How would you describe Rubber as a fetish to someone? What is your Rubber fetish?
I think of fetish in a dictionary sense, as a way to "hold an object in awe and respect." Rubber as a fetish, I believe, is a practice of engaging in community events/socializing to connect with others who identify similarly; a practice to explore (curiosity? Desire?) sexual and non-sexual self-realization, where a part or whole of yourself does not play or adhere to respectability politics in the structures of everyday society and life.
I feel wearing my Rubber gear is liken to a 'second skin.' I explain it as a second skin because it allows me to feel confident; grand while indulging with others that adorn the same material: smooth, shiny, flexible, and energy holding. In my everyday skin, I do not feel always 100% confident or even respected due to racial micro-aggressions in some instances. Alternatively, wearing my Rubber gear, I feel 100% right in myself and my connection to fetish and various identities. I always approach my wearing of Rubber gear with humbleness and respect. My skin, the gear I wear should be respected. Rubber gear is no different than Leather. Leather in appearance is solid lines - strict and exact - compartmentalized, whereas Rubber is flexible and takes form in many ways. Rubber and fetish, it becomes an active practice of turning ideas and encounters into learning and participation, which becomes a beautiful and healthy practice.
How did you become interested/involved with Rubber?
I became interested to wear Rubber, because a friend extended an invite to attend Folsom Street Fair, but to attend with a different attitude. Although I attended my first Folsom Street Fair in 2004, it was in 2005 where a friend who was active in the fetish and kink communities, had established an identity for himself in Rubber, encouraged/suggested that I "get in gear." My friend, Rubberleatherkink, had experience in rope play/bondage but formed his connection to fetish and kink through Rubber gear. Rubberleatherkink would be my guide at Folsom Street Fair that year, to show me that an individual who embraces their curiosity about fetish and kink needs to know that there is no one way of practice - but multiple ways. Folsom Street Fair is a euphoric playground, which reinforces for an individual a multitude of ways how fetish and kink can exist.
How would you describe your experience in the fetish/kink scene as a Black man?
I believe things are developing for the better but there is still room for improvement. I am conscious that some spaces are not active to recruit and invite people of color into fetish and kink spaces because they have no sincerity about our presence there. I feel often that as a person of color we are compared to images of Tom of Finland or some highly problematic, racist, indirect characterization, so it is a struggle for those who want to engage but feel disregarded. Alternatively, I feel proud and hopeful when I hear of groups like ONYX, which exists to invite, create and take space as Black, Brown, Transgender individuals inside of toxic hyper-masculine white identified spaces. I also am proud that Recon does the same with the direction of showing that diversity is needed in the various scenes of fetish and kink.
How do you feel about tokenism & race play in fetish/kink?
First, I am aware: It is the consent of individuals that want to enact that particular "fantasy" and feel comfortable to enable a scene/environment of race play with a code of conduct with a partner. Race play is a diving line amongst the multiple identities within the fetish and kink communities; various ages, ethnicities, gender identities (multi-dimensional), sexual roles and context all feel and think of in some way.
I do not engage with race play and tokenism, which I believe is rooted in racism. I am not convinced of the opinions individuals who hold the idea where race play is liberating or a way of not being oppressed by words (which are rooted in racism!). Tokenism is subtle and tangible, either is disingenuous toward non-white bodies and identities. Tokenism appears in communication between profiles as expressions of compliment (having not ever had sex with a Black/Latino/Asian man; handsome for a Black man; desiring BBC – Big Black Cock) unfortunately racism has no boundaries – racism carries a passport and shows up throughout the world and in certain places and spaces, even within fetish/kink communities.
I have more times than often had the experience of European/Euro-American white men believing Black men and men of color are monolithic identities.
As a result, engage with an attitude as if to capture an object of sexual desire. Those encounters reveal they do not see me as an individual, instead just a conquest. As a Black man, I am well aware Black bodies/bodies of color, intentional or not, are seen within a frame of stereotypes and pre-judgment (prejudice). As a result, I am critical of individuals who only engage with me with the desire of fetishism in sex play.
What advice would you give someone who's just starting their exploration into fetish?
Take chances to keep learning; practice introducing yourself – especially once we can all show up to our favorite spaces to see each other and smile. It is important to establish connections with leaders, mentors, and associations that seek to further the individual communities (Rope, Leather, Rubber, various gear, Bootblack, Pup Packs, etc.) of fetish and to further the history of fetish.
Are there any fetishes and kinks you're curious to try, gear that you're wanting to get into or fetish events/parties you're wanting to attend?
I am curious to learn Rope bondage. Rope bondage is an exciting art, yet intimidating because I believe it is all intention of how to use the rope in various ways.
When it comes to gear, I am wanting to have a full-body rubber suit and events, but of course, FULL FETISH! I am a huge Full Fetish event fan. I would look forward to when FF was held at the Sound Factory in San Francisco, it was an incredible evening to have fun, in more ways than one, in Gear and without a prudish attitude. I remember attending one of my first Full Fetish events' in Chicago at the Jackhammer and it was a space I saw a mingling of both "bears" and kink/fetish enthusiasts. IML (International Mister Leather) and Bear Pride week take place at the same time in Chicago, and I was happy that it is was not a feeling of competition to lure individuals to one event over another, instead, it was let us get together and have fun.
I am hoping in 2021 Full Fetish will return to San Francisco bigger and naughtier!
Of course, Covid-19 has altered all of our Leather/Kink travel calendars, but I hope that next year I will be able to attend IML 2021 and possibly Folsom Europe 2021. Folsom Europe, I have not been to, but notice Rubber takes a prominent space alongside Leather, which I find amazing. European kink and fetish communities have spaces and a mindset which does not inhibit its participants, of course, I say this as a person living in the United States looking at Europe. There seems to be encouragement for sexuality to happen, and not restrain it to only a particular time of year.
What's the Fetish scene like in your hometown?
I believe the Bay Area fetish scene thrives/comes alive during our pride season, Up Your Alley (Dore Alley) and Folsom Street Fair, yet the room for opportunity is establishing more spaces for fetish and kink scene. I understand the Leather, fetish, and kink communities have fundraiser events throughout the year, but how to engage those who only show up for Folsom and Dore Alley to be active year-round, along with recognizing donation (paying the door cover!) and volunteering help to keep the legacy of Leather and Fetish spaces alive.