is Bob L. Huffman. I have been a member of the Chicago Leather community for 30 years. I hesitated leaving a message due to the irrationality of most of the comments and the likelihood that these haters will just keep responding regardless of the actual truth. However, whenever comments of a disparaging nature are leveled at our Leather community when they are untrue, it is not in our nature to sit by to have our reputation besmirched by those who may falsely claim to be gay or claims to know something about this community. I fully support the comments of Eric and Woody (DaddyCub). I would like to offer a challenge to any of you who are genuinely interested in learning more about the Leather community rather than to hide behind this forum, to get in touch by leaving a message here with your contact information. I’m certain that Eric, Woody and myself would be happy to have a reasoned conversation with you and let you know more about us.
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