From Issue 2.5 - March/April 1996

Stand & Model or S&M
Are SF Lesbain Leather Contests Losing Steam?

By Drew K. Campbell

In his December 21, 1995 year-in-review column, Mr. Marcus observed that "San Francisco's female leather community is at a standstill." This he deduces from the lack of participation in women's title contests.

Clearly the good turnout (despite the miserable weather) for the 1996 Dyke Daddy/Dyke Mommy contest shows that some folks are dedicated to seeing women's title contests continue. But the organizers had to scramble to find contestants, even going so far as to call individuals to try to convince them to run. What's behind the "apathy" that Mr. Marcus accuses the women's community of? And what is the role of contests for women?

When I asked women how they felt about titles, here's what I heard:

"They're just popularity contests."

"Are women still going in for beauty pagents?"

"Who wants to work their ass off for a year for some stupid sash? I can make a sash!"

"No one supports female titleholders anyway. Especially not the male-owned leather businesses. Where am I supposed to get the money to put in an appearance at all these events?"

"I don't identify as a Mommy, and besides, femmes get treated like crap in this community. I don't want to become a target."

And Your Point?

Many women expressed disdain for they called the "beauty pagent" aspect of contests. What is "leather image" (one of the categories for Dyke Mommy/Dyke Daddy) other than standing and modeling? What next, a swimsuit competition? What exactly is the connection between being able to perform on stage and being a good Daddy or Mommy? And more important, how can we pretend to judge a person's integrity and commitment with a few superficial questions ("What's the difference between a boy or a girl and a slave?")?

Another objection is the amount of work involved...and the lack of reward or recognition. The reality is that people who want to work for the community do so, with or without the sash. (The new Dyke Mommy, Beth Elliott, is an excellent example of such commitment, as are all of the previous SF Dyke Daddies.) I, for one, would much rather see people commended for work they've already done, not what they promise to do. Too often, contestants' speeches sound remarkably like political cant -- which isn't surprising, considering that they are expected to establish their "platform" in less than five minutes on stage.

The lack of financial support, both locally and nationally, poses another obstacle for many women. Some businesses -- even women-owned ones -- seem hesitant to support female contestants. Despite travel funds, many women are simply unable to pay title-related expenses.

Finally, the women's community at large hasn't gravitated to contests as major social events. Rather, private play parties are what draw large numbers of women. Here the focus is on real play, not stage performance.

Art for Art's Sake

On the positive side, many women said they enjoyed contests for their simple entertainment value. Contests are often cheaper to attend than play parties and allow for more socializing and flirting. Several people also mentioned that contests provided a much-needed corrective to the social stigma that they, as dykes, face for their looks and lifestyles.

While these are all valid points, I'm not convinced that contests best meet these needs. Sure, we all need good, wholesome, perverted entertainment. But how about a leather cabaret for those who enjoy watching staged scenes? Or more of the great performances that Skeeter and others have organized? And again, let's see people acknowledged for their hard work and commitment to worthy causes rather than their perky buns or their fabulous leather wardrobe.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?

As for titleholders, let's focus on community-building based more on substance and less on show. I'd like to see titleholders required to do educational workshops rather than or in addition to fundraisers, showing themselves to be outstanding teachers and community leaders, not just charismatic performers. How about organizing open forums for discussions of ethics, class or other issues that affect the community as a whole?

Far from being at a standstill, the SF women's leather community is growing by leaps and bounds. It just isn't doing it at the Eagle.

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Last updated: 24 March 1996