|by Sal Seeley|
|Master Knows Best!
September seems to be leather month around Rehoboth and for my friends in San Francisco. One of the hottest leather events takes place at the end of September and is called Folsom Street Fair. If you have never been...go! Here in Rehoboth is the Mr. Double L leather contest. I have been talking up the event to friends around town and friends that are in the leather community. It is an important event to come out and support because the leather community does a lot to support GLBT causes and concerns. I had a chance to have some good discussions about the leather community with my friends. Many of these discussions centered around contests such as midAtlantic Leather and International Mr. Leather. My friend (I shall call him the skeptic) said that these events are just places for men to meet to have sex and that the leather community does nothing to promote safer sex. I told him I would teach him a few things about safer sexthat is safer sex in the leather community.
I have had the opportunity to meet men from many different leather clubs while living here in Rehoboth. I have had some good experiences with a group out of Washington called SIGMA that has a membership in the hundreds who live all over the United States. One of the things that impressed me about SIGMA and other groups like them is that there is a desire to keep alive the traditions of leather play: safe, sane and consensual. These groups promote safety in their play parties and educational events. I think that has to do with the community these groups have spent time building and the respect and dignity they give to all their members, regardless of age, race and body type.
Even though the leather community has been in transition from "old-guard" to "new-guard," many leather groups continue to live by the message of playing safe. In my 31 years of life experience, I have found that the leather community is the one group that has really taken the time to emphasize playing safe, especially around HIV and safer sex. Yes, you do have your factions in any group that want to take risks. It really disturbed me when I went to a contest where one of the contestants was promoting bareback sex as an option. I did not agree with this at all. Neither did many of the audience members. Most of us realize that members of the leather community have a responsibility to set an example of maintaining tradition by educating "newcomers" about the risks associated with unsafe play. I firmly believe that most leathermen live by this and can still participate in the type of play that they enjoy the most.
Many of us could learn a lot from these groups. The most important lesson is to live by being safe, sane and consensual. Safety is the number one aspect of maintaining a negative HIV status or not infecting someone you care about. Being sane is caring about what you are doing to yourself and others. Consensual is agreeing to what kind of sex you will be having and making others aware that you are either HIV negative or positive.
Leather sex can be fun and leather men can be good teachers. If you decide to experiment, don't forget to be safe.
Sal Seeley is Program Director of CAMPsafe, an HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention program funded through a contract with the Delaware Division of Public Health. Information on HIV testing is available at CAMP Rehoboth, 37 Baltimore Avenue. For information, call Sal at 302-227-5620 or e-mail email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 13 September 16, 2005