By Mongrel87, co-host of the BDSM: Reimagined podcast
Beginning in my early teens, as feelings of the sexual kind found me, I thought it was common sense to use my school shoe to jerk off - heck, it was the closest thing I could find that emulated a vagina! It had a warm cave that seemed just the right size for a penis; it was tactile - I could hold onto it or make it bounce on top of me; and it was great at catching all that mess! For 12-year-old me, this was all it was, this was all it had to be. Yet over the years, little did I know I was associating this object with 'love making'. Shoes became tied with pleasure. In fact, they were becoming concentrated forms of pleasure. To me it seems without question that the things we are attracted to - the faces, colours, movements that excite us - are best found in the more primal unconscious parts of our neurocircuitry. These neurasthenic systems, a term coined by neuroscientist Semir Zeki, can help us explain why we are attracted to the things we are. So, when it comes to attraction, we are very much animals by nature.
When I see trainers around me on the streets or sitting in my closet, their curves, colours, stripes and smells are reaching into my brain, exciting my reproductive interests. After all, they did appear at the height of my formative adolescent sexual needs. This doesn't stop at trainers of course. This explains many fetishes: why you are attracted to his large nose, her rosy cheeks, their white ankle socks, his body odour, the shape of her hands, the curve of their arse, his beard, or the size of her eye lashes. They promise virility to whatever unconscious particularity you think virility is represented by. But we are not this simple. We are cultural creatures and so there are cultural layers we need to think of.
Not only are trainers, for me, objects that emit an arousing combination of colours and patterns, but they are too suffused with the cultural conditions that they, and I, were created in. I recall many times in high school seeing all the popular boys wearing clothes and shoes that for me symbolised a number of things, but in particular their strength, their power, their status. The boys who wore Nike trainers and Adidas tops were confident and noticeable; the jocks who wore their hats backwards with white vests, were athletic, strong, muscular; and the ones who wore their socks over the lips of their trousers were daring, risky, unafraid. Everything opposite to 15-year-old me. I was shy. Odd. Sensitive. Over conscientious. And my sense of fashion, or ignorance of it, showed this.
Over these impressionable years, my taste for trainers came to be more informed and subsequently more refined. Being exposed to hundreds daily, I would subconsciously link the sensory storehouses they were to the qualities of the men who wore them. But which man, which shoe, most aroused me? And why? What is the working-class man, in his construction boots, who would promise brute security to this simplified adolescent's scary world? Or was it the businessman, in his suit and black leathered shoe, providing intellect and financial security? No, it felt much deeper than that: the type of male I was drawn to, was the chav.
Not only does the chav exude that confident, carefree, get-what-you-want attitude, but they live it. (Well, at least in the quick Instagram world I am increasingly exposed to online. In fact, having apps like Instagram allows me to edit out any other rendition, other truths of the chavs - the kind, normal individuals I refuse to believe exist). Yes, stubbornly for me, the chav is that teenage boy in high school who was not afraid. He was a risk taker, opposed authority, knew his feelings and his desires. He was unconflicted. Whereas I most certainly was conflicted. My pain lived in my self-worth. It belonged with my very attitude towards life. And my fear of it. All those large emotions that would move through me day in and day out; those thoughts with sharp edges that took me into fantasies away from the present; the painful knowledge of a burning finite world. I was aware of it all. And only the chav seemed to be the one standing amongst it all, unbothered. Not because of money or strength, but by that deep seated confidence that allowed him to be the same person wherever he went. To do and wear what he wanted when he wanted. Or to act according to his own values with his friends and in public. He represents the same unashamed person everywhere he went (it would be important here to mention that this idealisation could be replaced by any archetypal figure, be it the bodybuilder, the wise teacher, an authority figure, ect..).
My understanding of chavs has accumulated and bled into the clothes they wear. To see a chav in full kit wearing Nike Air 97s, promises my primitive psychology freedom from the existential burdens I once carried (and always will in small ways). Every item on them has been infused with the loud behaviours they have exhibited. Fucking the kind of trainers, they wear, wearing the kit they would own, worshipping the socks they have, is a way for me to be part of an immortality project. A project that promises connection with the divine, freedom from my ordinary, profane life. The chav, the bodybuilder, the dom, and the businessman are symbols of this superior power, of infinite security, to my primitive psychology. What they are and what they own become understood as artefacts that represent a solution to my personal inadequacies and to the problems of the world. The chav, or his clothes, become a refuge from all my worry and hesitation. They are everything that I am not and everything that I hoped to be to escape my limited, yet real, adolescent beliefs. This of course is untrue on an intellectual level in adult life. But we are talking about sex. And sex doesn't care for common sense.
On a social level, if anything that chavs have taught me, is how incredibly explicit their community is. You know when you see a chav, more than most other 'tribes' we are exposed to. Again, you know when you see a muscle-Mary, a bear. These, like the chav, are concentrated expressions of primitive language signalling ideas that arouse us, that you might not know when you see a person into rubber, gunge, leather or sounding. Those communities remain privately hidden behind 'normal' attire, not always allowing their tribe to be seen immediately. What these chavs and muscle-men wear is their ticket into a club and their club at the same time. They have their own language, their own rules and values. Right or wrong values, it doesn't matter… they belong.
With class lines increasingly merging, the increasing numbers of social structures we belong to including individualism, and the 'tribe' that raises a child shrinking, we are at more need than ever for clear role-models and community input. It is not a matter of opinion; it is our biology. We function best in community. We function best when we feel we belong. Especially at that vulnerable age of adolescence, where our world view is being formed into simple narratives - we seek a group to click into. We imitate their code by wearing the same type of clothes and listening to the same music. All in the name to belong. Yet in university and beyond, those 'superficial' yet important group identifiers melt away as we wear the same business attire and act the same way, regardless of our personal desires and interests. This is by no means a call to rebellion; conformity has done well for us mostly. I am more here trying to illustrate how my own personal desires and needs have mutated around this.
So where does this leave me now at age 33? Am I helplessly chasing after young chavs, trying to find temporary peace from my existential afflictions? No. Well, in some ways yes. For one thing, I have begun wearing the clothes and trainers that they do. This might seem odd and arbitrary to most, but keep in mind we are talking about the evolution of something incredibly animalistic here. For a young child to begin to wear the clothes, or use the words, or act in the way of their tribal role models, this is an extraordinary moment. It represents a transition. However, for me, a transition that is stunted. After all, I am a submissive and feel that I can never meet those primitive power associations I have, for whatever reasons, placed on "dominant" chav-like men. For me, I am just pretending. The shoes I wear, the gear I put on, arouses me but does not feel me - or it does, just not totally. I am wearing clothes that have cultural inheritance that I did not help shape. Thankfully, though, my knowledge of such dynamics frees me. I have come to accept what turns me on and have come to be endeared by it. I am incredibly thankful that there is a large population like me, all posting pictures of their kit and trainers, white socks and bare feet. And I feel proud and blessed to also have such a rich internal sexual world because of it all.
Mongrel87 co-hosts a new podcast, BDSM Reimagined, that focuses on aspects of kink and sexuality. Can be found on all major podcasting platforms or via the link below.
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