By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Call me crazy, but after watching her declaration-of-sanity-slash-book-commercial, um, I mean, interview with Barbara Walters on 20/20, I am inclined to think that Anne Heche is still pretty nutty. No, I am not just bitter that we lost one half of the former lesbian role model couple to the other team. I'm just mildly suspicious about how in less than a year, Heche has transformed from her self-declared split personality with a shaky grip on reality to a happy, well-adjusted new wife and mother-to-be. And speaking of that life inside her, is it really the best idea to bring a kid into the madness right away? Why not start out with a dog? I did love when Anne told Barbara that the night she met Ellen DeGeneres, she had "the best sex of my life. I got to explore my masculine side, and I liked itI think Ellen liked it, too." A second coming out, er, outing of Ellen, this time as a butch bottom! Hopefully, this revelation (duhas if we didn't already know that she was a pillow queen) will boost ratings for Ellen's new television show. You may have never given it that much thought, but if all the butch bottoms out there watch the same show, I'm convinced they can pump up the Nielsen numbers.
Speaking of butch bottoms and the wacky chicks who love them, my girlfriend and I just returned from LeatherFest XI in Palm Springs. Yes, I slipped on my tightest leather pants in 113-degree heat. It may sound insane, but that didn't stop us and about 500 other leatherfolk from spending Labor Day weekend sweating in the desert. There were the usual offeringsmore than 65 workshops covering topics from temporary piercing to body punching, plenty of shopping in the vendor area, a huge dungeon with separate spaces for men only and women only, a human pony show, a gala dinner banquet, and even an intensive Boys and Girls Academy, to which people had to apply to get in. But the best part of the event by far was that producers, San Diego-based BDSM organization Club X, reserved the entire Riviera Resort & Racquet Club, creating an unparalleled Club Med-with-whips-and-chains atmosphere. Normally when I attend an s/m conference, we all have to "behave" in public and deal with the "regular" folks in the elevator who are more often than not horrified, titillated, or both.
At this event, everyone could be themselves, which meant there were bottoms proudly displaying bruises and lash marks on nearly every part of their bodies, submissives wearing collars into the pool, more uniforms and leather swim trunks than I've ever seen near a hot tub, so many hankies in pockets you would have thought it was required dress code, and even a woman slinking around in a cat costume. I would not be at all surprised to see a slave girl eating out of her Master's hand from under the table at the hotel restaurant. Apparently, neither would the Riviera staff, since not a single eyelash was batted in my presence for the entire weekend (which was a good thing, since there is no group who appreciatesand over-tips forgood service like kinky people, for some of whom service is not only an important part of their fantasies, but a way of life).
In the midst of this surreal place, I developed a newfound canine fetish after attending a workshop given by Master Michael and jefpup. The two men created the ingenious Web site Leatherdog.com, devoted to the niche of the s/m community that likes puppy play, where owner-handlers and human puppies role-play doggy scenarios. I expected a typical workshop; you know, put the puppy on a leash, play fetch with the puppy, reward the puppy with bones. Myths were dispelled (people into puppy play are not into bestiality), tips dispensed (a shallow bowl is easier for a human puppy to eat from), gear rated (wrestler knee pads for comfort and durability), and techniques taught (vanilla wafers make great training treats). But in addition to all the tricks of the trade, Master Michael offered a deeply personal, intimate perspective on human puppy play. Taking care of a human puppy is just as much work as watching over a rescue from the pound, although the owner gets a break from it when the human puppy has to, say, go to work. (Hey, I've got an idea: Anne Heche and hubby should try parenting a human pup before their little one arrives, you know, to work out the kinks.)
Master Michael had two very well-behaved pups to demonstrate ways of moving (hands and knees versus hands and feet) and obedience trials. The puppies also got a chance to speak "out of their puppy head space," and expressed a desire to let go of inhibitions, to take a break from the stress of the real world. What would it be like to have your existence revolve around getting your ears scratched, chasing a ball, and curling up at your owner's feet? Human puppies like to simplify their desires and motivations as they embrace the side of themselves that acts solely on instinct; they also get to sniff people without being called crude. As I watched a puppy in the audience wag his tail, drink water, and lick his owner's hand, it made a lot of sense. All the yoga and meditation in the world might get you to a relaxed state, but maybe puppy play is simpler and quicker. It was one of the most thoughtful, playful, and sane BDSM workshops I've ever attended (and I am not just saying that because the facilitator at the electricity-play workshop mildly electrocuted herself by accident the next day).