Main Page
Things to Ponder
Dystopian Fearmongers
Old Guard
Sacred Cows
The New Upper Class
The Speech
Good Times
Camille Paglia
Stewards of Magic
The Culture of Disease
Radsex Rising Tide Turbo Pervo Tonic

My Opinions
Return to Things to Ponder table of contents


The Leather Restoration:
The Stewards of Magic

Another year and another deep insight from Guy Baldwin.  As usual, Guy cuts to the quick and makes a persuasive case.  This is a worthy follow-on to his "Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburger" presentation he made at LLC-LA.

Read on!

The Leather Restoration 2: The Stewards of Magic

Delivered MARCH 2nd, 2003 in Dallas, Texas during South Plains Leatherfest concurrent with the International Masters and slaves weekend.


When HIV struck us 20 years ago, it stole from the BDSM world a great many of our best and brightest, and ushered us into what I have come to call, The Grim Time. Despite the fact that HIV is still very much with us today, we have been slowly emerging from its shadow during the last five years, thanks largely to medical advances.

Gradually, HIV has loosened its grip on our time, attention, and resources somewhat, and this has begun to give us the chance to consider exactly how we might go about the Restoration of some things taken from our community by its long siege.

Last April, in a speech I delivered during the International Leather Leadership Conference, I made a number of controversial assertions about how we might go about doing some of that Restoration work. Some of those assertions sparked some serious debate across the organized leather world.

My plan for our time together today is to expand and extend some of the ideas I offered in that speech, which should take about 20 minutes of your time.

Last April, I suggested that it was probably a mistake for leather leadership in the late 1980's to have supported the notion of "INCLUSIVITY" for two basic reasons: First, that doing so obligated us to the creation of pansexual organizations which steadily alienated increasing numbers of the gay leathermen who possessed a wealth of experience and information about how leathersex really works to create magical experiences…..especially so at the high-end.

And second, that the resulting democratization of organizations had the effect of sweeping away the vital standards for membership in the core-group of BDSM practitioners-----standards that had been used by the Old Guard to carefully screen out people who were unsuitable to possess that amazing knowledge.

Since I gave that speech, it has actually been suggested in various places that I recommend and support the re-design of all our community's organizations along the lines of the Old Guard clubs that first spawned the leather world back in the 1950's. But that's not the case…..I support no such thing. There is no going backwards. Forwards is the only direction available to us now.

Much of the esoteric information about how high-end BDSM magic really works first emerged and was then developed and protected within the classical Old Guard clubs. Those clubs were born in a cultural and historical setting which no longer exists, and simply could not be re-created even if there was a general agreement to do so.

In most of the ways that matter, society today bears very little resemblance to the one found between 1950 and 1965 when the Old Guard came into being. So, it is therefore completely unreasonable to imagine that we can have the Old Guard back again just the way it was.

And frankly, thank the Leather Gods for that!

It is a natural human survival skill to selectively edit the unpleasant parts of the past out of memory while simultaneously embellishing the happier recollections. Consequently, there has been a quaint tendency in the last 10 years or so, to romanticize and over-idealize the Old Guard, due, in part, to the illusion that "the good ole' days" were uniformly good.

They were not.

Just like institutions from any era you care think of, the Old Guard did some things very well, and other things less well, and still other things pretty badly.

For those of us who have survived "The Grim Time" and have been lifting our heads up and out of the shadows of HIV, ……we don't have to spend much time looking around to see that things in the leather world of today, are very different from what we saw in 1983 when HIV arrived to spoil the party.

The Old Guard model for bringing very carefully selected newcomers into the BDSM world has been almost completely swept away. Nearly all BDSM organizations today, use a very different set of formulas for education……formulas that were developed up to 20 years ago to do that. But these educational formulas have only limited relevance in today's climate for anyone who wants more than basic knowledge.

Similarly, begun 25 years ago, the leather title system, its contests and titleholders have likewise been slow to re-invent themselves so far, and nowadays, leather contests tend to leave most of our people with a "been there…done that……..nothing much that's new in it for me" kind of feeling.

And even those venerable offspring of the Old Guard motorcycle clubs, the leather bars, which for 35 years functioned as the "grand central stations" of the gay male Leathersex/BDSM world, have also been in slow but steady decline as focal points for leather-life of any kind.

Our leather magazines, once a central means of communication, have been mismanaged to death; their once loyal readership has been abandoned to the bewildering chaos of the Internet.

We simply must face the fact that the development and proliferation of the Internet has almost completely changed the ways that people under age 35 reach out to each other and connect for erotic exploration, and try to learn more about others like themselves.

So……what's the best way for us to go about restoring some of the valuable things that have been lost to us?

Only history can know the answer to that question, someday, I suppose. None of us have a crystal ball with which to learn that answer---that much is certain, at least. But even so, that fact should not paralyze us as we try to move forward in our efforts to do a good job supporting our own kind.

I think the best we can do is to assume that the right approaches will be the ones that emerge by courageously facing some realities squarely and honestly, without being influenced by personal agendas, needing to paint a rosy picture of things, or needing to be "politically correct". After all, it seems to me that there is plenty of evidence to support the suggestion that the efforts to be "politically correct" that were so prevalent in the '80's and '90's didn't exactly produce happy results.

If we'd had only the big mentor gap created by HIV to deal with, we might have been able to repair the damaged bridges to the newcomers of the last 15 years, and ensure that the orderly transfer of the specialized and exotic rituals and practices of high-end BDSM could resume smoothly.

But the additional stress on a generation that is stigmatized by a very well-financed, vocal and anti-sexual conservative Christian movement on one hand, and an increasingly radicalized and superficial youth culture on the other, have complicated that goal beyond our understanding.

It has also been complicated by the social homogenizing made possible by low-cost air travel, a globalized media where kinky imagery abounds, cheap Internet access at an early age, the proliferation of drugs, the fatalism which so often seems to accompany bare-backing, and also by huge changes in modern society's erotic iconography. Additionally, the heterosexual BDSM scene has by now, become very self-sustaining, and feels a diminishing need to rely upon input or guidance from gay leathermen very much at all, if any…..a happy development from my point of view.

For these and several other reasons, I think it can be persuasively argued that we no longer have a simple and straightforward leathersex generation gap created by HIV to overcome.

Evidence around us strongly supports the conclusion that several, often separate so-called "leather communities" have developed. Despite our craving to convince ourselves that these "communities" are very strongly connected to each other, in practice, exactly the opposite is true….there is every reason to believe that our connections to each other actually become weaker by the day.

In 1982, I could walk into any gay men's leather bar and find fisting guys, rubber boys, Masters with slaves, bondage lovers, bears, fellas just lookin' for a little rough sex, piss lovers, serious BDSM men, vanilla lookie-loos, bike club members, cigar lovers and uniform dudes---all mixing together in the very same room, and looking to hook up with their respective counterparts for the evening or for a lifetime.

But nowadays, there are countless specialized web-sites catering to the needs of each of these groups (and many new ones undreamed of in 1982). Consequently, their need to gather together in settings with anyone OUTSIDE their own interest group is close to zero. I can still walk into a leather bar and find people with the very same mixture of interests, of course, but our public meeting places are no longer infused with the heat (or the terrors) of the hunt in the way that they once were. In 1975, the leather bars in major cities were busy every night of the week-full of seriously kinky folks lookin' for trouble. Today, there isn't one establishment that can claim that's still the case.

It's worth stopping here for a moment just to point out that the leather bars of old were basically kinky melting pots of guys who had a wide array of erotic needs. We were forced to share what has been called "leather spaces" (by david stein perhaps?) in the belief that our chances were better for finding a suitable partner for fun when we hung out with others who were also erotically "different".

But there was a lot of sifting that had to be done before a good connection could be made, and very few of us had the first clue about how that sifting, worked, so it wasn't a comfortable process for most of us. Hence, alcohol flowed rather freely to help make it survivable.

My guess is that 90% of those guys back in the '70's would have traded their anxiety about the sifting process for the emotional safety of the Internet in a heartbeat if that option had existed back then. I'm guessing that today, most newbees make exactly that same trade without even 60 seconds of hesitation, simply because they can.

"Hmmmmmm….let me see: the anxiety of going out to a bar….or the safety of going on line??? Which will it be for me tonight?"

The people we see in bars today are just the ones who are truly comfortable functioning in that environment. Those who aren't comfortable, no longer have to be there at all if they don't want to be.

No one should be surprised that people use the Internet to address specific erotic appetites in a very targeted and specialized way. The roots of this kind of erotic specialization in the leather world actually grew long ago. The de-centralization and specialization of the leather world probably began 30 some years ago when the first guys into serious fisting began wearing red hankies in their back pockets to help spot one another easily.

Very soon afterward, other colors appeared as advertising for one's own erotic specialization became more and more accepted and possible in public. The Internet just made it easier for people to save time when searching for their own special interests, and to do that essentially without being observed, and with much less risk of disapproval. And there is every reason to think that this practice is only going to become more and more common as time passes. After all, you don't have to look your best on line, and you only have to pull yourself together if things seem particularly promising.

But this concept of our so-called "community" actually splintering apart and reorganizing itself into what amounts to erotic special interest groups, goes beyond being about folks choosing to hang out on line with just their own kind sexually.

Today, thanks largely to the Internet, we now have the ability to aim our minds very precisely at only what interests us, and then go very directly to it. We need only pay attention to ourselves---to nothing more than our own internal guidance system of needs---and then navigate our way to exactly what we long for.

I keep wondering what gets missed along the way.

Put differently, its next to impossible to convince 25-year-old club kids who leave home at midnight and go out dancing to "house music" with their whips, that there could be some value in visiting with leather bears who are over 40. It isn't easy to offer fisters a credible reason to congregate with bullwhip lovers either….they don't even usually like the same music or drugs. Its hard to make myself think about trying to get gay uniform guys into the same room with kinky bondage boys who like to wear women's corsets. Eighty five percent of kinky het men have a real tough time mixing easily with stone butch BDSM dikes and fags, too for that matter.

Yet, such face-to-face mixing together does actually happen on very rare occasion. But it happens only when people want an experience that they simply can not have EXCEPT by sharing the same space with each other. That can happen at big fetish dance parties like the Fetish Ball, big open dungeon parties like Black Rose, big street parties like Folsom Street Fair, or, less often, to attend classes at big and famous educational events like Thunder in the Mountains or Black Rose, or those of you who've come here to Dallas this weekend.

But have you noticed---mostly at those events, we tend to hang with our own kind: bears hang with bears, youngsters hang with each other, lesbians with lesbians, and het folks with each other and so on. Predators are the obvious exception.

Besides, just because a bunch of different kinds of kinky people happen to show up on rare occasions at events to share the same social bath…….well, that doesn't exactly a "community" make, I don't think.

Okay then………if the changed realities of modern life cause us to re-think the meaning of words like "leather" "community" "tribe" and others, then what exactly ought to be the mission of our clubs, organizations, institutions and leadership?

Perhaps we can arrive at an answer by asking ourselves the question,

"What can we do for each other that will be of value?"

Here are my answers:

We can validate erotic variation as a good and natural thing;

We can support the essential role of good character in maintaining erotic health;

We can deny access to those we find to be not qualified to use the knowledge of leathersex;

We can appropriately share what we have learned about our search for erotic fulfillment;

And how exactly might we go about doing those things?

In all groups of people who congregate to develop and deepen any set of skills and abilities which have the power to accomplish truly meaningful personal transformation……the people who already have those skills, reserve for themselves the authority to determine to whom they will be passed along, and exactly how that Must happen.

Zen masters do that. Corporate executives do that. Master-teacher musicians do that. Military organizations do that. Priests and Priestesses of all faiths do that, and always have done.

My point is that anyone is free to apply, but not all are accepted. Or, put differently, "many are called, but few are chosen."

Why should we be any different?

The ability to use BDSM sexuality to visit destinations beyond time and space depends upon the acquisition of powerful energy manipulation skills to accomplish those transformations. And it is a universal axiom that anything that is powerful can destroy in exactly equal proportion to which it can create. When such BDSM skills are used without the guidance of good character and love, trouble is the inevitable result as I'm certain people right here can testify.

Functional gateway organizations are important because they can and do offer the newcomer…..Dom, sub, Top, bottom, Master and slave,……valuable introductory information and experiences, inspiration, and also supply some basic survival skills which can help protect them from unwanted injuries----emotional, physical and spiritual.

But, just as individuals all need to know what our limitations are, and to recognize the dangers of over-stepping them…..the same is also true for our organizations. It is not appropriate for our gateway groups to try to do it all for everyone who walks in the door. Even the right abilities in the wrong hands will produce the wrong results.

BDSM sexuality is not a basket weaving class, for god's sake…..and its important not to treat it that way, because when we do, we demean it horribly, and create the illusion that anyone can do the high end work well……which is simply not true.

In addition to our valuable gateway organizations, we also need other kinds of groups----much smaller and much more intimate ones that are more homogeneous. I believe that it is in such smaller groups that the esoteric and far more sophisticated knowledge can be gathered, cultivated, refined, practiced and taught. And the people in these groups simply must understand that they ARE the guardians of a kind of high magic---the sacred stuff that powers the engines of our particular kind of Warp Drive.

And no one-no individual-can be admitted to these smaller, more intimate groups if there is a chance that he will use such skills and information just to stroke his own ego, to prey upon others, or gain that power and influence for its own sake.

And the reason for that is that those of us who've been around the Scene for a while, know that the forces of destruction always wait in the wings of nearly all BDSM encounters for anything like an invitation, to quote my friend, Joseph Bean.

It is these, smaller……more focused and more selective groups---do I dare call them families? Or maybe clans??---- that are in a position to inherit the best features of the Old Guard while avoiding the worst,…..and to safely see that esoteric skills are placed only into worthy and qualified hands for safekeeping and transmission to new generations who will carry those sacred flames onward. It has been very exciting for me to witness such exclusive focus groups springing up all across the country in the last 3 years, and to watch them sort themselves out and grow.

Owing to its very strengths and weaknesses, the Internet is un-policeable…….which is why we will continue to learn of horror stories about kinky outlaws who prey upon the unfortunates who fall into their hands, both Tops and bottoms, Masters, slaves and switches, too. Last fall, I read of the conviction of a man in Kansas who was convicted of killing two women whom he'd met on the Internet-both desired to become "sex-slaves."

Its not uncommon to hear of Masters who have systematically exploited wannabe slaves…either for financial gain or to build a big reputation for themselves---more than one cult of such users has sprung up in recent memory, and the Internet serves as their primary outreach method. Caveat Servitor!

The Internet will always be a place where liars, thieves, cheats, hate-mongers, racists, bigots, anarchists, psychopaths, and religious fascists, congregate to contaminate the single most accessible environment in which our people can find their way to us.

The Internet can never be much more than the starting place in what we all know is a journey……a journey of excitement, adventure, self-discovery, of validation and the affirmation of ourselves as erotic frontiers-people who go where others do not tread.

But finally, I think….it will be in smaller clans and families where the core of real magic making will again be happening consistently in our world as was once the case during the best years of the Old Guard.

Only when our erotic kin-folk out there venture into each other's presence and begin to dance in real time with each other does our erotic art-form really begin to breathe……. in the organic reality of our real-not virtual-existence.

It is our gateway organizations into which our newcomers are most likely to venture first, when they are ready to move past the cyber world in their explorations. It is in our gateway organizations that they can become more aware of how our dance-steps fit together and move us to our special music. But for those who want to really become adept, and to grow beyond becoming mere "erotic technicians", they will have to move onward, into smaller, and much more intimate groups. And those groups will need to be guided by people with their heads and hearts screwed on straight.

I hope you all realize that those of you who are here today are not really representative of people who are interested in radical sexuality. The average kinkoid has never attended a group like this……this kind of gathering…..he or she is out there in America somewhere, hunched over a computer maybe….living in isolation in a place like Fort Lupton, Colorado, or Provo, Utah, or maybe in Richards Junction. I know you know this, because some of you have on-line relationships with such isolated people, and you may well be their only contact with our world.

And you will have to decide for yourself what your responsibilities in those cyber relationships are, and use your best judgement about what you share about yourself, what you encourage in others, and what you discourage as well.

But it is my conviction that if this sexuality is truly to be part of someone's personal destiny and fulfillment, sooner or later, he or she will have to come face-to-face with their erotic counterparts, and begin to learn the dance steps in real time rather than cyber-space. None of us got here alone.

And each of you will have to decide how to pay it forward.

Because unless you do that, there is no hope that those things lost to us in the last 20 years can be restored to the kinky mainstream.

The mystic-poet Rumi tells us, "Those who hear not the music, think the dancers mad".

How true it is.

Thanks you for your time and attention.

Play well.
© 2003 - Guy Baldwin, M.S.

# # #

Please note: Any spelling or grammatical errors are most likely my own that occurred as I worked up this page with Guy's original text.

If you would like to learn more about me – just ask!   Drop me a line and we’ll see what happens.  I can be reached
here at:

You can also try using Yahoo Messenger as I’ll have that one sometimes while I am at work or at home.

My Yahoo handle is:


Until later then,


[Top of Page]

[Back to Main]

This page was last updated on: 12 August 2003