Leatherpride Belgium is an annual celebration of all things kink and fetish.
The 2019 event will be held in Antwerp 22–24 February 2019.
I caught up with Jeroen Van Lievenoogen, the founder of the event, for a behind-the-scenes look at what’s in store for us at Leatherpride 2019.
How many guys are you expecting to be in Antwerp to take part in Leatherpride Belgium?
Last year we welcomed around 5,000 individual visitors. For 2019, that amount is expected to rise since it’s our very special 10th anniversary edition - ticket sales are already through the roof. We’ll probably land somewhere between 5,000 and 7,500 unique pervs.
About 20 percent of our visitors are from Belgium, the same percentage from The Netherlands, and 60 percent are from abroad and further away. Last year, 250 US residents bought tickets online. Currently, the US is the seventh best-selling country for online tickets. We also have tickets sold to guests from as far away as Hong Kong, Mauritius, and Australia.
What’s the gender mix at the event - is it just for guys?
The event is aimed at gay men - it’s an event that focuses on sex, so a gender mix wouldn’t work.
Your theme for the 2019 event is Xperiment - it’s sort of dystopian post-apocalyptic sex-fest. Why have you embraced that as your theme?
We use different themes each year, but they’re all connected by this same post-apocalyptic look and feel. It goes well with a fetish event.
This year we’re going on a three-day expedition to explore a lost facility, where once-secret tests were conducted to create the Alpha Virus. This virus turns any man into a sexual predator. During our expedition we hope to find out if the virus still exists. Who knows what we’ll find in the dark depths of the Antwerp underworld?
What are some of the highlights of the 2019 event that we should be looking forward to?
It’s difficult to point out one or more specific things, because the program is so elaborate and varies a lot to cater for everyone’s needs. We’re very proud to offer the biggest darkroom in the world, consisting of three different areas. We’ve also designed our most impressive stage to date.
The best approach is to have a look at the online program, and pick the shows and parties you prefer most.
How hard-core is Leatherpride? Is this an event that should only be tackled by experienced leather pigs ready for some no-holds-barred action?
Leatherpride Belgium is the most hard-core event for gay men on the planet. There’s nothing that comes close. But, at the same time, it’s also an event for newcomers - we have a range of low-threshold activities such as Darklands during the day.
The event is so big and elaborate, you can create your own program as you wish - the easy, more social things, or the hard-core sex program.
When did you first begin to explore your interest in leather and fetish?
At an early age - I was around 16. But it took me until I was about 19 to visit a fetish bar for the first time.
I remember buying my first leather pants in a store in the city of Hasselt for €150. I bought it with my Christmas and New Year’s money. My mother wasn’t very happy with that, but she’s got used to it now.
What is it about fetish-wear that appeals to you?
I have a crush on both leather and rubber. Leather is something I prefer wearing during the day, on the street. Rubber is more my kind of thing to wear when having sex or going to a party.
Is the leather scene evolving at all?
Constantly. The well-known image of the leather guy in full leather with cap, boots, and braces no longer dominates the scene.
The younger generation in particular experiment a lot with combining fetishes, or introducing totally new subgroups - such as the puppies and the superheroes. Older guys often roll their eyes when they see it, but this is where the community is evolving to.
What’s the leather and fetish scene like in Antwerp?
It’s mainly focused The Boots – Europe’s biggest fetish club. The Boots is a seven-storey warehouse that’s been serving the community as a safe-haven for fetish enthusiasts for over 30 years.
You’ll often find guys in leather in bars such as Random, Cafe Delux, or Santos. They’re just regular bars, but here in Antwerp you can wear what you like.
Any advice for first-time attendees at Leatherpride?
Be who you are, come as you are, leave more happier than when you came in. Your sexuality is an important part of your identity. Explore your boundaries, fantasies and even more stuff you even hadn’t heard of before. Indulge in those things that turn you on, and find pleasure and happiness in them. Better sex for a better and happier life.