Today the International Mr. Leather (IML) group out of Chicago made history by stopping the sale of bareback porn at their event. This is truly phenomenal.
IML has been around for over 30 years starting out as a little gimmick by bar owner Chuck Renslow as a way to get more people into his bar. It blossomed into a successful annual event which has become (so I've heard over the years) one of the biggest conventions in the city of Chicago.
Anyway, the interesting part of this is that the leather community was very Safer Sex oriented at the start of the AIDS epidemic (and I don't call that 'language of fear', I know that's what we called it then because I was around .. just coming out but I was around) but by the late 90s because of The Cocktail and hardon-inducing drugs (Viagra!) not to mention the popularization and virtual decriminalization (at least from a social point of view) of crystal meth (which allows guys to fuck all night long), Safer Sex went out the window and barebacking became the new fetish.
In 2003 Renslow gave a stirring speech at the contest decrying the unsafe sex that was going on at his own event .. but it rang a little hollow to activists such as myself who didn't see his words reflected in his actions as far as what the leather mart was intent on selling: and that would be lots of toys, clothes but also, a growing number of bareback videos.
But although six years later, it's good news that IML is taking a healthier/active approach to this situation. You can call it censorship and that's your perogative but whatever. I don't care. If you want to blow your brains out, I don't have to be the one to hand you the gun. I got WILDLY (an understatement if ever there was one) criticized 9 years ago when I would not promote bareback porn or bareback porn stars at my events (Cocktails with the Stars and Bad Boys Pool Party). One magazine and I had it OUT because I would not even accept a free media ad from them because they ran ads for the bareback companies. Everyone thought I was nuts.. maybe I am, but now, I'm in good company... thanks Chuck for deciding on a policy that helps us all make better choices rather than keeping on with the quick buck.
Anyway, here's the letter and please feel free to write very nice letters to the IML people expressing your gratitude for making this decision: info at imrl dot com
On behalf of International Mr. Leather, Inc., I would like to thank you for
your past support and in particular for your participation as a vendor in
our annual Leather Market. We are writing you today to inform you of
a policy change affecting next year (2010) and all future markets.
Though we are now three decades into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, no cure has been
found. The CDC and local health officials inform us that new infections are on
the rise. And, while we have had some success developing medications that
might make infection more manageable, that accomplishment comes at a price.
Not having experienced the deaths - the loss of loved ones -- which preceded
these medications, we have an entire generation who may not fully appreciate or comprehend the severity of the situation.
Too many in our community believe HIV/AIDS is curable or manageable. Too
few understand that HIV/AIDS infections dominate life. We believe that it
is our duty to inform and educate. Several years ago when “Meth” was the scourge of our community, IML drew a line in the sand and raised awareness and used all our influence to try and stop this addictive madness. As is the case with HIV/AIDS, we believe it is our further obligation to do everything in our power to prevent future infections.
To that end, after considerable discussion, the Executive Committee of International Mr. Leather has decided that it will no longer allow participation in the IML Leather Market by any entity which promotes barebacking or distributes/sells any merchandise tending to
promote or advocate barebacking. This restriction will also apply to distribution of gifts, post cards or any other information via our facilities.
This policy takes effect immediately.
Chuck Renslow, President
International Mr. Leather