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September 25, 2002

Thong World

Friedrich --

Are you as amazed as I am by the culture's embrace of the thong? I’m surprised I haven’t read more about this phenomenon. Lord knows we’ve seen a lot of thongs in recent years. But who has tried to make sense of the vogue for them?

Camille Paglia is one. She argued somewhere, persuasively I thought, that the butt awareness of the last decade or so has to do with a couple of things: the way the American population has become less vanilla Anglo-German (ie., breast-fixated) and more dark and Latin (ie., butt-fixated), and the way the aesthetics of pop culture have become more frankly gay.

I'm not sure I can do better than that. Can you? Sure fun to think about, however unsucessfully.

Here's my attempt to initiate a conversation on this vital topic.

Back in paleolithic days, thongs and g-strings were naughty-naughty, worn by strippers, or by obliging sex partners in the boudoir. In the '80s, thongs came to mean pumpy, muscular aggression, as some women began wearing thong-back ("t-backs," weren't they called?) leotards to the gym. And wasn't it about then that some European and South American women began to wear thongs and g-strings on the beach?

About 10 years ago, visiting a friend whose daughter was then about 13, I was given a tour of the apartment. On the wall of the daughter’s bedroom, she'd taped ripped-out pages from teen fashion magazines. One of them was a page of panties, and several of the panties were thongs. Heavens! Young teen girls were now thinking of thongs as everyday undie options. Thongs were becoming poppy, peppy, healthy.

A couple of years ago I noticed my first thong line. (The upside of doing a lot of walking on crowded NYC sidewalks is getting to watch a lot of women's behinds.) This one crisp, confident woman striding along before me was wearing a clingy skirt that made it clear she was wearing a thong. There was no doubt about it, it was meant to be noticed. Up till then, I’d thought of thong undies as something worn to avoid the dreaded “panty line.” This was the first time I’d seen the “thong line” as its own signifier. But of what?

I’m struck these days by a couple of things: how ubiquitous thongs have become (the Wife just brought home a few that she picked up on sale at the Gap), and how, given the new, stretchy-smooth fabrics and cuts, it seems downright necessary for women to wear thongs. Traditionally-cut panties, worn under cyberstreamlined clothes, make even a pretty-good butt look like a lumpy sack of potatoes.

In any case, thongs these days seem to be everywhere, which is bliss. But, then again, they're everywhere, which also means they don't have that old sweaty, prurient, uncomfortable, assholey-buttocky, naughty allure. The element of forbidden, wicked surprise is gone. Instead, thongs are now part of the well-prepared young woman's portfolio, along with the cell phone, the piercings, the camera-ready pubic waxing, the tatoos and resume, the attitude and the career. Who'd have thought the buttcrack would ever be commodified?

Thongsville? Yawnsville. Though I expect to follow further developments closely.



posted by Michael at September 25, 2002


i really want a thon but i thing all tons are sexxy

Posted by: Kelsi on January 19, 2004 09:13 PM

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