The International Ms Leather 2009 event (IMsL) this year was not just good (and sexy!) fun, but I think it really succeeded at one of its most important goals: reconnecting friends and leading to the planning, brainstorming, and day-dreaming that will move forward the leather and BDSM communities for at least the next year.
This year, my Master and I had our dear girl, Miss Maggie Mayhem, in tow with us, which certainly added not only to our fun, but, as this was her first IMsL, but also to both of us seeing things from her fresh point of view. (And I tell you, is she a fresh one!)
Due to work, we had to miss “Seduction: An Evening of Burlesque, Strip Tease, Lap Dancing, Drag and more!” on Thursday night, which was a damn shame, because I keep hearing that it’s hot as hell, a really steamy, erotic kick-start to the weekend. One year, I must make it out to that event!
However, we were bouncingly ready to go on Friday evening, to the Opening Ceremony and the Slave Auction (which auctions off slaves, Masters, Mistresses, and anyone willing to sell themselves for charity – the charities including: The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Transgender Historical Society, The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, The Leather Archives & Museum and the IMsL and IMsBB Title Holder Travel Fund).
Once ensconced in our seats, we grabbed some drinks and watched the show. No, the evening had not formally started yet – it was people-watching which was like hors d’oeuvres before supper. People had arrived not only from all over the U.S., but internationally as well, which was made clear in the colour guard, a military-style presentation of flags of countries as well as the Gay Pride flag and the Leather Pride flag.
Formality and ceremony are what the opening of IMsL is all about. People both on and off the stage proudly wear their club colours (and/or are flagging their desires by hanky code). The warm sheen of black leather is everywhere, although the higher gloss of PVC/vinyl and latex also flashes through the crowd. On that first night, old friends greet each other quickly before they find their seats, and a great deal of cruising and flirting takes the energy up to a very anticipatory place.
For me, despite all the sexy people – and also an amazing list of (in)famous people in the BDSM, leather, fetish, and rope bondage communities – who appeared both on-stage and off, the best part of the evening was when State Senator Mark Leno (the first openly gay man elected to the California State Senate) arrived (he was rather late, which led to – literally – a number of jokes) and presented the outgoing title-holders (International Ms. Leather 2008 Hobbit Joost and International Ms. Bootblack 2008 “Q”) with certificates of recognition. To have a politician (one of forty representing 37 million people) not just involving himself with the leather community, but acknowledging the public service done by the 2009 IMsL winners over the course of the past year was amazing and gratifying to see, and is an inspirational hope for the future of leather and all kink.
My other favourite part of Friday evening was the “Temptation Dance Party.” Not because it was the best dance party I’ve ever been to … but because it reminded me a bit of my school dances (being in a hotel, like my senior year graduation dance), but without any of the social trauma, only the warm sensation of being with friends, and being totally comfortable in dancing just for the sheer pleasure of it, enjoying the happiness of those around you. (So it was much better than any school dance – point proven by the gay line dancing which had been decidedly lacking at any school social to which I’ve ever been!)
Saturday night was even better. There had been classes and other social events all day; we showed up in the early evening, to chat with friends and do a bit of shopping before the main event began. My Master bought three new canes from our friend Domina, and I found a cute hat to bid on in the charity auction. There were lots more tempting things to buy in the vending area, but we found some self-control and wandered out to the buffet, bumping into an assortment of local and out-of-town acquaintances along the way.
Instead of the casual social seating around tables like the night before, on Saturday night the chairs were lined up in rows: this was all about the show! The judge’s table sat in front of the stage (and I crawled in front of it to take pictures – getting some nice compliments from the judges on my outfit, an authentic equestrienne number!)
There were three IMsL contestants, and three IMsBB contestants, duking it out to win a year … of service and hard work. Talk about masochists! An IMsL winner travels the world doing education and community-building, acting as a mentor, role model and spokesperson for the leather community. Granted, they have some fun times and meet lots of amazing people, but the fact of the matter is that these women have all put a lot of time, effort, and energy into winning a competition (as do their male counterparts in the International Mr. Leather contest), where the reward is a year of more giving of your time, effort, and energy. That’s a pretty impressive thing, and that’s why Senator Leno was awarding the out-going title-holders the night before.
The contestants are judged on a number of things: a “Personal Interview” which is done before the contest, the ubiquitous Speech, a section called “Hotwear and Pop Question,” where the contestant, in her sexiest kinky finery, must answer a question (this year amusing pulled from a (hopefully empty) sharps container! Finally, and what everyone is waiting for (like the bikini part of a beauty pageant) the “Fantasy” performance, where the contestants show off their most erotic kinky fantasy for the eager crowd. (Not to ignore the sexy opening number, with all the contestants giving the crowd a sizzling appetiser to the evenings events!)
While all the contestants for IMsL (Mina De Sade-Fatale, Sarah Sloane, and Lamalani) did a great job, this year the winner was plain from the start. The gorgeous Lamalani was not just well-spoken and obviously dedicated to leather ideals, but her fantasy performance knocked the leather chaps off the crowd. A humorous homage to “The Matrix” movies (entitled perfectly, “Enter the Gaytrix”), Lamalani was sexier than Keanu Reeves ever was as “Neo,” and battled several well-suited “Agent Smiths” in a rough and seriously hot scene; the audience were by this point making almost animalistic sounds of lust and approval – I personally was attempting not to get drool in my new camera.
No one was surprised, except maybe Lamalani herself, when she won, and there is something so satisfactory when the right person wins!
Going for the BootBlack award, Pony, Slave Tabitha, and X-ina were tested in Public Presentation/Interview, Technical Knowledge and Skill, as well as “what each individual brings to the art of bootblacking in addition to shining shoes,” as well as a popular vote.
The adorable Pony proved her dedication to bootblacking, and seeing her face light up when she won was a true treat.
After the contest that night, the leather-scented lust spread out through the hotel, from the private parties in various rooms (and not-so-private ones!) to the three “dungeons” downstairs – meeting rooms where normally bored employees meet for motivational programmes and collectors of teddy bears or rocks and minerals show their wares, there was your choice of the women’s only dungeon, the men’s only dungeon, and the mixed (random assorted, perhaps, given it was San Francisco?) dungeon.
It was in the latter that we three settled down to both play and enjoy the show. The only problem was where to look first! In one corner a woman beating a man tied into a rope web. In another, I spied a friend of mine in the middle of an all-girl-gang-bang. Another corner had a playground for “littles.” All around people of all genders and orientations squeezed onto every available piece of equipment. The room was practically steamy, and you could get high off the accumulated pheromones. While Maggie wandered off to do some rope bondage with Lochai from Hogtied.com, my Master tried out one of the new canes on me.
We ended up, by 2am, sitting with a group of people on the dungeon floor, chatting about everything and anything. I think we went home sometime around 3am, but what I remember most is not wanting to leave, just wanting to stay in that warm, cosy space, enjoying wonderful conversation and fraternity with attractive and interesting pervs.
But we did eventually have to go to bed, because there was once last day of leather ahead of us. There was a brunch with the keynote speaker; we were a bit too groggy to make it to that one, nor did we make it to “MAKE PLAY HAPPEN! A Hands-On Educational and Play Experience.” This was because we were in a suite in the hotel, interviewing Janet Hardy and Dossie Easton about their re-release of The Ethical Slut.
Wandering around the hotel that day was almost the best part of the whole weekend. People were stumbling around, wide, very sated grins on their faces. It was a whole hotel full of perverts who were decidedly pleased with themselves, standing around in hotel rooms, and hallways, chatting with old friends, new friends, and last night’s tricks. We got so caught up in conversing and catching up with friends that we missed the Porn Festival which took place that afternoon.
I am not able to do justice to the sheer amount of stuff there was to do at IMsL – there weren’t just the evening events on the three days of IMsL. The days were filled with classes, as well. (Some of the amusing class titles were: “Up Yours! Asshole,” “Wham Bam!,” “Tantra for Perverts,” “Cigars and Pipes: Fast, Cheap and Easy,” and “Porno 101: Nuts and Bolts.” But there were more serious offerings, like “Protecting Yourself Legally.” And there were too many parties to attend, brunches and bootblacking lounges, meet-n-greets and after-parties, to have comprehensively covered all of them.
But the way IMsL really triumphs comes not from the scheduled classes, or formal speakers/panels/discussions, or even the contest itself, but from the casual brushing shoulders of people from the leather, kink, and fetish communities; from the person you meet (and maybe play with) in the dungeon, who turns out (over breakfast the next day, say) to have some great ideas that dovetail nicely with a project of yours; to the discussions in the hallways, as friends mingle and chat, introduce new friends (and fresh blood, or, um, fresh meat!) – the connections made in the hallways of the host hotel, as either eager, hot, and bothered or smugly satiated people move from their rooms, to events, to the dungeons, and then back to their rooms, possibly with new friends in tow – it’s those connections which really give the leather/BDSM community the impetus of growth and change, and which can inspire other kink communities.