My first Mr. International Rubber weekend was quite an experience to remember. I’ve been wanting to attend it ever since I first heard of it many years ago. This year, due to changes to my original travel plans, and the encouragement of my partner, I was finally able to make it happen.
The contest itself is obviously the main event, and it was a lot of fun to watch. There’s only so much you can get from the still images from past years posted on the website. The venue was packed to the rafters and it was standing room only on both nights, and some people decided to just watch it on the TV in the foyer/bar area outside. I was a bit late to catch the introductions on the first night, but the shower scene ‘Wet Rubber’ round was lots of fun, with the contestants’ sexy fantasies being read by the MC while they did their best to act it out while under a running shower on the stage.
Part 2 of the contest on Saturday night had the contestants picking out gift bags, each containing a random set of innocous items usually found at home (including one food item). They have to then be creative in using it on the volunteer ‘demo pup’, who was none other than @pupstriker. It was hilarious seeing what they got up to, and as there’s no clean up between contestants, the stage was getting progressively messier and guys slipping and sliding all over the place, and making use of tools and toys left behind by previous contestants.
It really seemed like all 12 contestants were having a blast, and it was a fairly relaxed atmosphere. RubberJason took home the title of Mr. International Rubber this year, and he deserved it with his great personality and the effort he’d put in to his outfits and on-stage presence. I loved some of the others too and my vote went to the super cute and super sexy RubberInuki.
Apart from the MIR contest on Friday and Saturday nights, there were a few other things going on during the day. The kink market was like the ‘hub’ where people met up to hang out, socialise, do a bit of shopping at the market stalls, and watched demonstrations in the demo pit in the middle of the hall.
I also attended a couple of the workshops. It was interesting hearing the founder of International Mr. Leather, Chuck Renslow, speak about how S&M and fetish has evolved over the decades that he’s been involved in it (yet some things never change!), and the challenges the community faced (and still faces) to varying degrees with the law, public perception etc. He did lament that the Internet (and sites like Recon and Gaydar) is destroying the community and that many of Chicago’s leather bars, as well as leather bars in other cities around the world have closed down because of it. I disagree on that point, as the Internet was how I came to learn about my fetish for rubber, and meeting lots of other people who are into it as well, from all over the world, all at a time when I was young, naïve and terrified of what might happen at my local leather bar if I should step foot in there on my own.
The other workshop was on fetishism in comics by Tom Kelly, a comic book illustrator. This was a fascinating discussion on the origins of the superhero comics in the 30s and the idealised human form (both male and female) as well as the uniforms and the dual lives/identities most of them play. Some of these comics seem to have rather sexual undertones and reference to bondage and domination despite being made in very conservative times, and subject to the scrutiny of the Comics Code Authority. One has to wonder if there were some repressed, kinky writers back then!
Sunday afternoon was pretty laid back, with many nursing hangovers and lack of sleep from the previous night of partying. Sunday night was Slushies and Showtunes at Sidetracks which was fun, but very, very crowded. After that, as per MIR tradition, we moved on to a club called Berlin for ‘Madonnarama’, all Madonna, all night for a bit of a dance. By that point quite of few people had already called it a night but I stuck around and besides, Berlin was just across the road from the hotel I was staying at so it wasn’t too far to go.
Throughout the weekend, and the week after that I stayed on in Chicago, I’d met up with some friends I knew, and met lots of other new people, all of whom share my fetish interest in rubber. While I’ve been to events like Beyond (a fetish dance party in Melbourne) and Folsom Europe (in Berlin), this is the first time I’ve been to a rubber-only contest/event. It was liberating just being able to walk around in gear pretty much all day and night that whole weekend. It was also kinda interesting that overall, the whole weekend felt sexy but not overly sleazy, as was my past experience at Folsom Europe. The difference between the US and European fetish scenes perhaps? There was certainly much more of a ‘community’ feel about this, and something which I’ve long felt is missing in Australia, particularly amongst the rubberists.
I’m so glad I made the trip to Chicago for MIR and it’s inspired me to try and improve things when I get back, and whatever small ways I can. Quite a few people I spoke to also suggested I come back for IML, which is a much bigger event, but also has a significant rubber presence these days. Definitely something to think about.