RALPH BRUNEAU

THE TOP FETISH MAN IN THE WORLD WRITES EXCLUSIVELY FOR ALPHATRIBE MAGAZINE.

11

I’ve just returned from a trip to Ft Lauderdale. I flew in to attend a few fundraisers thrown by my club, Gay Naturist International. There was a nude pool party at Inn Leather, a “Boots, Bourbon, and Cigar” party at LeatherWerks, and then a trip to Haulover nude beach the following day. I don’t drink or smoke but naked men in leather and boots certainly get my attention. The erotic energy of a large group of leathermen in a dungeon is so arousing and familiar. Takes me back to my 20’s at the Mineshaft in NYC.

I had a similar experience at Touche’ in Chicago a week or so prior when I had flown in to be a judge at the Mr. Chicago Leather contest. I found myself in the backroom hanging out at the bootblack stand and intermittently talking with, biting, smacking, and sexing with, a beautiful boy. I could overhear the whispers and feel the attention of IML playing in the middle of the room in the light instead of one of the darkened corners.

Is this scandalous behavior? I don’t believe so. Besides, you all knew who you were selecting when I was chosen as IML 2017.

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In my speech at IML I stated that I have no shame. I’m not ashamed of my body, my sero-discordant marriage of 24 years, my BDSM play, or the naked pictures of me on my Tumblr page. I love a dark corner and a seedy scene but I have also learned that I need to walk a fine line between arousal and shame and secrecy. I lived many years in the shadows and now I feel more integrated when all aspects of me are in the light – fully visible and accountable. Others may make different choices, but for me, it has been important for my thoughts, my actions, my kinks, my name, my profession, to be fully integrated. This is the title year that I designed. For me it was the best way—the only way.

Years ago I watched a porn starring an IML. There was footage of the contest in Chicago followed by some really hot sex scenes featuring the IML as IML. I had never heard of the title or contest but the video really caught my attention. I set out to find out what IML was and set my sights on attending. I never imagined that someday I would be IML #39.

I spoke, not long ago, with that IML about the title and what it meant to be good citizens while promoting our community. We also talked about sexual expression and where that fit
into the tenure of a titleholder.

I have heard a number of comments over the past year or so about whether a titleholder should take off their vest or sash while being overtly sexual. This has not been my choice. I have worn my vest inside LAB.ORATORY, in darkrooms, at my club, Avatar LA events as well as at meetings with dignitaries, step and repeats, and red carpets. Sex positivity isn’t just a belief that I hold. It’s actions I take. I’m proud of the contributions I have made to my community, the work I do in my consulting room, my advocacy with the #BornPerfect campaign and the months I’ve spent as IML #39.

I don’t feel that this work would be in any way enhanced if my tenure were more chaste.

My leathers are beautiful but they are made for play. My body is not meant to be admired and my mind not meant for sequestered work behind my consulting room door. All is meant for use. By the time my leathers, sash, medallion and vest come to reside at the Leather Archives and Museum it will have been well used and carry a little of those I’ve encountered and experiences that I’ve had in the grain and stitching of the hide. The same is true for me. I will carry you all and the experiences that I’ve had during this amazing year for the rest of my days.

I’m reminded of an exhibit I saw in London at the Somerset House a few years ago. Isabella Blow’s wardrobe was on display. She was a fashion editor and somewhat of a muse to Alexander McQueen. What struck me about the exhibit, beyond the beauty and genius of the clothing, was that the collection was displayed to highlight that the clothes were worn. They were not curated and restored back to their pristine states. There were moth holes, cigarette burns, the beautiful designer suede shoes, mud splattered and torn. It was amazing. These clothes were meant to be put to use and they were. I wish the same for myself.

I entered the Mineshaft as a naïve young man of 22. When I got the nod, I submitted, was stripped, had my cock and balls tied with a leash of hemp and brought to the men who would be my first leather tribe. I knew I was home. It’s been a long, full, rich and play-filled life. I’ve been mentored into body and sex positivity by men and women for decades and hope I have extended that invitation to others as well. So, if you see me having fun, playing, enjoying BDSM in the company of sexy men and women. Don’t be surprised. I’ll be there, in a pool of light, enjoying the hard won freedom of expression that I wish for us all.