HOIST Continues a Legacy of Leather Culture with Safe, Consenting Practices

(Photos courtesy of Sir Den)

HOIST has been around for seven years. Focus had the pleasure of speaking with Boy Aaron, this year’s president.

What is HOIST’s background?

HOIST is a leather group based in Memphis that is part of a larger body called the Mid-America Conference of Clubs (MACC). While the group has been around locally for the past seven years, we celebrate the leather culture that has thrived in LGBTQ+ spaces for decades.

Our group hosts a local run where it celebrates friendship. We also promote and create a community of leather enthusiasts which is a safe space for gay, bisexual, and trans men to explore their interests.

Describe the history of Leather in the LGBTQ+ Community.

Historically speaking, in the United States, leather communities began after WWII. It spawned after a large number of soldiers returned from war and attempted to create clubs that captured the brotherhood which existed during the war.

Within the straight community, clubs like the Hells Angels were very popular and allowed for acceptance. On the gay side, various leather groups popped up. These leather groups were a safe place to gather, enjoy each other, and explore common interests. You might notice in many of the leather groups’ logos there is iconography and a presence of military symbols. That comes straight from this military history.

During the ’60s and ’70s, politics became more present in leather culture, where you’ll notice police and authority figures embodied more. This is because during this time the leather tribe acted as radicals for protecting pride–they were considered the champions of pride.

There have always been conservative elements in gay pride as well as radical movements. For example, throughout the ’80s and ’90s, marriage equality was part of the more conservative side. Leather was more radical with their styles of representation.

Why is Leather essential in the community?

Gay men’s sexual interest is stigmatized. You see it in Memphis. You see slut shaming. Not just with women, but with men.

You see folks who have harnesses or leather in their closets, and they feel sexy in them. But still, you won’t see them wear them in public even if that would be appropriate. You see men who are more like bears, men who might feel shy or feel not as outgoing because they feel like they might be rejected.

The leather community here at HOIST tries to be a home for all of that. We are here for folks who are doubly stigmatized. Gay men are already stigmatized as it is. When folks want to explore their likes, we want to be a safe place that allows that community for them without judgment.

Many members are in poly relationships or have interests in various forms of fetish and kink and they want to meet others like them. The leather community is a safe place where they can do so. Beyond that, we are also educators. We have a tradition that goes back many decades. We have accumulated knowledge of how to perform fetish, kinks, and non-traditional relationship types in a safe, sane, and consensual environment. That is critical to what we do. We want to be able to teach people how to engage in life in ways that are healthy for all people and members involved. Safe. Sane. Consensual.

The Leather community is growing. Tell us about Sex & Love in the Leather Community.

Relationship types in the leather community are unique. There are different relationship dynamics like Daddy/Boy or Master/Slave. A lot of these really come out of the military as men conform to the roles they are derived from. You had front-line soldiers who took orders from officers. When the leather groups were created, they continued similar relationship forms because they were exciting and people enjoyed it.

What developed in our community was the dynamic power fetish and how they relate to real-world relationships. In the straight world, you see manifestations of this with dominatrixes and submissives. During the 80s and 90s, there were types referred to as Master/Slave which now we reference as Daddy/Boy.

What that speaks to is someone who may be a more submissive personality and would be “collared” by a more dominant “sir.” I want to emphasize that this is always a mutual, consensual relationship. Generally, the Sir is a sexual mentor who offers guidance, romance, and training. Over time, Leather families develop and provide guidance. The Sir will often have many subs, forming a poly relationship with the other subs.

Generally, the family is exchanging power dynamics. Giving up some power can be highly erotic for both the Sir and the sub. It can also be a very therapeutic place that allows one to turn off their brain to control a situation in a trusted case. It can be a profound experience. It is easy to look at the flogs and whips and think it is abusive, but everything we practice is safe, sane, and consensual. In my experience, it is a form of healing from past traumas.