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Class and kinks and why I love leather

My politics are so deeply interwoven with my kinks they're inseparable. I think it's already pretty obvious from other writings how feminism and queer activism and such have tied in pretty directly.



But I've been talking about masculinities. And for me, that gets very tied up in discussion of class. I think a lot about gender partly because I don't fit clearly in one camp or the other, as commonly defined. It's similar with class. My background is an odd amalgam. "Parish priest in a small town" is one of relatively few jobs in our culture where social status is not paired with economic. And because a minister's whole family is absorbed into that in various ways, it meant that I grew up with an experience that was cash poor but high social status. Also, my family were imports to the area (rural Virginia and then rural Michigan); we were the poor relations from a historically high status family, with all the background of education and privilege that went with that. The communities in which we lived, though, and where I had my first experiences of community as extended family, were heavily working class, farmers and auto workers.

I wasn't _of_ these communities, and I stuck out a lot, as much because of how I talked as anything else, but I was accepted into them and loved within them. My political affiliations are still with workers, and workers' rights, and fiercely so. When I perceive certain markers of working class background I feel a particular kind of safety and comfort, even though it's likely our belief structures and worlds will contain inherent conflict. When I was at college, it was the local folks from the maintenance department where I formed much of my sense of local family, and being able to bring my skills back to help fight for their union a few years ago was one of the most gratifying privileges of my life. I found with them the ability to be loved and accepted without being agreed with, and I think that's profoundly valuable. I find it unsurprising that I still eroticize markers of class. Suits can look sharp, but jeans _get_ me. Solid non-nonsense practical work boots make me pant. A toolbelt on someone of any gender almost automatically ups their attractiveness to me. Hard work and sweat turn me on.

These were also the models of masculinity I wanted to emulate. You'll probably never see me pulling off slick butch in a suit, because it's every bit as foreign to me as most modes of feminine performativity. Between a formal dress and a formal suit, I'll probably choose the dress (as long as it's not so short I can't sit with my legs spread. Non-negotiable).

For many years, while I was in college, and when I was working a much more physical job than my current one, my standard for clothing was that it had to be tough enough to go down manholes, through rivers, and up trees, or cheap enough to replace. It most certainly couldn't constrict or hobble me. I lived in jeans, work boots, men's v-neck white undershirts, and my flannel. It suited me, and was entirely concordant with my internal sense of myself and how I wanted to present myself to the world. It got the reactions from people that I wanted.

I don't really do flamboyant. It can be a fun show on other people, but it's very much not my thing. I eroticize practicality, functionality. One of my frustrations with so much feminine performativity is how hobbling I find it. I do not want my life distracted by what's happening with my make-up and hair, or whether I can climb in heels, or how I have to sit in a miniskirt. I find it incredibly restrictive. When I do femme, I do it for comfort. Given current dress code limitations, my work wardrobe is about half black flowy or stretchy femme stuff, because it's low-maintenance, comfy, doesn't need ironing, and doesn't show stains. And because "flowy" and "stretchy" can be highly sensual for me, the elements of traditionally femme costume that do suit me. They get me read and reacted to in sometimes awkward ways, though, so I can't enjoy them quite as whole-heartedly as I do my other default. That's also why I almost always show up to SMART events in my old uniform; it's a break from mostly being around people who are reacting to me in femme mode, and it's a breath of fresh air.

A few other last thoughts that didn't seem to fit elsewhere:

On leather, specifically:
I've always loved leather, although partnering with someone who has an intense fetish for it really amped its place in my kinks recently. So I've been thinking about where that comes from, for me.

It's a tough and practical material, and that has a great deal of appeal. And there are all the archetypal associations, wild men and women, warriors, workers, cowboys, bikers, and all the ties to queer culture and history.

But it's also deeply personal. I know when black leather became a sign of safety. 8th grade. New to the school system, just skipped a grade, awkward as hell, and dressed all in ridiculous pastels my well-meaning mother kept buying me once she "had my colors done". I was a geek and a target. I still don't trust suits because they feel to me like the grown-up version of the jocks and "cool kids" who tortured me. Letter Jackets will never be hot for me. It was what I affectionately remember as "the black leather crowd" who took me in, protected me, threw bullies against lockers for fucking with me. I wasn't truly part of their circle, not entirely. I was too sheltered to fit in. My real home was with the other geeks, preparing for science olympiad and excitedly discussing the upcoming Star Trek: The Next Generation. But they were my defenders, and many of my earliest crushes. I react with some level of automatic trust to most freaks and outsiders; it's where I've always found my safety and my people, but black leather punkishness will always have a particular place in my heart and my lusts.

I think it's worth noting here that my identity as a safe space and a protector comes almost entirely out of the incredible impact it has had on my life that people have been that for me when I needed it, have created space and supported me in growing into myself and my ability to do that for others.

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