Today I heard the sad news of the passing of David Stein. (Or, as I should write - slave david stein - in lowercase, as he would self-identify.)
As a BDSM historian I tilt my cap to david. (A leather police cap at that.) For david stein was one of the original NY gay male activists behind Safe, Sane & Consensual (SSC). I didn't know david stein personally. I was active in some of the same online groups as him, and we posted on each others' threads, including on BDSM history.
He began his interest in bondage at a young age, writing in his biography:
"Perhaps because i was granted too much freedom as a child and was largely ignored by both parents until i was of school age — i made an unconscious association between bondage (or any kind of restraint/constraint) and love. (It was only a few years ago that i realized this.) For me, to be bound is to be loved; to be confined is to be wanted."
Coming out in his late 20s, david abandoned a PhD Northwestern University in Illinois - with his thesis on the subject of truth, in order to step into his own truth. He moved to New York in 1977, worked as a volunteer for the National Gay Task Force (now the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) and worked for Christopher Street magazine in its heydays. As well as writing on SM, he edited some of its star writers, including Edmund White.
Writing about his experience at Chicago Hellfire Club's infamous Inferno, he inadvertently ended up the bondage model illustrated on the cover of New York Native.
david stein as bondage model
In the era of Old School code of the leathermen, leather-wearing was "earned", and david sought to honour this by wearing denim when he attended Spike (bar) . When he finally did buy his first leather jacket, he succeeded in attracting a leatherman that same night, performing particular acts which he frankly discusses in his biography.
In 1980, he attended the first meeting of what became Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA). He served as Chairman of the steering committee, and held a number of positions over the years - including President and Program Chairman, editing the newsletter and publications.
As david stein would recount:
"GMSMA not only gave me opportunities to learn about s/m — it became the teaching outlet that my departure from academia had denied me, and i used every opportunity it afforded to spread information and ideas about safe, responsible bondage and s/m between consenting adults."
In 1983, the GMSMA committee which david sat on, published a report that contains the earliest use of the phrase Safe, Sane and Consensual in relation to SM activities.
Some eleven years after he began his involvement with GMSMA, he had to cut back due to a series of serious health concerns. These included arthritis in both knees, which as david noted was "a real handicap for a submissive bottom, let alone a slave", alongside a life-threatening bout of pneumonia. He ruptured two spinal discs in his neck from the coughing. The pneumonia he notes was not related to HIV. His distinction underplays the contextual events of the era, in which the gay scene was being ravaged by a then mysterious disease, which we now know as the AIDS epidemic.
Alongside writing in magazines, david began writing a story which would eventually be published as Carried Away: An S/M Romance - published in 2003 by Daedalus, as its first fiction title. He had several long-term positions as a "slave" within SM relationships.
Cover of Carried Away: An SM Romance by david stein
My understanding is that slave david stein - as he liked to be known - passed away yesterday morning, Thursday 12th October 2017, after a long battle with cancer. The news came through his leather family on Fetlife, from "slave kirk".
slave david stein will be best-remembered for his contribution to developing the BDSM code of "Safe, Sane and Consensual", and for his fictional ideal of slavery in Carried Away. However his body of writing and editing for the SM community in grassroots newsletters and magazines was considerable, and through this he had a role in influencing a whole community of people, with the ripples of the ideas he advanced still felt today.
He sought to live his truth, as a self-identified "slave", and to share the knowledge of S/M he had acquired with others, with generosity of exchange as well as self-introspection on consensual (voluntary) slavery.
slave david stein - thank you for your incredible contribution to the BDSM community.
you* will be remembered.
Anne O Nomis
Author of 'The History & Arts of the Dominatrix' book www.historyofthedominatrix.com
*I have used lower-case in keeping with david's own preferences of address, rather than grammatical error.
Articles for further reading:
david stein biography http://boybear.us/me.htm
david stein "Carried Away: An SM Romance": https://www.amazon.com/Carried-Away-Romance-david-stein/dp/0991048334