What does it mean to be a “boy”?
Title Winners joe and Daddy Don Discuss It at SD-LOG
by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2006 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger's Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
“We are not an authority on the Daddy/boy dynamic,” said boy joe, recently chosen as U.S. boy 2006, at the March 3 meeting of the San Diego League of Gentlemen (SD-LOG), a Gay/Bi/Trans men’s Leather group. “This is not about Daddy Don and myself. It’s about the community and education.”
joe’s “Daddy” is Don Cherkis, his partner of over three years, co-titleholder as U.S. Daddy and community activist profiled in the December 2005 Zenger’s. He and joe spoke together at SD-LOG about the dynamics of their three-way relationship: as life partners, Daddy and boy and titleholding community activists. One of the quirkier aspects of the titles they’ve won — first the San Diego Leather Daddy and boy titles from 2005 and then the national ones — is that since the sponsoring group is called Boys of Leather it’s the boy titleholder who has to be in the forefront, neatly reversing the usual dynamics of a Daddy/boy relationship. “I’ve been in the background for nine months,” Cherkis said.
Much of the conversation at the SD-LOG meeting involved the inner dynamics of Don’s and joe’s relationship, the rituals and protocols involved in a Daddy/boy relationship and in particular the significance of the padlocked chain collar joe wears. “As far as the collaring goes, for me as a boy, we started out as partners [before they became Daddy and boy], and even now there are times of renegotiation. It’s about a chemistry that has to work for both partners. Is it going to be sexual? Is it going to be training? Will there be just one boy or many? Sometimes, at least for us, negotiation has been a road less traveled. I didn’t know how I’d relate to Dad having other boys until one came in, and I found I didn’t like it.”
While boasting that “I wear the collar proudly [because] I have a Daddy who’s really nice and considerate,” joe readily admitted that he is a “boy in service,” one of the lower levels of the Daddy/boy continuum. “You’ll hear terms like ‘Sir’ and ‘boy,’ and you’ll hear ‘Daddy’ and ‘boy,’ and the protocols are very different,” joe explained. “Sirs are usually more strict with their boys than Daddies. I think it’s important for boys to understand whether they’re getting involved with a Sir or a Daddy. It’s just recently that I’ve figured out that I’m too free-spirited to be with a Sir.”
“The most important thing for Daddies to do is take their boys under their wings, nurture them, mentor them and teach them wisdom and growth,” Cherkis said. “True intimacy is when a boy fearlessly gives himself up to his Daddy and is conscious that he’s better off taking that journey, even though he should be free to make choices, be directly responsible for his choices and realize the level of fulfillment in the relationship is proportional too the level of investment.”
Though there are various levels of dominance and submission relationships — from Daddy/boy in service through Daddy/boy in training, Sir/boy and Master/slave — they all are organized around one person voluntarily giving up a certain amount of free will and submitting to the control of another. Where the relationships differ is in the extent and totality of the dominant partner’s control and the degree to which there are formal rules — “protocols” — in place to specify each party’s responsibility to the other. Most Master/slave relationships, and some Sir/boy and Daddy/boy relationships as well, are governed by written contracts between the parties. Don and joe acknowledged during the meeting that they don’t have a written contract.
Contrary to popular belief about Leather or S/M relationships, these roles extend far beyond the bedroom. Indeed, it’s possible to have a Master/slave, Sir/boy or Daddy/boy relationship that doesn’t involve sex between the parties. “Every Daddy/boy relationship is different,” joe said. “I enjoy serving. I love the fact that he doesn’t weigh 145 pounds anymore” — a reference to a remark Cherkis had made earlier that joe was such a great cook he’d gained a good deal of weight during their partnership. “In some relationships it’s the Daddy who does the domestic things. We are not authorities on this type of relationship.”
“There’s a tendency to put people in neat little boxes,” Cherkis said. “The great thing about Leather is it can be whatever you want it to be.” But, he added sternly, “If the boy makes a choice without consulting his Daddy first, he has to live with the consequences and meet his obligations. A boy is a reflection of his Daddy and on his Daddy. If he does something good, he should be complimented.”
“God knows I’m a pretty headstrong boy, and sometimes I do things without asking,” joe said. “We’re all people and we all make mistakes. Sometimes we get into situations and have to get out of them again. I’ve made inappropriate statements and had to ask people to forgive me. It’s a learning process for boys, and Daddies too. You can’t say it’s always going to be this way, because it’s not.”
“Ninety-nine percent of us who consider ourselves Daddies pattern ourselves on our own fathers,” said “Papa” Tony Lindsey, SD-LOG’s founder and chair of the March 3 meeting. “I patterned myself on people I admired in the Leather community and away from my own upbringing. There’s a difference between leadership and being bossy, and between force and strength. Many people confuse the two.”
“You have to consider whether you’re on the same wavelength as the boy,” said Cherkis. “The Daddy might want a submissive boy or a slave boy, and the boy might want to be in service. If you don’t negotiate that it will be detrimental to the relationship. Then you have to determine what the boy wants out of the relationship: is he an apprentice who wants to be a Daddy, or a true boy who’s just satisfied with being a boy?”
“I don’t want to be a Daddy,” joe admitted. “There’s too much responsibility. He’s always got to figure out how to handle this boy.”
“I like a boy in service [rather than a boy in training or a slave] because I’m basically too lazy to give instructions all the time,” Cherkis said.
“For me, being a boy is anticipating his needs and desires before he even knows they’re there,” joe said. “Part of the Daddy/boy relationship is that deep sense of knowing. I know him, what he likes and what he doesn’t like. He says I’m a brat. He’s very serious all the time and I like to see him cut loose and have fun. I like to be in boy space because it’s just so much fun. So when he’s having a nice conversation with another Daddy I’ll just pinch his butt cheeks, trying to get a rise out of him — and he’ll just go right on talking.”
As the meeting drew to a close, joe volunteered a topic that was dear to his heart: the difference between a “boy spirit” and a “boy heart.” “They are two totally different things,” joe said. “Having the boy spirit means you can operate in the boy space and have fun. For me, the boy heart means being of service, making Don proud of me. The boy spirit doesn’t add to or take away from the boy heart. It’s the boy heart that makes me the happiest. Get me off the playground and put me in service to Daddy Don in any way that makes his heart joyful, in any way that brings a smile to his face, in any way where he will be proud enough to say, ‘That’s my boy.’ That brings joy to my heart. That’s what makes my boy heart what it is, and why I want to serve him in the way that I do.”