Why was there never a big leather S&M scene for straights?

I’m a straight guy, but I will admit that the whole '70s/early 80s pre-AIDs era of gay culture fascinates me. The “Tom of Finland” aspects of the scene with its quasi-Fascist imagery; the leather S&M scene with its emphasis on power, dominance and free sex. I’ve always enjoyed the film *Cruising *both as a period piece of vintage NYC, as a curiosity, and an interesting insight in a pretty much deceased subculture.

That said, why did no similar scene develop among straights? I mean, the idea of a ‘leather bar’, for example, is still a very gay idea, I don’t think you’d find many straight leather bars or ‘leather daddies’ who are straight.

Don’t have an answer but I must say you picked an interesting username for a straight guy…

The wiki pretty much answers your question point by point. Leather was essential to the hyper masculinized look some gay men coveted in their sexual interactions. Straight men would not feel as compelled to adopt this fetish in their pursuit of women as most women would probably not (in general) find it as erotic in sex play as gay men did.

Popular and social origins[edit]

Freddie’s my idol, gay or not. I’m just very comfortable in my sexuality I suppose.

The nearest straight equivalent would be the swingers scene which was certainly big in the 70s and 80s. But straight swingers looked just like anyone else when they weren’t at a swing party. They were effectively invisible and didn’t really need to fear persecution or visibly march in pride parades to gain rights.

I’ve read that a lot of the reason for the whole gay-leather connection was because Rob Halford, lead singer of Judas Priest, was secretly gay. Or at least it was the initial reason for the heavy metal & leather connection…

If you want non-gay eroticism with leather and motorcycles you cannot beat Marianne Faithfull riding her bike across Europe from one lover to the other wearing nothing but a full leather body suit. I remember, as a 20 something in the 60s, seeing this in the cinema and finding it more erotic than porn.

Sexy woman, leather, and a powerful motorcycle - a heady combination.

The clip has some bare breasts and a dramatic end.


Well, if he was secretly gay, it’s hard to see how his sexual orientation could have sparked such a large subculture.

More to the point, it’s hard to see how the sexual orientation of a member of a band formed in 1969 could account for a subculture which, from the evidence of earlier posts in this thread, orginated at least 20 years previously, and on pretty much the other side of the world.

That Halford’s engagement with leather subculture might have made some contribution to the style adopted by Judas Priest, I could buy. But it’s not really possible that the causation worked the other way.

bob++, “hot chick in leather catsuit” has been an aesthetic fave for a long time even to this day among us het guys.

Though ISTM that among the straights, the “hard leather” stylings stayed strictly in a narrow S/M-fetish niche, with any mainstreaming happening mostly through the Heavy Metal scene. And yes, the biker-in-leather idiom as a signal of rebellion against social norm dates way back, just that in the mainstream it stayed just as “the rebel” or later “the tough outlaw”.

As to sexual subcultures I believe among hetero swingers culture there was a general preference to maintain a certain persona of “normality” even at the orgy :wink: . Just a WAG, but gays, being marginalized and seen as dangerous freaks anyway until a generation ago, may have been more willing to embrace the alternative sexual expressions and affirm them as part of their culture, especially one that conveyed the image of a tough rebel/outlaw going “f*** The Man!”.

Even more on point, and somewhat ironic given the thread, Freddy Mercury first started doing the leather look in 1979 or so. That’s a year before JP started seeing any real commercial success that would have brought Halford to the masses.

In addition, Al Pacino starred in ‘Cruising’ in early 1980. That had a significant aspect of the leather culture as a part of it.

My theory is that gays who wanted to do BDSM and leather and were already out didn’t have a reason to give a damn. They were already out as gay - what were people going to say that they already hadn’t? Straights, on the other hand, had more to lose by publicly doing BDSM, or risking it being made public.

Try a “biker bar”. FYI - These will be more common in the southern US - not much fun riding a motorcycle in the snow I guess?

I just experimented searching craigslist.org [personals] and the terms SUB DOM and KINKY seem to be used for this? (Maybe other terms are used - I don’t know?)

Before 1970, gay men (and to a lesser extent women) really couldn’t be out, and even until the 1990s it was extremely risky in most of the country. You could be arrested for it, gay hangout spots were often raided, being outed typically meant losing your job and maybe family, and you might get beaten/killed if you mentioned it to the wrong person. Because of this, there was a whole semi-secret culture involving gay bars, coded messages, and subtle signals for gay people to meet. In a leather bar, for example, showing up in the correct ‘uniform’ (something like boots, plain jeans, white t-shirt, leather vest or jacket) told people that you were safe to approach, while showing up in normal clothes warned people that they needed to be careful of you, that you might be a cop or might out the whole place. The BDSM leather subculture was an outgrowth of this environment of secrecy, combined with an attitude along the lines of ‘well, if I’m already rejecting normal sexuality, I may as well embrace the other deviant stuff I like’.

Straight people didn’t have a need for all of the secrecy, so didn’t have the base of special locations and signaling to draw on. It was a lot easier for a straight person to pass as completely normal and only get up to the ‘freaky stuff’ later on in a relationship, or as part of hooking up. AFAIK most of the non-gay kink subculture really only took off in the 1980s and 1990s, before that there wasn’t really any culture of meeting beyond individuals and small groups.

Remember, once a philosopher, twice a pervert.

Most biker bars cater to… bikers. Not people in the leather BDSM scene, even if both groups of people wear lots of cow hide.

Those terms are useufl for finding people into particular kinks, but most people who answer/post such an add aren’t part of the leather subculture.

IIRC, Halford started wearing leather onstage because it meant he could hang out in leather clubs without having to worry about someone recognizing him - if they did, he could say he was just there to keep up on the trends.

Yes! Remember Britney’s red catsuit, ca. “Oops I did it again?”

The Netherlands, in the late seventies, had this singer in a blue leather catsuit. That catsuit singlehandedly kept the song at no 1 for far longer then it should have been. And the way to instantly bro-bond any Dutch guy over sixty is to say: “Hey, remember Jerney Kaagman in that blue leather suit?

It did develop, in New York City, anyway, although perhaps not to the extent the gay scene did. There were SM/leather clubs in the same neighborhood as the bars depicted in Cruising. There was the Hellfire Club, and a couple of others whose names I can’t remember.

The weren’t so much meeting places – people generally didn’t go there alone to meet someone for a sexual encounter, the way that they did at the Mineshaft, for instance. I believe the clubs would only admit couples, so that the whole place wasn’t full of guys cruising for women. But they did exist.

That’s backwards. Halford wore leather (and studs) because he was part of the gay community (and thus familiar with the leather scene) and thought the look fit the music. He talks about it in interviews all the time, such as this one.

I like that the second link (Jerney) starts with an ad for Ted Cruz (at least for me). Interesting cross-promotion.