When you hear the word “lingerie,” what do you imagine?
Whether you envision black lace or off-white frills, the picture that immediately enters your mind is probably also accompanied by another visual quality: that it’s sexy.
Despite this common portrayal of lingerie, there are actually several viewpoints on female underoos that range from Strictly Feminist to Seriously Sexist.
Here are a few prevalent arguments I discovered related to lingerie, the act of wearing it, and the industry itself.
1. It’s Sexually Liberating
This view is one of the strongest feminist arguments I came across. The idea behind this line of thinking is that lingerie gives the woman the power to 1) choose what to buy, 2) choose how to present herself, and 3) choose what she will and will not expose—thus giving her the power to control her body and the ability to dictate her sexuality. Another facet of this point is that women popularized lingerie themselves (as opposed to men or the media) after the option to buy undergarments as two pieces became available. This ability and physical manifestation to own one’s sexuality is an idea that some ladies praise and label with a big, proud F.
2. It’s a Secret for Yourself
Nothing boosts confidence quite like knowing something that no one else does, especially if this knowledge is what’s on underneath your clothes. For some women, wearing lingerie on a daily basis is another act of owning their body without necessarily expecting or hoping to engage in a physical relationship. In this case, the lingerie is another expression of personality and personal taste while also encouraging self-confidence. A few women also praised their ability to use lingerie for their own pleasure and arousal—without needing another party present.
3. It’s Functional
It is as it’s named for: underwear. Support for breasts, a slip for delicate dresses, necessary for holding up stockings. It’s useful and essential to a comfortable and well-fitting outfit, and the visual embellishments are either a pro or con depending on whom you ask and what else they’re wearing.
4. It’s to Spice Up Your Sex Life
The lingerie purchaser may not necessarily be the woman in a relationship, but either way, both people may benefit from increased arousal—especially if the design follows a theme or highlights the women’s body in a way that both makes her feel comfortable while arousing her partner.
From what I encountered while reading through forums, blog posts, and commentary on popular news headlines, this viewpoint fell more on the “not feminist” side of the fence because it focuses on the women’s responsibility to be in charge of all the spicing and adventure.
5. It’s to Please or Attract Men
Existing solely for the purpose to please sexual partners or to help attract them, without mention of also serving some purpose to the women (as in the previous point) situates this idea pretty far from a feminist viewpoint.
Mainstream media and big-name brands—such as Victoria’s Secret or the historical emergence of pin-ups—seemingly perpetuate the idea of being sexy for someone else to behold and enjoy. This also leads to discussions of female objectification and the normalization of inauthentic sexual situations, as in Victoria’s Secret ads.
6. It’s Sexist
Flat out, no butts about it (pun intended) sexist. Many women feel very strongly about the idea of having to use special garments to make their natural bodies “look sexy” to a man. Along those same lines, they also disapprove of society’s push to funnel the various definitions and kinds of sexy into a single visual profile.
The interesting thing about this point is that there’s a thin line between lingerie itself being sexist and the lingerie industry being sexist. For example, the women who strongly considered it sexist thought so because women seemingly have to pull out all kinds of hats and tricks while men just make do with plain old boxers. However, commercials that show lingerie-clad women manipulating men or using their bodies to get things they want cast everyday wearers in a bad light.
Lingerie is an interesting topic because it’s solely for women, and women all use and wear and think of it differently. Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive, and it isn’t required to accept just one viewpoint. In fact, I’d bet there are several unique situations that would make a woman agree or disagree with each of the points mentioned at some point in her life.
COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK.