Leather 101

A resource prepared for gay leathermen & leatherdykes in San Diego.
May broader audiences also find this useful.


1.     Quick definitions

2.     Connecting

3.     Communicating & negotiating

4.     Getting more informed

5.     San Diego

6.     About this resource and presenter


Welcome & introductions

Introductions between leatherfolk are a great connector.
We'll start by introducing ourselves by first names.

Quick definitions

What does "leather" mean?

For some, “leather” is a catch-all phrase to describe a mindset for how we approach and incorporate our personal kinks into our life and relationships. We acknowledge our heart's desires and unleash our spirit to explore and celebrate.  For others, “leather” is a specific subset of the broader leather/fetish/kink community.  Personal protocols incorporating respect and honor are common.  In this group, wearing leather is appropriate. 

What are “earned” leathers

Earning leathers is a concept whereby one’s Top/Dominant/Daddy/Master or social group bestows a piece of leather in recognition of service, or mastery of a skill.

Some common leather relationships

  • Top/bottom – describes the doer and the done-to
  • Dominant/submissive ("D/s") – a power exchange interaction
    Of note:  Submissives can choose to whom to offer their submission. They do not have to be submissive to all Doms
  • Daddy/boy (&"boi") -- a D/s relationship where often the boy has some input
  • pup/Handler – generally a playful relationship
  • Master/slave -- a control/obedience relationship where the slave strives to conform to the Master's will
  • Polyamorous ("poly") -- multi-member families
  • The Nine Degrees Of Submission can help discern between nuances of submission


What could leatherfolk do together?

Heck, almost anything “from mild to wild.” Keep in mind that what goes on always depends on the two (or more) people involved and what they specifically are in to / open to / have agreed to. Here is a slew of possible ideas: 


abrasion, animal roles (puppy, pony, etc.), ball torture & ball stretching, beating, biting, blindfolds, body worship, bondage, boot worship, branding, breath control, buttplugs, cages & cells, caning, catheterization, chains, chastity, clothespins, cock torture, cock worship, collars, cowboys & cowgirls, cuttings, dildos, electricity, enemas, fire play, fisting (anal & vaginal), haircuts (flat-tops, marine high-n-tights, etc.), flogging, foot worship, fucking, gags, gas masks, glove play, group scenes, handcuffs, harnesses, hoods, ice cubes, interrogations, kidnapping, kneeling, latex clothing, leather clothing, manacles & irons, marks / bruises, medical scenes, military scenes (army, air force, navy, marines), motorcycles, mummification, obedience, pain, piercing (temporary & permanent), prison scenes, rape fantasy, rituals, rope, rubber clothing, scent worship (musk in groin & armpits for example), sensory deprivation, service / serving, sex, shaving, sleepsacks, sounds (metal urethral or vaginal rods), spanking, spirituality, spitting, straight jackets, sucking / "going down", surrender, suspension, tickling, tit clamps, tongue bath / tongue worship, uniforms (police, military, delivery man, etc.), verbal humiliation, voting to protect one's freedom of expression (including sexual and spiritual expression), water sports, wax (hot, dripping), whipping, wrestling




One means to be explicit about the expectations and desires of both parties, though they are by no means universal. Here are my family's former contracts.


A code of correct conduct. In leather, it is a specific Top / Dom / Daddy / Master's rules for their bottom / submissive / boy / slave


One way to identify boundaries for oneself and communicate that information with a potential partner




  • Know your partner -- to stay alive. If the person is a stranger to you, make sure someone knows with whom you are leaving. Here are a couple of ideas:
    • If you've met someone online and are headed to their house, e-mail the address to a trusted friend
    • If you've met someone in person and would like to head home with them, ask to see their driver's license to call a trusted friend with the name. If done politely most leatherfolk would understand that this is a step toward helping you surrender more fully for the evening
  • Safewords -- one means of helping a Top know what's going on. However, some reputable Tops do not use safewords because they feel they inhibit deep surrender

Getting "laid"

  • Sexual intercourse is not necessarily part of a leather scene
  • Groups provide a way of meeting folks but usually any parties are held separately and can exclude vanilla sex to avoid being hassled by prostitution laws
  • Dungeon parties and private parties are one way to explore leather sexuality
    • Some parties or runs require sponsors / references to get in. If interested, make yourself known, discreetly inquire where there are private parties, and when you find someone who is connected, ask if the person will sponsor you. It may take a while for the person to develop the comfort level necessary to take the calculated risk to sponsor you, so be patient
    • Please read the section on party protocol in the above link, as party protocol is important (1) to help encourage the right energy and (2) to be allowed back
  • One-on-one with someone you trust is perhaps best for surrender


  • www.fetlife.com is like Facebook for fetishists
  • www.recon.com is the place for gay male kinksters
  • www.alt.com is “adult dating for the BDSM, bondage, kink & fetish community”
  • Please also see the section San Diego: Women for more resources
  • Online is not the same as real life

Communicating & negotiating

Flagging: Where are this person's keys, armband, flogger, and/or handkerchief?

  • Left = Top, right = bottom
  • Common "handkerchief code" colors: black = SM, gray = bondage, hunter green = Daddy/boy
  • Collars - traditionally mean this person is taken

Clear, respectful communication, part I

Know your own personal truth so that you can state it in a clear, respectful manner. Here's an example:
Sir, you having a fun, hot experience is very important. At the same time, there are some health issues I need to communicate so that you can make informed decisions. For example, I am HIV-positive, so please take whatever personal precautions you feel are appropriate. Also, oral sex is very hot, but has some gray areas. If you got all worked up and wanted to blow a man-load, I'd be mighty excited to feel it if allowed. Would you please shoot it outside my mouth, Sir? Thank you, Sir!

Clear, respectful communication, part II

The leather tribe works with power.
Many folks do it well and with style.
The tribe does have a history, however, of friendly fire -- eating our own.
My observation is that we can each help contain these fires with these actions:

1.     When disagreements happen, and they will, be respectful

2.     Discreet, constructive input is helpful

3.     Avoid gossip


Dan Kalin was my leather mentor. He was the first person who came up to me at a leather bar, circa 1988, and said "I want to tie you up." My response was along the lines of "That's nice. Perhaps some other time." Dan seemed to intuitively know that I was afraid. He stayed and we talked. I started asking questions such as "Would you stop if I asked?" (His answer was the intriguing: "Yes, but I won't start again.") "Could there be a time limit?" (He said it depended.  I inquired why.  He explained that it took a while to tie someone up, and if the time were too short that would mean that untying would come shortly after, and that wouldn’t be worth his time.)  When I became better versed in the leather community I realized that what we had done was negotiate a scene. I made the leap of faith and went with him to the Brotherhood of Pain dungeon.  It was deliciously sinister.  Ah, the first time at anything: Those were some of the hottest four hours of my life.


Getting more informed

Web sites

  • caryl's BDSM Page is a vast trove of information, particularly about dating
  • Jack Rinella's LeatherViews.com has extensive writings on a broad variety of topics under the Kinky Info tab
  • The Leather Journal at www.theleatherjournal.com
  • OfficerWes.com will get you to the information I've compiled about bondage, cathartic flogging, dungeon parties, leather and spirituality, Dominance and submission & Mastery and slavery, erotic electricity, focus, petitions, protocol, making a rope harness, things that pinch, uniforms, and my leather family -- but be sure to check out the concise, external Leather/BDSM Resources


There are plenty of good or decent books nowadays. Here are some I'd recommend for a person starting out in leather:

  • Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics and Practice, edited by Mark Thompson.
    This book provides history from the '40s forward.
  • Ties That Bind: The SM / Leather / Fetish Erotic Style; Issues, Commentaries and Advice, by Guy Baldwin, M.S.
    Guy Baldwin is a presence; and his written voice reflects that.  Grounded.  Thoughtful.  Easy to read and digest.
  • SlaveCraft:  Roadmaps for Erotic Servitude -- Principles, Skills and Tools also by Guy Baldwin.
    I highly recommend this for anyone wishing to manifest their slavery
  • Radical Ecstasy, by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy
    Talks about what some consider the spiritual side of BDSM sex.  This book was a delight to read -- open, accessible, deep, light; all at once.
  • Power Circuits:  Polyamory in a Power Dynamic, by Raven Kaldera
    Great book for those interested in modern leather families.


Some thoughts

  • Working with a real-live person, face-to-face, that you trust, beats on-line, if it's an option
  • Search for a good group match at https://fetlife.com/groups
  • groups.queernet.org -- "QueerNet Groups is the home to hundreds of email-based communities for the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered, HIV/AIDS, and leather/S&M communities."

San Diego


  • Bears of San Diego www.bearssd.org is a club for bears (big furry men) and bear fanciers.
  • Club X San Diego www.clubxsd.org is a pansexual (all inclusive: male, female, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, etc.) gateway group.  Hosts quite a few different activities.
  • FetishMen SanDiego fetishmensandiego.blogspot.com creates social gatherings – boot night, dancing, cigar night -- that cater to gay men who enjoy leather, uniforms, rubber and other fetishwear.
  • Girls’ Night Out holds quarterly all women's play parties.  More info at fetlife.com/groups/29269
  • San Diego Foxhole www.foxholem4m.com is for men age 21+
  • San Diego TNG fetlife.com/groups/7272 is a group for the 18-30something crowd.
  • Yellow Hankies San Diego (YHSD) for men who are into Water Sports & Kink Play. Holds two monthly socials on the first & third Thursday of every month at the San Diego Eagle.  Subscribe to e-list.

Events (including classes, courses & runs)

·        Sober and ride a motorcycle? There's a San Diego chapter of Sober Riders MC, at www.soberridersmc.org

·        San Diego Leather Pride.  Held the 3rd weekend in March.

·        San Diego Leather Realm within San Diego Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride in July.  More info at www.sandiegoleatherrealm.com and www.sdpride.org

·        Rope.  There is a robust local rope community that teaches skills and hosts events.  For more information check out All Tied Up San Diego fetlife.com/groups/128274 and Rope Space fetlife.com/groups/88833

·        San Diego WEG - Workshops, Events, & Gatherings are listed at fetlife.com/groups/79938

·        San Diego Whip Practice is normally the first Sunday of the month from noon to 2pm. For more information see San Diego WEG (above)



·        Girls Night Out! https://fetlife.com/groups/29269/about

·        DESIRE Leather Women Unleashed https://fetlife.com/groups/2109

·        Fierce Femmes of Orange County https://fetlife.com/groups/142797

·        Kinky Women Who Like Women – Los Angeles https://fetlife.com/groups/22969

·        LAGOL (Los Angeles girls of Leather) https://fetlife.com/groups/87829

·        SDGOL (San Diego Girls of Leather) https://fetlife.com/groups/51060


·        Butch-Femme group of San Diego

·        San Diego Girls of Leather

·        Sex Positive Queer Women of San Diego

In person events:

·        DESIRE Leather Women Unleashed www.desireleatherwomen.org (Palm Springs)

·        Girls Night Out!  https://fetlife.com/groups/29269/about (San Diego)

·        IMsL (International Ms Leather) www.imsl.org/ (San Jose)

Leather bars & dance spots

  • Eagle, 3040 North Park Way, www.sandiegoeagle.com
  • Pecs, 2046 University Avenue, www.pecsbar.com is the place for bears
  • Rich's, 1051 University Avenue, www.richssandiego.com -- not usually a leather bar but the 3rd Saturday of the month is "L.L. Bear," a night of Leather, Levi's and Bears

Leather stores

  • Steve Wendt of Moose Leather, does great work and takes on a few projects.  “Besides new items, I can also repair and alter most leather goods.”  His shop is upstairs in Pleasures & Treasures (see below).  Also check out www.moose-leather.com
  • Bargain Center (military surplus store), 3015 North Park Way, 619-295-1181.
  • Pleasures & Treasures, 2525 University Ave., 619-822-4280.
    Of note:  Slings can be rented here.



About this workshop

Leather 101 is a welcoming workshop for all.  We'll touch on getting started, communication, relationships, spirituality, tips for us in San Diego, and resources for learning more.   

Leather 101 is a popular topic and has been presented to different audiences including San Diego Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride , San Diego League of Gentlemen and Club X San Diego nearly every year since 2003.  Officer Wes thanks his friend Bikkja Amy for the information on leather women’s resources that was updated in 2017, and his friend Wendy Sue for the resources that were used 2004-2017.

About our presenter:

Officer Wes entered his first leather bar in 1980.  He has examined and shared on issues of sexual expression and other areas of the human experience for much of his life.  His experiences and viewpoints have appeared in many publications including USA Today and The Advocate.  He judges regional and international contests and presents programs and workshops on Master/slave and Daddy/boy relationships, spirituality and leather, great sex, pain and pleasure, uniforms, fetish, interrogation, electricity, and other aspects of the BDSM arts at clubs and events across the country.  He is credited as an influence in the books Protocol Handbook for the Leather Slave and Master/slave Relations, and is the author of the electrical chapter of the upcoming book Edgeplay and Power Exchange.  His Web sites on sexuality, health and kink stand as a resource for others seeking to live in integrity with their authentic selves and have been visited by over a quarter of a million people. 

Officer Wes was an inaugural mentor for SAADE, the School for Advanced American Dominant Education, a formal mentoring program for new dominants that instructs its apprentices not only in physical SM practices but on the mental, emotional and spiritual dynamics of BDSM as well.  He served on the host committee for Living in Leather VIII, was an inaugural core member of San Diego's private men's BDSM group SuperPigs, and is an Associate Member of the Chicago Hellfire Club. 

Officer Wes has an open leather family built around shared values of respect, honor, trust, and love.  He has a slave and dogslave in service and is himself in service to a Daddy.  More information about Officer Wes can be found at www.officerwes.com. 

It is my great hope that this may be helpful on your own journey of heart and spirit in leather - and out!

-- Officer Wes




© 2003-2021 by Officer Wes