Leather, No Lace

Decoding the gay leather scene

Hmm. "What's the benefit?" I asked.

"If you're exclusively top and you see a guy with an arm band on his left arm, you know not to waste your time. It's an advertisement. These are the basics."

"What about bears?" I asked. "Is that a leather thing?"

"Bears," he explained, "are big guys who don't groom. They won't shave. And cubs are small, short guys who don't shave and generally are into bears. And otters "are smooth guys who are into bears."

He baffled me with his many distinctions. Otters, I pondered, as I walked away to throw a couple of coins into an absolutely stellar Ms. PacMan machine with a disappointingly low high score (in the 50,000 range). Must be the porno.

Jackhammer's owner, Chris, came 'round and threw some sarcasm in my ear: "Oh, so you wanna come in here, and now you're playing games."

He pulled me over to the bar, and I asked him to clarify two contradictory concepts. "So, leather and a tea dance? What's that about?"

"Leather boys like to dance too. Hear this music?" he said of the tunes. "This is what we grew up on."

"So what's an otter?" I asked him.

"An otter..." he began to relay, then turned to a tall, amused man in a red Budweiser hat. "What's an otter?"

Suddenly, a voice called out from the dark, "I'm an otter."

And there he was, a thin blond man with a Dennis the Menace-like 'do. He wore a harness and faded jeans with two pancake-sized holes cut out for his ass cheeks.

"OK, Otter, do you have a bear?"

"My boyfriend is a bear," he said. "I like that big, hairy gut. Today at the bathhouse, he had his towel around his girth, and I told him to pull it down under his belly. I want to see it."

(Note: Hey ladies, forget Colin Farrell's chiseled torso. Just throw a leather harness across the marshmallow belly of that couch slob you're married to and drag the big bear top off to bed.)

"So," I asked Otter, "you like big, hairy men exclusively?"

"Well, I wouldn't kick a young guy out of bed. But shaving is not good at all. I don't like stubble."

The tall man in a Budweiser hat added, "No Epiladies," cutting on men who groom their body hair.

The two men seemed flirtatiously engaged, so I asked Otter if he and his bear had an open relationship.

"Yes. If we didn't, I never would have met [my] guy. He's a stud."

Otter said he generally hangs out at the Cubby Hole (823 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale). "They have the best burgers in town. But Bill's Filling Station [1243 NE 11th Ave., Fort Lauderdale] won't let me in with the ass cut out of my jeans."

I asked the Stud in Bud to compare Ramrod to Jackhammer, and he said, "Ramrod is cruisier. It's tense, and you have to wait in line."

Does Stud in Bud ever don leather?

"Yeah. If I came out in this, no one would pay attention to me. It is a costume, and you do have to pull it off. It's not always hunting for sex. Pursuit is fun. Attention is fun, and if you do hook up, it's wonderful. Leather is an acquired taste. It's a game, and you have to know how to play it, and some people play it better than others."

"I play it very well," Otter interjected.

What about women being in leather bars? Why am I one of the only females here?

Stud came back with, "If you're watching a porno and there's a woman standing next to you at the bar, it doesn't make you feel comfortable."

On that note, I headed out the door, where I was stopped by a short, young man in a basketball jersey.

"What are you doing here?" he asked. "It's all men in here."

I nodded and asked where he liked to cruise for men.

"I go to Georgie's Alibi, and I can pick up a guy like that," he said.

"Cool."

"I don't like sweaty old men. I want a man who can handle me and toss me around. I like when they act straight. I don't know why."

"Why do you hang out at the leather bar?" I asked.

"I'm thinking about changing into leather like Olivia Newton John in Grease."

Well, there's a hell of a lot more to it than that, I thought to tell him, but youngster that he was, he'll probably figure it out for himself. It is an acquired taste, after all.

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