R.F.M. Picture Book of Bondage Issue 1 front cover

Front cover for R.F.M. Picture Book of Bondage Issue 1

Published in 1979 by R.F.M.

I found this magazine while shopping in my favorite leather store last year.  I have no idea how or why they were selling it since it was published several years before they opened.  My best guess is that my copy of this magazine is new old stock given its pristine condition and cover price.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the original 1979 cover price of $14.50 is equivalent to $44.92 at the time of this writing. For the life of me, I cannot imagine spending over $44 for a new magazine.  Such a high cover price likely explains why there are still new stock copies available over 30 years after it was published.

R.F.M. is a photo magazine in the purest sense.  The only words in the entirety of this issue are in the copyright notice. Other than that, it is devoid of articles, editorials, and captions.  It is even devoid of ads.  Instead, its pages are filled with photographs of rather unattractive men in bondage.  By unattractive, I mean that for the most part they look more like refugees from a Skynyrd concert than fetish models. (I think it is the Confederate soldier-style cap that one wears that brought Skynyrd to mind.)  While the photos are not exactly amazing, the age of this magazine and the men inside it did cause me to think about what the fetish community was like back in the 1970s.

It is curious they way the BDSM community often romanticizes the “Old Guard.”  By some recollections (invariably relayed by those far too young for these to be firsthand accounts), leather men in the past looked like Greek gods and lived by a moral code which would make the Bushido Code appear to be coddling folks. This is invariably accompanied with a lament of how much things have changed for the worse. While it is doubtless true that some leather people were very attractive and honorable people, then as now, they ran the gamut from beautiful to ugly and honorable to unscrupulous.

I never can put my finger on why some people romanticize the past.  However, I think there are a couple of interrelated reasons that explain it.  If the past is wondrous, then it holds promise that there is a way to fix the present. I also think that if one believes the past was perfect, they can believe that the present it informs is valuable and worth the effort of fixing.

It is important to understand the past.  But romanticizing it prevents us from meaningfully understanding it, because we enter a fantasy that bears little in common with reality. The past informs the present. Realizing that the past is valuable despite its flaws gives us the perspective to recognize that the present, and its flaws, are also valuable.

This is what I really loved about R.F.M.  Sure, the models are not attractive, and the scenes portrayed are not groundbreaking.  But that isn’t what matters.  What matters is that they were having fun and enjoying amazingly hot sex.

R.F.M. serves as a good reminder about what matters and what leather folks were really like.  If you have a chance to pick up a copy, I highly recommend you do so.