Heavily set, rugged and fiercely hyper-masculine, these are males who convey strength, identity and are an ever-growing subculture of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (lgbt) population. Welcome to the “bear” community. Evolving in the…..
Text JF. Pierets Photo Geoffrey Tolaro & Thomas Van De Water
Let’s be honest here: the moment Johnny Depp draped the cutest, soft pink mohair sweater on his gorgeous body in the biopic on the American director, producer, writer and actor Ed Wood, many of us developed a delicious vision on wool fetish. Using the alias Daniel Davis, Wood both directed and played the titular character in ‘Glen or Glenda’, expressing his fetish for cross-dressing and angora jumpers. Although he regularly featured angora in his films, his wife recalls that Woods’ transvestism was not a sexual inclination, but rather a neo-maternal comfort derived mainly from angora fabric (Ann Gora also happened to be one of Wood’s pen names).
But what is wool fetish all about? When turning to Wikipedia, information on this subject is very scarse. We do find plenty of articles on leather, spandex, latex and whatnot, but wool seems to mainly stay in the closet. Google however brings us closer to what we’re looking for. This is what we stumbled upon: “A wool fetish is not ‘weird’ to me, but just another expression of human sexuality. People get turned on by all sorts of things, from rubber to latex to fantasies of a dominant giantess or being covered in food. It may not fit the ‘classic’, almost clichéd picture of BD/SM gear and play, but ‘soft’ fetishes like this one are often equally about ideas of enclosure, bondage, control and the tactile/textural experiences of a particular material. We should celebrate this sort of stuff, instead of mindlessly reacting to its difference’.” Needless to say that we at Et Alors? were overjoyed to have found the perfect guy to lead us out of the dark! Some research tells us that he goes by the name of ‘Jumbuck’(this is Australian slang for a sheep). Besides running wool-related web forums and sites he is also a published author. We’re delighted about his willingness to talk to us about this uncommon fetish.
When did this fetish start?
My first conscious recognition of enjoying the look and feel of wool happened when I was four years old. It is very different from others like the transformation fetishes that are common. It soon turned into a fetish that still moves my thoughts and emotions now, at forty nine. The Australia of the mid-sixties was a time when many people – particularly women – frequently wore cardigans and jumpers. Essentially they were fashion staples during the cooler months of the year, as they had been for a long time. Anyway there I was playing with my sister and my cousin – who is a few years older – and they both wore cardigans. They dressed me up as a girl and made me wear a soft, fluffy white one. I loved it! That act alone may not have resonated so far inside me if it weren’t for a series of experiences over the next couple of years. Starting school when I was four, I found myself strongly attracted to the girls wearing their navy blue school cardigans. In fact I can still remember the full name of the first girl I had a “cardigan” crush on! I couldn’t exactly articulate the reasons. I just had a feeling they looked delightful and beautiful wearing their lovely buttoned-up woolly vests. At the Catholic school I went to, all the teachers were women and any time one of them wore a cardigan I found myself responding similarly. Seated in front of these ladies I was a very attentive pupil. I found myself loving the look of cardigans and sweaters on girls and women around me: my sister’s friends, an aunty and her fluffy mohair garments, et cetera. For some reason my mum never wore jumpers or cardigans so there’s no Oedipal element involved. Perhaps, if certain events hadn’t occurred then, my responses might have remained benign forever. But – when one day a new jumper found its way into my wardrobe – my love of wool developed a decidedly darker tone. Even though I hated wearing it – it was so scratchy! – I obediently put it over my head whenever it was handed to me. I can still vividly remember how dreadful it felt against my skin as it itched and tormented my neck, arms and chest. Being a “good little boy” I never rebelled, suffering the torment in misery and silence – a rather classic Catholic response of its times, masochistic for all intents and purposes. But in those days young Catholic boys (and girls) did what they were told and from that point on I began associating wearing wool on my body with pain and discomfort. I didn’t see that women suffered wearing wool in the same way though – theirs seemed so soft and lovely! Age eight, year four. My masochistic associations with wool came to me in full blown colour! Red to be exact. That year my teacher, Mrs Maxwell, could only be described as a very firm, strict disciplinarian who freely administered the cane and strap to any pupil who failed to meet her exacting standards. And yes, she happened to have a penchant for cardigans. Actually just one and it was red. My crush on women and girls took on a completely different turn. From then on – and for many years to come – all I craved was to be “firmly disciplined” by women in cardigans, all the while imagining myself dressed in an itchy, scratchy, high necked jumper or cardigan. Puberty was hell to me! I felt different and all too aware that my responses to my budding sexuality were far from “normal”, so much so that all I could focus on were dreams and thoughts of wool-clad women dominating me while I suffered under the torment of wool bondage. I hated myself for it. But I’m perfectly well adjusted now.
Do you think you would have had this fetish if it hadn’t been triggered at an early age?
That’s an impossible question to answer definitively. I suspect it highly unlikely. In my opinion it’s all about associations, so if they didn’t exist from an early age I think they wouldn’t have emerged at all. My life might have been very different if I hadn’t developed this passion for wool when I was a child. Mind you, with a Catholic school upbringing like mine, I might still have developed some type of “appreciation” for firmly applied Femdom discipline. But we can never know.
What is it that exactly arouses you?
Both the look and feel of wool… specific types and styles of wool and woollen garments. I adore the sight of soft wool such as lamb, angora and mohair on women. I think it enhances their femininity. The way the soft fabric and texture encloses their bodies is something that I truly love. Soft, fluffy cardigans and twin sets as well as turtle necks and bonnets are styles that appeal to me as well. A high, tight turtle neck can look fabulous on certain women, as can a ribbed black one (think “Kill Bill”). Some colours and colour combinations attract me more than others. Soft wool tantalises me as it brushes against my skin. The thousands of tiny claws in the scratchy kind bring my body to life and are a constant reminder of the darkish delights that thrill me so. A turtle neck – preferably one with a high and tight neck line – wraps me up and encloses me (bondage); a weighty sweater reminds me of my predicament (bondage). Picture two, three or even four layers of jumpers on me: closest to my skin a scratchy, tight fitting crew neck mohair, then a high, tight turtle neck and – to top it all off – followed by a velvety, fluffy angora. Soft on the outside and a visual delight, but enclosed and uncomfortable on the inside (hidden “delight” / “torment”). There’s yet another element of arousal: I sometimes enjoy cross-dressing in (adult) women’s jumpers and sweaters, but dressing as a “girl”, complete with a soft fluffy cardigan worn with a knitted skirt, matching woollen tights et cetera, is my favourite and definitely evokes memories and associations with those mid-to-late sixties girls I had crushes on.
Is there always a bondage association or is it personal?
There’s a strong association with bondage but the fetish is not solely focused on that element. Some of this association is overt – this includes sexual play and sexualised feelings and responses. And some is covert, and simply focused on liking the look or feel of wool on my body. When I wear a sweater – a turtleneck in particular – I feel warm, snug and enclosed. This is strongly bondage-related in the sense that I’m “locked in” to the object that encloses my body, especially when the neck line is tight and/or high. But I don’t go to work, shopping or a concert wearing a turtle neck for overtly sexual pleasure. I don’t necessarily consciously feel ‘in bondage’, I just enjoy the sensation of being snug and comfortable. Of course there are times when sexual feelings may emerge from a day spent at work whilst wearing a sweater, but certainly not as a matter of course, nor does it have to in my view.
On what level does this fetish have an influence on your daily life?
It’s been – and still is – a major influence on my life. I can honestly say that it has shaped my life, my personality, my journey. An early love of wool introduced me to B&D, Domination/submission before I reached puberty. While my teenage years were chaotic and often traumatic because of these associations, they pushed me into questioning the basis of socially-acceptable, “normal” sexuality and from there, a questioning of how society was and is constructed. This in turn led me to a broad libertarian – leftist political/social perspective.
‘I like all types. My favourites are lambs wool, mohair and angora: the “soft and fluffy” ends of the wool spectrum.’
Am I wrong to think you could never live in a warm country? Doesn’t this fetish put limits to your whereabouts?
I could never live in a warm or hot climate. It’s coolness I love, it makes me feel very much alive. My face all rosy and flushed, wrapped in a sweater, a coat, perhaps a scarf and beanie, tights under my pants, armoured against the chill…feels wonderful. But this doesn’t mean I want to be cold – anything but! Besides, hypothermia isn’t very pleasant, haha! It’s about feeling warm, snug, enclosed. “Warm as toast” as one Australian / English aphorism puts it. Hot weather doesn’t answer my needs, it just makes me enervated, drained, lifeless…and sweaty for the wrong reasons! I don’t feel any sense of being limited by my whereabouts, nor do I feel that I’m missing out on something because I love living in cooler climes. We all have to live somewhere, and with a preference for cooler climates, this is my choice. Thankfully my profession allows me to live in a few locations throughout the cooler, South-East parts of Australia. If I chose to do so I could live in warmer, drier, hotter parts of the country. But why would I want to? However, it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy or appreciate the time when the weather warms up and the jumpers go in the closet. Longer days, lots of sunshine to enjoy…whatever!
Do you feel it with all sorts of wool?
I like all types. My favourites are lambs wool, mohair and angora: the “soft and fluffy” ends of the wool spectrum. Possum “fur” or “wool” is starting to become more common in Australia and New Zealand. It’s as soft , fluffy and delightful as angora. I love it a lot and on my last trip to New Zealand I picked up a possum wool turtle neck sweater, it’s wonderfully salving against the skin. That said, I also appreciate and like “non-fluffy” varieties and styles of sweaters. Interestingly, many turtle necks are made of cotton and other non-wool materials, yet I still like these too. Probably because of the look, that “enclosure” element. Like I said before I also like scratchy wool on myself. The contrast between the external softness and internal torment really plays with my mind and body!
Can we conclude yours is a very sexual fetish?
Not in the normal course of a day. Not all my responses to wearing wool is overtly or necessarily fetishist. I love the style of a turtle neck and know it looks good on me when I wear it with the right clothes. However, I do like the feeling of being wrapped up, enclosed, armoured against the cold. No doubt that response does have bondage associations at some subconscious level. I have strong associations with wool and sex. Wool bondage holds great appeal. I love being enclosed and wrapped in layers of wool. It puts a completely different slant on what balaclavas, thick knitted gloves and knitted stockings can offer as clothing items. Dom/sub fantasies as well: the woman doesn’t necessarily have to be dressed in wool but it strongly enhances the experience, as it does when I’m dressed in some wool garment.
Do you have your clothes custom made?
I don’t have any custom-made items of wool clothing. It’s amazing what you – or a partner/lover – can do with layers of sweaters, balaclavas, knitted gloves, woollen tights and woollen blankets in the bedroom. They are available from so many “vanilla” sources! Among some other things, just add kink-standard cuffs, collars, belts, restraints and voilà! If I’m cross-dressing though, the emphasis is on looking more traditionally “femme”. I’m largely into the “prim and proper” look. Very conservative even. It’s quite a contrast to my “other” self! It includes a classic, soft and fluffy cardigan or sweater, perhaps a blouse, woollen tights and skirt, et cetera.
Does it make a difference to you if it’s a woman or a man who wears it?
Men in wool are not interesting to me. The only times for me to have fetishist feelings is when women wear it, or when I do. I see women as inherently stronger and more sensible than men, especially when they are dressed in a nice turtle neck or cowl. My view on women formed at a very young age.
Does she have to be beautiful or is that of secondary importance?
No, the woman does not have to be beautiful. It doesn’t influence my initial responses towards her sweater or cardigan. However, a beautiful, intriguing or interesting face or body shape may make the experience more enriching. This could keep my attention – or memories! – for longer. But I’m completely biased: I think women look adorable and more beautiful when dressed in a sweater or cardigan.
Do you have a partner?
Yes I do and she is fully aware of my love for wool and wool-related kink. It’s been like that since the day we got serious with each other. She completely accepts it and knows it’s an integral part of my make-up, personality and sexuality. We regularly played sexual, wool-related games, but in recent years there have been health- and other issues, so we rarely play now. That’s okay, she at least recognises my fetishist interests and accepts them fully. We could be watching a movie and a lady comes on the screen wearing a nice, high turtle neck and she’ll playfully nudge me or make some amusing comment to me. In other words: by her acknowledging it, she “normalises” it in our relationship so it ends up being just another part of the mix that comes with sharing a life together. Fortunately she enjoys wearing woolly garb and loves cool climates as much as I do. But one has to be realistic: there might be seven billion people on this planet but very, very few are into wool as a sexual object. I’ve never sought out a partner on the basis that they should love this fabric too. Instead, I’ve identified as a kinkster who has a particular bend towards wool and wool B&D, Domination / submission. They can relate to the bondage and discipline elements. The associations I have with wool becomes easier for them to comprehend, accept and understand. Over the years I’ve seen many men on wool-related web forums hankering for a woman who will love wool like they do. I feel sorry for them. They need to think more broadly about the fetish. Seek a partner who is sexually open, loves kink games and fantasies. Inevitably, the wool games will flow as part of a mutually complementary sexual expression by two lovers.
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