Elements such as powerful-looking high-heeled shoes or the appeal of a “bad boy” are a turn-on for many people. However, they don’t necessarily depend on them to get aroused. On the contrary, some people insist on having a presence of a certain fetish so that they could get aroused in the first place.
In his book about sexual arousal, Dr Michael J. Bader explains that when it comes to fetishes, a part is treated as a whole, or the opposite – a whole is reduced to a part. So, when a person personifies an object or objectifies a person, they are fetishizing. People use fetishes to eliminate the human dimension from sexual interaction. That frees the fetishists of any possible worry or guilt they might feel for their partner, which could interfere with their ability to climax and abandon sexual control.
So, how do leather, latex, or rubber serve as fetishes? These materials are suggestive of second skin; skin which is smooth, shiny, and perfect. The qualities of this second skin remind the wearer or onlooker of strength, youth, and invulnerability. The subconscious goal is to prevent the feelings of guilt in the onlooker, and shame and insecurity in the wearer.
Dr Bader provides some real-life examples; a woman told him that she feels invulnerable and strong while wearing outfits made of leather, latex, and rubber. Her usual feelings of weakness and insecurity disappear in a matter of seconds; she becomes this confident and strong woman. In those who enjoy just wearing these outfits, and whose arousal isn’t dependent on them, the element of confidence and strength will remain related to the appeal.
Another example includes a gay man who loves seeing other men in leather because he sees them as “hard-edged tops”; that allows him to stop feeling guilty for being hard-edged and strong himself. Those who looked stronger than him would attract him; thus, he assured himself that there was no way he could hurt his partner by losing sexual control.
The last example describes a man who feels guilty for hurting others when he loses sexual control; he enjoyed being tied up to relieve his guilty feelings. He especially enjoys being tied up by young boys and wearing a rubber suit. Here, the rubber suit probably serves as (subconscious) protection against younger partners and the feeling of shame that may occur due to their strong, smooth-looking bodies.
In his explanations, Dr. Bader doesn’t include anything about the protective aspect of the second skin, or the fact that one’s senses are paved over and one’s skin is literally covered. I think that this is another way to look at this fetish, and how the wearer benefits from it. When you cover your skin, there’s a numbing effect; that can result in the feelings of invulnerability and strength. Basically, your senses are blunted, just like when you use alcohol or drugs. In other words, that is just another way to rid yourself of the feelings of vulnerability or shame.