Oblong Thong be Gone!

April 24, 2008

In 1985, Jim Spencer of The Chicago Tribune decried the increasingly common practice of “going commando,” calling it “simply gross.” And indeed, we are brought up to view lack of proper underwear under one’s clothing as a social indiscretion. In men, “freeballing” is seen as merely unhygienic, but women are often considered slutty or exhibitionistic when they too decide to go without.

I remember an especially awkward encounter during my freshman year of college, when a friend and I were getting ready for a party. She put on a short denim skirt, designed to show off the full length of her meaty thighs, but neglected to select a thong from the colorful, lacy array at her disposal.

“Aren’t you going to wear underwear under that tiny, tiny skirt?” I asked, aghast.

“No,” she replied, tossing her long hair nonchalantly and grinning. “I like to feel the breeze down there.”

At the time, I admired her “freebuffing” spirit, but lacked the courage and self-confidence to emulate it. Now, however, it’s a different story. Yesterday I strolled the streets of downtown Amherst with ease, enjoying the feel of hot but not yet humid April air carressing my bare legs under my sundress, and honestly happy also that no cloth barriers constrained my crotch from participation in this simple but joyous communion with the elements.

And why not? It’s nice to feel some fresh air up there, and besides, Dr. Caroline F. Pukall of Queens University claims that a lack of underwear, especially while sleeping, is healthy for the vulva.

Now, I’m sure there are some skeptics out there. I’m sure that some people reading this might not be convinced of the virtues of going without underwear, and instead have already become grimly certain that the woman writing this post suffers from extremely loose morals (which is true, but that’s a subject for another time and place, a time and place involving an abundance of cheap beer and a plethora of well-hung male strippers).

So let’s take a little look at the history of underwear, undergarments in general. Why was underwear invented at all?

Originally, one might imagine that underwear served practical (rather than aesthetic) purposes. For example, it protected the genitalia from over-exposure to the cold. This seems like a sound hypothesis, until one considers the Scots. As all of us who have seen Braveheart are surely aware, Scottish soldiers wear kilts. And while Scotland isn’t blanketed beneath snow constantly, it’s not a tropical paradise either. It’s safe to conjecture that while slinking across the highlands hiding under rocks and trying to shoot British soldiers with bows and arrows, the Scots might have been suffering from some chill-induced shrinkage. But did these valiant freedom fighters feel the need to guard their penises from the weather or from British oppression by wearing underwear?

No! In fact, it is rumored that as recently as during World War II, Scottish drill instructors regularly inspected soldiers using a long stick with a mirror fixed to the end, to ensure that they were properly unclothed beneath their plaids.

So if underwear is not a purely practical necessity, then why bother? Oh, but wait–we haven’t consulted any religious fundamentalists yet! One of the five articles of faith that Sikhs wear, for instance, is a type of underpants called kaccha, supposedly similar in appearance to boxers. And then we have the Mormons (or, if we want to keep things official, “the Church of the Latter Day Saints.”) Mormon temple garments have been derisively referred to as “Mormon underwear:”

 Mormon underwear

Now, if this is underwear, who wouldn’t want to go without?!

(Of course, I grant that religion, particularly sects of Christianity, may not be the best place to turn for any sort of rational explanation–religious officials such as Thomas Aquinas also once dictated that people should only have sex in the missionary position, to avoid the production of demonic offspring.)

I’m not denying that underwear doesn’t sometimes have its uses. Jock straps preserve the package from injury during athletic activity. “Edible underwear” is probably extremely erotic also, depending on one’s sexual taste (no pun intended). But it seems that on the whole, underwear has become more of a symbol of a rigid system of social morality than anything else. To imply that a woman is sexually easy just because she chooses to feel the breeze between her legs is, after all, anti-feminist, and implies that even today we live in a culture in which women are expected to maintain a certain standard of chastity (or, at the very least, the appearance of chastity).

But ultimately, what purpose does that serve? No purpose at all, other than a culturally aesthetic purpose. And besides, wouldn’t we rather live in a culture that promotes freedom, that promotes comfort with the body, that promotes sharing? I’m not suggesting that we transform America into a giant nudist colony, but some slight stripping down in that direction wouldn’t hurt.

And this, friends, is my manifesto. This is why I did not wear underwear today. This is why I may not wear underwear tomorrow!



. . . that, and the fact that I’m too lazy to do my laundry . . .