Photo courtesy of Mr. International Rubber.

A hearty band of souls gather together in Chicago each November, braving the often unrelenting cold, windy weather, to be among their brethren in the rubber community, a fetish based around wearing latex or neoprene clothing. People travel in from all over the country and beyond, with attendees from as far away as the Netherlands, both to compete for the Mr. International Rubber title and to enjoy the social and play activity around the contest.

But what exactly does all this entail? Is it a big sex party? Social gathering? Somewhere in between? I’ve attended four past Mr. International Rubber events (MIR for short) and here’s a rundown of what to expect.

WHO GOES?

Mostly men (though women also attend) of all ages, body shapes and sizes, ethnicities, etc. If you’ve ever thought, “I’m too hairy to wear rubber,” or, “I don’t have the right kind of body to wear rubber,” you can rest assured that if it’s something you enjoy or find attractive, you can enjoy it. Even in the competition, each of the six contestants brought something completely different and unique to the table.

WHERE DO THINGS HAPPEN?

Most official events were held at the Center on Halsted, an LGBT community center, with some events happening at outside kink-oriented bars such as the Jackhammer, Cellblock, and Touché, as well as Steamworks Chicago, all in the Boystown and Andersonville areas.

WHERE TO STAY?

In past years, the Best Western has been the host hotel, but this year there wasn’t an official hotel. That said, MIR is not the same as International Mr. Leather or Mid-Atlantic Leather Weekend, where everything happens at the hotel. Nothing happens at the hotel (unless you make it happen), so as long as you book a hotel, AirBNB, or other accomodations near the Center on Halsted, you’re fine. I’ve stayed at both the Best Western and the Majestic Hotel and they were both fine. Some attendees have rented houses as a group, which can be an inexpensive way to attend.

WHAT’S UP WITH THIS CONTEST?

The actual contest itself is a lot less serious and more “out there” than you’d expect from a kink title event. There are the requisite categories where each contestant speaks, shows off their best rubber gear, and showcases their version of a hot fantasy scene. But there’s also an opening musical number, and a fantastic “mystery bag” contest where contestants take a grab bag of items that they have to use on a poor, unsuspecting demo bottom. Well, maybe not unsuspecting. They signed up for it, after all. By the end of the evening, the volunteer bottom is usually covered in some horrifying mix of food products, strange apparatuses, and odd bondage equipment. And the whole thing is hosted by Teri Yaki, a staple of the Chicago drag scene, who keeps the whole occasion light and fun.

WHAT ELSE GOES ON?

During the day, everyone congregates in an open area known as the market, where a number of vendors sell their wares. You can buy all kinds of rubber gear, bondage hoods, sleepsacks, toys, impact play implements, lube, and more from retailers including Mr. S Leather , Full Kit Gear, and TLS Rubber Gear. There’s also a popular used rubber swap run by the Chicago Rubbermen where you can get some great deals. This year Pup Snuggles operated a popular massage booth, where you can get a massage in your rubber gear (or out of it).

The demo area in the middle of the market is where most of the magic happen. Run by a team of enthusiastic volunteers, this is where you go if you want to get into bondage. There are tons of toys and implements available; everything from a rubber sleep-sack, table tie downs, a suspension apparatus, and plenty more. Listen for the frequent sounds of a car buffer going (which for the uninitiated, feels fantastic over latex, particularly on your crotch). At other times, you might see a number of human pups frolicking, or folks engaging in lube wrestling. It’s quite a happening spot.

There are also the evening activities outside of the contest, of course. There were unofficial and official bar events for meet and greets, notably Full Fetish at Jackhammer, sponsored by Recon, and an official play party at Steamworks which incorporated the various bondage equipment and demos into an already hopping sexual environment.

HOW MUCH?

The full experience package (not including the Full Fetish party) cost between $100-$150 this year, depending on if you went with the First Class amenities or not (early contest seating and drink tickets, primarily).

If this is of interest to you on any level, whether you’re curious or a fully engaged kinkster, I’d definitely recommend. It’s well-attended, but niche enough that the crowd is rarely overwhelming. You can meet folks from all over. And Seattle has definitely discovered MIR, with 11 people who traveled there for the festivities this year.

If you’re a Seattleite excited by the possibilities of rubber, but don’t have a trip to Chicago in the  budget, or if you’re curious and want to try something local, you’re in luck. The Rainy City Rubbermen are a new but increasingly active organization of Seattle rubber kinksters. They hosted a successful event in March at the Eagle and have an event coming up on December 5, meeting up early before the crowds hit the popular Fetish Night at CC Attle’s. Come check it out!



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