BOLD 2014 — Event Recap

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LeatheratiFollowMar 4, 2014

The weekend of February 21–23, 2014 found me at the 3rd Annual BOLD Conference in Burbank, CA. Specifically targeted to the Male Dominant Heterosexual Leather (MDHL) community, BOLD is the brainchild of the Monarchs, a Southern California MDHL exclusive group. The BOLD conference is organized around the familiar education track accompanied with socializing opportunities an awards dinner and an endnote speech. The conference includes 3 tracks: Dominant, submissive and Couples/Relationship.

For this, the third incarnation of the BOLD conference, the producers chose the theme of Our Leather Roots. They really expanded on this notion and took the opportunity to include two distinctive additions to the weekend. The conference kicked off on Friday night with A Leather History of LApresentation featuring Guy Baldwin and Patrick Mulcahey. Set as a conversation between these two well-known leathermen, the program ranged further afield than just LA Leather history. Guy and Patrick delved into some of the sociological and cultural shifts that fostered the early leather movement as well as a discussion about some of the early leather groups such as Society of Janus and Avatar LA. I’ve seen Guy and Patrick interact on this sort of public discourse several times previously and it’s always a pleasure to see them at work illuminating the dark ages of our community and even debunking a myth or two along the way.

The second addition to the weekend was a first for the entire West Coast, namely the inclusion of the Carter Johnson Leather Library. The Monarchs, at considerable expense, sponsored Vi Johnson, aka Mama Vi, to bring almost half of the full library to the Burbank Marriott. I’ve been to several conferences where the library was featured but I’ve never had the chance to really see it both through the eyes of Mama Vi. At BOLD she gave my boy an incredible first-hand tour through some of the Library’s highlights. Many of the items preserved in the library might seem like old hat to someone from my generation but it’s a completely different story when you’re a 24 year old in the Leather community. He was literally holding in his hands the the foundations of our modern leather community as Mama Vi wove an intricate narrative about the importance of these pieces. My favorite moment came when he was handling mid-50s copies of Physique Pictoral. He turned to me and said, “It’s just like Tumblr except on paper!”

I sampled a number of classes from the different tracks featuring some of the best-known names in the D/s education world such as Master Bert Cutler, Master Rick Dunham, Master and Master Obsidian. I thought the producers did an excellent job representing both sides of the D/s equation with equally well-know names from the sub side of the equation such as slave namaste, slave nadine and toi. Even though I’m a gay man I found the class subjects to be pretty universal in their application to power-exchange dynamics regardless of the gender/orientation configuration.

There’s been some criticism of BOLD and its MDHL-centric ideals but I have to defend what they’re working to accomplish. In my opinion having a het-oriented event doesn’t detract from the efforts of other groups to create events which cater to their particular focus. We don’t have to all be in the same spaces at the same time. I didn’t see any evidence of male dominance translating in to any form of misogyny or devaluation of female subs. In fact quite the opposite. The experience I saw in the submissive track classes was of strong women who celebrated their part in a D/s relationship. Exactly what I’ve experienced with other gender/orientation configurations. I guess my one criticism, albeit a mild one, is that BOLD doesn’t look much different from other events such as the Master/slave Conference or South Plains Leatherfest. The classes were pretty much the same. The social interactions felt the same. And my guess is that there’s a substantial crossover of attendees as well. Which probably indicates that building and maintaining a D/s relationship is pretty much the same regardless of how you match up tab A with tab B.

The BOLD weekend is a rewarding experience for attendees and if you’re inclined to learn more about the MDHL dynamic you should definitely put it on your calendar for next year.

Check out more coverage of BOLD:

Info on BOLD, MDHL and the Monarchs can be found on their website.