This article originally appeared on VICE Germany
In Room 111 of a popular hotel in Berlin's Friedrichshain district stands a rubber doll in a full-body latex suit, ruffled skirt, bodice and tight rubber corset. The room has the scent of what I'd imagine it to smell like if a giant box of baby powder exploded in a tyre workshop. "Shouldn't I really be wearing more ruffles?" the doll asks itself, staring into a mirror.
While wearing the suit, the person inside goes by the name Die Gummipuppe (The Rubber Doll). (We've agreed not to disclose their gender or real name.) Die Gummipuppe is relatively popular within the doll-fetish scene, with around 30,000 followers on social media. The four videos they have uploaded to a porn site have been viewed over 75,000 times.
It's hard to give a specific name and descriptor to Die Gummipuppe's exact fetish or their place within the scene. But on their porn site profile they say: "I don't want to live without the feeling that every centimetre of my body is always covered with tight-fitting rubber."
For as long as they can remember, Die Gummipuppe – who currently works "in politics" – has enjoyed the sensation of being "tied up and restricted and objectified". As a teenager in the 90s, they bought the book Female Rubber by Jo Hammer, a former Playboy photographer, which sparked their interest in the latex scene. In 2015, Die Gummipuppe bought their first catsuit after seeing it in an ad. But they really found their calling two years ago, when they put on the full rubber doll suit. "I don't have a latex fetish," Die Gummipuppe clarifies. "I just like materials that hide all the things that make me look human. The suit is my quiet place."
Still, the person who just said they don't want to look human now wants to know whether they look good in their outfit. Die Gummipuppe isn't satisfied, so they add two ruffled ankle cuffs and throw in a black gas mask for good measure. Their eyes quickly disappear behind mirrored glass, perched about a mouthpiece that is covered with a red condom which inflates with every breath. Finally, Die Gummipuppe slips on a pair of 12cm heels and heads towards the lift.
We're on our way to the final day of the German Fetish Ball Weekend, an annual showcase of the latest in BDSM wear that organisers call "Europe's biggest fetish weekend". The event, which will conclude tonight with a large ball, is being held in a red-brick building in Kreuzberg, south Berlin. Inside, stands for leather S&M gear share floor space with stages where presenters show off the latest in torture device technology.
A soon as Die Gummipuppe walks into the room, most people turn to stare. "Which masks do you like best?" I ask absentmindedly, pointing towards one of the S&M stands. But Die Gummipuppe remains completely silent. I forgot that the gas mask and condom combo means they can't really see or speak.
The frill dress and skirt they wear on the outside of the suit was designed by Susanne Kaiser, owner of the Berlin fetish label Feitico. "You look wonderful," beams Kaiser when she spots Die Gummipuppe, barely stopping on her way to ready a mask for another customer.
From time to time, Kasier and Die Gummipuppe meet up at the designer's workshop to put together new outfits and concepts. Today's suit took 20 hours to make, and is one of eight catsuits, 15 masks and three corsets that Die Gummipuppe owns, at a cost of somewhere between €5,000 and €6,000.
We continue through the fair, stopping constantly to accommodate selfie requests. Moments ago we were joined by Pitt, Die Gummipuppe's personal photographer of sorts, who snaps photos as we go along. They often attend fetish parties together. "Die Gummipuppe is so authentic," Pitt says. "There's nothing about them that's staged. You can tell that they enjoy being submissive, serving as a doll."
The gas mask is now dripping condensed water onto the suit's cleavage. There are only a few other people here who are dressed in the same way. One is a Swiss fetish artist known as Black Star, here in a full-body latex suit with corset, high-heeled boots and, of course, a gas mask. Die Gummipuppe and Black Star are scheduled to take part in a joint photoshoot. The pair make their way outside and carefully waddle over the cobblestones at the front of the building, passing two young mothers who have to explain to their children that there are people inside the suits.
For the shoot, Die Gummipuppe and Black Star hold each other, hugging and kneeling for the camera. At one point, Die Gummipuppe takes Black Star's rubber mouth hose and sucks on it with her condom mouth. "It's fucking hot," Black Star complains later as the summer sun warms the black latex.
At one point, I accidentally call Black Star by their real name, and Die Gummipuppe reminds me to only use their "avatar names" while they're in character. But it's a bit hard to think of them as dolls and not humans after having to wipe silicon sweat off the back seat of the taxi that brought us from the hotel to the fair.
Die Gummipuppe has been in costume for almost three hours now, and I gather that layers and layers of sweat are starting to form inside the suit, so they decide it's time to head out. I throw two cups of water over Die Gummipuppe's gas mask before we leave, but only a few drops make their way through the mask's breathing hole.
Back at the hotel, we open the zip on their neck and let loose the slippery corset. "Nobody can dress like this 24/7," Die Gummipuppe tells me as they take off their boots – the collected water and sweat in the bottom draining out – and become human again.
Die Gummippupe has decided to skip tonight's ball, tired from the day's events and being trapped in the latex suit in this heat. After showering, hands still dirty with silicon, they tell me that, ideally, today could have been more exciting. Die Gummipuppe would have preferred to have been led through the fair on a leash. And even better, while they were on their hands and knees, "someone would have spontaneously taken their cock out and wanted to fuck me in the mouth".
That's never happened in their two years as a rubber doll, but Die Gummipuppe explains that turning others on is their ultimate goal. "I want people to think of me when they fuck a sex doll and when they come," they say. "A fetish doesn't really work without an imagination."