A sign on the front door warns: “Must be 21 to Enter.” It doesn’t portend a traditional shopping experience.
Yes, the Leather Man carries an array of intimate adult devices and ephemera, and is not for the uptight. But it is far from being just a gay “sex shop,” which many passers-by assume.
In April, the Christopher Street store will celebrate its 50th anniversary, a remarkable achievement for an independent mom-and-pop (or in this case, pop-and-pop) in the gentrified West Village.
But the half-century milestone, and the store itself, encompass much more. The Leather Man, which predates the 1969 Stonewall riots, traces the evolution of modern gay culture, from substrata of society to mainstream.
Among the leather items the store makes and sells are button-down uniform shirts, chaps, jock straps, teddy bears, whips, belts and traditional motorcycle gear like “The Wild One” jackets and boots. The dressing rooms even have black leather curtains.
The shop is renowned for its tailored-to-fit pants, nonpareil in their construction and authenticity, and staff craftsmen will customize virtually anything. Love a harness but want the studs silver instead of black? No problem.
The Leather Man is now in its most bustling season. It is the go-to outfitter for participants in the annual bacchanalian dance event known as the Black Party: Imagine Pan and Caligula producing a rave for gay men. It will take place this weekend in a Brooklyn warehouse, and a lot of harnesses will be involved.
“It’s like our Christmas,” said the manager Max Gregory, who has been with the store since 1995.
The level of customer service at the Leather Man is akin to a department store in a 1930s Hollywood film, albeit kinkier. The staff is knowledgeable and friendly no matter how personal or extreme a patron’s inquiries.
“That’s what’s enabled us to stick around for 50 years,” Mr. Gregory said. “During the last decade, with the rise of online stores, the market has been flooded with cheap fetish stuff. The quality of the leather and the customer service people come here and get exactly what they want.”
That clientele is singular. “There are different types of customers,” said AJ Afano, a designer and salesman at the shop. “From Metallica listeners, to your basic sirs and boys who are part of the leather scene, to people who just want a nice leash for their Chihuahua.” Apart from the fetish community and leather dilettantes, the store also caters to a sizable swath of fashion insiders.
“They make jackets and pants built to last,” said the fashion consultant Nick Wooster. “There is nothing disposable or trend driven about them. It’s leather and can last forever, and it came out of uniform culture, which factored prominently in the gay archetype. But it’s a fashion inspiration today for all men’s wear designers and buyers.” ...
A case study in polyamorous relationships in the capital city
BY COLIN HANNER
A couple sits at a high-top table near a bar at the Courtyard Marriott hotel on the west side of Columbus. I met Andy the previous day, and he introduces me to his wife, Megan. They’ve known each other 15 years, have been married for 10 years, and love their child. They’re laughing, talking, and ripping labels off seasonal beer bottles.
A family sits one table over, engrossed in their phones and tablets. They don’t say much, occasionally looking over their shoulders at people passing the lobby. There’s a heated pool nearby, and kids scurry through the main hall with goggles around their heads and floaters on their arms, their parents trailing behind.
Andy is a nurse in the military, and this past year he was deployed for a few months. Unlike many servicemen, he didn’t have to leave his wife and kid alone while he was away. Instead, he was able to rely on one of his buddies to keep watch over his family.
“I had a partner who was already there to look out for their interest in my absence, and that provides me with a great deal of comfort,” Andy says, sighing while expressing his gratitude. “It’s tough to go somewhere for four months of your life and leave behind your responsibilities.”
His stand-in caretaker’s name is Connor, and he sits next to Andy and Megan at the high-top, chiseling at the remnants of a beer label with his fingernails. He’s married to a woman named Rachel, and they are awaiting the birth of their second child.
Connor is also Megan’s boyfriend.
The family at the adjacent table glances over every now and then, picking up tidbits of our conversation and looking at one another with bug-eyed incredulity.
The three of them are polyamorous. Poly, as it’s commonly known, is the practice of being romantically involved in an open fashion with more than one person at the same time. Some may pose the question: isn’t this just swinging? Both poly and swinging are under the non-monogamous umbrella, however, swinging may only involve sharing partners sexually and nothing more, while poly often has the potential to become binding and long-lasting. But if someone participates in “poly for play,” which emphasizes sex, or identifies as “swolly,” both swinger and polyamorous, the lines become blurred. The distinction is ultimately up to the individual.
There are so many configurations within the lifestyle that some proponents label it “poly geometry.” For example, a man is married to his wife. He might have a partner, his wife may also have a partner, and their partners may have husbands and wives, as well as other partners. At every intersecting relationship, there are interchangeable possibilities.
Maybe the man has several partners. Maybe he has none. Maybe the woman has a partner who has several lovers, who in turn have wives and husbands. Maybe a man or a woman doesn’t have relationships, labels, or levels, but identifies as poly (poly anarchist). There are those who may place certain partners in a hierarchy and then divide emotional investment into corresponding relationships. Others don’t do any of those things; take what you know about relationships and throw it in a blender. It’s a lovers’ Rubik’s cube, the shifting parts interlocked yet ever-changing, except there’s no predefined perfect combination. And it’s not devoid of specific morality; for some people, The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships, and Other Adventures is the Bible of non-traditional relationships. ...
Remember witnessing #thatawkwardmoment on Girls when Allison Williams' butt was motor-boated? Or what about watching Christian Grey tease Ana Steele with a flogger for the first time? There’s no denying it: We're seeing more adventurous sex acts in pop culture...and some of them may leave you wondering if you should give them a try.
If you're looking for a little nudge of encouragement, know this: Getting your freak on might help rev up the passion between you and your partner, says Jane Greer, Ph.D., a New York-based marriage and sex therapist and author of What about me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship.
Find out whether these moves are for you—and how to give them a try:
As seen on TV: This is oral stimulation of the anus, á la Marnie Michaels in Girls.
Should you try it? This wild move is good for women and men who already love receiving oral stimulation and don't mind or are curious about booty action, says Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., of The Intimacy Institute in Boulder, Colorado. The anus has a high concentration of nerve endings, so it can be a huge erogenous zone for some, says Greer.
Give it a go: Have your partner gently rub your anus with his fingers while he's going down on you, says Skyler. Then, when you give him the green light, he can start using his tongue around the anus or even in it—if you want, of course. Make sure you give him direction on how much pressure you like and how fast you want him to go, says Skyler. “Communication is key with all of these practices,” she says.
As seen on screen: The first time Christian and Ana in Fifty Shades of Grey get busy with a flogger (those whip-like things with tassels hanging from them), it's super sexy and gentle. But you know at some point it's going to get really rough—exciting, right?
Should you try it? If watching Christian and Ana go at it in the Red Room turned you on—rather than frightened you—you might like to give flogging a shot, says Skyler. In order for you to really nail this, though, you need to make sure your partner's completely on-board. "One thing that the movie does not do a good job of demonstrating is complete consent," she says. If either one of you thinks you might not like this, back away from the flogger. ...
On September 6, 2014 Melinda Phoenix was overjoyed to welcome her first son Oliver into the world.
But it wasn't just her husband Jonathan Stein, 32, from Oakland, California, who shared her joy in the delivery room. Incredibly his second wife Dani, who was also pregnant, was beside them to witness it too.
And just 35 days later on October 11, it was Melinda's turn to offer her support to 30-year-old Dani in the delivery room, when she gave birth to Jonathan's second baby, a beautiful baby girl named Ella Lynn.
Jonathan, Dani, and Melinda are a polyamorous family, which means that they all believe in having more than one partner.
The trio and their two children all live under the same roof, with all three parents sharing every aspect of parenthood, from nighttime feeds to diaper changes.
'It might seem strange to a lot of people, but to us it makes perfect sense,' Melinda, 28, who runs her own healing company, East-West Collaborative Health, told Daily Mail Online. 'We all love each other and it was our dream to fall pregnant at the same time.
'Unlike conventional couples who are sleep deprived when a newborn comes along, there are three of us to take it in turns on the night shift. We breastfeed each others babies, split the finances three ways and the housework too.
'Even sex is great as if one person is not feeling up for it, then there are two other people to choose from.'
Dani added: 'We compliment each other perfectly as our parenting styles are so different.
'Whereas I'm a bit paranoid and constantly worrying about germs and if the babies are breathing, Melinda is the opposite.
'We just need a bigger bed, as we are all co-sleeping with the babies as well and at the moment the only way Jonathan fits is if he lays horizontally at the bottom of the bed.'
Until Dani met Melinda in 2008, Melinda had only been in monogamous relationships with men, while Dani had enjoyed relationships with both men and women.
But after meeting at a music festival, the pair knew they were destined to spend the rest of their lives together. ...
A short one today as my life is currently very complicated and conspiring against my preference to spend all of my days working out what to blog. But do you know what isn’t complicated?
It’s been much discussed recently; what with college campuses bringing in Affirmative Consent rules, and with the film of the book that managed to make lack of consent look sexy raking it in at the box office. You may not know this, but in the UK we more or less have something similar to ‘affirmative consent’ already. It’s how Ched Evans was convicted while his co-defendant was not – and is along the lines of whether the defendant had a reasonable belief that the alleged victim consented. From the court documents it appears that while the jury felt that it was reasonable to believe that the victim had consented to intercourse with the co-defendant, it was not reasonable to believe that she’d consented to intercourse with some random dude that turned up halfway through (Evans). The issue in the UK isn’t traditionally in the way it’s dealt with in court, but in the way it has been investigated – new guidance was recently issued to try to improve this.
It seems like every time an article is written about consent, or a move made towards increasing the onus on the initiator of the sex to ensure that the person they are trying to have sex with, you know, actually WANTS to have sex with them, there are a wave of comments and criticisms.
It seems a lot of people really, REALLY don’t get what ‘consent’ means. From the famous “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion” to the student that (allegedly) thought he’d surprise his partner with some non consensual BDSM to that fucking song to almost every damn comment on any article by anyone that suggests that yes means yes; it seems people really have a problem understanding that before you have sex with someone, and that’s every time you have sex with them, make sure they want to have sex with you. This goes for men, women, everyone. Whoever you are initiating sexytimes with, just make sure they are actually genuinely up for it. That’s it. It’s not hard. Really.
If you’re still struggling, just imagine instead of initiating sex, you’re making them a cup of tea.
You say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they go “omg fuck yes, I would fucking LOVE a cup of tea! Thank you!*” then you know they want a cup of tea.
If you say “hey, would you like a cup of tea?” and they um and ahh and say, “I’m not really sure…” then you can make them a cup of tea or not, but be aware that they might not drink it, and if they don’t drink it then – this is the important bit – don’t make them drink it. You can’t blame them for you going to the effort of making the tea on the off-chance they wanted it; you just have to deal with them not drinking it. Just because you made it doesn’t mean you are entitled to watch them drink it.
If they say “No thank you” then don’t make them tea. At all. Don’t make them tea, don’t make them drink tea, don’t get annoyed at them for not wanting tea. They just don’t want tea, ok?
They might say “Yes please, that’s kind of you” and then when the tea arrives they actually don’t want the tea at all. Sure, that’s kind of annoying as you’ve gone to the effort of making the tea, but they remain under no obligation to drink the tea. They did want tea, now they don’t. Sometimes people change their mind in the time it takes to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk. And it’s ok for people to change their mind, and you are still not entitled to watch them drink it even though you went to the trouble of making it.
If they are unconscious, don’t make them tea. Unconscious people don’t want tea and can’t answer the question “do you want tea” because they are unconscious.
Ok, maybe they were conscious when you asked them if they wanted tea, and they said yes, but in the time it took you to boil that kettle, brew the tea and add the milk they are now unconscious. You should just put the tea down, make sure the unconscious person is safe, and – this is the important bit – don’t make them drink the tea. They said yes then, sure, but unconscious people don’t want tea.
If someone said yes to tea, started drinking it, and then passed out before they’d finished it, don’t keep on pouring it down their throat. Take the tea away and make sure they are safe. Because unconscious people don’t want tea. Trust me on this.
If someone said “yes” to tea around your house last saturday, that doesn’t mean that they want you to make them tea all the time. They don’t want you to come around unexpectedly to their place and make them tea and force them to drink it going “BUT YOU WANTED TEA LAST WEEK”, or to wake up to find you pouring tea down their throat going “BUT YOU WANTED TEA LAST NIGHT”.
Do you think this is a stupid analogy? Yes, you all know this already – of course you wouldn’t force feed someone tea because they said yes to a cup last week. Of COURSE you wouldn’t pour tea down the throat of an unconcious person because they said yes to tea 5 minutes ago when they were conscious. But if you can understand how completely ludicrous it is to force people to have tea when they don’t want tea, and you are able to understand when people don’t want tea, then how hard is it to understand when it comes to sex?
Whether it’s tea or sex, Consent Is Everything.
And on that note, I am going to make myself a cup of tea.
*I actually said this word for word to a friend in the early hours of Sunday morning after a warehouse party. Tea. It’s fucking brilliant.
Guest Blogs do not represent NCSF but are the opinion of the blogger. NCSF provides space for activists to post their opinions in order to get feedback from the kink and nonmonogamous communities on the work they are doing and the information they are providing to the mainstream. Please leave your comments below and go to the blogger’s website to join in the conversation!
When we talk about Christianity, the conversation doesn’t usually jump right to sex. At least not fun sex. If we do touch on the subject, it’s probably in reference to that scene from the Exorcist with that possessed girl…and what she does with a cross. But in all serious, sex is important to Christian couples. So long as you’re heterosexual and married, you’re encouraged to have as much of it as you want.
The ladies over at Christian Nympohs even go so far as to blame Satan for gaps in their orgasmic history. But sex for the purposes of procreation is one thing. Recreational sex is another. So how do sex toys factor into the marriage bed?
The site Sex Within Marriage offers an explanation even the most strident atheists could accept. In response to the Bible’s silence on sex toys, they say, “Logically, there is one basic guideline I think we should use: Any toy should be used to enhance the relationship with your spouse. If it detracts from it, or becomes the focus, or your relationship becomes dependent on it, then it’s harming you, not helping. Get rid of it.” Fair enough.
Christian sex toy retailers aren’t really so different from the rest. They do steer away from selling porn or products that are packaged with “inappropriate images,” but something is better than nothing, right? There’s always room to expand.
So if it hasn’t been made clear, the Christian sex industry is out there. And it stretches a lot further than we may have thought. Listed below are some of the most unexpected toys offered. ...
By protecting the identities of people with a history of abusive behavior, FetLife.com leaves members of the BDSM community vulnerable to harm.
by DAVID Z. MORRIS
The Fifty Shades of Grey books have unleashed a wave of mainstream interest in kinky sex since their arrival in 2011. The film version, which hit theaters on February 14, will probably trigger a second surge. But the kink community is less than enthusiastic about that.
“I’m not looking forward to it,” says Autumn Lokerson, a BDSM blogger and self-identified submissive.
That’s because Lokerson has seen many Fifty Shades converts dive headfirst into BDSM, without taking much time to educate themselves about the elaborate rules, rituals, and culture that have developed over decades. Her main concern is that newbies can put themselves in danger. All those rules—summed up by the oft-repeated community mantra "Safe, Sane, Consensual"—are vital to making risky practices like bondage and the infliction of pain safer.
Also worrisome is that many dipping a toe in the waters of BDSM will start exploring through FetLife, which, with more than 3.5 million members, is the most popular social networking site for kinksters. FetLife lets members discuss issues, explore their desires, and arrange offline events and dates. But Lokerson and others have long contended that FetLife does an inadequate job of safeguarding its users, and even creates a false sense of safety in the community—primarily, by preventing identification of abusive members.
Just as the rest of society has more openly confronted the ugly reality of rape, the BDSM scene has had to acknowledge that "Safe, Sane, Consensual" is often more of an ideal than reality. In 2011, Kitty Stryker, a blogger and longtime member of the BDSM community, spoke out about having her negotiated boundaries repeatedly violated by people she trusted. This triggered a flood of similar accounts across blogs, message boards, and discussion threads.
In 2013, these anecdotes were backed up by a survey by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, a group that works for the legal protection of alternative sexual practices. The survey found that 30 percent of people who participated in BDSM had had their pre-negotiated boundaries violated by a partner.
Revelations of abuse also frequently surface on FetLife. But these discussions are seriously limited—Fetlife doesn’t allow users to name their abusers. In a 2012 forum thread titled “Confessions: TRIGGER WARNING,” dozens of members accused others of violating their consent, using their FetLife screen names. However, FetLife administrators quickly emailed the user who started the thread, requesting that all usernames be removed. The thread can still be viewed in its anonymized version by registered Fetlife users.
Many of the stories shared on FetLife are horrific. One user shared this message from a FetLife admin regarding accusations against a high-ranking community member, whose username is here replaced with [Tribe Leader]:
My name is Maureen, and I’m writing to let you know that we’ve removed a post you made in your status referring to [Tribe Leader] that said: “[Tribe Leader] has anally raped a person who was bound and gagged and unable to resist” I’m very sorry, but I’m afraid we don’t allow criminal accusations to be made anywhere on Fetlife against another member : (
The frowny face is a nice touch.