Excerpt: Working Stiff
By Grant Stoddard
I�d first heard of Leather Camp during a Nerve editorial meeting. Leather Camp is a five-day retreat in which extremely kinky people from the United States and abroad get together and enact their wildest fantasies. The idea was that I would attend and report back on the scene. Michael Martin was initially lukewarm about the idea, but I shot the organizer an e-mail expressing an interest in joining in anyway. He replied saying that Leather Camp doesn�t need publicity; that it sold out every year; that its location and schedule are closely guarded secrets; that he is trying to foster an environment free of judgment; that journalists are absolutely forbidden to attend.
�Now you�re definitely fucking going!� said Michael, suddenly adrenalized with intrigue. �What don�t they want people to know about? You are going undercover.�
None of the installments of my column had ever hinged on my using an assumed persona. Usually I was courted by companies to promote their products and services and, among a specific subset of people, my name had clout. I could help companies sell hundreds of chin-mounted dildos or bottles of supplements �specially formulated� to make one�s semen taste like applesauce, just by giving them a quick mention.
The brief was to go live among these folk at their summer retreat and report back on what I found. Should anyone ask, I was to tell them that I was attracted to BDSM and thought that Leather Camp would be a good way to find out what worked for me.
I had already delved into some BDSM-type activity in my column before now: I�d been shrink-wrapped in latex, infantilized by a dominatrix, and had seven shades of shit beaten out of me by a female wrestler. These articles were blogged�and usually ridiculed�on BDSM Web sites, so there was a fairly good chance that people might recognize my name. My pseudonym was Simon, which I thought went well with my accent. I have found that when forced to lie, keeping the lies parallel with the truth can help thwart revealing inconsistencies. To that end, I said that I was a customer service administrator, which I was up until 12 months earlier.
A portion of the Leather Camp Web site dealt with travel arrangements and carpooling. I ended up getting a ride with a guy called Manflesh. I traveled to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, to meet up with him at his parents� home.
Manflesh was red-haired, soft-spoken, and in his mid 20s. He had borrowed his parents� vehicle for Leather Camp: a large silver minivan with a large disabled sticker on the back and a mechanism for getting wheelchairs in and out of it.
�Hey, for a minivan, this thing can really move,� he assured me, then faithfully observed the speed limit the whole way down past the Mason-Dixon Line.
The location of Leather Camp was shrouded in secrecy right up until the event, though it was always based within a two-hour drive of Washington, D.C. Previous years had seen local communities getting wind of the goings-on at a Leather Camp event and arriving at the premises in heated protest, presumably with pitchforks and torches.
Manflesh astounded me with tales of Leather Camps past�this year was his sixth�until we were well into Delaware. Like the time he and all seven of his cabinmates kidnapped a bi-curious male (consensually, of course) and wouldn�t release him until he�d fellated them all. I imagine that his curiosity was quenched after that. Manflesh took a satisfied drag on a Parliament and looked longingly out the window.
�It was intense,� he said. �You know, for a beginner, you are taking on a lot by coming here. It�ll be a baptism by fire.�
�How do you mean?� I asked. I began to panic.
�Leather Camp is fucking hard-core. It�s no joke. That�s why we love it and you probably will too. It�s great because, for four or five days, it�s life as it should be: no rules, no judgments, no limits. But after four or five days, the weekend is over and�Bam!�it�s back to reality.�
At a typical BDSM event (bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism), Manflesh probably got more tail than I�d had in my entire life. He told me that he�d been whipped, flogged, pissed on, shat on, and generally bothered countless times since he discovered the scene at the tender age of 19. In fact, he was scheduled to give a two-hour tutorial on pissing that weekend. Last year, 10 and one-third women showered him with golden degradation.
�One of the girls was three months pregnant,� he explained the fraction cheerfully.
This time around, Manflesh had rallied 15 through a BDSM Web site; he assured me it was not to be missed. I took my Blimpie sub from my lips and gazed out the window, ruminating upon what the weekend would have in store.
I was in the death throes of a four-month relationship with Sophie. Sophie had some understandable misgivings about my attending a country retreat for sexual miscreants. Sophie was not really the jealous type, but her hormones were currently out of whack due to her being on fertility medication. She was �donating� her eggs.
I assured her that I was just going to be there in an observational capacity, though I really couldn�t gauge how I�d feel once I was there. I�d never been into the theatrical nature of the BDSM scene, though some of what Manflesh had said piqued my interest. Apparently, the previous year�s big hit was the �merry-go-suck-and-fuck,� in which eight �bottoms� assumed prone positions on a merry-go-round while a corresponding number of �tops� stood around the circle�s perimeter. Condoms were changed with every spin of the wheel.
As we headed closer to camp, the clouds cleared. In the final mile of our journey, we passed through a quaint little village that listed the times of church services on its welcome sign. There I was, driving in with a man who made the Marquis de Sade look like Pat Boone. Did Littlebrooke�s residents know that 400 more of us were on the way?
We slowly pulled up the gravel driveway to the checkpoint, where two 50-year-old women in Stars-and-Stripes T-shirts checked our credentials.
�Let�s see yer dicks!� one of them yelled.
�We gotta check that you ain�t vanilla!� said the other, laughing.
After three hours with Manflesh, I was feeling more vanilla than at any point in my life. He was poised to unbuckle his belt when a car came up behind us and we were waved into a parking area. About 25 yards from our car was a 50-year-old man dressed as a little girl, with a bright red wig, pink dress, white knee-high socks, and Mary Jane shoes. He looked like a dry-cured Strawberry Shortcake. He skipped along the dirt road before hopping into a buggy and taking the reins.
�Hyah!� he squealed, jerking his steed into motion.
The steed was a 60-year-old man. He wore a harness, black boots, blinders, a bit for his mouth, a butt plug replete with faux horsetail, and a cock ring. He pulled Strawberry Shortcake a few yards before the old man-little girl called out, �Whoa.�
The centaur obligingly came to a halt. While the passenger buckled his shoe, his horse whinnied loudly, thrashed his head back and forth, and dragged a foot along the ground.
Manflesh put my mind at ease when I confessed that I hadn�t brought any fetish wear whatsoever.
�That�s fine,� he said, �about half the people don�t. Leather isn�t a literal term. Leather is a state of mind.�
Working Stiff by Grant Stoddard is now available from Harper Perennial Books, $12.95