4 Essential Tips To Enjoy IML and Other Sex-positive Events
International Mister Leather is an event that has brought together kinky LGBTQ+ people together for more than 40 years. It’s a meeting space that promotes individual expression through the legacy of leather, rubber, and also newer fetish communities, such as pups. IML is also the current home of POW! The Superhero Fetish meetup, which I host, and which draws hundreds of LGBTQ people who love superhero fetish. It’s one of the largest sex-positive events of its kind, and although it can be a lot of fun, it can also overwhelm you if you’re not careful.
Recently, one of my fans (BrinLondo74 on YouTube) told me that he feels anxious about attending IML for the first time. And he asked me for my advice. I am going to answer Brin’s four questions today so that you can make your own IML experience the most enjoyable, especially if you have never experienced it before.
Please keep in mind that these tips are only informational and are not strict advice. I do have more than 15 years of experience attending events like IML, and you can take these tips and apply them to many other kink or sex-positive events around the world. If you would like to add to this conversation, leave a comment! And if you would like to ask more specific questions, you can ask me on Discord when you join my Patreon community. Patreon subscribers get access to more focused chats when they join.
So, if you have never attended a mega-sized leather or kink event, here are the top 4 tips to make sure you enjoy it in the best way possible.
How should I prepare in advance for my first IML?
The most important way to prep is to get your mindset right. IML draws thousands of people, most of them male-presenting, into a single space, and the sights, smells and sounds are going to make you feel like a kid in a candy shop. Your mindset is number one. Remember that you are on a vacation, and you want to have fun over that weekend. Friendship and social connections are just as important as finding romantic or sex partners, so put yourself in a chill state of mind that’s open to engaging sociallly. Even though everyone looks intimidatingly good in their gear, many people are trying just as hard as you are to make a connection–to find a friend, to buddy up with a sex partner, or even to find a life-long partner. So just relax, get ready to shake hands, and be open to the experience without to many expectations. I spend just as much time as you do with my head buried inside gay apps, but if you can, try to put the smartphone away and strike up conversations in person, whenever possible. And if you love your app, no worries, you can also chat away and arrange to meet in real time. There’s no strict rules on how to do this. Just be aware that people are likelier to flake on an app than when you actually are talking to them in person.
Next, make sure you take care of your health. Be sure you educate yourself on safe sex practices, and if you use medicines like PREP, make sure you don’t forget them, as well as condoms, etc. There’s plenty of free condoms and lube samples on site at IML, but if you have a preferred brand, it’s better to have it with you and avoid issues when you are ready to play with your partner(s). In recent years, IML attendees have begun to challenge gender norms, and I couldn’t be happier about it. You will meet many amazing trans, gender-non-conforming and queer individuals who are there to have as much fun as you are. Be prepared to ask people what their preferred pronouns are, and keep in mind that not everyone at the event will be (nor should be) a carbon copy of what you look like, or what your values are.
Although you will think it’s strange for me to say this because I have so much gear, try not to focus so much on how you look but rather on how you connect with people via eye contact, handshakes and other forms on interpersonal communication.
Upon your arrival in Chicago, make sure you know exactly how to get to your hotel or AirBnb. If you’re staying at the host hotel, get ready to spend some time in line or waiting for elevators, which get quite packed. Give yourself plenty of time to chill in your room once you arrive, and make sure you don’t rush. You have all weekend to enjoy! Taking an extra 30 minutes in your room to relax by taking a second shower, unpacking or even having a light snack with friends is going to ensure you don’t wear yourself out. Once you’re settled in, I recommend walking around the Leather Mart, which is the big expo full of vendors at the host hotel. It’s basically the biggest meeting space, and it gives you a chance to check out who’s there, and to browse many products and basically get your bearings. If you’re looking for places to eat, this handy guide on nearby inexpensive restaurants will help you out. You can find much more upscape spots in the loop and West Loop, but for the sake of keeping it simple, a quick bite is probably what you need in most cases, since you’ll probably be spending a lot of time at the hotel. There’s also a Target nearby at 1 S. State Street.
I'm already in an overstimulated headspace. I'm worried that I may get in over my head, overdo it on the first day. How should I pace myself?
If it makes you feel any better, even veteran attendees at IML often feel like they overdo it throughout the whole weekend. The sensory stimulation is non-stop, and your own emotional and sexual expectations about this type of event are going to super charge your psyche. That can be both good or bad. You will feel euphoric, and maybe a little anxious, too. But instead of cracking your knuckles, make it work to your advantage. The best way to avoid burnout and pace yourself is to do less. What does this mean? Well simply put, don’t be a silly American and overschedule yourself. It’s one of our most vulnerable traits, and we have a lot to learn from visitors who come in from other parts of the world. Aim to basically just do one or two things a day. I mean that. If you aim for one or two, you will have a better time, and it will give you time and space to have adventures in between. For example, on Friday, you could aim to attend the Leather Market to do some shopping around 2 pm (after lunch) and attend the Rubber Cocktail Social by MIR and CRM at 10:30 pm. Does that sound like too little? Not at all. In between that time, you will have lunch, dinner, maybe hit the gym or go for a run in Millennium Park, have drinks or enjoy a play date or two. By focusing on doing less, you’ll actually be doing more. You’ll keep your blood pressure low, and again, allow yourself to focus on meeting quality people, rather than obsess about tasks. Save the tasks for your day job.
How much gear should I bring?
This, my friend is the toughest question of them all! Here’s my advice for two types of travelers: people who travel with just a single carry-on, and people who check luggage. If you are a carry-on traveler, bring only your most essential 2-3 fetish outfits. And bring one outfit of regular civilian clothes. And never forget your swimsuit. That’s it. Leave room in your bag for stuff you will buy at the Leather Market, and as far as toys go, just bring things that travel light. Don’t forget to avoid liquids and other banned objects on flights.
If you are checking luggage, I recommen evenly distributing your fetish gear and your toys across your carry-on and your checked luggage. This way, in the unfrotunate case that your airline loses your luggage, you still have a carry-on with toys and gears to save your kinky ass. As far as toys go, only bring the ones that you know you will truly use. If you have play dates scheduled in advance, this is going to make packing toys way easier. If you are playing it by ear, just bring the stuff you use the most back at home that travels light and well. Keep in mind that more seasoned players bring lots of gear with them in their luggage, so this advice is not for them. Keep things light. You will probably buy new toys and gear at the Leather Market, and you will be glad you made room in your checked bags to accommodate your loot to bring back home.
Most important of all, how do I find you at such a large event?
First and foremost, the easiest way to reach me, Pablo Greene, is to slide into my DMs on Instagram. I use Instagram the most, and I am not a fan of Facebook at all. So if you want to find me, just follow me at @howtokillasuperhero and send a DM. My schedule is quite full, so if I can’t meet up with you, I can at least answer questions and provide you with help. If you see me casually walking around at the event, please say hello. I love meeting readers and fans and taking selfies.
Also, you will find me at POW! On Sunday, May 26. Be sure to pack your cosplay or superhero gear!
IML is an event that is always growing and evolving. Nowadays, it feels incredibly large, and it shares some similarities with the exciting but overwhelming nature of cons like Comic Con. Don’t be afraid of it. Pace yourself, be prepared to make new friends, and don’t create rigid expectations. Once you do so, you’ll enjoy your time there. Now gear up and get ready!