glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
social sciences
special features
about glbtq


   member name
   Forgot Your Password?  
Not a Member Yet?  

  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy





social sciences

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-E  F-L  M-Z

Leather Culture  
page: 1  2  3  

With this change in outlook and means of communication, the character of public leather life also changed. While some invitation-only runs persisted (often sponsored by an older generation of motorcycle clubs), newer organizations' regular meetings and special events were typically open to all. While they allowed for and encouraged socialization, sex, and s/m encounters, the cornerstone of these new events was education. Prominent, skilled, and charismatic leaders within the community were called upon to impart their knowledge of leathersex techniques as well as opinions regarding the state and direction of the leather community to event audiences. In some ways this educational mission was a substitute for the close mentoring of an earlier period, and many bemoaned the loss of a more intimate and exclusive model for the transmission of cultural knowledge.

Another novel phenomenon was the institution of leather title competitions, perhaps the most notable being International Mr. Leather, held annually in Chicago and featuring participants from all over the world. These competitions have proliferated to such an extent that almost any city with a sizable leather community, from Amsterdam and Munich to New York City and Los Angeles, sponsors one such event and may have multiple local title holders. Leather contest winners are enjoined by their status to work to cultivate local leather life, as well as to represent the local community at national and international events. Fundraising and support for charity work has become increasingly integral to this role; since the 1980s, leather organizations have raised large sums for the fight against AIDS as well as the advancement of legal protections for leathersex and the preservation of leather culture and history.

Sponsor Message.

Modes of communication among leatherfolk also changed. The 1970s saw the advent of national and international leather-themed magazines that shared information, propagated sexual styles, and brought people together through personal ads. By the late 1990s, the Internet had supplanted magazines as a source of information.

Opportunities to meet individuals into leather or make contact with leather organizations on the worldwide web continue to multiply. More and more highly specific and esoteric kinks are outlined and cultivated here in ways which they likely could not be in a for-profit medium attempting to target the largest portion of an already small market share. Extensive use of the Internet has lowered barriers to entering leather life considerably, yet proposed laws that aim to restrict the kinds of content available on the web potentially threaten the online leather community's continued vitality.

Leather culture continues to draw medical and legal opprobrium. It remains socially and spatially marginal and thus vulnerable to the vicissitudes of moral crusaders, medical authorities, social service providers, real estate mavens, and conservative forces within the "mainstream" lesbian and gay community. But as more leatherfolk discover the rich history and tremendous diversity of their community and choose to publicly acknowledge their affiliation with one another, leather culture becomes a more formidable entity. It is the hope of leatherfolk that the tradition they uphold and the recognition they struggle for will contribute to the sexual emancipation of all people.

Matthew D. Johnson

  <previous page   page: 1  2  3    

Contact Us
Join the Discussion
Related Entries
More Entries by this contributor
A Bibliography on this Topic

Citation Information
More Entries about Social Sciences

   Related Entries
social sciences >> Overview:  Bear Movement

The Bear Movement has inspired a number of organizations, events, publications, and resources dedicated to affirming and eroticizing large-bodied, hirsute gay men, known as Bears.

social sciences >> Overview:  Cultural Identities

A growing body of scholarly and other work on Cultural Identities challenges the "naturalness," and even the political necessity, of a unitary gay and lesbian identity.

arts >> Overview:  Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male

Given the historic stigma around making, circulating, and possessing overtly homoerotic images, the visual arts have been especially important for providing a socially sanctioned arena for depicting the naked male body and suggesting homoerotic desire.

arts >> Overview:  Erotic and Pornographic Art: Lesbian

Considering the unique set of problems facing lesbians who want to produce erotic art for the enjoyment of other lesbians, it is remarkable that so much lesbian erotica has been produced in so brief a time.

literature >> Overview:  Erotica and Pornography

Erotic and pornographic works have been written in many cultures since ancient times and recently have flourished with the relaxation of censorship.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay and Lesbian Bars

The centrality of gay and lesbian bars to glbtq culture has been reduced in recent years, but they continue to fulfill important functions; and, in many areas, they remain the most visible manifestation of glbtq presence.

literature >> Overview:  Sadomasochistic Literature

Sadomasochistic literature, one of the most controversial forms of lesbian and gay writing, confronts such issues as domination, submission, uniformity, and humiliation and poses a constant challenge to them.

social sciences >> Overview:  The Sexual Revolution, 1960-1980

The sexual revolution of post-World War II America changed sexual and gender roles profoundly.

arts >> Dean, James

Although he spent only two years in Hollywood before his untimely death, James Dean became an enduring icon of American film, one whose brooding non-conformity helped challenge rigid notions of masculinity.

arts >> Halford, Rob

Rob Halford--dubbed "The Metal God" by fans and critics--is one of the most talented vocalists in heavy metal music and one of the few out artists in the genre.

arts >> Mapplethorpe, Robert

American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's controversial images typically combine rigorously formal composition and design with extreme subject matter.

literature >> Preston, John

One of the most prolific gay writers of recent decades, John Preston helped elevate pornographic fiction into a genre viewed as having literary merit.

literature >> Saylor, Steven

Now best known for his highly successful mystery novels set in ancient Rome, Steven Saylor began his writing career by publishing erotica under the pen-name Aaron Travis.

arts >> Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen)

Defiantly rejecting the invisibility, homophobia, and indignities of pre-Stonewall life, the men in Tom of Finland's drawings reflect a hyper-masculine, working-class version of homosexual manhood that proved important to the emerging gay rights movement.

arts >> The Village People

The Village People, a disco-era singing group, successfully translated the interests, coded language, and iconography of the gay male subculture into music that crossed over into mainstream pop.


Antoniou, Laura. The Marketplace. Fairfield, Conn.: Mystic Rose Books, 2000.

Baldwin, Guy. Ties That Bind: The SM/Leather/Fetish Erotic Style: Issues, Commentaries and Advice. Los Angeles: Daedalus Publishing, 1993.

Bean, Joseph W. Leathersex Q&A: Questions about Leathersex and the Leather Lifestyle Answered. Los Angeles: Daedalus Publishing, 1996.

_____. Leathersex: A Guide for the Curious Outsider and the Serious Player. Los Angeles: Daedalus Publishing, 1994.

Brame, Gloria, Jon Jacobs, and William Brame. Different Loving: A Complete Exploration of the World of Sexual Dominance and Submission. New York: Villard Books, 1996

Califia, Pat. Macho Sluts. Boston: Alyson, 1989.

_____. Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 2000.

_____, and Robin Sweeney, eds. The Second Coming: A Leatherdyke Reader. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1996.

Carney, William. The Real Thing [1966]. New York: Masquerade Books, 1996.

Easton, Dossie, and Catherine A. Liszt. When Someone You Love Is Kinky. Oakland, Cal.: Greenery Press, 2000.

Freeman, Gillian. The Leather Boys [1961]. London: Gay Men's Press, 1985.


Mains, Geoff. Urban Aboriginals [1984]. Los Angeles: Daedalus, 2002.

Moser, Charles, and JJ Madeson. Bound to Be Free: The SM Experience. New York: Continuum, 1998.

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

Preston, John. Mr. Benson [1980]. New York: Masquerade Books, 1998.

Queen, Carol. The Leather Daddy and the Femme. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 1998.

Rubin, Gayle S. "Elegy for the Valley of the Kings: AIDS and the Leather Community in San Francisco, 1981-1996." In Changing Times: Gay Men and Lesbians Encounter HIV/AIDS. Martin P. Levine, Peter M. Nardi, and John H. Gagnon, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. 101-44.

_____. "The Leather Menace." Sexual Revolution. Jeffrey Escoffier, ed. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003. 266-99.

Samois. Coming to Power: Writings and Graphics on Lesbian S/M. Rev. ed. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1983.

stein, david. Carried Away. Los Angeles: Daedalus, 2002.

Thompson, Mark, ed. Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice. Boston: Alyson, 1991.

Townsend, Larry. The Leatherman's Handbook [1972]. Los Angeles: LT Publications, 2000.

_____. The Leatherman's Handbook II: The Sequel [1983]. Los Angeles: LT Publications, 2000.

_____. Run, Little Leatherboy and Run No More [1971, 1972]. Los Angeles: LT Publications, 2003.

Weinberg, Thomas, ed. S&M: Studies in Dominance and Submission. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1995.


    Citation Information
    Author: Johnson, Matthew D.  
    Entry Title: Leather Culture  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated November 23, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


This Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc. is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.