As one of the many fetishes associated with S&M (sadism & masochism), it's no secret that leather is associated with the kinkier side of life. Often it is the umbrella term under which other fetishes -- such as PVC, latex and bondage -- are housed.
But what is a secret is how many people actually walk on the kinkier side. While many taboos surrounding sex and sexuality have become less taboo, S&M still remains largely misunderstood, forcing many of those who are into S&M and leather to remain closeted.
But like any good subculture, the underground leather scene is large, thriving and well networked -- even here in scenic little Colorado Springs. So anyone really into leather and its fellow kink offshoots probably already knows that the fourth annual LeatherFest Colorado Weekend begins this Friday over at the Red Lion Hotel (formerly the Le Baron).
Producers of the event, simply known as Daddy Jim and Daddy Matt (badge names, as it is called in the circle), estimate that close to 200 people will be in attendance. That includes those who will make the drive from surrounding states. In addition, there will be a number of leather/kink vendors from around the country hawking everything from chaps to floggers to harnesses to how-to books.
The primary focus of the weekend, though, is education and entertainment. In fact, the bulk of Saturday and Sunday is devoted to informational workshops, which run the gamut on topic and intensity.
There is a workshop designed for the novice, appropriately called SM 101. For those who are curious but want to stay on the sidelines, this is your workshop. It gives an overview of the different aspects of the culture, defining terms and answering questions you've probably always been afraid to ask.
Delving a bit deeper are workshops dealing with such things as fireplay, safe bondage and discipline, keeping your boots shiny and the psychology of S&M. And new this year, but popular at other festivals, is a two-part workshop presented by an anthropologist from the University of New Mexico called "Why We Are Kinky," which examines the culture of kink.
But the most popular and highly attended workshop, according to the producers, is called "Leather, S/M and Spirituality." Essentially, it connects Christianity with the leather lifestyle, touching on the spiritual aspects of pain and pleasure.
Normally there is a competition that accompanies LeatherFest. Contestants are scored on presentation, knowledge of leather (and associated activities), appearance and willingness to be out in the leather and S&M community. The winner of the local and regional competitions then goes on to an international festival/competition, usually held over Memorial Day weekend in Chicago.
But due to the recent political unrest, LeatherFest Colorado's local competition has been waved this year, in favor of pure fun, frolic and networking. In place of the competition events, which had been scheduled for Friday night, there will be a fantasy show, consisting of various skits by former leather title holders in the community.
Saturday night brings Shann Carr, a former Ms. International Leather titleholder turned comedianne. Carr tours nationally, and does what she likes to call "leather comedy."
Because the leather community is considered an alternative community, they tend to be open and accepting, said producer and event organizer Daddy Jim. "The community is large and diverse, gay and straight, .... mainly a lot of what appear to be everyday normal people."
So now's your chance to indulge any of those curiosities that have been lurking in the corners of your sexual psyche. The event is open to anyone, though you must be over 18. Registration begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, and you must register in order to attend any of the workshops. Registration fees range from $25 to $75 and various event packages are available. For more information, check out www.leatherfest.homestead.com.
-- Suzanne Becker