PVC and Rubber Fetish Written by: Master Anton, 01/18/2011
Popular culture often borrows from subculture trends. We see evidence of this in bus stop advertisements, at the local clothing store, in mainstream music, in movies and more. Fetish fashion is no exception. Take, for example, the popular Absolut Au Kurant advertisement that features a woman dressed in a leather lace-up corset. She has an hourglass figure, which, in fact, is more properly described as a "vodka-bottle figure" and the impact on consumers can be familiar while also being erotic. Slightly different than leather, PVC (polyvinylchloride) and rubber clothing are shiny and pliable and provide an incredibly snug fit. Its soft, tactile feel is what draws some fetishists to incorporate PVC and rubber fashion into sexual play.
People wear full bodysuits that cover their genitalia, hands, feet and even their entire face, often with the exception of an opening for their eyes and mouth. Some guys adore getting tugjobs from women's latex-clad hands and there are women who have some of their most explosive orgasms while masturbating or being fingered by someone wearing PVC, rubber or latex gloves. So, in addition to bodysuits, there are PVC, rubber and latex gloves and torso harnesses, rubber aprons, masks and hoods and lots more fetish gear you can easily purchase online.
To best understand the PVC and rubber fetish, I think it's best if I explain the concept of the second skin. When it comes to catsuits or bodysuits replete with masks, the individual is "encased" head-to-toe in a sheer and usually shiny skin. There are some who consider encasement a fetish all in itself. Of course, the two fetishes can cross over, depending on how the latex gear is used and why it's worn certain ways. Don't get your polyvinylchloride panties in a knot: I'll get to that in a minute.
While every inch of a person's body is sometimes covered, in many ways they're on full display, because the suit is skintight and made to accentuate every curve:
"As to the attraction of fetish wear, rubber and PVC clothing encourages erotic interest because, while a sheer, skintight garment covers everything, it effectively conceals nothing. Thus a wearer can be fully clothed but effectively naked. Rubber and PVC also show off the wearer to their best advantage. Fetish wear is flattering as it supports and lifts the bits and pieces that would otherwise sag, and covers blemishes and wrinkles. An aging, wrinkled and spotty bottom becomes taught, smooth and 'youthful.'" (2)
Some of you may be wondering why this shiny, pliable material has been eroticized by some, so let me shine some light on a few theories. In doing so, you'll get to find out a little bit more about the ways they use the material in sexual play. Stephen Arnott, for example, notes that some posit shiny materials remind some people of wet and glistening genitalia. A spit-covered erect member, or a penis recently withdrawn after vaginal sex is hard and shiny and PVC provides a visual and tactile sensory associations. (3)
Arnott goes on to suggest that another reason, or, perhaps, simply an added turn-on, is that this second skin allows you to transform into another person. After transformation you may feel more free to explore and do things you wouldn't if you were simply donning your "first skin." In fact, when it comes to transformation fetish, when someone dons a PVC kit, they might feel like they're in an intermediate state between the plasticized or "synthetic" human and the "organic" body. Think "The Six Million Dollar Man" except instead of prosthetic parts, it's super-plastic or rubber and rather than using your super-powers to help an intelligence agency, you're now a PVC sex machine who is capable of so much more than you were before.
Another explanation as to why some people fetishize PVC and rubber is not necessarily in contrast to the theory I just mentioned, but may be considered an addendum, like latex gloves plus a latex mask. In "Sex in Advertising," the author emphasizes the liminal aspect of PVC and rubber. The shiny quality can arouse by association with taut penises or slick, wet labia and vuvla, but also represents the artificial and "manufactured characteristic that contrasts with the material's natural essence." (4)
It's no stretch, as it were, to correlate this term liminal with the "threshold" PVC provides between human skin and "manufactured skin" and it may also refer to the sensory threshold, as the wearer is significantly deprived of touch. That being said, there is only one material that comes in contact with their skin, and that is the PVC, rubber or latex. So while a person is deprived of certain sensory experiences, it only furthers to heighten the overwhelming sensation of the material against their skin.
The fetish marketplace is overrun with black PVC, rubber and latex gear. There are several reasons and theories why this is, one of the most obvious being the dark, chilling effect black PVC gear can have (think Catwoman from "Batman" or various Goth and vamp fetish fashion). However, there are other more in-depth explanations as to why black is the most preferred color (and no, it's not because black just goes with everything). Keeping in mind the appeal of the taut, glistening material, it's entirely possible that black is most popular because it's more reflective than other colors, not to mention the male and female form is more highly accentuated. (5)
A lot of pornography is inundated with a strong focus on exposed naughty parts and some consider the PVC and rubber fetish a counterpoint or "by-product" of a society obsessed with large penises, cum, breasts, butts and vaginas. It's almost an obsessive-compulsive social sexuality for us to hone in on and idolize or objectify the body parts we love to stroke, lick, thrust, jiggle and, well, you name it. Though Andrea Beckmann discusses mostly sadomasochism, her theories on some individuals eschewing the fetishization of the aforementioned body parts in favor of practices that highlight other aspects of sexuality - including power and submission, non-genital sensory arousal and "commodity fetishes" - still applies:
"The exposure of bodies or body parts and their manipulation are also the most striking features of visual encounters. The display of interacting bodies that indulge in erotic experiments appeared like a flight from the everyday wholesale product 'sex.' As genital sexuality loses its socially reinforced importance and becomes a more or less rare by-product of the 'bodily practices' within this 'Scene,' I was confronted with my own internalized and limited preconceptions." (6)
It should come as no surprise then, that some think sexual arousal surrounding PVC, rubber and other various synthetic, manufactured materials stems from fetishization of material culture. Shiny new objects, the latest gadgets, etc, are prized possessions for many. Reichert emphasizes the manufactured, materialistic element to PVC and rubber fetish, claiming the shiny nature of some fetish gear is achieved by taking materials found in nature and altering them via human ingenuity to take on the physical qualities of plastic, "that icon of manufacturing substance."(7) Following this line of thought, it isn't unreasonable to suggest that a conscious or subconscious element that PVC and rubber fetishists enjoy is the blurred boundary between natural, organic materials and man-made objects. (8)
People incorporate PVC and rubber into their sexual play in varied ways, so there is no hard and fast explanation or prescribed use of kits. In some cases, latex gear is used in medical fetish play, incorporated into contortion and sometimes an element, or central feature, of BDSM. As Jenny Barrett confirms, "Whilst there is a general consensus that fetishism and BDSM are different spheres of practice, there is a large crossover in costume and behaviours that tends to draw them together into the same community." (9) Medical fetish or simply cosplay - in which men and women sometimes don rubber uniforms - may speak to the artificial and synthetic that some may find contrasts the natural tactile sensation of bare skin, emphasizing the "sterile."
The use of PVC is evident in pop culture and some may use outfits similar to those worn by characters in movies in their sex lives. Take for example, both Michelle Pfeifer and Halle Berry's performances as Catwoman in the "Batman" films. Some might keep renting them instead of porn, because, hey, she's super sexy! These are women of power, and not only because they defeat villains with superior fighting skills and carry whips. Their second skin is tantalizing and sexy, but is also prohibitive in the sense that a portion of their power is derived from their ability to both reveal and conceal simultaneously. In BDSM, the use of PVC and/or rubber is used, but one fetish does not entail the other.
Take bondage, for example. Because PVC and rubber can often be restrictive, the practice of wearing this gear is a form of bondage to some degree. "These garments are by their nature very tight and constrictive so they offer an added bonus to those who enjoy bondage."(10) The material the suit is made out of doesn't necessarily bring about this correlation, mind you (the same could be achieved with say, a leather harness). In Femdom, a woman may wear a full-body PVC suit and some suggest that the shiny, "hard" appearance of the suit enhances the domination element, because it can be perceived as very phallic. Many people associate PVC, leather, rubber and latex gear with the Dominatrix because it's become a strong stereotype. Barret goes on to point out that this fetish gear signifies power as well as selective, precise and honed violent potential.
At the same time, bodysuits accentuate the female form, which begs attention and worship from the male or female sub. (11) Many Dommes are aroused by lashing and punishing and the sub may only worship her form if she allows it. In many cases, what the sub is allowed to worship is limited to her fully clothed form. Essentially, wearing or incorporating PVC and rubber into other fetish play bolsters or enhances the experience, as they remain distinctly separate fetishes and participants combine them in order to heighten sexual arousal.
No discussion of PVC and rubber would be complete without exploring latex and leather. There are a variety of reasons some prefer the former to the latter. Two reasons that may put poeple off of PVC or rubber and opt for latex are allergies (certainly not sexy and potentially very dangerous) and cost. Latex allergies affect thousands of people in the United States and symptoms can be as minor as skin irritation or as severe as asthma, hives or anaphylaxis (a very serious allergic reaction that spreads through your body rapidly and can cause shock and death). Also, while latex has a slightly different feel to it than PVC and rubber, one thing that feels distinctly different is the weight of your wallet. A full-body, real latex catsuit will set you back considerably, whereas you can buy a PVC suit for about a fifth of the cost. Sometimes it really depends on whether you want your bank account to be in the black, or your body to be in the black latex. However, there are purists who will settle for nothing but genuine latex. Regarding leather, some refuse to buy or wear anything made from animals, so PVC, rubber and latex are great vegetarian-friendly alternatives.
There are as many uses of this material as there are ways to learn more about the PVC and rubber fetish lifestyle. Surfing the Net is a great place to start if you're PVC-and-rubber curious, but you can also check out a fetish fashion convention or show, where artists put their latest designs on display. Moreover, online fetish communities are fantastic resources to explore this fetish and others further, as well as to meet like-minded people.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that like many fetishes, there is no one way to incorporate PVC, rubber and latex gear and practices into sexual play. With all the varied uses and applications of this potentially erotic material, you're in for hours of enjoyment.
1. Sex: The User's Guide, Stephen Arnott (2002) Bantam Dell, Random House, New York. 39.
2. ibid, 39-40.
3. ibid, 40.
4. Sex In Advertising: Perspectives on the Erotic Appeal, "Dark Desires: Fetishism, Ontology, and Representation in Contemporary Advertising," Ed. Tom Reichert, Jacqueline Lambiase (2003) Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ. 67.
5. Arnott, 40.
6.Deconstructing Myths: The Social Construction of "Sadomasochism" Versus Subjugated Knowledges" of Practioners of Consensual "SM", Andrea Beckmann, Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 8(2) (2001) 66-95, University of Lincolnshire & Humberside.
7. Reichart, Lambiase, 76.
8. ibid, 77.
9. You’ve Made Mistress Very, Very Angry: Displeasure and Pleasure in Media Representations of BDSM, Jenny Barrett, Particip@tions Volume 4, Issue 1 (May 2007). 4.
10. Arnott, 40.
11. Barrett, 4.
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