Jake Papadakos took a leather title this summer, but it’s the leather community that has given much back to him

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It is called a collar,” Jake Papadakos, 41, explains of the locked cable he wears looped around his neck. “Technically, it is not my collar. It is my Sir’s collar. It is a symbol of ownership … that my Sir owns me. Basically it allows other people, especially those who are in the [leather] community, to know that I am taken.”

Papadakos is “taken” by fellow Dallas resident David “Tug” Whitehead, and together, they form a kind of North Texas leather power-couple: Whitehead was International LeatherSir 2015, and Papadakos earned his title, International Leatherboy 2016, over last Labor Day weekend. (The competition also includes a title for International Community Bootblack, a male or female who works on and cares for leather.) For the reigning Papadakos, he looks forward to fulfilling his title commitments in the coming months. He is also proud of his Sir’s accomplishments over the last year. (Their one regret: Both didn’t hold their international titles simultaneously.)

“I was bartending all the time, and he was travelling all the time,” Papadakos recalls of Sir Tug’s reign. “I rarely got to see him. I was extremely remiss that I didn’t run for Leatherboy at the time to be by his side. After I won, about a week later, a friend said to me, ‘You do realize that you and your Sir were International LeatherSir and International Leatherboy at the same time [on stage] for about three minutes?’ [That put] a smile on my face.”

Papadakos has been active in the leather community for a little more than four years. He won his first regional leather title three years ago as a bootblack. He advanced to an International Mr. Leather contest in Chicago, where he was second runner-up, competing against eight other bootblacks. More recently, Papadakos took the South Central Leatherboy regional title, a win that qualified him for the International Leatherboy competition last summer.

“I’ve always been interested in the [leather] scene,” Papadakos says. “Without going into too much detail, it got to the point that it was the only kind of porn I could watch that gave me a rise. While I was living in Panama City, Fla., I heard about an event in St. Petersburg — the International Puppy Contest. I thought it sounded like fun. I got to see leather first hand, so to speak.”

It was there Papadakos met Brenda Cothern, an author who writes BDSM novels — surprisingly, most featuring gay romance. The two became friends. Papadakos witnessed Cothern flogging someone over that weekend and desired to feel leather across his bare skin as well. Cothern agreed to flog him.

“I found it became very therapeutic,” says Papadakos, who submitted to flogging more than once that weekend. “It was the cheapest therapy session you could possibly get. It allowed me to release emotion that I had bottled up inside of me. When I was finally was able to release a lot of the stuff from my past, I started to grow emotionally, spiritually and mentally. I became a stronger person because of it.” Papadakos believes the general public holds several misconceptions about the leather community, the most common being that it is “all about sex and kink.” To the contrary, Papadakos describes the community as a fraternity of sorts, complete with fellowship and philanthropic activity. For example, Papadakos hosted fundraiser benefitting Legacy Counseling Center just last week. “Believe it or not, it’s more about the brotherhood and the family… the relationships,” he says. “I have never met a more well-rounded, emotionally stable, giving community than the leather community. There are people I have never met in the leather community who reach out to me on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to chat, to tell stories, whatever. That to me is extremely powerful. You don’t get that anywhere else.”

Papadakos understands that some people have reservations about exploring their leather curiosity. But joining in, he insists, is not as scary as all that. He compares an initial leather scene visit to one’s first trip to a gay bar.

“You can go to the Dallas Eagle on any given night and you can spot the virgins, so to speak,” Papadakos says. “It’s amazing how quickly these new people are embraced and brought in and taught and mentored. Some of them decide it’s not the right scene for them for whatever reason, but a lot of them decide that it is.”

As a founding member of local boys’ social group the Lone Star boys of Leather, Papadakos is committed to educating those who wish to join the leather scene, and especially mentoring other leatherboys. And don’t make the mistake of believing only young men can be leatherboys. The position is one of mindset, not of age.

“I’ve seen 80-year-old boys,” Papadakos chuckles. “Boy is a mentality of service, typically of submission to a Sir, daddy or master. But really for me, being a boy is all about the service aspect … not only to my Sir, but to the leather community at large.” — Scott Huffman

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 16, 2016.