I read an article about the rise of the leather scene. The author claimed that gay men began wearing leather gear because it was “hyper-masculine” and a response to the view that gay men were effeminate. It argued it arose from motorcycle gangs and was meant to intimidate. Bullshit. It’s arguably masculine, but I don’t think it’s intimidating.
I’m not effeminate and I’m not hyper-masculine. I am a leatherman, though. I wear leather and boots and have ink and piercings because they are fucking sexy. I love the smell of leather. I love the feel and the sound. It’s a second skin and it makes me hard. Seeing it on other guys makes me swoon. It’s a fetish, not a statement. Leather is sexual to me, and I enjoy being in the company of like minded people. When I’m in a group of leather clad men, we are not about to go out and pillage (and do hyper-masculine stuff). We are comfortable being with others who share our fetish and we are inviting people who feel the same to join us. Granted, I think it is very masculine, but I am turned on by masculinity (and a dry sense of humor). I’ve always been more comfortable around leather folk.
It’s a fair point that some gear is designed to accentuate the male form. Harnesses are meant to show your chest off, though they have evolved from that over the years and there are many designs now that don’t do what they were initially intended to. I’m gay. I LIKE the male form. Making your pecs look their best is preening, not intimidation. It’s also fair that many leathermen are into motorcycles. They are masculine. But just like girls and horses, I think what’s hot is straddling something powerful . It’s sex again, not hyper-masculinity. It’s true that leather has a bad boy/rocker/biker image, but that’s not why I wear it.
I see pics on Twitter of men wearing panties. Are they a hyper-feminine response to toxic masculinity? I think they just feel sexy. It’s their fetish. It doesn’t do anything for me, but when I see it, I recognize what it does for them. Masculinity is in the eyes of the beholder.
When I’m in gear. I’m expressing my sexuality. I’m putting my fetish on display. I’ve struggled with shame about it because it sometimes feels like I’m wearing a dildo on my head in public. I’m not alone in this. There’s a reason for plain brown packaging. It’s easy in the company of like minded souls. It’s hard in front of John Q. Public.
I think a lot of people are turned on by leather. Just look at car ads. They still show attractive people stroking leather seats. Leather is aspirational. You’re nobody if you have cloth seats. Leather feels good. It smells good, and it looks good.
We stereotype people, even in the gay community (probably even more so). We categorize everyone: Bear, twink, otter, chub, daddy, queen. I’m a category of one, and so is everyone else. I’m a boss, a business owner, a professional, a husband, a healer, a slave, a leatherman, a kinkster, and so much more. I’ve never ridden a motorcycle (we call them donor cycles, FYI). I did ride a mini bike once as a kid. Does that count?