My initial plan was a series of interviews. I would talk to a few different people about their obscure fetishes in an effort to find out what exactly was so hot about a woman sitting on you as if you were a chair or knowing someone needs to pee or smooshing a birthday cake with your ass while wearing fancy underwear.
The range and variety of activities and objects that gets people off fascinates me: What exactly is sexy about a fat lady sitting on you, and why does it have to be a fat lady? Is age-play exactly what it sounds like (pedophilia-lite)? Could I find someone who was into axillism to explain that time with that guy where it seemed like he was going to try to push my limbs together and go to town on my armpit?
I thought, in the age of a million subreddits and Google Hangout groups exclusively for adult babies, this would be a cakewalk—everyone can meet anyone via the internet, right? While it was certainly easy to find options for interview subjects, reputation proved a problem, as many people associate VICE with mockery and judgment. Then there was also the issue that I associate meeting weirdos through the internet with getting murdered. So, basically, when I factored out people who didn’t want to speak to me and factored in those I was sure weren’t murderers, I was left with Stephen, a 38-year-old social worker who likes custard. Like, like likes it.
An interest in custard—or pies, or mud, or beans—falls under a wide and varied fetish category called WAM ("Wet and Messy") or occasionally "sploshing." Fetishes under this umbrella are many and various; UMD.net, “the wet and messy fetish social network,” lists quicksand, wet jeans, brides, mayonnaise, and showering as popular searches, and links to videos running the gamut from full-on penetrative porn to completely clothed egg fights. Basically as long as it makes a mess, it counts.
Stephen was very forthright about his brand of fetish and quite pleased to have someone to talk to about it with. While his amateur pie fights “occasionally” end in sex and the paid-for ones often involve nude "glamour models", Stephen is clear about his number-one turn-on, and that is a good old-fashioned Lady Getting a Pie Directly to the Face. Nothing too fancy, no need to stick a meringue up your butt or get crazy with maraschino cherries, just get that custard (or custard substitute) directly onto the face of a woman, preferably after she teases you that you WOULDN’T DARE "tard" her up.
“It’s not really a sexual thing, necessarily,” he said. “It’s just a bit of fun. For me, face is bigger than body. It’s much more important to see the pie hit the face.” I guess we all have our pie-orities (if you're not into pie puns you should turn back now.)
After a few preliminary emails it became increasingly clear that to understand this thing, I would have to get in there and do it.
After all, the entire premise of the fetish is participatory. Surely it is the tactile, sensory, game-play elements that make it a pleasurable experience, I thought. Plus it didn’t really require a great deal of commitment on my part, I just had to fling a few plates of custard around. It’s not exactly getting tied to a St. Andrew’s Cross or knife-play or sexy electroshock, after all.
I emailed Stephen to ask if he would be up for a combined interview/pie-chucking sesh, and wouldn’t you know it, he was. We arranged to meet in a crappy East London Travelodge, and, after purging my brain of hours of pent-up “pisexual” jokes, my photographer Jake and I knocked on the door of a grungy carpeted room, both marginally nervous we were going to get murdered.
We were not. Instead, we met Stephen. Who, you will notice in the photo above, has very similar hair to me. Hopefully this doesn't mean we're distantly related. I don’t know when all the men on the sexual-interest fringes had the meeting that decided ponytails were the way forward, but it seems all people with abnormal sexual interests have made an everlasting pact with the pony and uphold it in communities far and wide.
Stephen managed to make the entire situation feel comfortable from the get-go, which is impressive considering that it was an assembly of strangers there either to throw pies at each other or take pictures of that event.
Inside the room, paper plates had been set up in neat rows, as if for a birthday party at your aunt's house. To my surprise, we weren’t covering them with pie—while Stephen says his favourite stuff is custard based pies, shaving cream is easier to clean out of hotel room carpet and more convenient in terms of distribution and transportation. As we mixed shaving cream with food coloring in a nightstand drawer and put a garbage bag over the TV to shield it from splashes, I wondered what I was doing with my life while he told me about his.
Stephen is well traveled and outdoorsy, and has been sexually aroused by pie and custard since seeing the show Tiswas as a child. Sally James, the show's buxom assistant, was his first crush, and he recalls getting excited watching her get pied or "gunged." Although he can’t pinpoint exactly why he comes back to this fetish over and over, Stephen is forthright about the elements of it that he likes—playfulness, teasing, “a spirit of comedic anarchy”—and the elements he doesn’t—using baked beans in WAM play (“Beans? No way. That’s just disgusting to me, I’m sorry.”), pie-ing as a humiliation tactic, and bad sports.
Since setting up his first pie-fight based on a friend’s dare fifteen years ago, Stephen has told a few girlfriends, with decent results. No one has been horrified by his confession. “It’s just sort of fun and playful,” he said. “Some friends and girlfriends have been willing to help me out with it. There’s a comedic element to it, and the women I’ve done it with have ended up enjoying themselves. I think with girlfriends I’ve told I have a fetish, they maybe thought, 'could be worse.’”
He's not wrong. In the catalogue of possible sentence-enders to "we need to talk about my out-there fetish," "I want to throw custard at you" rates somewhere between "no big deal" and "OH THANK GOD," depending on how vivid your imagination is.
Above I present to you: the most tentative smile I have ever smiled. A prevailing flavor of “what have I done” with tasting notes of “is this a murder, though, for real” and “we could still leave, Jake, think about it, my mom is going to read this and yours too probably.”
Our fight was short. Despite what initially seemed like an extremely daunting amount of foamy plates, once the throwing started, we got through them pretty quickly.
Stephen had briefed me on my options, and we started by adhering loosely to the World Custard Pie Championship rules, standing ten feet apart and throwing with left hands only. As you might imagine, he has very good aim, and he really gets in there. (See above, a double-handed move where I just stood there motionless and he, seemingly without the benefit of sight, pied me from both sides with a not unimpressive amount of force.)
His first throw hit me surprisingly hard in the middle of the face, while mine flailed impotently past him and trickled down the wall. I’ve never been good at sports, to be fair. I remembered as I reloaded that I had participated in fights like this before, as a kid at a yearly neighborhood fair. If you were 11 and in Moore Park in the late 90s, shaving-cream fights were when summer got REAL. Local corner stores would sell out of foam shaving cream until you'd have to buy the gel stuff, spray from afar, then go in for a wipe around to achieve the desired foamy effect. Young Stephen would have more or less instantly shaving-creamed his jeans, I imagine.
By tapping into memories of cream-fights-past I got way more into it, and ended up surprising myself with my enthusiasm and the general enjoyability of it all. For evidence, see this photo of me, grinning like a mascara-smudged loon, unaware that Stephen was about to push the boundaries and gently pat a plate of shaving cream onto my ass, both crossing the line and making me feel like a baby with a full diaper which I’m sure is a whole other thing for another absurd public pseudosexual experiment.
While I cannot imagine most non-sex-based fetishes are this fun, I would not mind making the acquaintance of an adult baby, or that special breed of weirdo, the human ATM.
While it doesn’t take a sexual Sherlock to find the eroticism in covering a lady in cream, I didn’t find it particularly titillating or arousing… which I guess is why Stephen decided to cover me in sauce?
This bit was the most baffling. After asking if I'd be up for "something extra," he got me to stand fully clothed in the shower while he poured custard over my head. The basic packaging suggested it was the cheapest custard available. It was extremely cold and heavy and smelled strongly of vanilla and I just sort of stood there hoping it wouldn’t gloop into my eyes too much, wondering if it meant that he didn’t really respect me as a person because he hadn’t sprung for the organic stuff.
That was when my brain switched from "Ha-ha" to "OK, enough now, Monica, seriously." I stopped him from cutting open the second packet, washed off the sweet-smelling gunk, sent my roommate the "I haven't been murdered and baked into a dessert" text I had promised, and took the train home smelling like someone had tried to shave a beard made out of cake.
The take away on this was confusing. I guess I'd hoped to see what was sexy as well as funny about the whole endeavour, but participating in the WAM stuff just reinforced the feeling of it as something deeply silly, more child's play than foreplay. To be honest, Stephen himself didn't seem particularly focused on the allegedly sexual elements of it either, a fact that made me feel simultaneously relieved and confused. After all, I hadn't set out to pie-prostitute myself, but it really seemed more like he was a big kid looking for someone to play around and make silly pie jokes with than a Craigslist perv looking to get off on some Twinkies.
Stephen asked to remain anonymous (his name's not really Stephen, can you believe it? Gotcha journalism at its finest!) because he doesn’t want his out-of-the-ordinary pastime to impact his career working with children, a concern I have seen in other fetish communities.
There exists a widespread fear, especially among people who work around kids, that if they are discovered as weekend deviants they will be cast out of their professional community as perverts, unfit to work with minors. This conclusion, in addition to being aggressively puritanical and deeply lame, is logically implausible: someone who wants to get chained up on weekends or get their genitals played with while wearing a big furry jumpsuit or toss around some shaving cream with a VICE writer does not have any interest in diddling kids. They’ve already figured out their weird sex thing and are pursuing it enthusiastically with other consenting adults, the way weird sex things (and indeed, all sex things) should be done. Chill out, guys! In the immortal words of Sir Paul McCartney, a weekend fetishist if there ever was one: live and let pie. Or not, but you’re missing out.