by boydon freeman
We all know about Masters and slaves, Tops and bottoms, Doms and subs, but what exactly is a leatherboy?
All around the US, leatherboys are participating in clubs, competing in contests, and volunteering for fund-raisers. The boy presence is very much in evidence at leather events.
Maybe it would be helpful to describe what a leatherboy isn’t. The word “boy” usually implies a young male person. Most of us imagine a ten-year old, scruffy headed runabout with skinned knees and a milk moustache.
Being a leatherboy isn’t about age or what is known in kinky circles as “age play”, wherein one partner assumes the role of a young boy or girl and acts out fantasies in the dungeon. That’s not what I mean here by leatherboy. Throwing a tantrum and crying isn’t part of the scene.
Leatherboys can be of any age. In fact, most leatherboys I know are in their thirties, but some are younger and some, like myself, are older. As far as I know, there is no age limit for boyhood in the leather scene.
As a matter of fact, leatherboy doesn’t necessarily mean a male person. Although, the majority of leather boys are male, some are female. Leatherboys come in all body types, from small and frail to big, beefy muscleboys.
Leatherboy does not mean “boi” as used in the sense of “party boi”, meaning a young male club party animal. And, it does not mean boi in the sense of a young lesbian who is tomboy-ish.
DEFINITION OF A LEATHERBOY
A leatherboy is, generally, a submissive who would most likely identify with the term bottom, sub or masochist. However, none of those terms alone can define a boy totally. Boys can sometimes top and some boys aren’t into pain. Some boys are natural leaders, while others are submissive in most areas of life.
Someone once said, “A boy is nothing more than an uppity slave”. In certain cases that may be true, but in most cases leatherboys are not slaves. A slave is property owned by a Master. They have no rights and are not allowed opinions. While a leatherboy can be owned (the lucky ones are) by a Daddy or Master, he is allowed a degree of autonomy and a certain amount of say, both in and out of the dungeon. A boy is generally allowed to have opinions and is able to express them freely. There is one way where boys and slaves are similar, however. Both are here to please and serve a daddy’s/Master’s needs, wants and desires. Submission and service play a big part in the relationship a leatherboy has with a Daddy.
Being a leatherboy is a lifestyle and a state of mind. Friends of mine describe being in the “boy headspace”. Boy headspace is pretty simple to understand. It’s an attitude that most would ascribe to someone who is a good Boy Scout: kind, cheerful, courteous, enthusiastic, helpful, eager, respectful, alert, curious, adventurous, teachable and willing to please.
Most leatherboys are also playful and sometimes have a slight evil streak that can often get them into trouble. Boys can be mischievous, you know! And, many times a boy’s curiosity can get him/her into trouble. It’s often helpful to have a strong Daddy or Master nearby to keep an eye on a group of boys.
Most leatherboys prefer to be called “boy” by other members of the leather community, and usually attach “boy” to their first name as an indication of their status in the community. For example, I am boy don. Most boys do not use capital letters when writing their names, but there are no formal rules regarding this.
IS THIS OLD GUARD?
Leatherboys encompass (and embrace) some traditions that have a long history in the Leather community. In that regard, there certainly a strong element of Old Guard in the leatherboy culture.
The identity of “leatherboy” is relatively recent though. The first public mention of leatherboy that I can find dates back to 1989 when the International Drummer contest added the International Drummerboy, which was won by Dieter Edwards. The first American Leatherboy, Kevin McGraw, was chosen in 1995. The “boy movement”, in terms of clubs, officially began in June 1999 with the formation of the DC boys of Leather.
Most boy clubs are patterned after the traditional leather club model, with bylaws, memberships and back patches. Some groups are not that formal. For example, the New York City boys of Leather, which formed in February 2002, is an e-group.
boy clubs have come to play an important part in the “Old Guard tradition” of mentoring, education and kinship. They are a place for younger kinky submissives to come, learn and explore their sensuality and place in the world, and provide a safe haven and a welcoming portal to the greater leather BDSM community.
Protocol usually refers to accepted or negotiated behaviour between a Master and His slave. Boys, being submissive, generally follow basic submissive protocol with a Master or Daddy, although there is no formal requirement that they do so.
Here are some examples of protocol that a well-trained boy might be asked too adhere to:
1. Display an attitude of respect to others, especially when addressing dominants.
2. Posture: stand with feet set at shoulder width and hands held behind your back resting on the tailbone with chest out. This communicates both submission and pride.
3. When in a Leather environment, be friendly and smile.
4. Use “Sir” when addressing all men, as in “yes, Sir!” and “No, Sir!”, and “Ma’am” when addressing women. A bottom, boy or slave will quickly tell you not to call him “Sir” if that is a title they are not entitled to, or a role they do not assume.
5. When accompanying a Daddy in a bar, or at a gathering, a boy should walk to the left of a Daddy, and just behind, but within His peripheral vision. Some Daddies prefer boys on the right, however.
6. Always be helpful. Etiquette is important. Always be polite. Opening doors for others is a good thing.
7. Hygiene: always be clean inside and outside. Never wear deodorant or cologne. The exception is when a boy is at work. Most work establishments do not appreciate underarm smell.
8. Boys are always organised.
9. Often boys carry a “boy bag” that contains things that may be helpful when out in public. For example, he might have a lighter or matches, a cockring, maybe a small bottle of lube (you never know), a needle and thread, bus schedules or phone numbers.
10. Clothing: boys should never wear a Master cover (hat). Typical boy clothing consists of white t-shirts, 501 jeans, shorts, camo pants, leather vest, combat boots and white boot socks. Boys may wear a baseball cap, but no hat is preferred. Clothing should not be flashy or draw undue attention.
11. Play safe, sane and consensual.
• Leatherati – The Boy Who Wrote a Book… Between Rest Stops
• Officer Wes – Leather Daddy/boy Relationships
• Leather Power – Protocol: Beginning Stages
• Great Lakes Den – What is a Leather boy?
• Daddy Jim – For Sirs and boys: What Does It All Mean?
• The Leatherboy Life – Living Leather: Basic Protocol
• Gay Calgary Magazine – Exploring Leather Relationships: Sirs and boys
• The Leather Identity Project – American boys Bill of Rights
• The Bay Area Reporter – Boy, Oh Boy
• Positive Lite – Deep Inside the World of Leather (Part One)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
boydon freeman wrote this for Gay Male S/M Activists of New York (GMSMA), which sadly dissolved in 2009. It has been edited to remove some dated references.
The leatherboy community has continued to grow since the time of this writing and there are leatherboy clubs around the world. It is a category of International Mr Leather and International Leather SIR/boy & International Community Bootblack (ILSb-ICBB), as well as regional competitions throughout the US.