Mar 082007

I bought a “stripped” copy of the 1972 edition of Larry Townsend’s The Leatherman’s Handbook off Ebay. It’s a strange read, considering it was published the year I was born, 1972; unironic use of the word “groovy” for one thing.

Even the terminology is different. Townsend uses S and M to refer to Sadist and Masochist respectively, not Slave and Master. It’s also a glimpse into a time when you couldn’t even mail-order whips and handcuffs.

Townsend’s attitude towards women or heterosexual S/M people is not positive.

While I cannot speak from personal experience, I have discussed this heterosexual bondage scene with several people who are deeply involved in it. I found that in most cases it was the man who desired to submit. Le Grand Marquis to the contrary, I saw the antithesis of the gay leatherman involved in this. Then I found some of the most qualified Ms [masochists] saying it really wouldn’t matter: “If I’m strapped down, maybe with a blindfold over my eyes how can I tell if it’s a man or a woman who shoves that dildo up my ass?”

Thus, I may have been wrong… at least as far as the very deeply involved bottomman is concerned. As to the rest of us- the S [sadist], the less experienced guy, or the casual leather tripper- I must adhere to my original premise. In the hetero scene we have a woman, whom our society usually casts in a submissive role- and who has been emphatically placed in this role by nature’s sexual physiognomy- assuming the master’s stance. The man, who may be a leader in the business world or an otherwise strongly dominant figure, assumes the posture of a crawling slave. Thus, the elements of bondage and humiliation are much the same as ours. But the fetish… the object of adoration is completely different. For most of us, if we’re going to play M, we want to know there’s a cock attached to the S! And we want to know it’s real!

Like Krafft-Ebing, Alfred Kinsey and even Nancy Friday, Townsend’s work is in large part a collection of people’s stories, and those stories rather freely mix fantasy and fact. A large part of the book are stories men have mailed to him, many of them set in a military or paramilitary institution.

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