I flew back to England last month wheeling an almost empty suitcase behind me. With the incipient change of the season I needed to supplement my wardrobe with a coat or two, hoodies, boots with a decent tread on them for when the Siberian winds start blowing in and the cobblestones freeze over. I spent nearly four days in England- I saw friends, and chased important letters from Doctors, and ate a lot of cheese- flavoured snacks. On the second to last night I walked up to the top of my sister’s garden at dusk and, mobile phone torch casting a feeble beam around a darkened shed, poked around in laundry bags full of clothes I had totally forgotten I even own; my ADHD means that at the age of 44 I quite regularly feel that i have roughly the same sense of object permananence as a 5 month old baby.
When I got back to Berlin and unzipped my suitcase, however, it contained no sturdy walking boots, and no jumpers. My suitcase was so stuffed that at the airport I’d hauled it onto the scales with heavy heart, but it was mostly stuffed with sex toys and party clothes- two silk kimonos, a corset, Edwardian bloomers and shift, latex top and pencil skirt. As I unpacked and hung things on hangers it occurred to me that the whole purpose of the trip had been in order to be reunited with my kink accoutrements, and that I needed that stuff because I didn’t feel entirely myself without it. Even though I decided weeks ago to take a break from the Scene and all things kink, I felt a bit 2- D without my things- a bit like part of me was missing.
I’ve made a few kinky ex- Drunk friends, and I can be 3- D with them, but I keep thinking about a conversation I had in the Summer with another friend, queer and newly sober, about getting into Berghain– or, specifically, my infinitesimally small chance of getting into Berghain, with its notoriously narky bouncers expertly curating the crowd to achieve the correct degree of black- clad, cheekbone- y stylishness (as befits literally the most famous nightclub in the world).
After a little while my friend asked ‘…but are you into that kind of thing?’, his voice full of doubt. And I sort of wanted to reply which bit of that sort of thing, the exquisitely discordant techno or enjoying the frisson of knowing that I’m surrounded by people fucking in dark corners? Both, actually. But I didn’t because well, we don’t know each other *that* well, and while part of me took umbrage at his scepticism, the other part had to admit, well, fair do’s really. Because to all intents and purposes and as far as he can see I’m just a chubby little middle- aged chick in cardigans and 1980s Thrift store skirts.
I don’t look like anyone’s idea of a lifelong clubber, even though I’ve been toying with the idea of having a Roland TB808 drum machine tattooed on my body for most of this century (and maybe I should just stop fucking about and do it). And I’ve been applying to live in peoples’ houses, and in order to do so I repeatedly regurgitate the same chirpy blurb about how I don’t drink and love yoga and meditation and am just extremely wholesome and mellow and grown- up… and on one level I am, I really am that person.
But on another level- well, you know me. I’m similtaneously a Disgraceful Fucking Pervert, an Exhibitionist, a Slut and a Messy Little Weirdo. I very deeply enjoy hoummus and guided meditations and thrift stores, and I also own a latex collar that says ‘Cum Dumpster’ on it. I am both a Weirdo and much, much more of a Weirdo than I look- and while I used to enjoy the degree to which I fly under most peoples’ radar as such, I’m beginning to find that difficult. In this city of Weirdos being misidentified as a Normie (whatever that means) is beginning to leave me feeling a bit… misunderstood.
The first time I walked into a latex shop- Liberation in Covent Garden, or Latex Tiffany’s as i think of it, because nothing bad could ever happen there- I felt as if I was levelling up as a kinkster. Latex is complicated and expensive and niche- y and not everyone’s into it. You have to be mindful when you put it on, so as not to pull too hard on a seam or drive an oversharp fingernail through fabric pulled taut when closing a zip. Rubber clothing takes longer to get into It needs to be taken care of- polished, washed in gentle detergents in the early hours and hung lovingly to dry, then powdered and wrapped in tissue paper and replaced in a dark storage space like something valuable (it is valuable! I have spent more money on my latex clothes than on pretty much any other item of clothing I’ve ever bought!)
But it’s worth it when it’s on. I’m a big fan of feeling physically restricted, whether that’s via bondage (something of which I have far too little experience), corsetry, or a taut, close- fitting pencil skirt which every so slightly inhibits my gait as I walk. Like corsetry, latex changes your posture, even if the effect is more psychologically rooted than physical. It’s less literally pressing than steel corset bones, but you still feel held, lifted and contained. And that feeling of containment is a useful and comforting one, for a Messy Little Slut like me.
I love latex but it’s not a fetish- I don’t find wearing latex sexually arousing in and of itself. I experience different layers of sensual pleasure from it. On a couple of occasions over the last couple of months I have found myself browsing in a shop in Mitte that sells pricey, couture latex, rifling through the racks, fondling suspender belts and enjoying the quivery echo of the skirts and vests shaking on their metal hangers. The noise itself makes me happy. The smell of latex is one of my favourites now, but it’s not because it turns me on- even though I get the impression that it looks that way when I hold garments to my nose and breathe in a lungful. It’s not a sex thing!
Rather, the smell of latex reminds me of the anticipation of an evening out, of not knowing what the night holds; who you might meet, what connections you might make. Will I end the night panting and laughing as a team of helpful bystanders zip me back into a top I’ve had to shed on the dancefloor because I was dancing too hard on a warm Summer’s evening and semi- nakedness was the only comfortable option? Will I end up walking around with my skirt pulled up around my waist and my cunt and reddened buttocks on show? I always hope so.
So I was happy to have my party kit back, because for me it’s a kind of uniform, and right now when I put it on it reminds that I belong, that I am part of the kink and BDSM community. I mean, I know I belong, but I’m not actively part of the community right now, I’m on standby mode, focussing my attention on emotional rest and recovery and avoiding reading other peoples’ sex blogs in case the machine is jolted back to life before I’m ready.
And while I’m resting it feels even more important to to be able to remind myself that I belong. The thing that I enjoy most about dressing up for a fetish night is the opportunity to show off this other side of myself- the side I call Joy, who loves tottering on heels and displaying her privatest parts, yelping when the toy hits and dancing topless, tits bouncing wildly as she punches the air. She is not the entirety of me but she is an important part of my personality and I feel happiest and most integrated when I allow her to (sometimes quite literally) take centre stage. I need to touch base with her every now and again, to let her know that I love and accept her, that she is important, that she doesn’t need to hide any more.