This blog is about you, dear reader. You go to the parties, frequent the bars and play in the back? This is meant for you. Or do you play at home because the scene isn’t what it used to be and hook-up online? This is most definitely for you.
In America there is an active leather community. There are pageants (sorry Mr. somethingOrOther elections), boys-clubs, forums, community websites, etc. etc. Of course there’s all the drama, backstabbing, politics and mud-slinging that comes with it. BUT there is also the support, education, heavy play and mentoring.
Not so much in Amsterdam.
Yes, I do know some great initiatives have started up in the last few years, like leather-history.eu, Mr. leather Amsterdam, Mr. XXL leather Amsterdam and the CALM events and probably more by some very admirable people. But I feel that the regular Leatherman is not a member of the community but a consumer.
Community-members have cheap/free events because there are volunteers. Consumers are expected to pay. If too few people are willing to pay, the businesses open their doors to other customers in order to make a profit, as they should. We complain that vanilla-gays/women/glitter-tits are taking over and stop dressing in fetish or stop going out altogether. The bars close and the scene dies.
BLUF started the worldwide 12X12 pledge a few years back. The pledge to visit a leather bar 12 times in 2012 because the bars were struggling. Apparently a too big a sacrifice for some people who prefer to pay 6,25 € a month to look at profiles, instead of paying a bit more for local, real live people and a few beers. As usual, the ones who complain the loudest, do the least. Even if it is showing up for events they complained were no longer organized.
This is a bit of a pet-peeve for me. However, all it takes to become a community is for people to actually spend some time and effort into having one. The 3 main people behind AKA also organize the BLUF-parties 4 times a year. What do those BLUF parties cost us?
Well, 4 2-hour parties a year. So that’s 8 hours standing at the door for me. We have to print posters for it, so that’s an hour calling businesses for a donation about once every 2-3 years to cover cost. Designing a poster is 2-3 evenings a year ( most of that time is about hunting poster-bunnies). Taking them from the print-shop to the bars and shops, oh that’s at least 1,5 hour walk. Negotiating with the venue to see if they are willing and determine dates and emailing magazines about the party about 5 hours. And this spread over 3 people. This is about 9 hours per person per year. Those 45 minutes per person per month are an intolarable excrusiating burden, but we grin and bear it.
The real cost is that we as organizers don’t get a lot out of the party itself, although we need to consistently clear our calendar for it. While the hunky leathermen are in the bar, I’m guarding the door. Ok, I chat and enjoy myself and ward off the obnoxious under-dressed, but I don’t ATTEND the party myself. This wouldn’t be a big deal if there were more events where I could be attending on a Saturday night instead of organizing.
I think the reason more people aren't doing stuff has a couple of factors. The first is, someone can have a part of the solution but not the whole package. by this i mean: One has the equipment, someone else the space, another the knowledge on how to do advanced play, others the willingness to donate time for the event or the knowledge how and willingness to advertise an event. Without a common platform, they will never know that about each other.
Second is dealing with thankless hard-core consumers who want, want, want and are only heard when they complain that “service” isn’t up to their fantasy. On the other side, as a volunteer you also get the thanks of people who recognize what you’re doing. That’s the kind of person you want to chat up and play with anyway.
Third is the very real danger of the boardroom-tigers. The people who want to feel important and make decisions for the event while doing as little as possible. I’m a big fan of the grass-roots approach. In my youth I visited an afternoon tea for young gays weekly. Since i wasn’t a vanilla twink, the organization didn’t like me very much. I started having dinner afterwards with 2 of the people I met there. Others wanted to join and I set some ground rules: no cruising and everything can be discussed. It grew until people came to the tea-party in order to go to dinner. A group of 3 out-casts suddenly became more important than a team of 10 cliquey twinks. A good event doesn’t need to be complicated to be popular or have a big staff in order to fill the need. It just needs clear rules.
Fourth I think is the fear to stand out, to be visible to the rest of the community. Instead of ducking into the darkest corner of the darkroom, to step into the light and be seen as a person, not a cock in uniform. A bonus most people don’t see, is when you get involved, you sometimes get special perks. Our volunteering got us invited on the MR. B boat at GAY pride for example.
Now, let me make myself very clear: I don’t EXPECT special treatment. I don’t feel ENTITELED to anything. I’m not the “Don’t you know who I am?” type. But, if something is offered to me, I reserve the option to take it.
One last thing I want to mention is the danger of a monopoly. If there is only one group of guys organizing a lot, if not all, of the events, a hissy-fit in that group might bring all events to a screeching halt. For continuity ( and to lighten the load for everyone) I think it’s better to have a lot of people each doing their thing while exchanging experiences in what worked and what lessons people learned organizing things. I will also diversify the kink-interests in the events.
I do these things because I believe in giving back. If there hadn’t been the gay VSSM meetings, the young me would have never gotten the good BDSM experience that helped me evolve. Without the vagevuur foundation I would have never seen or done the real advanced stuff as a 23 yr old or have been able to experience of an entire weekend of 24/7 role-play with 30 other people. Without the RSG group, i would have never known full-rubber play. All gone. Forever?
tips & tricks:
KISS: keep it simple stupid!
Start small and let it grow naturally.
Think about what you’d like to attend/have/access ! If it’s not there, create it!
Talk to people to see if they have the same wants as you.
You. Really. So get your ass in gear. ;)