Spend any amount of time in the kink community, and eventually, someone will refer to “Old Guard” when talking about BDSM, and specifically Dominance and submission. But what does Old Guard mean? Kayla Lords explores the roots of this BDSM dynamic.

 

The origins of the Old Guard

After World War II, gay soldiers (yes, gay people have served in the military since the beginning of time) came home to the US with their military training, discipline experience, and from spending time with other gay men.

They formed motorcycle clubs where leather was a necessity for riding and over time, developed codes and signs to determine if someone was butch - using leather as a practical means of riding, or they were into leather sex. Even then, D/s wasn’t an identification. For most, you were either an M (masochist) or an S (sadist). The kinky sex, relationships, and fetishes we know today evolved in part from these interactions.

The foundation of what we consider Old Guard began here with the value and pleasure of military-like discipline, a focus on leather and what it meant to the group as a whole, and an underground pleasure that was kept secret from the outside world.

 

What we think of as Old Guard

The term Old Guard means something different to everyone, depending on where you live and the BDSM culture. For the most part, when someone is thought to be “Old Guard” there are a few distinct characteristics common to most groups:
 

  • Mentorship within the group
  • Earning “leathers” as an evolution within the group and an individual’s mastery of BDSM, typically as a Dominant or Master
  • High protocol with a focus on discipline and rules
     

Those who prefer to follow these older traditions began their journey in a way that more modern kinksters may not understand. It's very common for seasoned Dominants and Masters to have started their kinky path as a submissive and there is a firm belief within parts of the BDSM community, that you cannot truly dominate someone until you have submitted.

Naturally, not everyone follows this rule, but in certain leather traditions, and for those who want to earn their leathers, this may be a requirement within their community. To earn leathers in the newer Old Guard sense is not about completing a series of tasks or putting in a certain amount of hours as a Dominant or Master. Instead, it occurs when others in the community feel a person has attained a certain level of mastery and education within the kink community.

They’re often mentors to others and are seen as someone honourable. In most leather families, you don't ask for leathers; they're given to you when you are considered ready and worthy of them. The kinkster who earns their leathers is a testament to the community, someone who inspires others and brings honour to the local community.
 

two men dressed in leather on motorbikes
There are no real 'standards' on how a leather family functions.
 

Joining a Leather Family

Just like Master/slave or Daddy Dom/little relationships aren’t for everyone, neither is the idea of Old Guard. Typically, but not always, to become involved in this style of BDSM, you’ll need to join a leather family. A leather family can take any form imaginable and may or may not be sexual. Most likely there'll be a clear hierarchy with a definitive and single head of the household.

There are no rules that every family follows across the kinky spectrum. Each leather family creates its rituals, hierarchy, and customs and as with everything else, you have to consent to those rules and customs. If not, you can choose not to join. Within the local community, you’ll discover the rituals and customs created for those interested in a more 'Old Guard', disciplined BDSM lifestyle. Some of those rituals may be implied and “understood” only after years of study and mentorship. They may also be explicit - laying out in detail what you have to do to attain a new level of mastery or hierarchy.

Don’t be surprised that some of these types of leather families and adherence to older traditions are hard to find and harder to maintain. Forming or joining a leather family isn’t going to work for everyone since there is no real “standard” for how these families can function and how different members can and should interact, it’s important to find what works for you.

 

two men dressing leather embracing
Respect is essential when looking for someone to mentor you in the Old Guard tradition.


Old Guard isn’t for everyone

Over time, as the world changed, the idea of BDSM, kink, and leather communities became more diverse. It should come as no surprise that as our society has evolved and we have become linked through technology that BDSM has continued to change and develop. These days most new kinksters can’t imagine the protocol and discipline required to enjoy a more traditional BDSM lifestyle. (I say “traditional” with tongue firmly in cheek as even within Old Guard there are few traditions.)

For those who find the structure and hierarchy of today’s version of Old Guard intriguing, it’s out there if you’re willing to look and work for it. Many are inclusive of anyone in the general BDSM community but less so into their own private families and traditions. Respect should be earned in all facets of the kink community, but it’s essential when looking for someone to mentor you in the Old Guard tradition.

As someone who has friends who subscribe to the leather family, Old Guard style, I can’t imagine it for myself. Regarding how the world has changed and how more people have found their way to the BDSM lifestyle, it makes sense that no one tradition can work for everyone. Having an understanding of the origins of some of what we take for granted in kink today (like the love of black leather) is part of educating yourself about this kinky thing we do, but it can end there.

If the idea of black leather, hierarchy, and high protocol doesn’t do it for you, you’re free to explore other avenues. Although, you have to wonder what those gay military vets might have done with the freedoms we have in BDSM today.


Spanks for reading! Drop a comment below or start a thread in the forum. New here? Try Fetish.com for free!
 

Start a thread about leather families in the fetish forum

Images: mendulous shank, torbakhopper & istolethetv & livenature. Flickr Creative Commons.


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