Leather, No Lace

Decoding the gay leather scene

Outside the Ramrod gay leather bar (1508 NE Fourth Ave., Fort Lauderdale), faces are obscured in shadow, even when you're waiting in line. There is energy from the anticipation of being initiated into something secret. There are lots of men. No women.

But, shit on a brick, the door man let my fat ass waddle in anyways.

The dark entryway passed into a greater darkness, peopled by monstrous, shirtless silhouettes of the musk-pitted sex. In fact, apart from the other female in my mixed crew of five people, I was the only fairer-sexed creature in the club. And this place was packed wall to wall. We dipped into the on-premise sex shop for elucidation of the leather scene and a bit of a belly-jiggling giggle. The first thing that caught my eye was a black rubber dildo the girth of my cranium that curved upward like the top of an s.

Christopher Smith

Behind the counter, a man who looked like a slight Woody Harrelson in the grip of some obscure fascination explained, "See, I have to keep it on a leash." And it was true. A leash fit for a hippopotamus was wrapped around the head of the fake penis.

"Do people really buy those things?" I asked him.

"Yes," he said, "I reorder that every couple of months."

"No, seriously," I followed. "I need a cock ring, a big one."

He pulled out a big metal one and put it on the counter. It was too brutal.

"Or," he said, "you could get one of these rubber ones." He fingered a group of cock rings hanging from the wall. "But there's not much point."

I asked him about leather wear and what different outfits imply to beholders. He handed me a little card that had something on it called "Hanky Code." Under this system, men wear colored hankies to advertise their preferences and fetishes. For example, wearing a gray hanky on your left arm means you're a "bondage top into light S&M" and the same color on your right arm means you're a bottom with the same interests. A beige hanky on the left arm means you're a "rimmer" and on the right arm a "rimmee." Yin and yang.

Such organized detail, and yet, cruising through the densely packed, extremely dark club, I didn't observe the hanky code in action. Plenty of leather-harness-wearing daddies sweating shoulder to shoulder who were -- if you ask me -- highly disorganized in expressing their preferences.

I spied a slim, blond figure at the bar. Despite the leather harness on his chest and the cocktail in his hand, he was looking dejected... even though it was the weekend of the White Party, one of the nation's premier anti-AIDS events, held on Miami Beach.

"I've had a tough week," he explained. "I thought that there would be more people coming here before going to the White Party at the Coliseum."

A leather strap extended from his harness down to his white briefs. I asked the purpose.

"This is a bottom harness," he said. "The strap is there for maneuvering."

Seemed functional. But, I thought, the coding is endless.

So I left harness man to his cocktail and headed out to the back area, where there was a Quiet Zone. It was a cruisy scene, and there seemed to be slight apprehension about a female's presence. I warily walked the hunk gauntlet until I heard a man say, "There she goes."

He pointed to his friend and said, "He wants to marry you."

Funny place to find a hubby. I turned to his friend and extended my paw, "Oh really. Give it up."

"What?"

"The ring."

He balked, and we BS'd for a minute about amour.

But my crew was feeling the claustrophobic squeeze of the milling crowd, so we were out the door.

The next night, I was once again the solo fish at a gay leather bar, the Jackhammer (1725 N. Andrews Sq., Fort Lauderdale). At the Sunday Tea Dance, the dark, three-room saloon was like a dude flesh carnival. The main bar was loud from the new wave and disco that pumped on the dance floor, so I turned through a passageway that led into a room where porn played on the screens and it was quiet enough to converse.

A trim, harness-wearing hunk with Master Shredder spikes running down his right shoulder stood at the corner of the bar. I sidled up next to him, but he was engaged in conversation with another, slightly less buff man who was apologizing for his physique.

"There are a few things I could do," he explained.

"Squats. Squats. And more squats," Shredder told his new friend, who proceeded to put his mouth to Shred's hard, square pecs.

On the television screen above the bar, two men were standing face to face, one plunging his finger into the other's mouth, simulating oral good times.

Bored and feeling out of place, I moved on to a short, crewcut man in a T-shirt. He broke the leather code down for me: "A strap on the left arm means top. A strap on the right arm means bottom. And both arms means you're versatile."

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