The SF girls of Leather ♥ cute kink and breaking down stereotypes
Anita moved to San Francisco from Norway on a work visa, but soon found herself lusting for a close encounter with leather. She discovered some BDSM groups for women interested in playing with women, but because she identified as straight when she arrived in the city, the SFgoL's more inclusive membership requirements felt like a better fit.
She was also attracted to the group because it didn't require members be in a dominant-submissive relationship. She was free to play with whomever, whenever, and however she pleased. "I'm a girl and I was interested in exploring the leather community in a group where I could just be myself and share my feelings," she says.
Last month the SFgoL celebrated its one-year anniversary with 18 full members and more than 100 girls on its Listserv. The numbers are a strong indicator of its success, especially since the current version of the SFgoL isn't the city's first attempt at a girly collective. In 2004, a leathergirl group was formed, but failed to secure footing in the established leather community. The second time around seems to be the shiny charm — or maybe these girls are just extra-charming?
"We do have a smokin' hot group of girls," giggles Leland, looking around the table and raising her eyebrows at Anita and McKinley.
It's lunch hour on a Tuesday and the three girls flirt like crazy, constantly laughing and finishing each other's sentences between small bites of spicy Thai food. The three are a prime example of the group's demeanor and exactly why Leland has enforced a "no cruising" rule during official meetings.
"The meetings are meant to be safe space and for taking care of business. But yes, we can play outside the meetings," she says, batting her lashes as the other girls smirk, hiding a thousand secrets anyone with a pulse would die to hear.
RESIZING THE LEATHER FIT
Since its inception, the leather community has been predominately male. Icons like Marlon Brando, and the work of Tom of Finland and the Satyrs Motorcycle Club, defined modern masculinity in the 1950s, igniting a kinky obsession in the gay community. A badass jacket, muir cap, and related wardrobe of black hide became a symbol of sexual power and masculine independence, eradicating the stereotype that all gay men were effeminate.
Leather rules and traditions grew from military protocol and were diligently enforced by masters and their slaves, daddies and their boys. Women were intrigued, but struggled to find a place among the men; many leather bars turned away women at the door.
Over time, elements of BDSM became associated with leather and the community began to flex. During the '80s, leatherwomen competitions popped up, and in the '90s, groups like San Francisco's Outcasts — now the Exiles —provided the community with strong female-identified role models. In 2006, the Exiles helped open Betty Paige's Secret, which in subsquent years of the festival became Venus' Playground. It was the first leatherwomen play space at the Folsom Street Fair.
It's been six years since the Venus milestone, yet during this April's International Ms. Leather competition in San Francisco, it was apparent that questions about the role of women in the leather community remain.
In a moment of call and response, "Where are the leatherwomen?" was shouted into the microphone. The answer was loud and proud: "Here we are! We're here!" followed by a rumble of audience applause. Women may be standing their ground with paddles in hand, but the exchange was telling of their struggle for continued acknowledgment.
Deborah Isadorah, a veteran of kink and current leather momma, has been entranced by the leather community for more than 40 years, and is proud to have watched the roles of women expand. But in Isadorah's eyes, the progression has been slow going.