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Under pressure: A brief look at inflatable rubber suit fetishism

In previous blogs I have looked at various sexual fetishes that involve sexual arousal from being completely enveloped in some sort of outer garment such as rubberdolling and mummification. Another fetish that is (arguably) related is inflatable rubber suit fetishism (sometimes simply referred to body inflation fetishism – however, I think this term sounds more like people who actually inflate some parts of their actual body such as belly inflation and scrotal infusion that I have covered in previous blogs). Inflatable rubber suit fetishism was featured in a 2013 article by Elorm Kojo Ntumy on the Cracked website (‘The 6 Most Bizarre Safe For Work Fetishes’). In describing this fetish, Ntumy noted:

“Remember the scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Violet Beauregarde eats some forbidden candy and blows up like a balloon? And then they have to just roll her out of the room? Well, apparently some people can’t watch that scene without becoming inexplicably aroused. This fetish is pretty similar to balloon fetishes, or maybe it’s the opposite, because instead of popping the balloon, you are the balloon. Researchers have yet to determine what exactly it is about inflatable rubber suits getting filled with air that turns people on, but we have to admit that putting one of those on and just bouncing around would be fun as hell…The suits are often double-layered and designed in such a way that the outer layer gets filled with air and expands, while the second suit compresses and squeezes against the unfortunate (or fortunate, we guess) person enclosed within. So maybe that’s it? It’s like a full-body air massage? Either way, thanks to the Internet, we know there are a whole bunch of people who are into it…Inflatable suits are quite expensive, but the guys on this [body inflation] forum are helpful enough to provide DIY tips on how to build your very own personal sex blimp. Now, if one of these springs a leak, do you go zipping around the room making that farting sound?”

Some online articles claim this behaviour is a form of inflatophilia but the online Opentopia encyclopedia refers to inflatophilia as a sexual fetish in which individuals derive sexual attraction to (or are sexually aroused by) inflatable objects and/or toys. To me, this is more about inflatable objects that are external to the person rather than the person actually being inside the inflatable itself. According to the Wikipedia entry:

“Body inflation is the practice of inflating or pretending to inflate a part of one’s bod, often for sexual gratification. It is commonly done by inserting balloons underneath clothes or a skin-tight suit and then inflating them. Some people have specially made inflatable suits, commonly made from latex rubber, to make themselves bigger all over. One of the best-known examples is Mr. Blow Up, who appears in [Katherine Gates] Deviant Desires book. He wears air-inflated double-skinned latex suits, and has made a number of TV appearances in the UK, including Eurotrash. Sometimes the body is actually inflated also, such as by enema or drinking large amounts of liquid. Other inflatable fetishists generate erotic stories, artwork, video, and audio files to indulge their fantasies. Sexual roleplay is also fairly common, either in person or via online conversation. The notion of the fantasy scenarios ending in popping or explosion is often a divisive topic in the community. The first inflatable fetish community organized online in 1994, in the form of an e-mail list; as the popularity of online communication grew, so did the online community”.

On the Dangerous Minds website, Paul Gallagher wrote an article about his 2000 television interview with Mr. Blow Up (MBU) for a documentary he was making about the rise of online fetish websites. Gallagher described MBU as one of the more interesting characters I met – alongside representatives from the wet and messy (‘sploshing’) communities, adult babies, furries and used panty-sellers”. According to Gallagher MBU was a Londoner and talked about “his love of being inside a latex suit that was pumped full of air”. MBU first became attracted to the idea of being enveloped in an air-filled rubber suit as a child when when playing with a beach ball. MBU often thought about what it would be like to be inside the ball as it bounced everywhere on the beach. Gallagher then went on to describe what happened in the documentary:

“Mr. Blow Up, with the help of his latex-clad wife, slipped into one of his talcum sprinkled outfits and sat on the sofa while she used a foot pump to blow-up his headdress. Just at the very moment I thought he might explode (like some sort of latex Mr. Creosote), Mr. B gave a thumbs up. He later explained how being so constrained made him feel happy, secure and excited”.

In my research for this article I came across many websites that sold inflatable suits as well as in-depth articles on how to put on such suits and how they are designed. For instance, the Latex Wiki (LW) website provided pictures and descriptions of inflatable catsuits, ballbody suits, and blueberry suits. The following descriptions are taken verbatim from three different pages of the LW website:

  • “An inflatable catsuit is a latex suit that has two layers so air can be pumped between them, expanding the outer layer and pressing the inner layer against the wearer. This gives the wearer a sensation of much greater tightness than is possible with an ordinary catsuit. If the latex is thick enough, this type of suit can be used for bondage because the wearer is immobilised when the suit is inflated sufficiently. Some body inflation fetishists also use inflatable catsuits as a fantasy device to imagine that the wearer is inflating, or that they themselves are inflating. It has also been known to cross into the furry scene as well with furry inflation enthusiasts.
  • A ballbody or balloon-body is an inflatable latex outfit that completely covers the upper body of the wearer and looks like a ball when fully inflated. It was invented and designed by SlinkySkin
  • A blueberry suit is a special latex costume designed to inflate into a ball with just the user’s hands, feet and head sticking out. It refers to the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when the character Violet turns into a blueberry”.

Unsurprisingly, there has never been any academic research on inflatable rubber suit fetishism so little is known about what the fetishists enjoy about the activity so much. However, I did find one enlightening article on the Body Inflation website by ‘funkyobrian’ written back in 2005. Again, the text below is taken verbatim from the website entry and written by someone who is only into ‘suit inflation’:

“I’m one of the few people who actually enjoys pure suit inflation. Here are some of the reasons why: 

  • Suit inflation is technically much more feasible in real life than actual body inflation. Sure, body inflation can be done and people out there actually do it, but body inflation in real life has much more potential to become something deadly or hurtful if proper precautions aren’t taken. This is not to say suit inflation itself is 100% safe either, but you can imagine many more things going wrong with real-life body inflation.
  • Half of the thrill of the fetish itself is the victim’s (or participant’s) reaction to what is happening…I have done some interesting discussions on the more erotic applications of a girl inflating their suit and ‘getting off’ on the whole experience. Plus in general. rubber and latex are considered to be one of the cornerstones of kinks, so inventive ways of stimulating oneself are quite plentiful. Photo studios like Fetisheyes and Rubber Eva have recently done more to explore inflatable suits and eroticism.
  • Inflatable suits are in a way a strange mix of symbolism and suggestion. There’s a bit of excitement in wearing something that makes one body look like its blowing up like a balloon. There’s a sort of psychological element in playing a cruel trick on someone who is particularly vain and sticking them into a suit that transforms their proud figure into something cartoonish and bloated.

I guess this is my convoluted and pseudo-shrink way of expressing my bizarre preferences. But I just want to clarify why when a cute girl’s rubber suit inflates, some of us want to believe it is the SUIT inflating, not her body”

Someone else on the Body Inflation website (‘Fukeruba’) responded to funkyobrian’s analysis:

“You are not alone! I also enjoy a good suit inflation. My whole attraction with suit inflations is that it is in the realm of possibility that a person might get stuck in a big inflated suit, whereas a big body inflation is…more resigned to fantasy. Plus, I’m intrigued by the strong bondage issues that being stuck in a big immobilizing inflated suit represents. I’m into the whole inflating dive-suit [thing] in a big way…although I’ve done space suits and some other unidentifiable types of suits….I’ve done a few drawings where the inflatee thought that they were in an inflating suit, only to have it revealed that their inflating body was in fact causing the suit to bulge. Pretty good opportunity to showcase the whole shock/surprise/horror element in that situation”.

I have no idea how representative these motivations are to the experiences of other inflatable rubber suit fetishists but these insights are interesting and not things I would have speculated as being reasons for engaging in the activity. Given the potential dangers of this fetish I’m surprised that there are no papers from the medical community reporting on accidents from suits bursting.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Gallagher, P. (2015). The inflatable rubber fetish of Mr. Blow Up, Dangerous Minds, February 11. Located at: http://dangerousminds.net/comments/the_inflatable_rubber_fetish_of_mr._blow_up

Gates, K. (2000). Deviant Desires: Incredibly Strange Sex. New York: RE/Search Publications.

McIntyre, K.E. (2011). Looners: Inside the world of balloon fetishism. Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, 27 April. Located at: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/40c3h6kk

Ntumy, E. K. (2013). The 6 Most Bizarre Safe For Work Fetishes. Cracked, November 2. Located at: http://www.cracked.com/article_20691_the-6-most-bizarre-safe-work-fetishes.html

Opentopia (2013). What is inflatable fetishism? Located at: http://encycl.opentopia.com/term/Inflatable_fetishism

Wikipedia (2015). Body inflation. Located at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_inflation

Better latex than never: A beginner’s guide to ‘rubberdolling’

In previous blogs I have looked at doll fetishism (i.e., individuals that derive sexual pleasure and arousal from dolls and doll-like objects) and the ‘reborn baby doll’ phenomenon (i.e., individuals who collect and look after liefelike baby dolls). Today’s blog examines the world of ‘rubberdolling’ – the practice of individuals dressing up head-to-toe as a rubber doll. As far as I am aware, there is no academic research on rubberdolling although there are clearly psychological and behavioural overlaps with other more academically researched areas including transvestic fetishism, rubber/latex fetishism, and sadomasochism. In fact, many people might view such activity as ‘extreme cross-dressing’ where men (but occasionally females) transform themselves into walking talking dolls, completely concealing their real identities. According to the Latex Wiki entry on rubberdolling:

“A doll (a.k.a. Rubber doll, rubberdoll, rubberdolly, v. dolling, v. rubberdolling) is a latex fetishist whose desire is to acquire the appearance of a doll, usually a female doll, through a mostly latex costume that completely covers the face and skin… A doll’s suit is often a catsuit, which might have been specifically designed to mimic a store mannequin or a blow-up doll. Common colours thus include approximations of skin tones, white and black (for a Heavy Rubber look)…For nude (a nude doll, that is) applications the suit may feature blow-up-doll-like openings with insertable pouches. Some manufacturers offer catsuits designed to look like a blow-up doll. These might include inflatable bosom, hips or other regions to enhance the visual effect of an artificial doll – or to give a male wearer the shape of a female”.

Rubberdolling is relatively new phenomenon that has come to the fetishistic fore over the last two decades. Most rubberdollers attribute the rise of rubberdolling to the work of German fetish photographer Peter Czernich who started the fetish magazines Marquis and Heavy Rubber. Rubberdollers are typically encased in latex rubber with exaggerated and accentuated Barbie-type female features (i.e., huge breasts, incredibly small waists, exaggerated thighs and hips, elongated fingernails, extra long eyelashes, bright and excessive make-up, etc.). Typically, the only areas of human flesh that remain uncovered are holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. According to an article on rubberdolling at the Rubber World Rendezvous website, there are four basic categories to which rubberdolling can apply:

  • Submissive dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a rubber doll as part of a submissive role within a sadomasochistic relationship. Here the doll acts as a service submissive/slave and is utilized by others (usually the dominant partner) for their own sexual entertainment purposes. The dominant partner controls everything that the doll does and the costume often restricts the doll’s movements. The doll essentially becomes totally objectified and is at the total mercy of their dommes or mistresses. Here, rubberdolls may also be engaging in the behaviour as part of an encasement and/or rubber bondage fetish.
  • Sissy dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a fetishistic ‘sissy’ rubber doll within the transgender and transvestite community. The activity may also be part of ‘cosplay’ (i.e., costume play). As the article at the Rubber World Rendezvous website claims, these people use “the rubber doll theme as a vehicle for play, disguise, sissification, cross dressing…This generally follows a common theme of Forced Femme or being turned into a female doll animate or inanimate. Again shape altering garments and female masks figure in this identity change. Many equate this to being turned into a Barbie Doll. Many [transvestites] who like shiny materials are now dressing in Latex and rubber as part of their look and while not wearing masks they are considered a rubber doll”.
  • Show dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a rubber doll for exhibition purposes and may be part of either the BDSM and/or transvestite and transgender communities. In sadomasochistic relationships, show dolls are made to look as pretty as possible by their dommes or mistresses to show off to others in the rubberdolling scene (e.g., at fetish balls). Here, the dominant partner may actually play with the submissive as if it was a real doll. Show dolls are typically female in appearance, and the female form is accentuated and exaggerated.
  • Art dolls: This is where individuals dress up as a rubber doll as an art form or art statement (i.e., a piece of ‘living art’ or ‘street theatre’) and may have nothing to do with sex or fetishistic sex (i.e., it is purely about seeing the doll from an aesthetic perspective). Such dolls may also be used to feature in fetish photography magazines (of which there seem to be a growing array based on what I came across while researching this article).

So how does someone actually transform another person into a doll? The Rubber World Rendezvous claims:

“This is done through dressing the subject in latex rubber garments and specialty items to change their form and look. Generally the basis for all of the forms of rubber doll is the female type cat suit which has a tight waist, bust cups for breast forms or attached inflatable breasts. The cut of the suit is usually female. Add to this the bra, breasts and padded hips along with a female mask and wig (if required) you have a basic naked doll. From here one dresses the doll however you desire to achieve the look you want”.

The Latex Wiki entry on rubberdolling claims that some people attempt to use (“and have variably succeeded”) the outer shells of blow-up sex dolls as full body suits. However, it then goes on to say that most inflatable dolls are too small to totally engulf someone, but that some varieties are reasonably life size. Blow-up dolls are usually made from materials such as PVC and latex, and therefore are not always sufficiently flexible for comfortable wear. The same article also claims that looners (i.e., balloon fetishists) may use heated air to stretch various plastic inflatables whilst retaining the proportions of the object close to original.

There is little in the way of an established literature on rubberdolling although there are quite a few rubberdollers that have their own webpage. One of the more interesting (and in-depth) ones is the Swedish Rubber Puppett site. The site’s owner is very open and reflective about his rubberdolling and I reproduce here what he has to say in his own words:

“I am a rubberdoll from the very south part of Sweden with a deep love for latex. I created this site to be able to reach out to other latex lovers and to make new friends all over the world. The rubber scene in Sweden is quite limited, especially if you are into dolling. I have been into latex and anything tight and shiny for as long as I can remember and some time ago I dressed up as a doll and I instantly felt this was my ‘thing’…Many people think of a rubberdoll as something passive and submissive, which is often the case. However, I am neither passive nor submissive and do this for entirely different reasons. For me it is all about dressing up and [transforming] myself into a different character. Perhaps this is similar to people who are into cosplay…Like an exhibitionist I love the way people turn their heads and look at me, some with fascination and some with fear in their eyes”.

Arguably the most interesting part of Rubber Puppett’s account is where he talks about where his love of dressing in rubber came from. He reported that:

I have been into rubber, latex and all shiny and tight things for as long as I can remember. As a young child I loved to dress up in rain clothes. I can remember the nice feeling I got the first time I tried a couple of waders. Now I am more focused towards latex, but I am still quite fond of those things, especially rubber boots. It wasn’t until I left home to study that I came into contact with latex…I did like the look of it and I decided to buy some simple garments for me and my girlfriend. I instantly fell in love with the tight feeling of the rubber clothes, the smell and the look of them. I soon ordered some more latex clothes such as hoods, stockings and dresses. When I first saw myself in the mirror wearing a hood I was instantly hooked. Since that day I have worked on my rubberdoll persona to create my fantasy woman”.

Based on what I have read elsewhere, I wouldn’t describe this account of rubberdolling as typical (and neither does he). Whether any academic research ever gets carried out on the topic remains to be seen, but it’s certainly an area that is of psychological interest.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Latex Wiki (2011). Doll. Located at: http://www.latexwiki.com/index.php?title=Doll

Rubber Puppett (2012). About Rubber Puppett. Located at: http://rubberpupett.com/about.html

Rubber World Rendezvous (2013). Frequently asked questions. Located at: http://www.rubberdollworldrendezvous.com/faq.php