Sex talk
Speaking of Rubber Gear

Simon Sheppard,

Janssen Books "I love the way rubber feels," says a latex lover, "all smooth and tight against my naked body. Very tight. It makes me hot, it makes me damp...and hot and damp are good things to be."

Sure, leather is the premier fetish material, but these days rubber gear is gaining fast. It's not just the simple stuff, like black rubber bodysuits, T-shirts and shorts. They look good, of course, in a kinky, no-place-to-hide-a-faulty-figure way -- you, too, can play Catboy at the next Batman costume party. But that's just for starters. A trip to a well-stocked fetish store will reveal a dazzling array of latex stuff.

There's fetishwear, of course: lace-up rubber corsets, jockstraps, over-the-knee socks, black opera-length latex gloves just perfect for...well, whatever calls for long rubber gloves. None of this comes cheap; good rubber chaps can set you back nearly $300 (U.S.), a rubber bondage suit around three times that. And not only is rubberwear rather costly, it is, compared to sturdy, durable ol' leather, a bear to care for; it's not just kinkwear, it's a commitment. (And incompatible with oil-based lubes, too.)

When rubberfans want to play, they've got a wide choice of made-for-kink sex toys. Rubber bondage collars and restraints, clones of their cowhide cousins, are just perfect for that vegan bottomboy who'll surrender his ass, but not his principles. And then it gets even kinkier. Rubber gags with cock-shaped attachments. Full-head hoods with mouth tubes. Some top-of-the-line toys take advantage of rubber's unique properties; there's an inflatable hood, and a double-wall, full-body bondage bag that can be inflated like a wrap-around air mattress, leaving the bottom not only restrained, but floating inside a kinky cushion. (Though rubber fetishism always seemed to many of us to be a particularly British kink, much of this fancy gear is made in Holland. Go figure.)

Less specialized rubber gear has its fans, too. Firemen's outfits, fishermen's rubber waders, even scuba diving wetsuits – it's all butch fantasy material for rubberlovers. "As a child, I always liked firemen," one guy reminisces, and some things never change. Unlike black leather, with its Bad Biker aura, slinky latex fetishwear has a more androgynous appeal, but clomping around in a waterproof sewer worker's outfit just reeks of working-class masculinity.

The plain old gas mask, available cheap at your army-navy store of choice, is a favorite toy of many. Concealing all but the eyes, filtering the free flow of breath, it has that dehumanized look so fashionable in today's stylish dungeons. In fact, loss of individuality is part of rubber's appeal. Heavy bondage and rubber, it seems, are just natural allies; fetish magazines are replete with photos of men completely cocooned in shiny skin-tight prisons. Once enclosed in what one writer calls "latex utopia," a bottom loses all individuality. "I crave that feeling of separation from the outside world, that all-over restriction," says a hunky enthusiast who loves being a latex mummy.

And for a space-age rubber look, there's liquid latex, which brushes onto the body, drying to a second skin with, as one manufacturer puts it, "a sensual, tight feeling." The stuff can create fantastic, multi-colored, nearly-naked effects. It even comes in day-glo colors that shine under black light.

At base, any fetish is impervious to logic. Some guys are turned on by gleaming black leather, others by a bright yellow raincoat. The smell, look and feel of rubber just makes some men's dicks hard. Whether you think it's dorky or divine, stretching the bounds of sexiness or just stretchy, hankering for rubber, it appears, is here to stay.

Simon Sheppard is the co-editor of Rough Stuff: Tales of Gay Men, Sex, and Power (Alyson Books)

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