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The women's leather scene in Australia

18 October 1997

By Kirrily ("Skud") Robert.

Copyright © 1997 Kirrily Robert; not to be reproduced in any medium without permission.

Women who do BDSM with other women are a minority within a minority, both in Australia and worldwide. Neither the pansexual BDSM scene nor the vanilla lesbian scene specifically caters towards our needs, but there are elements of each which can be useful to us.

Lesbian BDSM (or BDSM between bisexual, straight, transgendered, or any other kind of women) is a difficult path to follow for several reasons. Firstly, the mainstream feminist movement disapproves of it because it doesn't comply with their preferred image of caring, nurturing womanhood and smacks of violence and oppression. This makes it hard for women to admit to being interested in BDSM, and even harder for them to be open about their interest with prospective partners. Secondly, while the pansexual BDSM scene accepts people of all sexual orientations, we have to face the fact that only a small proportion of it is made up of women who are interested in playing with other women. This is partly because some women (especially lesbians) don't want to be involved in a pansexual group at all, and partly because those women that do get involved sometimes find that certain elements of the pansexual groups are not sufficiently supportive and are sometimes downright rude them. I have on several occasions been propositioned for BDSM or sex and especially for threesomes by men who don't seem to understand that lesbianism isn't just something that we do to turn guys on. While a polite "No thanks" (or failing that, a word to the hosts) usually fixes the problem, its frequent recurrence can make women less prepared to attend pansexual events.

But don't get the idea that those pansexual groups or clubs have nothing to offer! I have been involved in a few of them to varying degrees, from a single visit to regular attendance or organizational roles, and have gained worthwhile experience and met new and interesting people in each case. Invariably there are dykes or bi girls there, sometimes playing or sometimes just wanting to meet people or check the place out. Most pansexual play parties have single-sex areas or rooms that can be grabbed by small groups for private use, allowing us to have a bit of private space if we want. Even in a mixed space, a quiet word to the hosts or dungeon monitors will often ensure that they keep the space friendly. Don't be afraid to go up to the biggest scariest dyke you can find and ask her to politely remove anyone who starts making inappropriate comments, masturbating, or sucking energy out of the scene by their obnoxious presence. Believe me, most big scary dykes would be thrilled with the opportunity.

I should probably explain my thoughts on "energy vacuums". A good BDSM scene has a certain kind of focussed energy between the top(s) and bottom(s) and also between the participants and the audience. Just as the participants being in the wrong mood or distracted by other things can ruin a scene, it can also be ruined by an audience who are not in the right frame of mind. A good audience becomes a part of the scene through their empathy with the participants. If an audience member is more caught up in themselves, they will draw energy out of the scene. Some of the most obvious examples of this that I have seen are when straight men watch women playing primarily for their own titillation and offer no support to the players. A responsible and experienced host or dungeon monitor will be able to avoid these sorts of situations by gently removing energy-vacuums from the playspace, but a DM can't be everywhere at once, and this sort of behaviour all too often discourages female players from returning.

As far as I can tell, the gay male leather scene is more centred around leather bike clubs and sex clubs, both of which exclude women from membership. There are also leather bars, but my experience with one such bar in Melbourne leads me to believe that even if they advertise as "gay/lesbian" or "male mixed" it's really just boys space. The leather fags need somewhere to cruise too; it's just unfortunate that the small group of women who regularly socialise with leathermen and identify strongly with the gay male leather scene (and yes, there are some) can't go drink with them.

As for the lesbian BDSM scene - well, there isn't really one. Mostly it's a small and isolated network of people who know people, usually through other circles such as alternative nightclubs, fetish clothing shops, the internet, etc. You will also see leather dykes out and about at Mardi Gras, Midsumma, and any major GLBT event, but chances are you won't know them and won't know anyone who knows them and, if you're like me, you'll be wary of going up to them and introducing yourself outright. The best advice I can give is: Network, Network, Network! If you know two or three pervy women, chances are that each of them knows just as many. If you can get to know a few more, chances are that an invitation to one of the private or semi-private playparties will come your way, and then you'll be well on your way to a having a perv peer group for play or mutual support.

Lastly, I would urge any women who do BDSM with other women to make themselves known! Get out there at Mardi Gras wearing your leather and latex, stick that leather pride badge on your lapel, join mailing lists, write personal ads, contribute to magazines. If you don't let us see you, how will we ever get to meet you? And if we don't meet you, how the hell will we know to invite you to our parties? See, it's for your own good, really it is!

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