Oh, lingerie. You are so very beautiful. You evoke in my mind images of classic pinup beauties, impossibly elegant women who lounge in boudoirs, and expert flirts who flash their garters with flair. Flipping through the Victoria’s Secret catalogue is high on my list of simple pleasures. And I delight in watching my burlesque sisters rock the stage in a gorgeous custom made corset.
I love most every everything about lingerie…except wearing it.
Over the years I’ve tried teddies and nighties and uber-lacy bras with frilly peek-a-boo adornment. Yet every time I slip into a slinky, silky something it’s like being in someone else’s skin and I can’t quite find the sexy confidence I’m seeking.
Growing up, I thought lingerie was the sexiest category of clothing. If you wanted to be guaranteed-or-your-money-back desirable, you could put your body into something with lace and see-through bits and bam! Instant hotness. I also assumed that if one looked “hot” one felt hot. When I began exploring partnered sex and my own seductive abilities, I turned to lingerie believing it was my best bet at transforming myself into a temptress.
And it did work…to a certain degree. Back in university, I remember spending a healthy portion of my meager student income on some nighties, fancy bra sets, and a pair of thigh-high stockings. Despite feeling awkward about elastic in unfamiliar places and the strange smooth feeling of satin, enticing my partners had never been easier. But somehow the sex itself was rarely as mind-blowing as I’d hoped it would be. My intention was to spice things up, but I found the fun of sex was somewhat diminished by the odd sensation of industrial strength underwire.
I never felt so much pressure around lingerie as I did as my wedding night approached. By the time we got married, my partner and I had been together for four years. We lived together and we’d had lots and lots of sex. Still, I got it in my head that our wedding night was supposed to be this big deal production with flower petals and me dressed in a white, marabou-trimmed something. In retrospect, it’s telling that I chose my wedding day dress in an afternoon but hunted for my wedding night clothes for weeks! Eventually I chose something out of sheer exhaustion, but it had the same problem as all of its predecessors. It was beautiful…but I didn’t feel desirable. I felt weird and self-conscious, like I was pretending to be someone else.
For many, role-playing and/or adopting a sexual persona can be great fun and very healthy. For some, playing at being someone else can be an arousing, perhaps kinky enhancement. Sex can also leave us feeling very vulnerable and playing with character may provide some psychological shielding as we explore and maybe veer out of our sexual comfort zones. Dressing up can be part of that process. I worked as an actor for years and costume was always an important part of inhabiting my character.
Given all of that, you would think that dressing in special clothes and playing a part would have been a successful strategy for me sexually. Instead it was the opposite. On stage I felt safe, secure, and rarely got nervous. Unless my parents were watching. An audience of strangers didn’t phase me. Strangers didn’t know me, so they could easily accept that I was an ethereal fairy or street-wise prisoner or nurturing, wartime nurse. But my parents knew exactly who I was. Performing for them made me so nervous because I had to make them forget their daughter and accept me as someone else, which made me feel terribly self-conscious, which made staying in character harder, which made me even more nervous, which oh my god! Infinite causal loop of mobius anxiety!
I feel similarly awkward putting on personas for my sexual partners. So far, they’ve all been people with whom I’ve shared an intimate connection. I feel uncomfortable doing that with someone who knows me so well. I tried lingerie because I assumed that was what a sexy woman was supposed to wear. Now, I understand that I can be seductive in way that feels natural for me. Lingerie can be a beautiful, powerful declaration of sexuality. That’s just not what it does for me. In retrospect, something comfy and made of cotton would have made me much happier on my wedding night. It’s what I wore the night before I got married. And it’s what I’ve worn every night since.
In my mind lingerie is beautiful, elegant and graceful. I still love to look it at. I admire the women who can wear it . And while I still love thumbing through the intimates section of my favourite catalogue, I’ve finally accepted that for me and my sexy style, lingerie just isn’t the right fit.
Are you a lingerie-lover? What type of clothing makes you feel super-sexy? Does wearing something racy and lacy make you feel like a power player or do you turn to other types of clothing when you’re in a seductive mood.
photo via Pond5
Already Pretty contributor Nadine Thornhill is a sex educator and blogger at Adorkable Undies. She is a new resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, having recently moved from Ottawa, Ontario to pursue a PhD in Human Sexuality. Her writing tends toward subjects such as clitorises, feminism, vibrators, body image, gender politics and non-monogamy. She is a passionately committed Scrabble player and lifelong klutz, having sustained 16 concussions to date.