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Under the Leather

Here she comes: Ms. World Leather 2006. While 28-year-old Jae Januze looks hot in her leather corset and pants, she also looks none too comfortable. In fact, she strips off the outfit as soon as the photo shoot is over. But then, Januze only started her reign as leader of the nation's leather community last month, after winning the national competition in Philadelphia. Eleven months from now, the hides she wears should be more supple -- and the Denver resident's own hide should be much tougher.

Westword: Is Ms. World Leather like Miss USA but with more interesting clothes?

Jae Januze: Ms. World Leather is more focused on what you're doing than on your looks. This title is pretty much the most intensive in terms of the degree that you have to prepare, and then the contest itself. Which is why I wanted to do it: You get a chance to really focus on something. You have to do a ten-minute on-stage presentation. Some people do PowerPoints, but I did a business plan for mine.

For what?

Basically, how I would run my title year. I said it should be handled like a business. I'm traveling, I'm handling money, I'm networking with people -- all of these things that you would do with a small business. So I took a business model from a nonprofit and plugged all my info in. And as soon as you're done giving your presentation, they start grilling you, and you'd better know it inside and out, because they've had a chance to research it.

So the judges get your platform in advance?

They get your platform a couple weeks ahead of time. And these are people who have been around. Some of them have been in the scene longer than I have been alive. And then later that evening, after the presentation, we did a meet-the-press where we had members of the press -- I think there were about seven of them -- and you had to answer a question from each of them in five minutes. It's supposed to shake you up and be intensive. On Sunday, they give you an on-stage question related to your platform. Mine was "We have every faith in your ability to unite the younger community. What are you going to do to unite the younger and the older communities?" Which is just like, oh, my God. So I don't think I gave a very good answer; it was sort of generic, like, "Get them involved directly."

The equivalent of world peace, please.

Exactly.

And you're doing all of this in your leather?

Yes, all of this in highly uncomfortable clothing. It looks fabulous, but...

What will you spend the next year doing?

Thankfully, winning means I get some money. So it goes directly into traveling.

What kinds of places will you go?

I want to spread the word that there are resources for young adults who are interested in alternative sexual lifestyles. So I'll be visiting college campuses. I'm not out to recruit; I'm out to provide information for people who are looking for it. So if there's a leather community in a town and they ask what they can do for their young people, I'll go there and help them. I'm also going to be building a website database of resources in various cities -- for BDSM, leather and fetish, with information on how to start your own group, etc. I also want to film a documentary on the beginnings of groups for younger people.

What kind of myths do you think you'll face?

Because I'm a dominant woman, everybody automatically assumes I'm out there kicking men's asses all the time. The other thing is the non-consensual issue, because it's always out in the media as describing the BDSM community. But I don't do things to people unless we've talked about it. BDSM is for both of us, not just for me. There has to be consent. I always get these people who are like, "Oh, I read this thing." And I'm like, "Let me guess: It's erotica and it's all about non-consensual sex." And they're like, "Yeah, yeah, there was this kidnapping." And I'm like, "No, no, we don't do kidnapping. That's really fine for fantasy, but it's kind of icky for real life."

Do you consider yourself a professional dominatrix?

Being a dominatrix is something I do because I run across someone every now and then who I click with. But in general, it's too stressful. I have friends who are pro doms, and it's too stressful. I do phone sex, webcam stuff. I have fun with the phone.

What's phone sex like?

You never know, and that's part of the fun. You get to put on the creative hat. One of the questions the press asked me at the contest was, "How do young people react to you being a sex worker?" And I never really thought of myself as a sex worker. I don't actually deal with sex. I deal in the mind, with fantasies. I don't have sex with clients. I guess I do the phone sex, but it's all a mental trip.

What types of calls do you get?

Tell me what to do, Mistress. And I'm like, "Tell me what you're into, because I could call you a sissy cross-dresser and talk about what panties you're wearing, and you might not like that. That might not be your fetish. And then all of a sudden they're more forthcoming. I love the foot-fetish people. I had one guy who sent me several pairs of shoes and paid for a spa pedicure downtown. So that was really fun.

Are you part of a large phone-sex company, or do you do it on your own?

I have my own fetish website, but it's all linked to a larger company. So I set my own hours. And it's great, because I can travel and I can do it from anywhere.

How did you find yourself moving toward BDSM and leather?

Well, I didn't have sex until college. I was a very chaste person, but sex has been my favorite topic since I was twelve. In 1999, I kind of realized I had some dominant tendencies in certain areas, and I started exploring online. I even did a senior honors project in college on sex ethics. Ethics for me are all about making rational instead of emotional choices about behavior. So it was all about exploring the different ethics that various cultures put toward sex. What I really want to do one day is work on helping other people develop their own sex ethics. The leather stuff, with all of the discussion and negotiation we do before playing, it really hits that sort of rational spot in the brain. It's hot, but yet you have to think.

For you, what does it mean to be a dominant?

It's getting in touch with my true self. I'm a pretty laid-back person, but there's that side that's very aggressive, very assertive. I associate it with sports. Like if you're playing in a game, and all of a sudden your brain clicks over to this aggressive energized side. It's not aggressive, I'm-going-to-go-out-and-kill-people, but like you're doing a team sport, you're involved, there's the interaction between the players, and it's just this incredible rush. For me, it's more than my sexuality; it's a creative energy, it's communicating with people, creating living art.

When you say play with people, what does that mean?

With leather, a lot of people are involved in BDSM, but there are also people who like the feel and smell of leather, and they want sex while they're wearing their leathers, and it's just hot and hard-core. Sure, that's good, so I have fun with that, but so often the clothing isn't that comfortable. It's great for the prelude -- but if I'm doing bondage on someone, leather is fine. Leather is actually more comfortable than a lot of the fetishwear.

Who do you think needs to be topped: Bill Ritter or Bob Beauprez?

Choices, choices. Well, you know, I'm a good Samaritan, and I want to look out for my community, and Bob Beauprez just really needs to be sat down and very firmly talked to. So I would enjoy it from a humanitarian aspect, but I can't say it would get me hot.