Helen is in a philosophical mood on the subject that excited the French to cry ‘Vive la difference’.

There are two opposing views about women. The first says that men and women are fundamentally different; the second says that they are fundamentally the same. Legally speaking, we are supposed to enjoy the same rights, and in our sexuality we are assumed to be equal. It is when we come to social attitudes that we start on all the arguments. Male emotions are supposed to be different from female emotions, almost as if we were a different breed.

To begin with, men are expected to be sexually aggressive; women sexually passive. Men are expected to open sexual contact and invite women to go to bed with them. Do you know that only men can be guilty of rape! According to Queen’s Rules and Regulations, only men can have carnal knowledge! (Having once been an officer in the Women’s Army, I happen to know!)

It has always puzzled me that a man proves he is a man by going to bed with a woman, while a woman proves her femininity by not going to bed with a man. The woman who is a virgin on her wedding night is admired by the church, the family and society, whilst the man who kept his virginity is the subject of ribald jokes.

Characteristics that are considered desirable in a woman are sensitivity to the point where tears come easily, emotional instability, lack of self confidence, dependence and subservience and a sense of humour; the same characteristics that are usually sternly repressed in men.

Men are brought up to believe they have the stronger sex drive and, as I have said, because of this we must make many allowances. Sexual urges men find more difficult to control, they tell us, so they are allowed to be demanding in their sexual relationships, inside or outside marriage; adultery is condoned – at least, by other men – and sexual practices that society considers to be deviations or perversions are tolerated or ignored in men, but rarely in women.

The male orgasm is an entitlement, a virtually automatic event. The female orgasm is a privilege; a problem of slow arousal and infrequent satisfaction not considered a matter of real serious male concern. The vagina is simply there waiting to receive the penis.

No, I am not supporting the cause of Women’s Lib or opening an attack on male chauvinism. My remarks are intended more as an apology on behalf of those women who have difficulty in understanding the man who wants her to dress in a variety of garments that must appear to have little or nothing to do with the accepted idea of sexual provocation and bedroom pleasures, and very few of them seem even suitable for street wear by conventional standards.

The style and the patterns of sexual behaviour were created by men. Consciously, or unconsciously, we follow what we were taught from the first sex lesson.

So when you ask us to go to see a fashion show of these garments (such as one mounted by that marvellous couple, Heinz and Annemarie Gerbig) we are, all of us, understandably nervous. When you ask us to wear costumes that did not come from Marks & Spencer or C&A Modes we have great difficulty in making an adjustment.

I was talking about this to Laura, an American reader, and she admitted being very nervous about attending the Eccentric Fashion show last Autumn. It was her first contact with people who shared her husband’s interests. Like me, she was astounded and delighted to find that those who are interested in what she described as the ‘leather, rubber and vinyl scene’ were all cultivated, intelligent and sensitive, and she had, she said ‘a grand time’. And, again like me, she found the men did not conform to the accepted pattern of male stereotype.

I wish I could have spent more time with Laura because I think we might have made a list of characteristics for the Atomage male. His attitude is a protective one; hence I suppose the desire to clothe the female in protective materials. Self-awareness is another common trait, plus the one I always ask for, perhaps demand, in men – a sense of humour.

The women who are sympathetic to the Atomage male’s interests, or who, themselves, are attracted by materials, all show an intelligent sensitivity. An immediate rapporte is established when we meet; they are warm and friendly in a manner I have rarely found in the course of my daily social contacts.

All the women I have met seem to possess a calm curiosity and seem to be remarkably free of the sexual taboos that were endowed them by society. Even more important, all seem to possess a better than average knowledge about the working of their own body and an awareness of their own sexuality that owes nothing to the accepted standards of TV and the popular press. Asked the question “do you enjoy sex?”, the answer is a fervent affirmative. In other social circles the best I can ever get is an odd look and an embarrassed sort of doubtful “Well, yes, I suppose so”.

So we come to the women I don’t meet. Those are the ones, that I only hear about: “my wife doesn’t share my interests” . . . “my wife will indulge me very occasionally, when she is in the mood.” I believe they are the victims partly of a society who moulded them primarily for the role of mothers and housekeepers. I want to apologise for them since the male, who has also been brainwashed, has a mountainous task in trying to undo twenty plus years of sex education and training. Sometimes he is able to exact a tolerance of his interests; enthusiastic co-operation seems to be rare. Sometimes he doesn’t seem to try very hard, which fact may be occasioned by his sensitivity, since constant rebuffs can hurt.

Robert has a theory that a woman who has enjoyed a good sex life and achieved orgasm will much more readily accept ‘deviation’ on the basis that variety is the spice of good sex. And for a change I heartily agree with him. The problem, he maintains, is not the woman’s reluctance to dress in the rubber clothes; it is reluctance and an inability to enjoy sex. And whose fault is that?

Arguing in favour of a basic difference between men and women, Robert points out that it is the woman, not the man, who possesses an organ – the clitoris – whose function is sexual pleasure. True enough, and I would like to point out here how often this is ignored by men. Reading the serial in the Supplement and other bondage stories (which show a laughable ignorance of the female anatomy), I am puzzled by the continual emphasis on the anal rather than the clitoral; I am baffled by garments I have seen – designed by men, of course, with crotch zips and flaps that allow access to the vagina and only with difficulty to the clitoris. And those zips my God!

A delightful couple in Germany with whom we correspond, sent me these two pictures of her ‘dressing for pleasure’ outfits, which at least shows an intelligent appreciation of the woman’s erogenous zones. For it is all very well protecting the lady from the top of her head down to the tips of her toes, but a woman is ‘skin sensual’ and inside her mask she cannot use her mouth, and the rest of her is inaccessible.

Two women have told me that they enjoyed ‘dressing for pleasure’ but best if the garments were loose. The wife we interviewed in A18 said that she liked a “a poncho type garment of latex” inside which she can “curl up in a sort of cocoon of rubber”. I can understand this. I like lifting up my Weather Vain caftan to show my thigh boots (and not much else) and it is marvellous being touched under a layer of rubber. I would like to introduce a whole new range of loose, sexy, feminine rubber: ensembles of ‘nightdresses’ with boots and, if you like, gloves. There would be styles that you wear at a party or for a dinner date to excite him sufficiently that he would rush you home – to bed!

For this is another side to society’s repression of female sexuality: the female is not expected to be provocative in dress, in manner, or in speech. Men expect women to be a duchess in the drawing room, a whore in the bedroom, and a cook in the kitchen. Unfortunately, so often these roles get mixed, and we get a duchess in the bedroom!

The lady reader whose pictures have been seen in the last two issues told me that her discovery that smooth materials like rubber had a sexually stimulating effect on her was something she kept a secret for years. She was afraid she might be considered very odd.

I think it needs to be said that ‘dressing for pleasure’ games should only be played by mutual agreement. Once a woman recognises she has an equal right to assert her sexuality – and she can do this at any age – she is then qualifying for a marvellous time. Experiment with him, and not for him. So a little understanding please, a little courtesy, a little patience – and I think you may find us a little more capable of enthusiasm.

I wear leather and boots to please me and to please Robert. I wear a lot of other things – mostly in rubber – purely to please Robert and then find out that some of them please me. Except for the styles and the quality.