From leather to rubber, from restraints to flogging, Ottawa is home to a diverse fetish community, say local leathermen, but that hasn’t translated into a wide field of competitors for Mr Leather Ottawa this year — yet.
There are just three competitors signed up to compete for the Ottawa title so far. Last year, a trip to Chicago to compete in the international Mr Olympus Leather was only enough to convince the same number.
It’s part of a general North-America-wide trend of declining interest in leather titles, says Murray Lavigne of the Ottawa Knights, an Ottawa leather group with a 30-year history in the city.
“People seem to be less into the traditional leather lifestyle of the ’60s,” says Lavigne, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less kinky.
The trend indicates that more people are adopting leather and BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism) as “play” aspects of their lifestyle, says Murray, instead of going whole hog, so to speak.
“It’s still thriving in Ottawa in terms of general participation,” he adds, judging by the number of people who come out to the Ottawa Knights’ Centretown Pub bar nights.
So that makes planning the Mr Leather Ottawa weekend a matter of navigating the changing landscape of kink, says local leatherman Pat Croteau.
“Because kink has become more mainstream — and because people can reach other on the internet — it’s not longer necessary to join a community,” says Croteau.
So that means organizers have to offer Ottawa fetishists something different than just a place to meet, he says. “We need to follow the lead of other cities in taking a step back to look at what we’re offering versus what the community needs,” says Croteau.
Croteau points to what other North American leather festivals are doing: shrinking their competition while increasing the size of other aspects of the weekend like play parties, workshops and fairs.
To that end, Mr Leather Ottawa weekend will include Friday and Saturday night play parties, an afternoon of workshops, a leather formal dinner and their annual leatherware fair. While some of the events are only for leatherfolk with weekend passes, many of the events are open to everyone who’s curious to learn more.
Things aren’t dire but they are changing, agree both Croteau and Lavigne.
“Leather communities go through strange periods, just like other [queer] groups do. It’s entirely possible there will be a surge in interest in competitions down the road,” says Lavigne.
For Croteau, who also sits on the board that runs Breathless, Ottawa’s BDSM play space and community centre, the competition is an opportunity to remind people that there’s a thriving kink community right in their backyard.
“People in Ottawa are kinky, perverted, hot people. They don’t need to go to Montreal every weekend. They can be kinky bastards in Ottawa,” says Croteau.