WELCOME TO THE LEATHER ZONE!
“Life, Leather, and the Pursuit of Happiness“ is the new book by columnist Steven Lenius, who tells us that he came out as a gay man at the age of 19, and had his second coming out as a leatherman at age 37. Heavily promoted at Leather events throughout the country, I initially expected Lenius’ book to be a handbook of Leather traditions and conventions. Or maybe it would be a written history of the Leather community in the U.S, dating back to the first post-World War II gay men‘s motorcycle clubs. But this book is NOT “Leather for Dummies”, nor are the first few words “In the Beginning”. Instead, “Life, Leather, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is a vast and varied collection of the author’s columns, mostly from “Lavender” Magazine, Minnesota’s GLBT publication. Think of the book as a high-end Chinese buffet-- a “lil’ bit of everything”-- with leather placemats, of course. And I’ll take a Chinese buffet over a boring sit-down dinner any day! Lenius modestly calls himself “Your humble columnist“, but he is a bona fide expert on the leather community; his accomplishments include being named Great Lakes Mr. Drummer 1994 and receiving multiple accolades for his writings through the years. The book features fifteen years of Lenius’ columns-- and while the subjects are widely varied (everything from the erotic use of knives to Christian BDSM. Really!), those readers looking for some history of the Leather Nation, or some expert advice on all things Leather (including the proper care of your gear), won‘t be disappointed. Throughout the book, the author pays deserved homage to Drummer Magazine; such organizations as The Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago and The National Coalition of Sexual Freedom; and such pioneering individuals as Chuck Renslow (founder of International Mr. Leather, the Big Daddy of Leather Contests) and sex-positive educator/domme Cleo Dubois. In one piece called “Sic Transit Leather Mundi“, Lenius summarizes about the post-Y2K dearth of leather bars in New York City, once the mecca of leather life in the U.S. In Chapter 9, “Sash Life”, he writes about the phenomenon of Leather Contests, and we’re treated to an absolutely priceless and revealing segment called “Inside IML: A Judges Notebook”, based on the author’s own experience as a judge at IML 2002. While the book focuses on the Leather community, many of Lenius’ columns were written with the entire GLBT community in mind-- and his reflections hit their mark quite well. He opines about such phenomena as “Smart Sex” (as opposed to the more dated concept of “Safe Sex”), and the issue of gay marriage. In fact, Lenius wrote his piece about gay nuptials back in 1996 (“Gay Marriage [and other forms of bondage]”)-- long before the subject, for better or worse, seemed to become THE defining issue of our quest for liberation today. On the issue of barebacking (His advice is, unambiguously, “Barebacking: Just DON’T do it.”), Lenius opines creatively on why some guys continue to play it unsafe: “Some think it’s romantic to be Mimi in ‘La Boheme’.” Makes you think, huh?
Whether the subject is playful (Love those BDSM-reworked Christmas carols!) or the political, “Life, Leather, and the Pursuit of Happiness” is a fun and fast-moving read. I guarantee you‘ll definitely be smarter by last page… or , more likely, a lot sooner. Ten percent of the profits from the sale of “Life, Leather and the Pursuit of Happiness” will be donated to Leather-related charities including The Leather Archives and Museum, and The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Visit www.LifeLeatherPursuit.com for more info.