Wednesday, May 1, 2024

When a Mask is not a Mask

 There is a term associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) known as masking. It is used to “describe behaviours used by people with ASD to suppress or hide the signature characteristics of the disorder. It can also mean mirroring the behaviour of neurotypical people and developing ‘scripts’ that work in social situations.” (1)

In short, masking in an ASD context is a type of personality camouflage donned by the autistic person to fool the outside world into thinking that they are “normal” and able to fit in. You might not even know some of the people in your life who mask regularly and, if they have done their job properly, they might even be the last person you would ever suspect of such behaviour. Kudos to them, and also my sympathies. More on this below.

If you suspect yourself of masking, you might identify with “hyper-vigilance for and constant adaptation to the preferences and expectations (whether expressed, implied or anticipated) of the people around you [and] tightly controlling and adjusting how you express yourself (including your needs, preferences, opinions, interests, personality, mannerisms and appearance) based on the real or anticipated reactions of others, both in the moment and over time.”(2)

If you have ever thought of yourself as a social chameleon of sorts, able to quickly fit in with many different social groups, cliques back in high school, or situations that vary greatly in terms of manner of speaking, vocabulary, pop culture references, and so on, then you know exactly what I am talking about. It’s a bit of a superpower, but it is also exhausting. Constantly aware of how others might be reacting to what you say and do, you spend enormous amounts of energy adapting yourself to the outside world rather than being your authentic self for fear of being labelled a weirdo or, even worse, not getting what you want…or need. It is commonly understood that people with light to mild ASD are the most able to mask, while those on the more extreme end of the autism spectrum (non-verbal, etc.) simply don’t have the ability to act in a manner that is in any way considered normal for a neurotypical person.

Masking in a fetish sense should be fairly apparent if you have ever read Fetish Dynasty Magazine. The pages are filled with women in masks and is a central theme to the publication. The term mask and hood (more common) are used interchangeably in the kink world, but I will use mask throughout for consistency, and focus on latex masks in particular. 

Masks are somewhat of a polarizing topic in the latex fetish scene, with some kinksters being totally obsessed with them (yours truly) and others finding them detestable. Find me a popular online female fetish personality who posts photos of themselves in and out of a mask, and I will find you plenty of comments for and against both manners of dress. From “You’re so pretty, it’s shame to hide your beauty under a mask,” to “You are so gorgeous, a mask would just enhance your beauty even further!” Regardless of where you stand, you can’t deny the mysterious and kinky aspect to masks and the visceral reaction they provoke when worn properly (remember, tight is right).

For the aficionado, masks accomplish a few things. When worn fashionably (as opposed to being worn as a form of objectification or sensory deprivation) they typically only reveal the eyes and mouth, thereby focussing attention on those features. Because one’s expressions are mainly communicated through these features, the mask amplifies them and can have a hypnotic effect on the admirer. The lips are also made to protrude slightly due to the tight latex surrounding them (who needs filler?) which even further enhances the attractiveness of the wearer. The smooth, sleek head shape adds an almost alien-like aspect and further increases the mystery. In addition (and this is more for the wearer), the physical sensation of the mask on the face can create a sense of security, especially if you have Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) manifesting in the need for feeling tightness or compression on your body.(3)

Here is where things start to get interesting. When you wear a mask, you become anonymous to anyone who does not know who you already are. (4) It can be difficult to grasp this if you are going out in public for the first time, but as someone who regularly wears latex amongst the muggles, I can assure you that no one has any idea of who you are if you are masked (though they might be quite curious). But if no one can know who you are, there is no longer the need to pretend to be someone you are not. The latex mask masks the need to mask your personality. You can just be yourself, because what could be weirder than wearing a latex mask? You relieve yourself of the need to “fit in” and force the outside world to adapt to you, rather than the other way around. 

In the end, kink is all about turning ideas, morals, conventions, and taboos on their head and redefining their meaning on your terms. You can use the pretext of kink and its tenets of negotiation, consent, and communication to overcome inhibitions and enjoy things that would otherwise be unpleasant at best and traumatic at worst. In this way, latex masks for the neurodivergent fetishist can be a tremendously liberating and exciting form of play.

Because sometimes it isn’t until we put on a mask that we reveal who we truly are.

This article originally appeared in Fetish Dynasty Magazine Issue 9 available on MagCloud




3. You can also have SPD and want the exact opposite…probably not the best thing for wearing latex in general

4. I have actually had experiences where people didn’t recognize me at a fetish event until I put my mask on

Objectification vs. Humiliation/Degradation

The terms humiliation, degradation and objectification are often used in BDSM to describe types of play between dominants and submissives. It does seem to be the case, unfortunately, that these terms are used interchangeably. More specifically, objectification is often lumped together with humiliation and degradation. But there are some significant differences between all three, and even more so between the first and the last two, respectively.

Humiliation can be described as play where the submissive consents to being treated in a way that would seemingly elicit feelings embarrassment, or is put in a compromising position. Examples of this would be a male submissive who is not a cross-dresser or sissy being “forced” to dress in women’s clothes, or a submissive being made to do something embarrassing in public. 

Degradation, by contrast, is play where the submissive is treated in a manner which demeans them. Examples of this would be the dominant forcing the submissive to lick the bottom of a pair of boots, or being made to perform an act that would normally be “beneath” the submissive or a typical person. Verbal engagement is very important in degradation play, with the dominant often reinforcing the degradation with statements like “Lick that boot, you worm,” or “You’re nothing but a worthless, pathetic loser.” Sometimes the degradation can be 100% verbal and not involve any accompanying acts whatsoever. 

Objectification, by contrast, is play where the submissive is treated in a manner that disregards their humanity (or ignores it entirely) and reduces their purpose to something specific or functional. Examples of this would be a rubberized submissive being bound and used as a “sex toy” or a gimp fulfilling a role as a human chair or a drinks tray.

It’s critical to recognize that an element of shame can find its way into all three forms of play, but only with humiliation and degradation is this emotion something to be expected or even amplified by the dominant through verbal or other means. 

Problems arise, however, when a dominant conflates humiliation/degradation and objectification. Of course, if a submissive enjoys all three at once then all is well, but, for many submissives, objectification by itself is not humiliating or degrading in any way. There does not necessarily need to be shame in being a drinks tray, or a human fuck doll. It is simply the fulfillment of a specific function. In fact, many objectification fans are proud to serve as an object for their dominant and do their best to perform with excellence. 

Verbal degradation or being humiliated can be a severe trigger for people that have undergone abuse in their kink or vanilla lives, especially the psychological kind, and both the dominant and submissive absolutely must be aware of these triggers and avoid them. For example, when a dominant is playing with a submissive that enjoys being objectified, and the dominant throws in some degradation or humiliation (thinking that they are all basically the same thing), the submissive may be triggered by this. The result can be quite upsetting and even potentially damaging. Imagine the dominant’s confusion when a submissive reacts negatively to being degraded while they are, at the same time, being used as a chair. If you understand the distinction between degradation and objectification, you have no problem understanding the consternation of the submissive.

Another way of looking at it is to consider the following: the only reason humiliation and degradation has any effect is because the dominant is treating the submissive as a person (be they a lowly worm or worse). The kink here is the perversion of the normally undesirable situation for the submissive of being in a humiliating or degrading scenario and the power exchange that occurs as a result. Unless you enjoy sexual power exchange, you won’t “get it” at all. But for those that do enjoy it, it’s all good. For objectification fans, however, the kink factor is that the humanity of the submissive is ignored. They are not being treated as a person, with feelings and pride and propriety to be fucked with. They are being treated as an object, and thus feelings and propriety are not a factor.

With all this being said, if you are confused by the distinction between humiliation/degradation and objectification, imagine your toaster. It exists to make toast. Would you, while you are making toast, talk at the toaster and subject it to phrases such as “Come on and toast that bread, you worthless piece of metal crap,” or “What’s taking you so long??? Hurry up and toast that bread, you pathetic home appliance”? Probably not, though I have no doubt that a few toasters have undergone verbal degradation during their stoic bread-browning duty. Check out season one of the classic sci-fi series “Red Dwarf” for some examples. Sassiest toaster ever.

Similarly, if your submissive enjoys objectification - but not humiliation or degradation - would you shout at them while they were performing admirably as a sushi table? One would hope not.

Now, it must be stated that, in all forms of play, consent is mandatory, and a thorough discussion of limits, triggers and desires is crucial to having a fun time. The scenarios described above assume that the people involved have talked in great length about their kinks and agree in advance to the kinds of treatment that the submissive will receive. At any point, regardless of the consent given beforehand, if the submissive or dominant is not comfortable, the safe word or some other indication that the play needs to pause should be used.

The bottom line is that one should be aware of these distinctions and hone in on one’s desires, limits and triggers accordingly. When learning how to play with someone new, make sure to highlight these distinctions and not tolerate any transgressions. 


This article originally appeared in Fetish Dynasty Magazine Issue 8 available on MagCloud

When a Mask is not a Mask

 There is a term associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) known as masking. It is used to “describe behaviours used by people with ASD...