There has been a lot of talk about contests recently. A LOT. The name is almost always the same: Are contests necessary. And each time the discussion starts, it always turns into titleholders and producers doing the same thing, justifying the contests’ existence.
I think this is missing the point of what most people are complaining about. They are not complaining about us having contests. Yes, some are, but the majority aren’t. What we are complaining about is the attention.
I know a lot of titleholders and a lot of them do a lot and are great people. I support them anyway I can. And they deserve the accolades they get. However, especially over the past few years, they get an almost overwhelming amount of attention. To the point where those of us who don’t have titles are left in the cold.
I admit that us in the leather media contribute to that. Any contest I cover is almost always the lead story for an issue of the Den. Part of it is the fact that there are usually photos and stories with photos tend to do well with traffic. Also, they simply get more attention and bring in more traffic. The average reach during the week on the Den’s Facebook page is around 230. Which isn’t bad for a page with 560 followers. I post photos or a story on a contest, the reach suddenly expands. The recent Mr. Chicago Leather contest photos pushed the reach from 230 to more than 3,000 people for the week. Ya’ll seem to like the contests a lot more than a story about a new kink group in Terre Haute or a munch in Grand Rapids.
The only way this changes is if we as individuals want it to change. I happily will share news and information about anything as long as it relates to bears, leather and kink. If a community member is doing something interesting, I will be thrilled to interview them. But the demand from that will have to come from individuals.
Titleholders can help with this. They can use the attention and, for lack of a better word, fame they receive to redirect the spotlight. Yes, many of you are doing a lot of great work. Thank you for it. There are also titleholders who never met a camera they didn’t try to get in front of. To a degree, that is sorta their job. When you get the title, you are supposed to promote the contest. That means being seen doing stuff. However, there are many people who are doing a lot of work for the community. And they often do it without thanks or recognition.
Many of us non-titleholders who do that work don’t do what we do for fame, attention or money. (Money would be nice. Just saying.) But it is frustrating to be doing something for the community, often at personal expense of money and energy, and gets no thanks while a titleholder does something similar gets lauded. Especially when it’s treated as doing something new. Or when listing how non-titleholders can contribute to the community, only those who are involved with contests get listed. At a certain point, it starts to rub a little raw to not even be considered for attention.
The issue is the time and energy devoted to contests. Contests can be great. They can be a reason to gather. They can create a focus for community that’s trying to come together. They can be a way to focus energy. Plus you get to see hot people in leather on stage. I’m all for that. The problem comes when it becomes the only focus for a community. It’s dismissive of those who work hard on other issues (HIV, civil rights, education, etc.). Plus, if there are problems with a contest, the effects of them become magnified, affecting the cohesion of a community. I’ve seen it happen. It’s not pretty.
Contests don’t take place in a vacuum. They are part of the happenings of the community. They are not the whole community.
I want to challenge titleholders. Along with your platform and obligations, I want to challenge you to share the spotlight. I’m sure you all know of people in your local community who are busting their ass for the community. They’re doing it behind the scenes or under the radar. What I want you to do is to shine the limelight on them. Talk about what they’re doing, what their focus is and why it’s important. Share it on your Facebook page or Twitter feed. Talk about it when you travel. Highlight them during interviews. You have a voice, use it for those who don’t speak as loud.
Daddy Tom is the publisher and founder of Great Lakes Den. He lives in Chicago with his husband Jeff. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.