It used to be that only a few large cities had any sort of organized leather scene. But in recent years, with the help of the Internet, leather/BDSM/fetish activities have spread to many smaller cities and towns. It is a measure, I think, of how the scene has grown over the years that currently, some visible degree of leather/BDSM/fetish activity can be found pretty much coast- to-coast in the United States (with one major regional exception).
I make this conclusion based on several nonscientific and arbitrary data sources: (1) where leather clubs belonging to various regional club councils are located; (2) where the contestants have come from at leather contests I’ve been to lately; and (3) where nominees for this year’s Pantheon of Leather Community Service Awards hailed from.
My thinking here is that some degree of organized leather activity has to exist in an area in order to keep a club going, send someone to compete in a contest, or nominate someone from the area for a Pantheon award.
Let’s look at leather club activity first. The Atlantic Motorcycle Coordinating Council (AMCC) coordinates activities for 26 participating clubs in the eastern United States, while the Mid-America Conference of Clubs (MACC) does so for 28 clubs in states in the middle of the country. No similar council exists for the western part of the nation.
AMCC presently has member clubs in many of its constituent states; the exceptions are New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, and West Virginia. MACC currently has member clubs in all of its constituent states except Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, and Mississippi. Later on, we’ll see if we can find other kinds of leather activity in these states.
Looking at AMCC and MACC membership gives us information about gay male leather activity, as does my next example: the International Mr. Leather (IML) Contest. This year, IML contestants came from 22 states (as well as six foreign countries). All the Eastern and Midwestern states sending contestants to IML are already on our leather map, because they have member clubs in AMCC or MACC. But in the West, looking at where this year’s IML contestants came from allows us to add Arizona, California, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Washington to our list of states with a leather presence.
Now, let’s look at a contest whose titleholders represent the pansexual leather community: the Mr. and Ms. Olympus Leather Contest. Out of nine contestants this year, three were from states we can add to our leather map of the United States: Alabama, Utah, and West Virginia. With the addition of the 2008 Pantheon of Leather award nominees, we can account for even more states. This year’s nominees came from 35 states, including some that aren’t yet on our map: Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, and North Carolina.
After looking at these measurements of leather activity, some states still aren’t on our map. Here’s where I cheat by adding another data source: (4) an online leather club directory maintained by The Leather Journal. This, I suppose, is the equivalent of Googling crossword puzzle clues, but never mind.
In the Northeast, we still were missing New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The Leather Journal lists one club in New Hampshire and several in Rhode Island, but none in Vermont—which has no Target stores, either. I wonder if there’s a connection? At least, Vermont, a small state, is surrounded by states with a higher level of leather/BDSM/fetish activity.
In the South, our map still was missing Arkansas, Mississippi, and South Carolina. For Arkansas, The Leather Journal lists Leathermen of Arkansas and MAsT: Ozarks Region. For South Carolina, it lists clubs in Charleston, Columbia, and Myrtle Beach. But Mississippi has nothing listed. Again, at least, Mississippi is surrounded by states with more to offer in the way of leather/BDSM/fetish.
What about our two newest states? Alaska has the Last Frontier Men’s Club in Anchorage, which serves both leather and bears, and which several years ago sent a contestant to IML. The Leather Journal lists nothing for Hawaii, though.
That leaves us with five remaining (and neighboring) states, a large hole in the northwestern part of our map representing leather’s last frontier: Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Checking my leather history book, I see that only two of these states ever have sent a contestant to IML (Idaho in 1989 and 1991, and North Dakota in 1997). The Leather Journal listings are meager for Idaho (Boise Black Rose and a bear group) and South Dakota (Leather Spirits, a pansexual group). Nothing at all is listed for Montana, North Dakota, or Wyoming. If leathermen were missionaries, these five states would represent fertile ground for saving souls.
That’s our snapshot of what today’s map of leather across the United States looks like. Of course, things have changed over the years, and will continue to do so. Many fabled leather clubs of yesterday no longer are around. Leather/BSDM/fetish activity in local communities has been known to heat up or cool down for any number of reasons.
So, what tomorrow’s leather map will look like is anyone’s guess. Who knows? If enough of us retire to Hawaii, then Honolulu one day might be a leather hot spot. Stay tuned.