Our colophonic columnist comments on couture, cartoons, costume and character conditioning.
This issue contains a review of a scientific study into this whole complex business of rubber and leather loving, sado-masochism and transvestism, which kept my attention because the authors managed to use the minimum of incomprehensible, psychological jargon. Speaking as one of the statistics in the book (I was one who filled in the questionnaire), I was pleased by their conclusion that fetishism needs only tolerance and understanding; it is not a case for medical treatment.
The arrival of the book was timely because I have been getting a number of letters from my sex showing concern, if not alarm, about what they considered to be their husband’s ‘deviation’. I am pleased to be getting letters from those opposed as well as those in favour. It shows, at least, the willingness to discuss the subject as my sex are notorious for keeping their private lives strictly private. I certainly go along with this too, but not to a point where you create tension by your secrecy and get insomnia worrying a mountain of solid rock out of a tiny molehill. Frank talking and frank writing are to be welcomed except of the emotive kind you read in Sunday newspapers such as ‘News of the World’. Each time I sit down to write this column I decide that there is no such thing as ‘normal’ where female sexuality is concerned. Most of my sex feel emancipated because they believe they have equal rights even in sexual matters. True, we are freer but when it comes to love and sex, there are still those of us who still labour under the old image of ourselves as passive housekeepers whose primary function is to propagate and care for the human race in a nice, loving sort of mother-earth fashion.
We have been so well conditioned that even those of us who live fairly aggressive business lives tend to feel when we are in bed and in intimate contact that we should be the passive, modest, giving, submissive, sympathetic, responsive, so-understanding, grateful creature that is the popular idea of my sex, a notion supported by magazine fiction and our educational system.
My own ‘conditioning’ is probably not typical. Jewish women are traditionally expected to be tough. In Jewish families the woman is the matriarch but even so, they are also expected to be submissive, indeed, even today, marriages in many Orthodox Jewish families are arranged by the matchmaker.
Jew or Christian, most of my sex seem only too happy to adopt the role of the compliant wife and we try to be what we are taught to regard as ‘normal’, provided he is a ‘gentleman’ and ‘normal’ too. Most of us, even in this enlightened age, are afraid that if we really let our hair down in the sexual sense, he might be horrified, shocked, scared, scandalised and even rendered impotent. A nice young bride doesn’t like to be thought a whore, even if she has had numerous affairs before her marriage.
Sexual communion is important to a woman’s attainment of sexual satisfaction. However, not many couples seem, to judge from the letters, to discuss sex. One reader commented after reading his wife’s letter to me ‘she never told me that’
Every man’s ambition is to give his wife an orgasm – but how she achieves it seems to be not his concern. My erudite correspondent (ACS277) who writes again in this issue, claimed in A27, p54, that a woman is capable of 30 orgasms each time, a statement which was treated with disbelief even by the Editor. I am more than happy with one or two each time. What disturbs me is that many women never seem to experience one at any time!
“Sex was fun for the first two years and then we had the children”. I asked this particular lady if ‘fun’ meant an orgasm, and she said nervously “Oh yes, of course”. I said that in my experience, women don’t grow out of having orgasms.
Let me put it very simply: if he is a better lover with us both in rubber suits, coats and high rubber boots, then what the hell! True, the feel and the smell, and the hellishly long time it takes to get into the suit and boots might be a bit off-putting, but you can become accustomed to almost anything. It is what happens at the crucial moment that matters, and there are easier ways around the first problem than round the second.
Perhaps I can understand and sympathise when there is an attraction to rubber because stroking velvet happens to produce a somewhat similar response with me. As far as leather goes, it doesn’t have quite the same sexual attraction for me as it does for Robert, but it is beautiful and, let me assure you, my great liking for leather is something that has developed because I never wore leather or boots until I met Robert.
I have complained in this column about the difficulty of finding good leather clothes, but 1980 seems to have been my year. For after having found Joe Macdonald in Glasgow (another of his imaginative creations in this issue) I also discovered tucked away in Bond Street a shop that I must have passed at least a hundred times during my period of search.
The shop is Cuero which, in Spanish, means leather, and there I met the owner, Julia Gonzalez, and spent a most delightful couple of hours with her examining her fantastic designs, all made in the most beautiful soft Pittard leather.
By one of those very strange coincidences Robert had that very morning written the captions for the colour pictures that appeared in the last issue where one of the photographs on p.33 pictures one of her designs. Then a little later I was walking down Bond Street and happened to spot a leather trouser suit in the window, and the next thing we were in contact. Some of the leather on display is among the most beautifully designed I have seen. They make to measure and indeed their workroom can turn out one of their standard designs in 48 hours if pressed. I shall be going there again and I hope to make some space to publish some pictures in a future issue. I am also hoping to appear in one of their lovely suits myself – and if Robert is feeling generous, a coat as well. In the meantime, write to Cuero, 23 New Bond Street, London W.1. if you want more details.
HIS AND HERS
Readers are being very generous with their ideas, their sketches and cartoons, but may I explain one thing: I am not a Cindy doll and it is not ideas for me that I am asking for – just ideas of how readers would like to see their ladies dressed.
One reader wrote to John Sutcliffe and suggested I be photographed in a pair of the new thigh boots he has purchased the fact that they have a 12-inch platform and 18-inch heels being quite immaterial. Can you imagine it with my legs! Robert, of course, is all for the idea. He assures me he is not a masochist, but he says he could do with a few good laughs, especially when I fall flat on my face.
When we published an interview with a homosexual in A27, we had a couple of letters from readers who were critical. We had in their views dropped our standards of good taste. I am not sure what they are going to make of this issue since the Supplement is the very frank autobiography of a transvestite.
Now there are many of my sex who are quite prepared to tolerate homosexuals, but transvestites are regarded as a direct assault on the sancrosanct environs of the female role. Female impersonators on the stage or screen are one thing, but the female impersonator in real life is regarded with far greater intolerance than any other form of sexual variation you might see described in Atomage.
Me? I must be extremely odd because all I have met I have found to be intelligent, charming, and very amusing. They are amusing about themselves and about the whole human condition.
TVs are, I suppose, the ones who really understand ‘dressing for pleasure’.
The whole question of what is normal in dress is really an absurd one; clothes themselves are basically absurd. They have a function – to protect us from our climate – but for most of us this comes far behind the display value. In recent years women’s clothes have undergone astonishing changes – and many of them not for the better when you see the modern day freaks around – that the only persons who can with authority say what is normal feminine dress and what is normal male dress, are the transvestites.
The picture opposite is from Valerie who is one of my TV readers – and I like to think friends – who writes sadly: “It will be a great pleasure to write ‘woman to woman’, as it were, since most of us TVs understandably have little opportunity to discuss matters feminine with members of the sex we so admire, and to be able to gain some insight into how ‘real’ women see us.”
Does the picture shock? If I had said first that this lady was seeking a boy friend to share her interests, would I have been trampled in the rush? Think about it, those readers who are critical of TVs yet see their own predeliction as being above criticism. What sort of person is a TV? Let Valerie tell you herself her letter is my selection for this issue.
I was born in Derbyshire and lived there and in Cheshire until I went to university, since when I have lived and worked in London, though, at the moment, I am trying to buy a house in the North for holidays etc.
I had a very conventional education and went to Oxford – I was thinking with some amusement the other night, when I was all dressed up in my thigh boots and leather that I must be the only would-be Madame in the world with a ‘First’ from Oxford to her credit! It sounds like something with an obscure double entendre such as you see in ‘dominatrix’ ads – like ‘O’ levels, only more so! But in my case it happens to be genuine. I showed slight TV tendencies very early on – I remember trying on high heeled shoes when I was quite young – and dressed and made up fully for the first time when I was about 16. During the years I was growing up, boots and leather were becoming fashionable, and part of my first female ensemble was a pair of white knee length boots and black leather gloves. Like you, Helen, I adore boots, and wear them on every possible occasion, even sometimes under long dresses, just because they feel so good.
At the moment, I am planning a new outfit, when I can afford it, consisting of a full length white evening dress, split from the waist to reveal white leather thigh boots, if I can get a pair, and shoulder length leather gloves. My favourite colours are black and white, especially worn in combination such as a white satin blouse with tight shiny black trousers tucked into kneelength boots. I am fortunate enough to have a reasonable figure for such outfits – I am about 5 ft. 10 inches without heels, and an exact size 16, so that I don’t have the problems with clothes that some TVs have. I can wear a 6 1/2 size shoe easily, but generally buy a 7 1/2 or 8 in boots.
Sorry, I have digressed, but I love talking about clothes. I only ‘dressed’ infrequently when I was at university, but became more and more interested in leather and rubber, and when I left and got my own flat, I began to build up a feminine wardrobe of my own, with the emphasis on leather and rubber. I am not simply a leather fetishist, because I must be fully ‘feminised’ to enjoy leather and rubber, which means making up fully, even down to such details as perfume and false eyelashes. This means that I do not wear the heavy rubber of the sort featured rather a lot in Atomage recently, though unlike you, I like masks and hoods, and even occasionally a gasmask which I don’t like very much, but the effect is quite good – it appeals to my highly developed sense of the bizarre to wear very occasionally a gasmask in combination with a highly feminine outfit such as an evening gown. You may say that it is easier for a TV to wear hoods because she can take off her wig, but I don’t like to cheat like that, because I shouldn’t feel like a woman, which is all-important, and I do agree with you that they don’t do ones hairstyle any good.
In recent years I have fully accepted my tranvestism, while still being amazed at the paradox of the existence of the two distinct parts of my character, though less so because I have always had a strong streak of feminine sensitivity in my nature – fashion consciousness and colour-sense, – that is if girls are allowed to show their sensitivity nowadays! I wish more of them would; if they want to express a more ‘masterful’ side of their characters, let them wear boots and leather, instead of jeans and sweaters!
I am, at the moment, trying to make contact with others of similar inclinations to help me to express my own femininity more fully. I occasionally venture out in public, which is not wise, but I feel the need to do so occasionally, and I can pass reasonably well, in the dark at any rate. It is something probably impossible for a non-TV to appreciate, but it is enormously exciting simply to walk down the street, as I did the night before last, fully-dressed as a girl, especially – and you will at least understand this, as I was then in my black leather outfit – boots, gloves, coat with fur collar (very expensive but utterly adorable), and matching bag. But it is rather dangerous and I hope that as my circle of sympathetic acquaintances increases, and I show off my finery more often, I shall feel the need to go out less, or, at least, have someone to go out with. – VALERIE