I fucking hate thongs.
I don’t know how they came to be. For so many years we just wore normal, comfy, bun-hugging panties. Some were cut higher, some were cut lower, but they were all mostly okay. It wasn’t until the late ’90s that Big Fashion decided that what ladies really needed were panties that chafe in places where God never intended there to be chafing. Oh sure, I know they’re supposed to prevent unsightly pantilines, but really, that can mostly be prevented by wearing seamless or flat-seamed bikini panties and avoiding tissue-thin, skintight fabrics. No, the thong’s purpose is to expose maximum asscheekage, so that diaphanous tight skirts and stretchy pants spread smoothly over your hindquarters, as though there’s nothing between you and your Calvins. Some women actually go a step farther, turning an undergarment designed for discretion into a sexytime red flag by flashing the stringy top part above their waistline—this reportedly was Bill Clinton’s undoing in l’affaire Lewinsky.
Yet, even if that appeals to you, there’s no getting around the fact that actually wearing a thong just plain sucks. In my experience, they range on the discomfort scale from from mildly irritating to “hairshirt for ladyparts.” The elastic takes on a life of its own, crawling insistently up your asscrack until its edges are firmly embedded in some of the most sensitive skin on your entire body. This leads to surreptitious but increasingly desperate attempts to pluck it free without being noticed. And even if you do manage to accomplish a graceful, unseen wedgie-pull, it only buys you a few moments’ relief before the thong wiggles right back up again. I’ve had moments where I literally wanted to rip off the offending thong in front of a roomful of people; the embarrassment seemed preferable to the diabolical tugging and chafing action going on under my skirt.
Now, aside from being hella uncomfortable, there are other, more important reasons not to wear one. Gynecologists firmly believe that the thong is not your friend. My gyno refers to them as “waterslides for bacteria”, since the stringy bit that constantly slides back and forth can easily transfer fecal bacteria to the urinary tract, creating the perfect conditions for a roaring UTI. Additionally, multiple medical sources claim that regular thong-wearing can is associated with hemorrhoids, clitoral irritation and—yowch!—lacerations to the vulva or anus.
But as usual, women’s health and comfort comes a distant second in the pursuit of The Sexy. Like many hideously uncomfortable fashion accessories, thongs are fetishized as alluring and erotic. There’s something about the exposed asscheeks, the string disappearing coyly between them, that men seem to love. A former boyfriend of mine, raised in an Orthodox Jewish community where women always wore ankle-length skirts, was utterly delighted by thongs—to him they were the ultimate in naughty, especially when worn under one of those long skirts. The simultaneous play of reveal and conceal really charged his batteries. And he was not alone. I always kept a few thongs in the back of my underwear drawer for the rare occasions when I wore a skirt too short to go commando or too tight to wear with regular undies. The men in my life often lived in hope that I would wear them. They were frequently disappointed, unless I consented to wear them for a romantic evening when I knew that, well, I wouldn’t be wearing them long.
It would appear, though, that despite the clamorous approval of thong-loving men everywhere, thongs are falling out favor with women, much like the late, unlamented pantyhose. An article in the Vancouver Sun last week noted that:
At the height of thong sales in Canada, NPD reports that the cheeky underwear represented slightly more than 16 per cent of the national underwear market. But by 2007, thongs had slipped to a 12-per-cent share, indicating a 4.3-per-cent fall.
In the U.S., NPD shows thongs have gone from representing 23 per cent of dollar sales of underwear in 2004 to 17.7 per cent in 2007. As in Canada, the decline is the steepest of any of the seven major styles of underwear observed in that period.
The U.K. has seen the biggest drop of all, with thongs having represented a third of all underwear sales in 2003 but just 12 per cent of sales in 2007, according to British retail analyst TNS.
Women apparently got fed up with thongs and are switching to more comfortable scanties:
In Canada, NPD shows sales of boy shorts are up 15 per cent over 2004. In the U.S., the style is up a whopping 64 per cent over that same period.
“The most important feature driving garment sales is comfort,” says NPD fashion analyst Kaileen Millard-Ruff.
I’m a big fan of boyshorts; Calvin Klein and Gap Body make some nice ones. The ones made of stretchy material prevent VPL under skirts and tight pants just as well as thongs do (and—service-y interlude—I often nix VPL by taking a pantiliner, sticking it to the crotch of tight pants and going commando). The jury is still out as to whether men find the boyshorts as alluring as thongs, but really, until they’re willing to spend days walking around with a band of elastic chafing their hairy asscracks, I don’t think they get a say in the matter.