by Bruce Jones (Queensland Leather Daddy 2016, 2018)

Gladiator, bulldog, chest, pitbull, leg/thigh and crossbody (or British) are all styles of harness that all of us would readily recognise or wear. Nowadays, even a Sam Brown is regarded and worn as another style of harness. This diversity of styles is also reflected in the variety of materials from which they’re made: neoprene, fabric, leather, rope, chain and even LEDs. For many, the choice of a harness is that of an “accessory” which will complete the aesthetics of an outfit for a particular occasion, be it Mardi Gras, Tropical Fruits, Trough, Woof or any of the myriad other parties.

There was a time, however, when the harness you wore flagged your role in the leather BDSM community as clearly and succinctly as any hanky. There were two kinds of harness, both made only in leather and their design had practical implications for your role.

Doms/Masters wore an X-shaped harness, that almost always had a leather extension connecting the O-ring in the centre of the chest to a cockring. (Some had an additional band which encircled the body at about navel level.) This arrangement of parts had a practical purpose: the parts of the X at the Dom/Master’s sides provided a convenient handgrip and balance/support for a sub/bottom to use while giving his Dom/Master head, especially if the sub/bottom was being spit-roasted.

Subs/bottoms wore a bulldog harness, with one major difference: the buckles were at the back. As a sub/bottom, you were buckled into your harness by your Dom/Master. Being unable to remove it unaided functioned as a powerful visual reminder of your role, position and dependence on your Dom/Master. Other design elements of the harness also had practical implications. The D-rings on both the front and back of the harness provided convenient points to which to attach a leash or various cuffs and shackles to further control or immobilise a sub/bottom. The leather band (front and back) joining the straps encircling each shoulder provided a handhold for a Dom/Master to draw his sub/bottom to him or to provide great leverage and control when thrusting forward while fucking.

Do I miss this earlier time when the choice of a harness came with only two options? Not really. It was symptomatic of a time before homosexuality was decriminalised and discerning possibilities or choices with minimal verbal interaction was essential. Finding a style of harness that suits you and makes you happy about wearing it is ultimately more important.

Besides, we can rely on bicep bands – now, the vers guys don’t miss out.