Mr. International Rubber gears up for kinky weekend in Chicago

by Joseph Erbentraut

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday November 4, 2009

If size is the sort of thing that matters to you, this year's Mr. International Rubber (MIR) this weekend in the Windy City is sure to live up to even the loftiest of expectations.

The organizers of Mr. International Rubber 2010, the 13th annual gathering of hundreds of rubber and latex enthusiasts, have traded the contest's previous haunt, Cell Block, for the bigger (though perhaps not badder) Center on Halsted. The change of venue has allowed for a larger vendor market that will feature up to 40 different retailers, and an increased spectator capacity in addition to a larger-than-ever prize purse - $10,000 for the winner.

Organizer William Schendel said the expansion of this year's contest has been a long time coming, owing to overwhelming vendor and spectator interest. With only days to go before the action will begin, he said he is looking forward to a successful "family reunion" for fellow fetishists.

"This is an opportunity, once a year, for rubber guys to get together, hang out, catch up and meet new friends," Schendel said. "Sure, lots of guys will have great sex over the weekend, but the event exists as an opportunity for like-minded guys to get together."

That direction has come a long way from the contest's original roots that date back to 1992's Mr. Vulcan in Boston. When the event fell by the wayside, Ryan Johnson, the then-reigning champion from Chicago, came up with the idea to bring the event to his hometown. He renamed it MIR in 1997. And the event has since nestled into the Chicago scene as a kinky sister of sorts to the annual International Mr. Leather competition.

Though Schendel acknowledged MIR's leather equivalent has been a sound resource in building its following in Chicago, he was quick to dispel long-standing misunderstandings the two contests are associated and the communities interchangeable.

"The distinction between leather and rubber comes down to the materials themselves," Schendel shared. "Leather has a hypermasculinity to it, while rubber itself is not as focused on that. Rubber has a more sensual nature. While leather is thick and tough, rubber transmits temperature easily and is more tactical in that regard, allowing you to taste, to smell."

And rubber has slowly grown in popularity among gay American men. While it garners a large following among heterosexual women - reportedly the most frequent consumers of latex - and in Europe, the trend lacks the ubiquity of leather daddy iconography. But it is certainly catching on, with the prospects looking good for the contest's future.

"We maxed out the vendor market years ago, and this year's space will allow us to expand on that more than ever," Schendel continued. "This is a year of possibilities for us, and we're looking forward to showing people the direction we're headed."

Log onto www.mirubber.com for more information.

Joseph covers news, arts and entertainment and lives in Chicago. He is the assistant Chicago editor for The Huffington Post. Log on to www.joe-erbentraut.com to read more of his work.

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