When I was in the 7th grade, my family got a dial-up internet connection to our home PC. I was pretty tech savvy as a kid and until college, I always envisioned myself in some sort of computer career. I built my own PC when I was 13 years old. Just for fun. Dammit, I was a nerd. It wasn't long after we got that dial up connection that I figured out how to manipulate/delete browsing histories from Internet Explorer.
I spent a little bit (okay, a lot of time) looking around at different kink and bondage websites on-line over the years. Most of them didn't appeal to me; my fetish is surprisingly specific. I remember the early days of CapturedGuys and Bound&Gagged. Those were probably two of my favorites. What I also remember, however, is tinkering around on some sites that sold porn videos. Back in those days, the thought of downloading a whole movie via a dial up connection was unfathomable; I spent my time just reading the descriptions and looking over the covers of the boxes.
Very few of these professional films actually appealed to me. I was looking for bondage and kidnappings, being done by guys with whom I could associate myself. What I found was slings, whips, older guys with lots of body hair and beards and mustaches wearing harnesses, and lots and lots of fucking. I found myself reviewing lots of vintage porn which lead me to believe that this is what "leather" meant. I thought that that meant I didn't belong then, and probably would never belong (I really didn't have much taste for that much body hair or all that crazy leather equipment).
This experience led me to believe that in order to have the kinky experiences I wanted, one of two things had to happen; Either I would need to modify my body to look like all those other people, or else once I jumped in and started, I would eventually grow up to become/look just like one of them. Flaming red hair and all. It isn't something I wanted to become. So you see, I never felt alone because I was kinky. My loneliness came from just being different and not wanting to conform to the stereotype which I had learned.
Was this an unrealistic belief for a 13-18 year old who didn't know any better? Particularly, one in St. Louis, where face-to-face education is slim? Particularly for youth?
These days, I kinda feel ashamed of the stereotype I labeled the leathermen with at that point in my life. It's a stereotype that prevented me from exploring the community at large for many years, until I was out of college for some time, in fact. It was a rather judgemental period of my life, and now I regret it. You see, it wasn't just that I didn't want to become one of them. I forgot they were people. And for a long time, I didn't even want to have anything to do with them.
Then, a few years ago, it donned upon me; I'm giving them the precise treatment they were providing to me. I didn't like that treatment at all. I felt like I was just being labeled as "not one of us" by them and rather dehumanized. I don't even remember what the moment was that caused it, but it was like someone just set a mirror in front of me to stare into for a while. I realized that I can't ever be accepted into this community if I myself remember that those leathermen are actually people too.
I'm really glad I realized that.
I'm still realizing how much I have to learn, though. Saturday night was "Studio 54" night at The Saloon. They went above and beyond to retrofit the bar to a classic 70s style, even going to far as to paint walls, put the arcade games into storage, and bring in a water-bed and beanbags for the lounge area. Dressing up in all 70s fashion/style got you in for no cover charge. And one final nail in the coffin: they openly asked for the city's kinksters to dress in their best 70s leather look. *sigh* Twist my arm a little harder, why don't you?
So I reached back through my brain on Saturday trying to think of the style and fashion from all those porn video covers and I did my very best to recreate it. When I saw the end result, I realized how little I really know about vintage leather. I looked at myself in the mirror, and the image I saw prompted me to coin a new term:
Decade confusion (noun) - mistaking a pop-culture reference from one distinct decade for another. Example: In a sad case of decade confusion, my attempt at a 70s leather look ended up more like either 80s punk-rock, or The Terminator.