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"How The Internet Killed (Or Maybe Just Changed) Dallas' Leather Scene"

on Thursday, 25 August 2011. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Dallas Observer News

Hardy Haberman was in his local dungeon a couple years ago, beating a friend at a "play party," when things suddenly got weird. Wielding a soft leather flogger — a thick-handled instrument that resembles a whip, but with a dozen slender tails — he was lashing the slightly younger man's back. Haberman and his friend barely noticed the crowd formed around them; they were focused totally on each other. But Haberman did notice that his friend was enjoying the flogging. He knew it from the way the man moaned, writhed, screamed and cursed under his touch. True to leather-scene etiquette, though, Haberman's plaything remained unfailingly polite. "Motherfucker! Sir!" he yelled, as leather met skin.

As Haberman flogged away, a straight couple kept edging in close — way too close, stepping right into the backswing of Haberman's flogger. When he finally could sense their presence, he stopped to avoid hitting them. He gave them a look that, for most people in the crowd, would have been enough to get them to back off. But they didn't budge.

Now they were messing with Haberman's rhythm. He ignored their presence as long as he could, but then the man — wearing a billowy white Renaissance Faire-style blouse, for reasons Haberman couldn't quite make out — stepped even closer and started barraging Haberman with questions. "How do you do that?" he asked, staring in fascination as the flogger landed another blow.

Haberman was starting to understand: The couple was clueless, just the latest in a parade of curious amateurs who leather-scene vets swear are destroying Dallas' once happily insular leather community.

"Look," Haberman finally told the guy. "I'm not trying to teach a class here. I'm just trying to have a good time with my friend." He sarcastically offered to flog Ren Faire next, if he really wanted a demonstration of Haberman's "technique."

The guy and his girlfriend stormed off in a huff. Later, they complained to the party's organizer about Haberman's mid-flog display.

Haberman's a big man in his early 60s; he'd be a lot more imposing if not for the long, drooping mustache that makes him look like a friendly walrus. He's been around long enough to remember, wistfully, the way Dallas' leather scene used to be back in the 1970s. To hear him and his friends tell it, a contemporary leatherman can't swing a flogger or clamp a nipple around here without running into some "sexual tourist" poking around the city's dungeon and play-party scene — "looking," Haberman says, "to spice up their love lives."

"For years, we flew under the radar, and we had some fabulous times," he says, reveling in the memory of the scene's powerful "sex magic." "There was an erotic energy that happened that was palpable. Now you just don't see it as much." ...

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