TLJ-VT: Tell me about your favorite charity.
IMsL Contestant Marta: Leather Heart Foundation provides charitable assistance in times of financial hardship to individuals of all sexual orientations in the Leather, BDSM, M/s and fetish communities. I know someone personally for whom LHF made an incredible impact when they were at their wits’ end, and know that theirs is far from the only story like it. The awesome folks of Atlanta’s Soles with Heart collect boot and shoe donations which they then rehab and auction to benefit Leather Heart Foundation; I and a few other bootblacks are excited to explore similar possibilities for local and regional promotion later this year.
TLJ-VT: Tell me in your own words how you feel about community service.
IMsL Contestant Marta: Leather to me has meant deciding that what I do (get into, get off on) will shape who I become. Service to the community that has given me space to play, fuck and find acceptance catalyzes my growth as person, Leatherwoman, girl, piggy, and bootblack.
Community service develops and defines us as Leatherfolk. Not content to simply show up as hedonists or consumers, we must donate, participate, volunteer, and support one another’s events and causes. This level of individual investment in our community contributes to an atmosphere of kinship and connectedness unlike any I’ve experienced elsewhere.
TLJ-VT: What makes you a Leather Woman and/or Bootblack?
IMsL Contestant Marta: I guess my last answer feeds really well into this question! In addition to Service:
My Sex makes me a Leatherwoman! I fuck with power and control, struggle and surrender, force and tenderness, boots, gloves, fists and belts... I and my partners continually challenge and redefine what loving looks like.
My home community, region and far-flung international family have offered me their open arms, listening ears, tear-stained shoulders, praise, critique, auction items, spare rooms and unconditional love throughout my title years and my time in the community. They have all made me a Leatherwoman.
Welcoming folks into my chair creates opportunities to convey kindness and serve my communities, one genuine connection at a time. I strive to serve as a conduit, reconnecting wearers with their leather by listening to their histories, honoring their experiences and making a tangible impact on items they love. In working my stand I intentionally contribute positive energy to the overall atmosphere of a bar or event. All of this makes me a Bootblack.
TLJ-VT: Who is your favorite Leather Woman…Why?
IMsL Contestant Marta: It would be easy to spend my entire answer saying that I couldn’t choose one or even a handful of Leatherwomen. We each strive to embody admirable traits, demonstrating love, loyalty and respect to one another… but “favorite” aside, there is one person who served as my introduction to leather, became a part of my local family, and has remained one of my most positive influences. Lady Elsa lives by a code of kindness informed by the belief that our highest calling is to be in service to one another. She held one half of the very first International Power Exchange title in 2012, teaches extensively, and writes prolifically on leather and spirituality (ladyelsa.com). Counterbalancing her gravity and dignity, Lady Elsa also possesses a dry sense of humor that catches folks unaware, and a mischievous twinkle with which she instigates all manner of shenanigans! I am thankful to her for living her understanding of Leatherwomen, one that resonates deeply with me.
TLJ-VT: What do you feel is the most dangerous mis-information passed through traditional & social media affecting our community today, and how would you combat it should the opportunity arise?
IMsL Contestant Marta: 50 Shades of Grey reaches women, a demographic that historically has had the least freedom to acknowledge their sexual desire. I am rankled by patronizing assumptions that readers don’t have the ability to discern escapist fiction from any bright slivers of truth about how power dynamics and S/M might affect their downstairs. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us have had our triggers tripped and libidos awakened by bad smut. Full disclosure: when I was 10 I “came to” by furtively poring over my mother’s nursing textbooks, skimming mid-century Christian marriage manuals in my evangelical preacher father’s library to find the sexy bits, and reading the rape scene in the sunny field from Clan of the Cave Bear until I had it memorized. Unrealistic, unhealthy-in-practice depictions of sex can serve as starting points for exploring real-life ways to feel thrilled responsibly.
For those who will soon make the jump from fiction to their first events, more dangerous than the messaging of the 50 Shades franchise itself is the risk that our value judgements about newcomers’ motivations for entering our spaces will send them packing back into their bedroom closets without support or education.
For those who simply consume 50 Shades as unexamined “Mommy porn,” the outspoken critique happening on a massive scale currently is crucial. E.L. James’ messages should be challenged. But-- those of us who practice ethical BDSM need to recognize the immense value of these conversations surrounding enthusiastic, ongoing consent, communication and exploration. We have opportunity to make progress with a “captive” audience (groan, I know) of unprecedented size by telling our own stories. For my part, I intend to greet everyone I meet with the same warmth I always have, devoid of assumptions or alarmist attitude.
TLJ-VT: in 100 words or less what will you do as IMsL or IMsBB to promote your title?
IMsL Contestant Marta: I intend to:
-Travel extensively, promoting IMsL as the vibrant, transformative, one-of-a-kind event it is at every other event I attend.
-Work closely with IMsL producers to ensure that I communicate their vision and goals.
-Celebrate and share diverse bootblacking philosophies and techniques through teaching and one-on-one interactions, preaching acceptance of one another from the rooftops!
-Do sexy things!
-Continue spending time in women's, men’s and pansexual spaces, building bridges between communities by spreading positivity, curiosity, playfulness, joy, acceptance and lack of inhibition while encouraging others to do the same.
TLJ-VT: What do you say to those who feel that the Title system is outdated and no longer necessary?
IMsL Contestant Marta: People throughout human history have loved spectacle, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Leather contests provide occasion to come together, dress up, cruise one another, catch up, laugh, and be reminded of what our community means to us by bright-eyed, hot-bodied (and ALL bodies are hot) individuals expressing their desire to serve. People will vote with their dollars in bar tabs and registrations, feet and asses in seats. As long as there are people who want to run, and people who want to attend, the title system is alive and well.
By the same token, it is crucial for contest producers and contestants to have purposes and stated goals with substance, to respect fellow producers and contestants, and to be willing to continue contributing to their communities whether their contests and runs succeed or not. Failing to follow through in these areas could make the title system hollow.
Ideally, the weekend-long gauntlet that is a contest selects an individual who can not only be trusted to promote the title’s bar / event and engage positively with their community throughout the year, but also signals that they are someone worth amplifying. There are doors which would never have opened for me without my titles. Many conversations would never have begun. I’m thankful beyond words for the exposure that the title system has provided myself and others like me.