'Fuck the Rules:' Rubberists are Starting Their Own Revolution

Winners and organizers of the Mr. International Rubber competition are bending gender and kink, and questioning the old, rigid rules of what makes rubber hot.
Onyx Pusckatt
Photo credit: PupRockit

On a Saturday in May, Pusckatt Pumera Onyx traveled to Atlanta, donned his black and white rubber suit, draped his Mr. International Rubber sash over his shoulder, and paraded around on a cool night on the patio of The Atlanta Eagle. 

Rubber fetishists are people who wear skin tight latex and rubber clothing, including gloves, bodysuits, and masks, either for personal pleasure or competitive, pageant-style performance. Onyx is the first Black Mr. International Rubber (MIR) in the competition’s 26 year history. As part of the title, the organizers  awarded him a travel fund and a mandate to spread the word about the rubber fetish community throughout the world. 


As hot dogs sizzled at the Eagle, and sounds of power ballads wafted down from the drag show upstairs, Onyx greeted a skinny, bearded psychology student clad in a red and black latex singlet, Mr. Southeast Rubber 2022, Scott Wolf, who was performing his service, which he does at least once a month. Sometimes he sells Jell-O shots for a cause, other times he educates people on how to care for rubber—one of the keys is Vivishine.  

The night I met Wolf, a few weeks earlier, he was inside the club hanging upside down in his rubber singlet, rope wound over his torso and arms, a dozen people looking on, some coming up to slide their hands across the silicone-slicked latex. 

One of the most common questions Wolf and Onyx are asked is whether they get hot while wearing rubber. The answer is: only when it’s hot outside. Latex is thin, so whatever the outside temperature is, your skin feels. To get the skintight material on, he applies silicone lube so it can slide right on his body, which is what most people who wear rubber do, although some use powder.  

Wolf is from a small, conservative town in the deep South of Georgia. Like Onyx, Wolf is on a mission to make the entire rubber fetish community more inclusive to women and gender minorities. That’s why he’s competing for MIR in November, where he hopes to be crowned the winner. 

Soon after he won Mr. Southeast Rubber in 2022, Wolf started changing things. “I got rid of the honorific, so it does not need to be ‘Mr.’ Our title is no longer gender bound,” he said. “We have this large growing gender queer, gender minority community, and I've been wanting to support them.” 


He didn’t feel comfortable coming out as gay until age 22—long after he moved to Atlanta. Wolf was introduced to rubber at a workshop at the Eagle run by G-man, a guy who was crowned Mr. International Rubber 2011. Like Onyx, he was hooked after donning a suit.  

Wolf introduced me to some of the rubberists out that night. There was mustachioed Pup Loki in a fire-engine red singlet; bald and buff Pup Cookie in a rubber vest over a yellow tank top, representing his interest in piss play as part of the hanky code/flagging system (colors can be a fashion choice, not a flag, but you need to be prepared for people to ask you about it, he said), and Cookie’s trainer Jonathan, bespectacled in a red and black singlet. There seemed to be as many people out in leather as rubber. I asked them why they chose rubber over the more conventional gay male fetish gear of leather.

“I think with leather, you are more grounded by the rules of the community. In rubber there's much more freedom and expression with creativity … I mean, look, at Pusckatt, they express himself in such a beautiful fashion,” Pup Cookie said. 

Jonathan jumped in. “People tend to put on rubber and it just changes the way they carry themselves. It gives them such a protective shell,” he said. 

“I would say that, if anybody [is] body conscious of themselves, screw it. Everyone looks sexy in rubber,” another rubberist said.  


I asked if MIR should become gender neutral. They all said yes. “I think that having it be gender specific is holding it back,” Pup Cookie said. “I think taking down that barrier is going to allow, selfishly, where I want to see rubber go. I want to see the more creative stuff. I want to see unique styles like Pusckatt’s.” 

“The female-identifying [performers] that I’ve seen in rubber are phenomenal,” said Jonathan. 

“They’re in colonial dresses, full on frickin latex, that’s badass,” Pup Cookie said. 

Wolf is creating change at the Southeast competitive level, but it’s not easy. Many of the smaller contests that MIR competitors have to participate in to qualify at the international level only allow men. 

“How are we going to go about making sure we're supporting the community as a whole?” Wolf said. “Because the big saying is… [MIR] supports everyone, no matter even if the contest is still ‘Mister.’ They do a lot of work to support everyone within the community whether they are male-identifying, female identifying, genderqueer, or non-binary.”

Elsewhere in the bar, I met a guy in a full red rubber suit with gloves, wearing loose black fabric shorts on top. He told me he was from a small town in rural Georgia that he didn’t want named for fear that people would recognize him. 

A man in a red latex suit and black full face mask

An attendee at The Eagle's rubber night in Atlanta. Photo by Eric Schatzberg

“It must have been hard growing up gay there,” I said. 

“I identify as straight,” he replied.


“What? You’re not at least bi?” I asked, as I looked around and saw what I assumed (perhaps falsely) were dozens of queer men. 

“Nope, maybe heteroflexible, possibly,” he said. “My girlfriend knows I’m here. She gave me permission.” 

He told me that he wore rubber at home regularly, but could never bring himself to don it in public. He was at Atlanta Eagle because it was the only place he knew of that had a rubber night. 

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“Phenomenal,” he said. “I truly think this is the skin I belong in.” 

Even on rubber night, attendees in normal street clothing far outnumbered the people wearing rubber. But rubber is starting to become more popular, and Wolf thinks that’s because it’s aesthetically more gender fluid.  

“Leather has this very masculine, confident, dominating presence, while rubber has got a more relaxed and more approachable presence,” he said. “I've gotten approached more often when I'm wearing rubber and then people ask questions, hands go wandering, fun happens afterwards.” In the rubber community he’s submissive: a “boy,” as his brand of submissive is called.  

Pup Loki, Pup Cookie, and Jonathan

Left to right: Pup Loki, Pup Cookie, and Jonathan, at the Eagle in Atlanta. Photo by Eric Schatzberg

Onyx, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, got into rubber in 2019, when his close friend was running for Mr. Florida Rubber, which is similar to a pageant event, like Miss America. Usually the competition involves an interview, a fantasy scene, and a display of their rubber image. 


At the time, he was solely into leather, but his friend was going to a local bar in latex, and didn’t want to be the only one wearing rubber. So he asked Onyx if he’d join him, and offered Onyx a pair of his latex shorts and tank top. Onyx reluctantly put them on and went to the bar. 

He wasn’t expecting the response he got. “Something about latex, everybody wants to touch it and rub it because of the shiny and slickness of it. And I think that is what really drew me to it,” Onyx said. “I haven't been out of latex since.” In February 2022, Onyx won the Mr. Florida Rubber title, and in November 2022 he won the Mr. International competition—the highest level 

But the path to MIR hasn’t been smooth—in fact, Onyx and other gender nonconforming rubberists and people of color have started a revolution in the historically white, almost ironically rigid community of rubber enthusiasts. 


Three days before Onyx was supposed to appear at the Mr. International Rubber (MIR) contest in Chicago to compete for the title, the Touché club in Chicago, where MIR’s opening party and other events were to be held, became the center of a controversy. It had just hosted a party featuring white performer Jerry Halliday and his puppet “Sista Girl.”

Touché employees instructed the audience not to record the show, and then a bowler-hat wearing Halliday took the stage with Sista Girl, and performed a racist caricature show.


As Onyx was debating whether to go to MIR in light of this offensive spectacle at the venue, MIR’s announced they were cutting ties with Touché and the event would be held elsewhere. "MIR remains committed to producing an event weekend free of harassment , racism, misogyny, abelism, sizeism, and ageism. Where all rubber kinksters are welcome and made to feel their authentic selves," the MIR organization announced on Twitter

Following that announcement, Onyx decided to fly to Chicago for the competition. “It made me want to run for the title even more … They could have easily went the way of being quiet and not standing up for the community. To me it showed a lot of their character and their stance,” he said. He had good reason to be hesitant: In the history of MIR, there had never been a Black Mr. International Rubber, let alone a gender non-conforming winner. He had a chance to become the first. 

“Fuck the rules, I'm going to wear what makes me feel sexy… if you don't like it, fuck you.”

At the MIR finals in Chicago on November 5, 2022, Onyx stood on stage in a fuchsia full-body rubber suit with a black girdle for his fantasy scene, where contestants really had to shine for the seven judges. Each contestant had to create a scene related to the theme: Rubber University.

“You’ve been hired to teach a course at RubU. What is the course title, and what is the course description?” said the emcee, while he batted a rainbow fan in front of his face. 


“The title of my course will be the rubber band … The description will be to embrace the rubberist community, all of the rubberist community and we will have discussion around inclusion and diversity,” he said. 

On stage a man in a black and pink accented shirt and black rubber pants stood next to a table with a large dildo. “Let’s have role call: leather, bears, pups, littles. Rubber. Rubber. Where’s Pusckatt?” 

“I’m here,” Onyx said offstage. 

“Late again, are we?” 

“It takes time to get all lubed down for you,” Onyx said. “I mean, shined up for class.”

The man placed a gas mask on Onyx as Onyx slithered through his rubber legs. “Now arch that back for Daddy,” he said, and began spanking his butt cheeks with a paddle. Then he licked Onyx’s rubber-covered butt crack, and pulled him up on his feet to face him. 

“Pussy,” Onyx said and turned his head to the audience to thunderous applause. 

Later that day, after performing in shiny charades, Onyx stood in the lineup next to the other contestants in his thigh high rubber boots, black leotard, and fuchsia hat.  As the first and second runner took their places at the front of the stage, he politely clapped. “The winner of MIR … drumroll, drumroll, drumroll,” MIR organizer and 2003 winner William “Rubber Willi” Schendel said, and the men onstage stomped their feet. “Contestant Number 6, Pusckatt Pumera Onyx!” Onyx threw his hand in the air, waved to the crowd, smiled broadly and pranced center stage in his stilettos. He embraced the previous year’s winner Joe Chicago Rubber, as about 500 people watched in person and 175 or so online. Onyx was now the first Black winner of MIR. 


It didn’t take long for Onyx to receive backlash on social media. His faux pas, according to some rubberists? Wearing high heels and appearing too femme. The criticism came from the old guard, wanting the rubber contest to stay hypermasculine and Tom of Finland-esque. 

But the backlash was immediately shut down by the MIR organizers. “My whole platform is about how do I make space for those who are not on the hyper masculine side?” Onyx said.

And besides, not everyone was upset about his femininity. After he won, the rubber vendors on site sold out of pink. 


The rubber community has historically been pretty white. “There are not as many Black men into the rubber fetish scene. There's kind of this archetypal image of a rubber man that exists: they are tall, skinny, and bald, and they wear all black rubber. It’s very Germanic,” Schendel, who fits that description himself, said. 

The first person of color to win MIR was Preston “Wexx” So, crowned Mr. International Rubber in 2016, 19 years after the contest began. “He got a lot of pushback during his year, especially in Europe. He faced a lot of racism,” Schendel said. 

When So won MIR in 2016, he said he was a recent Harvard grad who simply thought it would be fun to enter a rubber contest. “I was not only the first person of color to win MIR, but I was also the first Asian to be an international fetish title holder at all,” So said. “In 2016 there were very few people of color attending MIR.” 


As So was awarded the title, he could see the comments showing up on Zoom, where the show was streamed. “People were saying things like, how did the Asian beat the white guy,” he said. “They’re using slurs as well as saying things like the C word, the ‘chink’ word.”

He started getting “horrifying levels of online abuse,” he said. But he powered through. Then, things got worse. It was January 2017, and he’d recently won the title and was riding the elevator during the international fetish event Mid Atlantic Leather in Washington, DC. “And one of the gentlemen inside the elevator was very inebriated. And he said to my face, ‘You know, now that Trump's president, you can't be in this elevator with us, pointing to everyone else in the elevator who was white. [He] shoved me out of the elevator, and I fell back, stunned and dazed onto the floor,” So said. 

Another time he was at a bar in New England when a stranger sexually assaulted him. “An older white gentleman wearing leather decided to walk up to me to grab my crotch and said, oh, I just wanted to check if the stereotype was true,” So said. 

He was met with racism while traveling outside of the U.S. as well. “I was at Folsom in Berlin, probably Europe's largest, fetish and kink fair … And a gentleman walked up to me, saw that I was wearing the Mr. International Sash, pushed me and tried to take it from me,” So said. “And he said, ‘where are you from?’ And I said, ‘I'm from America.’ He said, ‘No, no, no, no, you can't be Mr. International Rubber. You're not American. You are China or Japan…’ He refused to let go of me just because I was refusing to say that I wasn't American.” 


So said he’s not alone: “Multiply my story by hundreds and thousands and you'll get a fair representation of who's suffered at the hands of the kink community, who are women who are trans, who are Black and Brown,” he said. “There are so many of us who don't speak up.”  

So eventually left the kink community—rubberists or otherwise—in 2019 after receiving numerous death threats and having to shut down his Facebook page. About a year later, he came back after deciding that instead of wearing rubber publicly for the community, he would do so for himself. “I've been [wearing rubber] for these racists who didn't actually appreciate the fact that there was somebody else who was as into rubber as they were. And that's the reason why when I came back, I told myself,  … This time, I'm not going to wear rubber for anybody else but myself. Nothing else is going to matter,” he said. 

Since he’s come back, he is devoted to making events more inclusive and he’s created risk management, safety, and antiharassment policies for kink clubs. “We may talk about safe, sane, consensual. That doesn't mean abuse and violence aren't happening at our events in our spaces,” he said.  

Schendel said that following So’s experiences with harassment, the Mr. International Rubber organization worked to address racism within the rubber community. The organization and So co-founded a POC meet up in conjunction with the contest, and, later, an Asian rubberist meetup. 


Now, there is another challenge facing the community: gender inclusivity. “We are in a contest at the moment to select a Mister, but we want to make our events and our weekend is a space where everybody feels welcomed, included and seen and valued. And so we've really done a lot of work, continue to do a lot of work, to kind of move the ball in that direction. A lot of that started when Preston won the contest,” Schendel said. 

MIR crowned its first winner in 1997 in a gay fetish bar. The contest has always required contestants to be male-identified, although the judges and audience members don’t have to be.  “We weren't thinking about gender politics the way that we are now,” said Schendel. Other, smaller competitions called “feeder” contests exist across the world, although they aren’t officially sanctioned by MIR and you don’t have to win one of them to compete in the main MIR event. 

“You just kind of feel like a superhero.”

Rubber was originally fetishized in the straight community, Schendel said, after rubber rain slickers and gas masks were first used in World War I. “That fetish started to grow and then it started to find its way into other things, like pantyhose and girdles,” he said. “Rubber existed for a long time in the straight world as this way to heighten the sexuality and the sensuality of the female form. Once you can make sheet latex that is more like a fabric that you can actually cut and mend and sew,  then people start designing latex fashions … but then the women want to see the guys in the same thing.”


Schendel said that rubber didn’t fit into the gay aesthetic until much later. Post-World War II, the look was Tom of Finland, hypermasculine, motorcycle, military vibes, he said. “Rubber kind of flips the middle finger at the old guard, which is like, these are the rules you must follow in kink, and you must address me as sir  … Rubber doesn't really have any rules, like, we are very much, fuck the rules, I'm going to wear what makes me feel sexy … if you don't like it, fuck you.”

It’s only in the past few decades that rubber has gained more mainstream popularity. Since MIR began, rubber contests have spread throughout the U.S. and into other countries as well. Most of these require contestants to be male identified. The female origins of rubber are nearly absent. But female-identified people want their place at the table again, and so do non-binary people. 

Although you still have to be male-identified to win, in the past few years, MIR has been making their event more gender inclusive. Play parties allowed people of all genders to attend for the first time last year. A woman’s rubberist group throws their own party as well. Some people, including So, think the contestant should abandon the “male” requirement altogether.  “I’m very in support of gender neutral titles,” So said. 


In 2021, a year before Scott won Southeast Rubber, MIR changed when Joe Chicago ran for the contest. At the time, they were using both male and gender-neutral pronouns. “I kind of already wasn't feeling super comfortable with hyper masculine words like ‘bro’ and ‘dude’ and ‘man,’” Joe said. During their interview portion they told the judges that they “wanted to create a more gender inclusive title in Chicago.” At the time, the Chicago rubber contest, which feeds into MIR, was open to male-identified people only. 

Photo credit: PupRockit

Left to right: Pup Kilo, Onyx Pusckatt and Doggo Raeko. Photo credit: PupRockit

Joe had already helped rebrand the Chicago Rubber Men to Chicago Rubber Club. “Women [and] trans men who were coming to some events and saying, ‘Well, I don't really feel like a member [of this community],” they said. “That was what really made us think, ‘Hey, we're trying to be this inclusive, queer organization. And people who we respect in the community don't necessarily feel like it's their space, even though they're attending our events.” 

The response was mainly positive, aside from one man who quit the club in protest. 

After Joe won MIR, they began to rethink their gender identity. “Through the course of my title year, I just kind of realized that for me being queer, kind of is like the rejection of those labels,” they said. “Whenever I'm in leather, I feel hyper masculine. And whenever I'm in rubber, I feel as masculine or feminine as I feel that day,” Joe said. “There's also something about the sleekness of it. You just kind of feel like a superhero.”

Joe began to identify as non-binary. But people started to ask how they could reconcile being non-binary with their “Mr.” title.

“Even though I am non-binary, I recognize that I appear more male and … I felt like I could move the needle and make more progress with that title,” they said.

Onyx(left), Chris Gonzalez, Mr GNI Leather 2022  (middle) and Scott Wolf (right)

Onyx(left), Chris Gonzalez, Mr GNI Leather 2022 (middle) and Scott Wolf (right). Photo by Eric Schatzberg

After their win, they started traveling the world on a mission. “I went in expecting that I was going to be able to change everything. And you get in there and you realize that it's much more complicated, that communities are very different. We're not monolithic,” they said. They tried to make any change, no matter how small, as long as it “slowly moves the needle,” they said. They successfully pushed Ireland to have a gender inclusive title. 


All the communities they visited were welcoming to Joe, even though most were heavily male-identified. Rubberists were accepting of Joe even when they wore their bubblegum pink rubber uniform that “was a little jab at the old guard … I thought it was gonna piss people off in Berlin and people loved it. So I do think a shift is happening,” they said. 

This year they’ve convinced the organizers of the Midwest Rubber contest to be open to all genders as well. They’ve created a new title called Midwest Rubber that is gender inclusive.

“There has been some pushback of like, oh, well, we should just have separate titles. We can have a Mr. Title and Mx. Title and Ms title,” Joe said. But they think that Chicago doesn’t have enough women and trans rubberists who would participate in the competitions to justify having three separate titles.  

Joe hopes MIR will switch to being gender neutral and not require contestants to be male.  It’s already starting to change. “MIR is a really great organization and it has made strides,” they said. 


Onyx is still traveling the world spreading the word about rubber. He’s already been to clubs in Paris, Belgium, Milan, and all across the U.S. clad in rubber gear. Later this year he’s flying to Australia, Spain and Ireland. He estimates he travels three to four weekends a month. 

“I want to move around a lot, because I feel the importance of being a Black person and being a gender non-conforming [person] out here doing the work, I felt like I need to be seen,” he said. 

MIR gave him a small stipend of a few thousand dollars, but he’s able to fly around the world with his friend’s free airline tickets and receive housing and other funds from clubs. 

As he’s traveled, people of color have reached out to him and on social media, he said. Sometimes he’ll tell them what event he’s going to, and they’ll say they don’t typically attend because nobody who looks like them goes. “Well, I'll be there,” he tells them. “And they end up coming out,” he said. 

As part of his title holding position he’s invited to judge contests, and he always makes sure to ask contestants, “How diverse is your community? How inclusive is your community? Is there a POC space?” A lot of people of color and gender minorities believe they aren’t welcome, Onyx said. He said he tells clubs, “I look at some of your advertisements, and I see no POC person, I see no trans person, I see no females in your marketing, but yet, you're telling me you want these individuals to show up and be a part of your event?” He said he has gotten positive feedback and some contests have even changed their marketing and asked how they can create safer spaces for minorities.  

Paul B. aka Pup Urban, who creates marketing images for rubber events in Atlanta and wants to see more women at events, said one reason there are so many men in event posters is because of a lack of representation in stock images. “Finding stock images that are affordable is hard…I'm not getting paid,” Paul said.

In keeping with the theme of gender and sexual diversity, Onyx has also visited heterosexual clubs in his time as a title holder of Mr. Florida Rubber. 

Yet he’s not quite sure that Mr. Florida Rubber and Mr. International Rubber should drop the “Mr.” title yet—at least, not until the competition can welcome a diverse range of gender representation more thoroughly. He still thinks that women wouldn’t have a fair chance because the judges panel and culture is predominantly male. “Our trans siblings,  our non-binary [siblings], they're not feeling included,” he said. “Yeah, they show up in the space, but they can't even compete. How do you make them feel included without totally changing the concept of the contest?”  

[This story has been updated to note the creation of the title Midwest Rubber.]