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‘Life, Leather and the Pursuit of Happiness’ by Steve Lenius

‘Life, Leather and the Pursuit of Happiness’ by Steve Lenius

Author: Sassafras Lowrey

April 4, 2011

If you’re looking to expand your leather library, Steve Lenius’ Life, Leather and the Pursuit of Happiness (CreateSpace) is a great place to begin. The book is made up of selections from his infamous “Leather Life” column, originally published in Lavender magazine over the span of 15 years, now updated and annotated for the book.

Life, Leather and the Pursuit of Happiness is a wonderful historical text, giving context and background on various aspects of the leather community, from bar culture and interpersonal relationships to leather contests.

The scope of the book is primarily focused on gay male leather community, with the occasional reference to leather dykes and transgender leather folks.  However, these references are few and far between, sometimes more tokenized than the fleshed-out representation that is so thoroughly given to men and gay leather men’s community. 

That said, Lenius acknowledges his own personal biases, and the way that the column was based on his experience as a gay man in the community.  So, while I would have liked to see a more diverse representation of leather culture, within the framework of the book I think the particular focus made sense.

One of the key strengths of the book is the ways in which Lenius focuses on community, interpersonal relationships, and the overarching leather culture, as opposed to getting sucked into a 101 style deconstruction and focus on particular acts or activities—a trap that many BDSM or leather focused books fall into. 

The columns are separated by theme into fifteen chapters ranging from topics like leather history and family, to politics, holidays, and spirituality. I would have liked to have seen a larger, diverse, and more fleshed-out focus on leather families and long term power exchange relationships.  

Lenius is trying to cover a lot of ground with these topics. He is remarkably successful while remaining accessible and interesting to a range of readers—from those who are curious but new to BDSM, all the way to established leather folk.

Leather is an important part of my life, and I’m always on the lookout for texts that represent my family and community positively and authentically.  Life, Leather and the Pursuit of Happiness is a great example of a book that does this well.  Lenius, a long-term leatherman, has the experience to have gifted the community with a book of this depth. 

Life, Leather, and the Pursuit of Happiness will be looked at for years to come as a resource for outsiders and beginners to understand more about leather community.  I hope it will also be seen as touchstone chronicling an important decade in leather history, filled with growth and greater visibility.
Life, Leather and the Pursuit of Happiness
Life, history and culture in the leather/BDSM/fetish community
by Steve Lenius
Paperback, 9780984300228, 336p
May 11, 2010

Sassafras Lowrey photo

About: Sassafras Lowrey

Sassafras Lowrey is straight-edge punk who grew up to become the 2013 winner of the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer Award. Hir books—Lost Boi, A Little Queermas Carol, Roving Pack, Leather Ever After, and Kicked Out—have been honored by organizations ranging from the National Leather Association to the American Library Association. Hir nonfiction book Left Out: How Marriage Equality Abandoned Homeless LGBTQ Youth is forthcoming from The New Press, and TRICKS IN THE CITY: For Daring Doggos and the Humans that Love Them is forthcoming from Mango Publishing. Sassafras' fiction and nonfiction work has appeared in numerous anthologies, literary journals, and magazines and ze facilitates writing workshops at colleges, conferences, and homeless shelters across the country. Sassafras has recently relocated from Brooklyn to Portland with hir partner, and their menagerie of dogs and cats. Learn more at

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