Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Keynote Speech for the NCSF 2006


Chuck Renslow’s Keynote Speech at the NCSF Annual Coalition Partner Meeting
September 8th, 2006

Good Evening Brothers and Sisters in kink. I am honored and pleased to stand here before you as your 2006 keynote speaker. It is an honor to have been selected to address this assembly. Let’s face it, there are a lot of kinky people out there, and surely you could have asked someone else, but you selected me, and that is an honor. It goes without saying; I am very, very pleased to be here. I am also pleased because YOU (NCSF Coalition) are here … an organization is only as strong as it’s membership. Without the strong support of its members, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom would fail. With your strong support AND your refusal to quit, we can only succeed.

We’re in Chicago, Illinois, the heartland of the Midwest (the conservative Midwest) and we’re here in Chicago at the Leather Archives & Museum … the ONLY physical institution in the BD/SM world. Where else would be more appropriate for this gathering? The very existence of the Leather Archives & Museum stands as a testament to the determination and commitment of the fetish community. Founded in 1990 - in my basement - today the Leather Archives and Museum is a non-profit profit, tax exempt, 503c corporation. Our continually growing collection now contains over 10 thousand books, over one thousand pieces of original kink art and many oral histories of exceptional kink people. Today, the Leather Archives and Museum owns this building out right. No mortgage, no debt. The Leather Archives and Museum is a success.

There are many reasons for our success, not the least of which is that strong membership base I spoke of … and a strong, diverse and committed board of directors. I think one of the prime reasons we’ve become established and accepted ... one of the main reasons that the Leather Archives and Museum IS a success, is that we are inclusive. From its inception, the Leather Archives and Museum has been committed to documenting and preserving the entire history of the BD/SM Leather community as a whole, and to include materials relative to ALL of the leather communities regardless of gender, orientation or time period. We strive for UNITY.

Unity comes from Harmony. It is the strength and support of all institutions. Without unity, resources are wasted, efforts thwarted and action duplicated. WITH unity comes added energy, increased resources and doubled – not duplicated – efforts. It doesn’t seem possible that today – six years into the new millennium – we’d still be stressing the need for unity, but that’s the topic of my speech.

Unity, we need it. We won’t succeed without it, and we’d better build it now, because tomorrow may be too late. Unity is necessary for success and, ladies and gentlemen, it does NOT exist in the Fetish communities. Not really… not yet. Oh, to be sure, there are a few organizations, like the Leather Archives and Museum, International Mr. and Ms. Leathers, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and Leather Sins, who encourage and include a diverse membership, but these organizations are few and far between. For the most part, the BD/SM Leather Fetish people of the world stay firmly entrenched in their own little communities. They remain oblivious to each other, often almost oblivious to themselves.

Historically, one’s appetite for kink, kinky behavior, fetishes and desires were held close to the belt. We didn’t advertise our fantasies, we hid them… they were private. Even our privates were private. So now that’s changed… well, not really, not for the vast majority of kinky people. But for many of us, that’s changed. We’re no longer afraid, no longer hidden. When the sexual revolution of the 60’s kicked open the closet door, it couldn’t help but reveal all of the things we’d been hiding in there. Turns out there were a lot of homosexuals out there… lots of swingers too… and there were a whole lot of people doing things that scared the hell out of Mr. and Mrs. Average American. Kink isn’t new. The Museum has archives of evidence and implements of the fetish lifestyle that date back to the turn of the last century. We’d like to have an exhibit evidencing the fetishes of Victorian Europe or Ancient Rome. History tells us they exist.

Despite popular myth, it really isn’t easy to spot a homosexual or swinger as they pretty much blend in with everyone else… but a man… much more, a woman in leather? Lets face it, kink stands out. It makes an easy target and, because it is seen as a fringe element within a fringe element, it is often the easiest to attack. Local prosecutors and small time politicians find it easy to hi-jack headlines and produce publicity by prosecuting --- BY PERSECUTING ---those deemed least likely to fight back. Because we are outside the mainstream, who is going to come to our defense?

Just a minute ago I said that kink wasn’t new. Well, persecuting kink isn’t new either. With the rise of the right wing here in America and similar factions across the Atlantic, the persecution rose to a new level. Conservative State and Federal officials began to legislate “Family Values”. The thing is, they used THEIR definition of the terms “Family” and “Values”. Things came to a boil in the 1990’s, with a series of high profile prosecutions that included a new and frightening twist. Despite the gains in civil rights and privacy, despite the decriminalization of consensual sex, despite the efforts of gay lib, women’s lib and all the other libs… the State was still prosecuting S&M only now they were saying that consent was not a defense, and… as un-believable as this is… they were winning.

In 1990 sixteen men were arrested in England after a lengthy and expensive investigation into the BD/SM underground. Despite the fact that every one of them were adults – consenting adults – they were convicted of assault. Although the case would eventually reach the equivalent of our Supreme Court… their ruling upheld the convictions and declared that consent was not a defense to assault and that S&M constituted assault. Oh, but that was in England… not here. Europe might as well be the moon.
In 1996 Oliver Jovanovic was arrested in New York for assault and kidnapping. Despite the fact that his girlfriend testified to her consent, he was convicted because consent is not a defense. How ridiculous! How ridiculous that six years after it happened in England it was happening here and we still weren’t paying attention.

Fortunately, in 1997 the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom was founded in the United States and began to spearhead the political, legal and social efforts on behalf of safe, sane and consensual sex. To date, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom has done a lot… so I don’t want to sound like I’m saying that we’re not successful --- still --- clearly, we haven’t succeeded, not yet.
In order to succeed… in order for ALL of our alternative sexual organizations to succeed … we need UNITY. As I’ve already stated, I don’t think it exists… not yet… not really. What do I mean by that?
Go out and take a poll. Go out and poll all the different kinky people you can find. Talk to the bondage people, the S and M group, in all its categories. Go ask the swingers and the swappers and just every kinky person you can find and the vast majority – the OVERWHELMINGLY vast majority will not know who Oliver Jovanovic is. They will not know what the Spanner Trust is. They will not know what the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is, what we do or why we are necessary. That tells us we have not yet succeeded.

Let’s consider the rest of the polling results. Some of the people DO know who Jovanovic and Spanner are. They probably also know who or what the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is. These people are the socially and politically active members of the BD/SM Fetish Communities… they are the movers and shakers, our leaders. These are the people who support our individual fetish organizations... the ones who attend our conventions and events… these are the kinky people in the know. Look at their responses to your questions and my money says the Gay people recognized the Spanner Trust and the Straight people heard of Jovanovic. There is very little unity between ANY factions of the Straight and Gay communities and it’s not just the Straights and Gays… there’s very little unity between men and women, especially when it comes to sex and alternative sex.

Now, in the LBGT community, it has always been the leather men and women, the Fetish community that was the most organized. We’ve been at the forefront of the HIV/AIDS efforts; we’ve been at the forefront of the fights for civil rights and the right to privacy. When I was talking about the movers and shakers of the Fetish community, those who are active and educated… I was talking about you… right here in this room. YOU ARE the people we need to reach and YOU / WE ARE the people who are going to bring unity to the table. We represent the partner organizations that, for the most part, are promoting unity. Now it’s time to work harder. You need to go back to your partner organizations and you need to let everybody know that kink transcends sexuality; kink transcends sex, race and nationality. You need to encourage your partner organizations to reach across the boundaries. Gay clubs… reach out to the straight clubs. Plan a group event, a joint party. Exchange speakers and educational programs… Make sure those other groups know about the existence of the Leather Archives & Museum… their museum. Make sure that their organizations become members of the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and don’t stop at the straight kinky groups. Men’s groups need to approach women’s groups. One fetish has to reach out to the next. YOU… each of you… MUST WORK TO UNIFY.

Do not stop with kinky people. The truth is that ALL of our issues are Gay issues. ALL of our issues are Straight issues… they’re the same issues that face the Blacks, the Asians and Male and Female communities. Freedom is Freedom and the rights of consenting adults are the rights of all consenting adults. We’ve been fighting for the rights of consenting adults to consent… Our victories are their victories.
Remember that old saying about the Nazi’s? “When they came for the homosexuals I didn’t stand up because I wasn’t a homosexual… and when they came for the trade unionists I didn’t stand up because I wasn’t a trade unionist ... and finally, when they came for me there wasn’t anyone left to stand up and fight.” Well, I want you to stand up right now!
I’m serious – stand up… everybody just stand up.
[Everyone stood up]

Now look around the room… look around. THIS is what Unity looks like. THIS is what you have to make it look like back at home. You need to go back and mix colors and genders… you need to mix sexuality and different forms of kink … each of your organizations can reach out to another. The Fetish community needs to UNIFY and YOU are the only people who can see to it that it happens.

Let’s double the number of coalition partners…. Let’s double the size of this assembly by next year. You CAN do it. You CAN go back home and make sure that your organizations do it. You CAN cause unification. Thank you for the privilege of expounding my views. YOU ARE MY SPECIES. Again, thank you.

Side notes:
Chuck Renslow is a respected elder in our community. Read more about him at:

© Copyright 2004 LADs. All rights reserved.


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