If you’re scratching your head and wondering what the Old Guard is, you’re not alone. It’s been explained to me multiple times by different people, but I still don’t understand it mostly because like most terminology – everyone has their own definition.
Here’s something that may help to explain it some:
The Leatherman’s Handbook by Larry Townsend, published in 1972, epitomizes the association of the leather subculture with BDSM. This book also encoded what is called old guard leather culture. This code emphasized strict formality and fixed roles (i.e. no switching). Other old guard practices emphasize discipline, honor, brotherhood, and respect, and are said to promote a stricter lifestyle, education, and intra-community privilege based on successive ranks or levels.
The Leatherman’s Handbook is something I’ve had many people recommend I read. The problem is it doesn’t seem to be in print any more. I’ve seen used copies of the book ranging in price from $20 – $100. If the Old Guard is alive and vibrant, how can the book that embodies it be scarce?
One of the largest problems I see with the leather/kink/bdsm community is a lack of accessibility. If you want to get people in the Information Age interested in something, you need to give them information so they can learn about it and it needs to be in an accessible format. I’m not saying you need to teach them everything, or put it all out there, but if the Old Guard is going to stay alive, there needs to be some type of Old Guard 101.
Do I believe that definition of Old Guard above is correct? No, but I do think parts of it are valuable. I think tradition, brotherhood, respect and other aspects of it are very valuable. Strictness, formality and unbendable structure I do have a problem with though.
I’m a person that values order, but there are always exceptions. Just because I usually label myself as a Dom doesn’t mean the perfect man might stroll by and turn me into a raging sub. If I was to be so rigid and deny what something in me may want, that would be just ludicrous. Now don’t get any ideas that you’re going to turn me into that raging sub. I’m not denying that that part of me is there, but it would truly take the perfect man to bring it out.
If people of the Old Guard want it to survive, they better take a hint from religion. If you want your group to prosper you need to reproduce, create large families and teach them your ways, then let them off into the world to do the same thing. No, this is not some ex-gay movement, but you get the idea.
One thing religion does that I think scares people away is puts some things in a cloud of mystery. Once again, this is the Information Age where people like to be able to understand everything. With kink, there is a lot that has to be learned through experience, but a person can go into that experience educated so they can come out understanding it better.
I also see the Old Guard like the founding fathers of the US. They had great ideas that were appropriate for the time and set an amazing foundation for a nation to grow and mature. Many of the traditions and rules that were created then are still around today, but they have also changed, evolved and improved.
The leather/kink/bdsm community has done the same and will continue to change. It’s just a matter if the people are willing to change and evolve with it.