by Annabeth Leong
For something most people don’t see, underwear sure as hell seems to be about making a statement.
I found bras mortifying from an early age because they meant so many things. One of the first times I wore a bra, my dad mentioned that he had washed it, and I was so embarrassed I didn’t wear try wearing one again for several years.
When I was young, getting a bra meant growing up and becoming a woman. I didn’t want that. Becoming a woman meant, based on my observation, a sort of slavery that I wanted no part of. It meant being shouted at to fix some man a plate, whether he was your father, your brother, your husband, or your son. I watched my breasts grow and felt my stomach churn. I wanted to avoid this fate.
So my breasts swung free for years, as if by refusing to binding them, I could refuse to bind myself into the role of being a woman and all the terrible things it seemed to mean.
People were incredibly concerned about this detail of my appearance. My (lack of) bra was a true or false question on a trivia quiz some boys put together at my college. Women at a church group had an actual phone tree to figure out who should talk to me about how I needed to wear a bra. Men pulled their trucks over on the street to scream “titties!” at me. Women pulled me aside on the street to warn me that my breasts would sag when I was old.
My former sister in law brought over a catalog one time to show me. Maybe I didn’t like ordinary bras, but would these do? Her husband, it turned out, had admitted to eyeing up my breasts, and she wanted to fix it. Surely it made me uncomfortable to know that, didn’t it? Surely I’d want to make myself decent.
I sometimes tried to wear a bra because I wanted nothing more than to make people shut up about my breasts. But every time I tried, the squirming feeling would start in my stomach. It felt too horrible. I felt constricted all day by the contraption. I wanted to chew it away the way a wolf wants to chew its way out of a trap.
People assumed that I wasn’t wearing a bra because I was a slut or a feminist or a lesbian or all of the above. In reality, I wasn’t wearing a bra because I couldn’t bear it. I can submit to being bound in a sex scene, with a safe word, but all other forms of binding make me struggle and fight. As a child, I had eye surgery, and they had to strap my hands down afterward because of my singleminded determination to tear away the bandages. When I go to a music festival and they snap one of those wristbands around me, I worry at it all night, and tear it off with my teeth the moment I leave the venue.
The weirdest thing about it, in my opinion, is that I look sexier with a bra on. That’s what lifts my breasts, makes them bulge out of the top of my shirt. People’s associations with this garment make no sense to me, and I’m truly amazed by how many people over the years have made it their business to discuss with me what’s underneath my shirt.
Underwear is a different beast, perhaps less political, but still quite thorny. I don’t like to shave my crotch, and that makes it hard to find underwear that doesn’t look weird on me. You would be amazed, or perhaps you wouldn’t, to know how many lovers I’ve had who have fought with me about this, who felt they had some right to force me to shave there. I’ve had lovers who wanted me to wear certain underwear that I was not going to wear.
It took a long time for me to figure out that I feel good and strong and sexy, all at the same time, when I wear boxers, so that’s what I wear now. I know it’s hot to some people and not to others, but I don’t care, and it feels political and important to say so.
Tonight, I’m thinking also of the man who took my underwear away after we had sex and wanted me to go home without it. It’s a common move in erotic novels, but it squicks me out whenever I read it because it makes me think of that man, and he was a jerk. I like BDSM because I like pain, but as I’ve said before, I hate being controlled. It feeds a side of me that I don’t like to feed. I am a healthier person when I can tell a person, these are the boxers that I’m wearing because I like them, and you can fuck right off if you think you can order me to wear a certain thing.
And so if you strip me down to my underwear these days, you’ll see that I’ve finally learned to make choices for my damn self, despite a lifetime of being beleaguered by other people’s opinions about this intimate attire.
(Friends, I’ve been having problems leaving comments on the site recently--maybe something to do with the device I’m using? Anyway, I’m sorry to have been quiet, but I’ve been reading your posts. Hopefully, I’ll figure out how to fix that issue soon.)