On Sunday, I attended the the graduation of the cadets of the 2008 Journeyman III Academy of California, held at the San Francisco Citadel (the local dungeon). From what I can tell as an outsider, the academy is a pretty amazing institution, and graduation from it is a big deal. The audience that showed up included many prominent members of the BDSM community, and the guest speaker list was impressive, including Master Mike Aylett, Master Skip Chasey, and VG Smith & Sarah Auberon.
The academy serves a valuable role in preserving Leather culture. In their words, it is a “forum for advanced training in Leather traditions and history, D/s relationship issues, advanced S/m play, and Leather spirituality.” The program is a serious undertaking. It lasts 18 months, and requires a commitment of at least a full weekend a month, in addition to outside readings and homework assignments. It is intended to be difficult and grueling.
Their style is somewhat militaristic. The program has a very regimented code of dress, schedule, and behavior, and in fact even describes itself as being more like the “esprit d’corps of a military unit than the casual atmosphere at many community events.” It’s also rather secretive. For example, most of the schedule is not published. It also looks like there are hidden ranks within the society… but I’m not sure; nobody would tell me the meaning of the different colored bars people had pinned to their vests.
The style of it bothered me a little bit, but after chatting with a few people afterward, I understand it a bit better. For those who need or want it, the style provides structure, and lets everyone know where their place is, and what is expected of them. Although I don’t feel that it would work for me, I totally get that it works for others, and preserves a specific history and way of life.
The graduation was very solemn, and seemed to take itself very seriously. And yet, the reception for the graduates, held immediately afterward at the Chaps II leather bar, turned into a spontaneous play party, one filled with energy, joy, and even playfulness. And I have got to say that the white shirts, leather vests, and in some cases leather pants, worn by past graduates, current graduates, and current cadets, made for very hot-looking eye-candy, especially as clothes were partially removed mid-scene. I don’t know how much mixed gender and female-bodied play Chaps II has seen, but it’s possible a new record was reached. It was especially entertaining to watch the bartender closely inspect a pair of nipples that he feared were bare (they had been covered by bandaids that matched the skin tone of the shirtless woman).
It was an opportune time and place to discover (or rather, to have discovered for me) a large hole in the crotch of my jeans, and a very inopportune time to realize that I had a dermatologist appointment scheduled for the next day, especially when being offered a personal demo of a wicked looking titanium cane. Unfortunately, I will have to wait for another opportunity to play with this lovely set of people, hopefully occurring earlier than the next graduation!
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