The Role of Spandex in Superhero Fetish
For each of us, as we have seen, the base of our fetish is something totally different and for some it is more than spandex: neoprene, rubber, leather, and for others, sports gear. Our fetish is something personal. For me it was a jock thing, but also a superhero thing. For both, it was the freedom to wear these items of clothing so freely, so publicly and be completely blasé about it. Athletes especially get me: they walk around in spandex like it is nothing at all. It means the world to me, and jocks drive me nuts!
Spandex, Lycra or elastane is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity. It is stronger and more durable than natural rubber. It is a polyester-polyurethane copolymer that was invented in 1958 by chemist Joseph Shivers at DuPont's Benger Laboratory in Waynesboro, Virginia. The word spandex comes from the word “expands”.
The very birth of spandex is something otherworldly, cooked up in the lab around World War II like a science experiment. It's a direct result of the industrial age as synthetic fibers became more widely used for clothing. What always surprised me about the material is that many comic-book heroes predate that creation of spandex. Prior to that a cotton or wool blend was drawn on heroes and villains (or worn on TV and film versions), and it just doesn’t do the same job. The look is all wrong. But then spandex appears in the visual consciousness of the 20th century: Now the superhero costume makes sense" skintight and allowing all their muscles to be on full display, spandex becomes a thin shield for the naked male body. It is all that is keeping the body from being fully displayed.
Spandex fetishism is a fetishistic attraction to people wearing form fitting stretch fabrics or to the wearing of items of clothing made of such material. Spandex garments are often worn by swimmers, ballet dancers, wrestlers, rowers, cyclists, contortionists and circus performers, and spandex fetishists may incorporate fantasies about these activities into their particular fetish. One reason why spandex and other tight fabrics may be fetishized is that the garment forms a "second skin", acting as a surrogate for the wearer's own skin. Wearers of skin-tight nylon and cotton spandex garments can appear naked or coated in a shiny or matte substance like paint. The tightness of the garments may also be seen as sexual bondage. Another reason is that nylon-spandex fabric (preferred by many spandex fetishist) is often produced with a very smooth and silk-like finish, which lends a tactile dimension to the fetish - as well as a visual one. The pressure of tight garments against the genitals can become quite sensual.
What’s interesting is that while the definition mentions many of the jocks that wear spandex, including circus performers, but no mention of superheroes. True, we may be a niche within the fetish market, but nonetheless, spandex and superheroes walk hand in hand. Yet with the advent of Under Armour (God loves gays or he would have never given us Under Armour) it made spandex mainstream at the same time that Hollywood was taking spandex away from the superhero.
PHOTO GALLERY: The Role of Spandex in Superhero Fetish
Spider-Man and Superman still sport spandex (The Amazing Spider-Man was kind enough to make reference to it) but for the most part (and I blame the X-Men films for this) leather has replaced spandex. Nothing against leather, but looking at The CW’s Flash costume, I can tell you that you can’t run in leather. Of course, superheroes are a fantasy, so technically, they can do whatever their creators say they can do. But, luckily there is still hope: after many were up in arms about the new Fantastic Four trailer making no mention of the classic Fantastic Four suits, the sexy Miles Teller has informed us otherwise.
Going back to the Wikipedia entry, we see that rubber, neoprene, leather and spandex in particular for our case are something that as the definition explains, leads itself, in its very essence to bondage. One-piece suits are something that traps the body; we become a slave to clothing, something we should be able to control. It gives power to an inanimate object yet that power is kinda liberating. Many of us probably agree that we feel at our best when we are in our gear. I know for me, I feel more like a man trapped in a wetsuit or in spandex than any other time. The sensation of my physical body being contained and controlled by a mass-produced, lifeless object is such a turn on. Often seeing the empty shell of a suit or tights is the bigger arousal; the anticipation that it will house a body and contain it… add in the superhero cosplay complex, and it becomes even more interesting.
The idea of the hero and the idea of the alter ego entering that suit to become something new. Even in the real world the ideal of cosplay is to become your favorite hero via costume. Cosplayers have often said that this is a childhood fantasy, becoming the characters they looked up to and wanted to be in their youth. Like many of us in our teenage years, as puberty hit, we realized we didn’t just want to be them, but be with them. Cosplay becomes a space where people with a superhero fetish can see their heroes as living adults; but also as sexual beings.
While I’m all for the recent movement of cosplay is not consent as a way to create safe spaces for cosplayers at cons, I do feel that cosplay works as a visual medium. Like any visual medium it calls upon being looked at; in this case we are looking at people. It requires a gaze. The issue of objectification is problematic, but in truth anytime we post something online the point is that it is going to be looked at. Cosplay adds another dimension: we already look at the heroes in comic and here they are in the flesh. The mind can run wild with what to do with these characters and cosplay roleplay allows us to bring fantasy into reality and meld the two together.
Strange beginnings create a strange fetish; fictional characters wearing an artificial skin imbeds into our fantasies and now as grown men we wish to fulfill the fantasy. Like Roland, we too take a journey to discovery, to finding the limits of our fetish and fantasy as well as the extensions – will it stretch as far as the very fabric we love and adore? My vain attempt to create a definition only points out how open and undefined our fetish is, even if on the surface it is pretty basic. What does Spandex do for you as a fetish material? Tell us in the comments. For more images of superheroes in spandex, visit our 20 Iconic Images of Superhero Fetish or visit our Tumblr.
About our contributor iFitz
Hello everyone, very excited and happy to be part of the team and the community. I just moved to Toronto to pursue a masters in film and sociology (the former being my major passion). I’m 28 and really excited to be seeing this superhero fetish community develop. You can read a lot more in the story I previously wrote, but my fetish also includes wetsuits, athletic gear (spandex obviously) and shoes, mostly athletic shoes. I’m a little shy but online I’m game for chat and e-mails so drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org