A talk with Joe King, the new Mr. Leather Europe.
MasterMarc: Hi Joe, first of all, congratulations, you’re the new king of the European Leather Kingdom. Last saturday you have been elected in Helsinki as Mr Leather Europe 2016. How have you felt, as you’ve been on stage and the result of the election has been communicated?
Joe King: Thankyou – its an amazing thing to have happened to me. I feel so incredibly proud. When I was waiting on stage, I was pleased that the contest was over and was thinking about the great job that all the contestants had done. Most of them have English as a 2nd language and were really brave to stand up there and speak. I entered the competition to win, but didn’t think about what I would do if I won, so when they announced my name I was in shock and didn’t know what to do or say – I was absolutely blown away and very proud.
MasterMarc: I think you can be proud because you have had other great competitioners fighting for the leather crown too. What does it mean to be Mr Leather Europe?
Joe King: Yes, every single guy competing is amazing, and one of the best things to come from this contest for me is how lucky I am to have the privilege of meeting such amazing people and then being able to count them as friends. Being awarded the title of Mr Leather Europe is utterly fantastic – it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. I love the leather community –our bonds and friendships are deep and strong and becoming the representative of our family is a true honour and a life changing event. The men who have gone before me are all incredible and I also feel the pressure of living up the high standard they have set.
MasterMarc: You’ve won your title in the hometown of Tom of Finland, the icon of homoerotic art. I think that Tom’s illustratoins are still defining the public image of the leather scene. Most of his very well known pictures has been drawn in the 70ies of the last century. Is the leather scene really so old-school and resistent to changes of the society?
Joe King: It has been a deeply spiritual experience for me competing in Helsinki at the 40th Anniversary of Tom’s Club. The drawings of Tom of Finland have just as much sexual energy now as they did when they were drawn. It is also easy to forget their context, coming from a time where gay male sexuality wasn’t out in the open. Toms drawings remind us where we came from, they are part of our heritage and help us understand who we are today.
I often hear people saying that they think that the leather culture is a thing of the past, but yet year upon year, we have young men joining our clubs and being part of our community, when we go out in our gear, men are still attracted to the striking sexual energy that wearing leather projects. Being a leatherman is a mind-set, with deep connections and friendships and is a place where the male sexuality and mind can be explored and expressed – its very special and just as relevant today.
MasterMarc: What is in your eyes the essence of the leather community in the year 2016?
Joe King: Community. It is the singularly most important thing – we have a brotherhood which transcends countries, language and borders. Wherever you go in the world, the leather scene will always welcome you as one of their own. Its quite incredible: its worth fighting for and protecting. It is a place where we can be men together, share our bonds, live by our own rules and explore what it means to be a man.
MasterMarc: As you aren’t a newbie in the leather scene than I’m sure you have been able to explore it a little and you’ll even more this year as titleholder. So I’m sure that you can explain us, what it means to be a man?
Joe King: I think that male energy has become something negative in general society – men are being forced more and more to lose touch with what it is to be a man. The pure physicality of male sex is something potent and powerful and none more so when a bunch of leathermen get it on. In the leather scene you are able to push your own limits and explore your own sexual narrative. There are many pre-defined roles in the leather scene – but you don’t have to take one on. Theres a lot of sexual diversity and no one judges anyone else for what theyre into as long as they’re respectful and non-judgemental of each other. To me being a man is about embracing all the things which make us male and enjoying it together without shame or guilt.
MasterMarc: As you have mentioned the pre-defined roles in the leather scene could you explain some of them for our readers who are comming from other fetish scenes?
Within the each groups there are different roles again depending on what gets you off and what your experience is. Dominant, top roles are typically Masters, Sirs and Daddies, with the submissive roles being boy/bois and slaves and pups.
Some are governed by strict rules if, for example you’re into the slave scene and are owned or ‘collared’ you have to be utterly loyal and respectful to your Master and do exactly as you are told. In the past strict codes of conduct were observed between all roles, even in the dominant ones, but these tend to be more relaxed nowadays. Typically the wearing of a Muir Cap symbolizes a dominant man, although even that now seems to be less and less observed.
MasterMarc: In the last interview with Thorsten, your predecessor, ten days ago, he has told us, that the last year as Mr. Leather Europe 2015, has given him an insight into many different leather scenes in Europe. Which scene is representing the Mr. Leather Europe, if they are so various and have so different needs and issues? What will you stand and fight for in your year as titleholder?
I think what he means is that each scene has particular challenges due to the place where it is based and whats occurring at a local level. In the UK we have been facing an unprecedented amount of turmoil in our community due to a conflict between groups. Other countries may face difficulties caused by a lack of resources, or perhaps their laws are still relatively oppressive or even perhaps their community is spread out over a vast area. Each community has to face these challenges which then naturally causes a cultural shift. In my speech at the contest I spoke about my belief in our community being stronger if we encourage diversity and appreciate the value that each individual brings, so my position will be to be sensitive towards the needs and dynamics of each club but will fight for equality of voice for everyone. It shouldn’t matter how much leather you can afford to buy, or how many events you can afford to go to, your value is no more or no less less. As far as I am concerned we are one family with all its facets working together as one.
MasterMarc: Do you have any puposes for your year as Mr. Leather Europe?
I have a lot of ideas of things I want to achieve over the coming year, in particular I want to work on finding ways to encourage new guys into the scene, including creating a group for disabled leather guys and finding ways to support clubs who might be small or be based in intolerant societies. One really important thing for me is to promote, protect and record our leather culture, so I will be looking at ways we can do this and build on the work already being done.
MasterMarc: Wow, that are great projects and a lot of work. How can the community helps you to reach your goals?
Well, I think by helping each other as much as possible, by being collaborative and open minded and of course by letting me know if they want to get involved or have any ideas.
MasterMarc: Thank you Joe. We wish you all the best for your year as Mr. Leather Europe and we hope to continue our talk soon.