Spandex, Tights and Cosplay: Superhero-Fetish Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Ever since I began to write and publish my book series How to Kill a Superhero, many people of all walks of life have come to me with their stories. In many cases, those superhero fetish lovers thank me for taking the fetish seriously enough to create a book series, and they are grateful that community is building up, thanks to the Superhero Fetish Meetups I organize. At the same time, I get so many questions from people are curious but don’t know what it’s all about. I love answering these questions. After answering literally hundreds of emails, Tumblr messages and other social media DMs about the fetish that I thought I would put together an FAQ that can evolve organically over time to initiate people into this world of spandex, tights, boots and archetypes of strength and power exchange. I do take it seriously, even when I am being tongue in cheek. Let’s open up the doors of superhero fetish. All are welcome. -- Author Pablo Greene
The Essentials of Superhero Fetish
So what is superhero fetish?
Superhero fetish is the sexual and erotic attraction to characters and archetypes derived from superheroes in comic books. The fetish also extends to superheroes seen in TV, film, animated cartoons and even video games. People with this fetish may be aroused by the characters, their costumes, their physiques (which have classically been drawn as incredibly athletic and erotic since the early days of comics). Some superhero fetishists also enjoy the power-exchange dynamics of superheroes. In many storylines, superheroes are captured and bound by villains in their battle against crime and wrongdoers, and many people into the fetish have extended their attraction to superheroes and villains into the realm of BDSM and kink. The generalizations above are only generalizations; superhero fetish is very individual to each person, but some patterns do emerge, and those are highlighted in this FAQ.
I didn’t know that people want to dress up as superheroes in an erotic way. Why do they do it?
The reasons people want to dress up in the superhero costumes or “cosplay” are also very individual. For the average person, cosplaying is a very fun activity that they can do at Halloween, cons (like NY Comic Con), or even 5ks and marathons. But for those who have a superhero fetish, the costumes themselves provide a level of erotic stimulation that is very similar to people who fetishize high heels, cop uniforms, women’s lingerie, leathermen uniforms, or business suits. In the case of superhero fetish, the costumes that original artists in the early 20th century drew were inspired often by the tight wool costumes worn by circus strongmen and other athletes. These body hugging articles of clothing showed off all the musculature and erotic appeal of genital areas using bright colors and iconic accessories such as boots, bracelets, capes and belts. As the 20th and 21st century media (especially film and TV) gave us real actors playing the roles of superheroes and villains, costume designers experimented with many new materials that mimicked the costumes from the comics. In those decades, we have seen superhero costume designs explore nylon, spandex and lycra, satin, leather, latex, PVC and even armor and CGI skin (especially in the past twenty years with the rise of more realistic superhero film adaptations). For those who have this fetish, there can be pleasure in dressing up in this gear, but also immense pleasure in seeing other people wear the gear in the flesh. In a sense, wearing superhero gear in a sexual situation is no different than wearing a sexy pair of underwear or lingerie. It enhances the senses, and it also gives a strong suggestion of the nudity underneath. Of course, many superhero costumes are full bodied, and many fetishists enjoy the feeling of full coverage in materials like lycra, rubber, leather. Good examples of these looks can be seen in iconic heroes like Batman, Superman and Spiderman’s classic costumes.
Isn’t it sort of childish to want to play dress up and do roleplay as heroes and villains?
As many sex researchers and writers have noted, foreplay and a lot of aspects of sex depend on mental stimulation in order to arouse the sexual experience. Each person’s fetishes and kinks are individual, and being accepting of other people’s wants and needs can foster a world where people flourish sexually. Therefore, anyone can say that dressing up as Batman and the Riddler is childish, but I would strongly disagree here. The stories that writers and artists crafted in the comic book form in the course of more than a century tap into some of the most vital passions of the human race: power, strength, moral dilemmas, betrayals and also transformation and rebirth. Therefore, to roleplay as a superhero can only help human beings go deeper into these passions, and I believe that it can also help us learn more about ourselves.
A lot of the images of superhero fetish I see on sites like Tumblr involve superheroes in bondage being tortured. Do all superhero fetish people like getting tied up?
This is a misconception about superhero fetish that is worth taking apart. For many people the fetish is just about the characters and their incredibly tight costumes (and often their superpowers too). In fact, many superhero fetishists I have met over the years on the Internet and in person only fetishize those aspects. Their ideal scene is one in which people dress up in the costumes and enjoy touching each other, and maybe end up in a sexual situation. However, there is an additional subset of superhero fetishists who are strongly engaged in the power exchange of the superhero stories. In other words, they get a hardon or they get wet when they see a superhero captured, bound and gagged, and humiliated by a villain. Many fetishists also get turned on by superheroes being hypnotized or being forced to transform. These scenarios tap into aspects of BDSM and power exchange. We get aroused by these fantasies. In the real world, many superhero fetishists set up scenes where mutual consent is set and limits are negotiated, and as a result, they can tie up, gag, gut punch and crush a superhero (or villain), fully engaging with the fetish in a sadomasochistic way. But this is very individual, and it’s better not to make assumptions about people who identify as superhero fetishists. When in doubt, simply ask how their fetish manifests for them individually.
When did this fetish start?
The fetish as a cultural phenomenon could be said to start in the 20th century with the rise of comic books. It’s in this century when the superhero and supervillain figures rise and become a dominant aspect of global culture. Though LGBT and sexual community visibility was so low it was virtually invisible, it’s fair to assume many people in the 20th century developed the fetish for themselves and may have had encounters and fantasies triggered by the pages of the comic books. It’s also likely that many of the writers and artists themselves had a fetish for the very archetypes they were writing about, making the bulges and muscles, as well as the scenes of power exchange in the stories, a potent brew for themselves, but also for their readers. But as the 60s brought on a sexual revolution, all sorts of marginalized communities began to find a political voice and clear public identity. In my estimation, the internet triggered many superhero fetishists to come out of that fetish closet. For the first time, people with the same erotic urges for superheroes could find each other, share images that aroused them, and even meet in person to live out those fantasies.
However, as a novelist and fiction writer, I believe that it’s mythology that gave us our first superhero fetish. In particular, Greek mythology is probably responsible for our erotic attraction to gods and demigods whose perfectly sculpted bodies played out stories of betrayal, war, rage, and very importantly, many kinds of sex. Other mythologies, including Norse, Celtic, Maya, Aztec, and other mythologies around the world also are responsible for positing the idea of superbeings (aka Gods) who have sexually interesting and arousing phsyiques and powers, and who fall prey to their own lusts, jealousies, joys and fears. Just like heroes in the pantheons of Marvel and DC fall prey to their lusts, jealousies, joys and fears today.
Getting Started with Superhero Fetish
To get started, I recommend using the Internet to find others with this fetish. Some sites that tend to be open to superhero fetish are Recon, Spandex Party, Scruff, Fetlife. If you’re interested in trying on some superhero gear, I also curate a list of Superhero-Friendly Cosplay Vendors. You can also ask me on Twitter at @pablogreene or snapchat at killsuperhero.
Superhero Fetish Community and Resources
What is the Superhero Fetish Meetup?
I organize the Superhero Fetish Meetup at various events, including NY Comic Con, Mid-Atlantic Leather and International Mr. Leather. It’s a way for me to bring superhero fetishists together in a safe space and for people to meet each other. When people come to the meetups, they show up in full cosplay, and they are fun as all hell. There are two ways to get details on upcoming meetups: you can join my newsletter or you can also join the Superhero Fetish Meetup Facebook group I created for this. My meetups skew more toward the BDSM and kink side of superhero fetish, but we welcome everyone. All body types and genders are welcome, and you don’t have to wear fancy cosplay either. I like for these to be as open as possible.
Got more questions for the superhero fetish FAQ? Send us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post the answer here.