Image via Getty Images
Masks are a critical and effective protection measure to help us get through this pandemic, but there's no denying that they are annoying as hell. They prevent us from seeing the faces of strangers and friends. They cause maskne. They fog up our glasses. But to a select few, they are also an object of desire.
Welcome to Rule 34, a series in which Motherboard’s Samantha Cole lovingly explores the highly specific fetishes that can be found on the web.
If you see someone wearing a mask who seems particularly delighted, it might be because they paid for the pleasure of wearing a mask that smells like someone else's genitals or feet."Imagine browsing the aisles at a store and enjoying my scent," Cat's listing on Snifffr, the worn panty-selling site, says. "I’ll make your mask-wearing more enjoyable!"For fetish item sellers, the pandemic is an opportunity for a new kind of item: pussy masks.Cat, who sells panties and socks as well as masks on Snifffr, said she's been selling the masks for almost a year. "I think people like them because they’re able to enjoy a fetish outside of their home. I think it’s like a little secret only they know and it makes it risky and fun," she said. "It’s personally thrilling to me knowing that a mask I’ve had in my panties or shoes is now being worn on someone’s face and they’re enjoying it."
Like used panties, the customization options for used masks are almost endless. On Snifffr, a marketplace for selling used clothes—mostly panties—for fetish purposes, masks sell for between $5 and $250, but on average most are around $15. They come in a range of ways and places they're worn before they're sold; of course, strapped to the inside of a thong seems to be the most popular, but feet, stuffed into bras, and faces are sometimes options, too, depending on the seller. Disposable surgical masks are the ones most frequently posted, but people also sell simple cloth masks or ones with patterns and designs.
"They get to walk around with a dirty little secret.”
The surgical three-ply masks are good for holding smells, but also for keeping evidence of what's on the other side secret. "If there are things like sweat or skid marks on one side it typically does not show all the way through," seller Laceysniffs, who primarily sells on Reddit, told me.Laceysniffs said she started selling masks a few months ago, at the request of a client who bought some of her used socks. She's sold four masks so far ("two piss scented, one ass scented, one foot scented") but also includes them as a free bonus gift with many orders. One of her masks that's been pressed against her vulva, anus, or feet for 24 hours costs five dollars, and one that she's urinated on and dried three times costs $10.Sidney77, who also primarily sells on Reddit, started selling masks a few weeks after the mandate, in March. "I wanted to offer something new and exciting and I enjoy making people happy in tough times," she said. "The masks blend well in the panty fetish scene. It’s naughty!" She's sold between 10 and 20 masks, and says that even people who don't buy them still like the idea. Hers are $25 for the first mask and five dollars after that, and come with a photo set.Part of the allure of the pussy mask is simply the closeness: sure, you could strap a thong to your head like a face mask, but masks were literally made for wearing on your face."A lot of my clientele fetishize scents, so being able to have a mask full of my fragrances pressed tightly in their face, and being able to deeply inhale my scents, can be a highly euphoric and erotic experience for some," Laceysniffs said.The element of public play is also a big part of it. "The allure is that they can share something very private and intimate with me right out in the open, in public," Sidney77 said. "They get to walk around with a dirty little secret.”If the sweet scent of someone else's juices gets more people to wear masks, awesome. But as a disclaimer: none of this is health advice, and coronavirus could be contagious through fecal matter (but not vaginal fluids). But the virus is also usually dead on surfaces within a few hours to days, according to the CDC—so with that information, pussy mask up at your own discretion.