Back to the Future – The Deconstruction of Masculinity

By Garry Bowie

From coast to coast, major cities and metropolitans are experiencing the draining of gay subcultures, countercultures and just plain old gay culture as gentrification and assimilation takes place.  It is the inevitable irony in reaching the goal of equality.  Neighborhoods from San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston to small town gay sections are beginning to disappear. The need for social skills, role-playing and hyper-masculine connections are disappearing along with them, supplanted by the ease of use of hook-up phone apps.

The once hard to master, social negotiation skills of picking up a trick at the bar is a rare feat today.  Dates are simply one click away via your iPhone or android, and picking up a local is like ordering Chinese take-out.  And yet in every corner of our community gay men are clamoring for mentorship or a connection with their hyper-masculine alter-ego or finding a hot masculine man who can fill their every need.

Photo- Garry Bowie For more than 62 years, the gay leather biker community has fulfilled that fantasy or the chase for even the hardened gay man.  The ability to have an outdoor fantasy scene without regard to a risk of arrest for public sex is every gay man’s fantasy… with the only eyes watching are those doing the same and a few creatures in the forest.

But unlike Burning Man where the share-community must acquire, build and spend money to share communally with people you’ll never meet again, the leather biker community has provided for six decades the same-sex experiences. The only difference being that “sharing” is in the form of sex with other hot men – around the campfire, in your tent or camper or on top of a rock.  Badger Flat, the Satyrs Motorcycle Club’s (www.satyrsmc.org) annual event for 55 years, has provided this wild adventure for thousands of hot men.

Up until much of the early 2000’s, motorcycling was inextricably associated with heterosexual men and less so of gay men.  This gave safe cover for gay men to gather in a large public gathering with their motorcycles at campsites to enact all their outdoor fantasies without risk of arrest.  The outlaw image associated with biker clubs served to deflect for homosexual activities for gay leather men and bikers in the US prior to 2003.  As sport bikes caught on with young gay men that all changed over the years.

But prior to sport bikes, gay men as sexual outlaws, became self-empowered through the construction of a socio–sexual identity that incorporated the highly masculinized outlaw image associated with heterosexual biker clubs. And since membership in homosexual biker clubs frequently did not specifically require ownership a motorcycle, there was certain egalitarianism to them. A potential member did not even necessarily need biker leathers or a bike before participating in club activities. An underground community of hundreds of men attended weekend or holiday weekend camping events, called “runs”, open to any gay male who wanted to attend simply by paying an attendance fee.  Everything was included for the very affordable low-cost fee: cooked feasts that left no one hungry, endless 24-hour libations, entertainment, hot showers, activities for bikers and non-bikers, a commemorative run pin, and plenty of opportunities for socializing and outdoor sex.

For many young men who ventured alone or with friends to these events, their yearning for mentorship, camaraderie, brotherhood, fraternal order, socialization and physical connection is wholly-fulfilled.  Permission to “pet” a hot man, grope, touch, flirt, and make sexual advances is a given, by all attendees where the environment is conducive to such behaviors.  The sight of vivid stars in the galaxy, the smell of burning wood, the sounds of hot men freely talking without regard to social norms, and the creaking sounds of leather and stomping boots only heighten the desire to act upon animalistic desires. There are no judgements, peering eyes or social restrictions that prevent one from acting upon such desires.  The lost art of communication and socializing is restored at such events when one is forced to be “unplugged” because phones can’t get reception in the deep crevasse of the mountains.  It is just you, the hot man you are gazing upon and nature.  And the hot man is giving you permission to act out!Photo-Garry Bowie

Every year, hundreds of men, along with several dozen new and young men (mostly non-bikers) attend Badger Flat, hosted by Satyrs Motorcycle Club of Los Angeles, seeking that connection to man, a primal nature call, without the need for a phone app.  It calls to their nature – the beast within, looking to act upon other masculine men.  Some even partake in helping the host club members, construct structures, run generators, service machines that keep the hot showers, lights, coolers and other electrified structures running in the middle of the forest.  The young men “feel” their masculinity through these connections with club bikers who build a city in the middle of the forest to entertain their guests the entire weekend.

At Badger Flat 55, even Porn Stars, Draven Torres, Kurtis Wolfe, Mr. American Rubber, Matty Lalime and the extraordinary, Element Eclipse, connected with a mentoring community of hot men, finding their inner hyper-masculine identity, sexualizing their fun without showmanship and finding a community that saw them as men and not entertainers allowed them to be themselves they likely rarely get to do so freely.  Draven Torres stated, “This has been an amazing event with some of the most honest and honorable bikers and men from all over the world. And if you want to see ‘butch’…I mean, it doesn’t matter if you are a queen, in drag or the butchest guy…whatever, here we’re all the same.  I’ve had a blast and a lot of positive reinforcements.”

Each one of these young men stated they are coming back next year for Badger Flat 56.   Even another young man, named Fernando, who came on a whim by himself after hearing patrons at the San Francisco Eagle talk about it, stated in an email after returning home “all I want to say that my experience…was life changing. I may end up writing about it but for now I’m still processing and enjoying the sense of authenticity I have not seen in a long time. I felt instantly welcomed and relaxed and I honestly feel it changed me in ways I don’t quite know yet.”

The lines between heterosexual and homosexual is less clear today with advertising and mass media sexualize the male body nearly equal with the female body. The Abercrombie and Fitch window posters at the local mall produce similar visceral reactions in both men and women.  Gender-fluid, cis-gen, transmen and transwomen are part of our everyday vernacular today. The homosexual male in subversive hyper–masculine biker leathers has been rendered largely obsolete by the advent of the metrosexual. The former is fast becoming a cultural anachronism that we may all look back on, some fondly, some questioningly. But he was for half a century an integral part of homosexual male culture as that culture struggled to define itself in the face of new freedoms and opportunities.  Badger Flat has for 55 years served to help thousands of men connect a community of gay men, whether leather, biker, hyper-masculine, effeminate or merely curious.  It continues to fulfill the deepest desires of anyone’s’ personal quest.  The journey becomes transformative.  It is more than simply just a camping event, a motorcycle run, a leather mens outing, or an outdoor sex-fest. But as our gay communities and bars close and gay businesses fold in cities everywhere, men are finding ways to connect back to the future.  It is our original tribe…the Satyrs Motorcycle Club, the oldest gay men’s club in the world, still creating a tribe to a community of gay men.

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