The term “leather community” sometimes baffles me, because there are so many sects and sub-cultures within that block term.
There are many benefits and shortcomings to becoming involved in a leather club. One of the main focuses of choosing a club, when desired, is to do some background research regarding purpose, rules, initiations, principles, and goals. First, it is important to understand the purpose of a leather club.
One of the fundamental aspects to a club is actually what type of business entity is it. Not only is it important to you for choosing, it is also important to the government. In any case, one reason of the importance of the legal entity is it also determines the intent of the club. Clubs are usually broken into three sections; For-profit, not-for-profit, and Non-business entity.
A for-profit club usually has a retail service at its core. Dungeon spaces, leather shops or goods making, and leather training facilities. Some allow ownership shares when becoming a member, while others allow use of facilities at a discount. Typically there is a quasi-social environment while there is an internal business administration that governs the business itself.
There are several various forms of exempt entities (not-for-profit). The two primaries are charitable and political. Thirdly, there is also a few fraternity style organizations. The most common of the three is the charitable (501(c)3). They will have emphasis on either or both education and/or fundraising. Though there maybe some dungeon interaction, usually due to legal reasons these events are maintained as “unofficial” gatherings. Many of today’s clubs fall under this type and raise monies for AIDS, Hepatitis C, public awareness, and domestic violence. Others focus on specific educational trainings.
Usually each State has at least one politically motivated club that places itself in front of media and political spotlight in order to educate and protect the rights of those who live within the leather community.
The third type is a fraternity/lodge organization. This organization is ran by a panel of senior members and have benefits such as life or death insurance. These clubs are extremely protective of their members and carefully screen applicants to meet strict requirements. However, membership into this type of club usually exists for a persons entire lifetime and there is a sense of protection to the members.
The final type is a non-business entity that usually consists of several individuals of like mind that gather to play, socialize, or for sexual purposes. This includes house parties, some leather clubs that are sexually motivated, and house communities. These are just as essential as the more structurally forms of clubs and in some instances more rewarding. If the club is a legal entity of some sorts, there must be by-laws, Charter requirements, and mission. Almost all clubs have some form of membership requirements and obligations. Many times the requirements and purpose of the club dictates whether it is wise to be considered a legal entity. Carefully examine requirements before initiating membership. I once attempted to join a club where the initiation was that I could not refuse any sexual advance from other members regardless of whether they were Dominant or submissive. I was unwilling to accept that risk and declined any further attempts at membership.
Membership profiling means what types of individuals are members. Most commonly the membership is pansexual, though there are some that are either gay oriented or heterosexual oriented. I find that regardless of requirements, if there are more then 20 members they are to some extent pansexual. However the level of comfort for play scenes may be compromised if the club is oriented specifically one way or the other.
There are also a number of non-business fetish clubs. Fisting is an example of such a trend. Fisting clubs have usually the sole purpose of gathering for fisting parties. Watching Real Sex® will give you a sense of all the various fetish oriented gatherings.
Some clubs are geared towards traditions or other commonly shared beliefs or things. Old Guard, Gor(ean), Motorcycles, and spiritual are all examples of some specific reason for a club. These clubs tend to be smaller clubs with specific guidelines of conduct and rules.
Basically the purpose of a club is usually outlined based on its legal entity. If it is a charitable organization, fundraising is a must and usually there is a requirement for how many functions a potential member must adhere to. Many larger organizations such as the National Leather Association, and other predominately large leather clubs have several various components to participate, which usually includes education, fundraising, social, and unofficial/official SM events.
One of the most notable aspects to clubs are colors. Based from the motorcycle club concept, colors are usually a patch or pin that represents participation in a club. Colors usually have guidelines as to where they can be placed, when they can be worn, and most importantly when they can not be worn. Typically if the club participates in “pinning” someone (giving head while having the pin placed near the crotch area), colors must be removed to maintain respect to the colors.
Choosing a club is not just simply deciding one day to become a part of it. It is important to identify with the purpose of the club and determine if you fit in. Joining a club simply to change its purpose is pointless and usually only creates internal conflicts and creates an environment whereby everyone loses.
You may decide to join a National organization or local chapter. Another possibility to create a local chapter based on another club elsewhere. Remember to get permission however, because many colors and club chapters are protected by Trademark or a Registered organization and can easily lead to a civil lawsuit if inappropriately created.