Very little has been said in Atomage about the smell and sound of the materials you so justifiably enthuse over.
I believe that it is our first contact with rubber or leather as a child that begins an association which leads to its firm establishment in the personality and develops its erotic connotations.
In the 1930s there were many rubber raincoats which, although waterproof, were imperfectly made so that over a period of time gave off a pungent smell which would permeate the nostrils, either in the cupboard where it was hung, or when worn. It is my belief that, at that period, they were loosely made and so rustled with a sensuous sound.
Certainly my first associations were with a white rubber mackintosh worn by my mother and I remember developing a liking for my rubber wellingtons which seemed to be a wonderful way of splashing about without getting wet; I remember, too, my brown rubber raincoat worn with my brother’s sou’wester – two sizes too large, but which creaked in a – to me – pleasurable manner unlike any of my other clothing.
The point of this rambling reminiscences is that I can believe the Karen story because I remember being caught, with my mother, in a cloudburst whilst on holiday in Wales, at the age of about 4 and falling into a stream. My father recalls that I cried and screamed for several hours afterwards and from this, I believe, I developed my fascination with rubber and latex and, more recently, leather.
I hate being caught in the rain unprotected , yet love to go out walking in wild weather dressed completely in protective materials and wearing rubber or high leather riding boots. Bu[ the real pleasure is the feel and smell and then the sound of the material responding to my movements. Cloth has no comparable sound and the waterproof nylon that sighs and creaks as you move sets my teeth on edge.
A psychiatrist friend of mine says that love of latex and rubber is because of the similarity to the female sexual organs, and he sees a close association between skin and tissue texture and the surface properties of rubber. Leather, on the other hand, is associated with the male sexual organs. I did not get his views on vinyl.
I prefer, I think, to see it as Karen does; a desire for protection from some childhood memory or fear, or early contact with a material that forced itself upon the olfactory memory. ‘Your reader M.J. of Portugal whose love of masks began in post-war Hamburg (Atomage 7, page 49) helps to confirm my view. What do your other readers think?
– G. H. (Dorset)