pinit fg en rect gray 20 Oregon Leather Pride Week opens up BDSM experience for all
By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly

 

grey Oregon Leather Pride Week opens up BDSM experience for all

Nick Elliott, Ms. Tracey, and Tarsus proudly display their titles awarded during last year's Oregon Leather Pride Week. Photo by Andy Mangels

 
The kinky and kink-curious alike will be out in force August 3-12 when Oregon Leather Pride Week 2012 whips out all over the fair city of Portland.

A highly diverse array of events, parties, workshops, and “munches” (casual meals) promises every segment of the community the chance to explore and enjoy big-time sensuality of whatever variety and flavor floats their particular boat. From fetish dances to family barbeques, demonstrations to dungeons, the coalition of organizations that plan and program Oregon Leather Pride Week promise that 2012 will be one of the best in the event’s 23-year history.

“Oregon Leather Pride Week is a sort of alternative gay pride celebration. It’s a celebration of who we are, a chance to come out and meet the other people in affiliated groups,” says Thom Butts, chair of Oregon Leather Pride Week 2012, president of Black Out Leather Productions of Oregon, and holder of the Mr. Oregon State Leather 1997 and Northwest Leather Sir 2009 titles. “As many people have said, it’s a time to let our ‘freak flag’ fly, even if I don’t identify with the term ‘freak.’”

The event also serves as a comfortable stepping-out point for those who may not want to let their so-called “freak flag” fly in all areas of their lives.

“Being into leather or BDSM has often been referred to as ‘a second closet,’” Butts says. “Coming out to your family and friends is one closet that many of us have conquered already; telling your mother that you like beating people up or being beat upon is a very different closet to come out of … . Like coming out of the gay closet, coming out of the BDSM closet can be challenging because being into BDSM is still very stigmatized.”

To honor all people’s boundaries — a hallmark of the Leather scene — Oregon Leather Pride Week is conscious and committed to respecting people’s privacy, ensuring that all people are given their full agency to be as open or private about their sexual tastes as they please.

As to why the leather and BDSM scenes are so vibrant in Portland, Butts notes: “We have a lot of leather history here in Oregon and in the Northwest.”

For example, the Rose City was the site of the Catharsis bar contest, considered to be the world’s first leather night for women, back in 1982. Three of the first four International Ms. Leather title holders, all named in the late 1980s, were from the Portland area. Tony DeBlase, influential leather icon and designer of the black, blue, and white-striped Leather Pride flag, spent the last years of his life in Portland before passing away in 2000.

A few years later, then-mayor Vera Katz proclaimed the week of August 3, 2002, to be Leather Pride Week in Portland, noting in her proclamation that “the motto of ‘Safe, Sane, and Consensual’ adopted by the leather and fetish communities is vital to all relationships between consenting adults.”

In 2004, the diversely talented Andy Mangels launched the Oregon Leather History Project, an archive of historic documents and artifacts related to the state’s leather scene; that same year, Mangels raised over $10,000 while serving as Mr. Oregon State Leather in other to “adopt” the uniform room at the national Leather Archives and Museum in the name of the fair City of Portland.

With all this history — and with the nature of BDSM, which necessarily involves intense experiences — some may think that it’s hard to get into the scene as a new participant. However, Leather Pride Week can serve as the perfect intro for folks curious to explore their own edges.

“I think that the events during Leather Pride Week are geared for new people in the community,” Butts says, “and there’s nothing that will really push boundaries if they don’t want it or scare anyone off. … There are other events throughout the year that really aren’t for the inexperienced or faint of heart, but everything would be good for the newbies as well as the experienced people.”

“One group in particular, Whipper Snappers, is focused especially for younger folks in the community and the education of teaching and skills for BDSM for the new generation,” he adds. “Education really is key the whole gamut of skills in BDSM, from how to safely tie people up to how to properly flog someone, how to tell when the top is doing something wrong, how to throw a single-tail whip, even how to play with electricity. A lot of those things are intuitive, but due to the nature of the play it’s easy to cross the line into the unsafe and medically dangerous. Education ensures that everyone can have a fun, safe time.”

For those who want a new and perhaps surprisingly fulfilling experience, Butts has simple advice: “I think there’s something for absolutely anyone in the Portland community during the week … so if you’re curious, come out and get involved.”

Click here for Oregon Leather Pride Week schedule, locations, member organizations, and charitable organizations.

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  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Oregon Leather Pride Week opens up BDSM experience for all
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Oregon Leather Pride Week opens up BDSM experience for all
  • wp socializer sprite mask 16px Oregon Leather Pride Week opens up BDSM experience for all

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