Picture it: Sicily 1922. Just kidding. It’s 2019. I’m a 24-years-old and I identify as a gay, masculine, bearded man that is relatively new to everything about the gay scene. I came out in 2016 and I grew up in a world MUCH more accepting than most of my friends and other gay men. I’ve done my fair share of exploring gay bars, parties, events, and even gay softball. I am definitely not an expert on the history of gay culture, especially the leather or BDSM scene. It has sparked my curiosity, and I thought I could provide an interesting perspective by writing about my experiences along the way.
(This is a blog, I might not always use direct sources for my facts)
Is the BDSM Leather Scene in Gay Male Culture Dying?
It seems like every time you step into a gay bar these days you’ll find at least a couple of men sporting a tight and shiny harness or some sort of flashy piece of leather gear. Even men that aren’t into kink or the lifestyle will get behind it for aesthetic or sensory purposes. It’s a way to express yourself, show off your body, have fun, and most importantly, feel free in your own skin. I own a couple of harnesses and some other gear myself that I will proudly sport at a leather themed party or bar.
It is my understanding that the leather scene broke out in popularity back after World War II in the 1940’s. People were drawn to this lifestyle when they became discontent with the direction of mainstream culture. I see it as the equivalent of angsty teenagers not conforming to societal trends. I’m a punk rocker and emo kid myself, so naturally, I love it.
As more and more people were drawn to the biker vests, cigars and leather outfits, it developed into a need for a safe space for people to explore their sexuality and kinks. These clubs and bars became a sanctuary for people that needed to escape from being looked down on by societal norms and express themselves in a safe setting.
I agree that the old school leather scene is dying, but not in a bad way. It’s dying because the need to have a safe haven for people that may act or identify differently is fading. The world is more accepting and more people can be be who they want to be. Technology and apps also make it a lot easier for people to meet with specific fetishes or lifestyles.
The scene is adapting. No matter what societal norms might be, there will always be people that want to stand out from the crowd or explore their sexuality through kink. It’s my opinion that leather bars these days are seeing an influx of people through their doors; people like me who are exploring themselves and finding out their identity, people that are looking for sexy, exciting parties, and people that are already established in the lifestyle that continue to gather as a community.