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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Lingerie for Men

A Thing That Exists and Should Exist

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Earlier this month, I was in Las Vegas for the annual International Lingerie Show, which features both sexy underthings and sex toys. I wrote last week about the re-launch of the Magic Wand, which was announced at the show. This week, I want to talk about another launch—that of HommeMystere, an Australian line of lingerie “for men.”

I put “for men” in parentheses because this line is designed to fit people who have a penis, regardless of whether or not they identify as men. It could work very well for transgender women who have penises, for genderqueer or genderfucking people who have penises and like wearing things that are frilly and pink, for men who cross-dress, for men who count forced feminization or sissy play among their kinks, and anyone else who wants to rock a lacy thong without having their nuts squeezed. HommeMystere also makes bras and camisoles that fit people with broader shoulders.

I was excited by this, as was one of my favorite feminist reporters, Lynn Comella, who wrote a piece about the line for Vegas Seven. However, I was dismayed by some of the negative reactions to Lynn’s piece and the concept of “lingerie for men” in general. MTV stated unequivocally, “Lingerie for Men Is A Thing That Exists and Should Not.”   Gothamist took a satirical approach that had some readers wondering whether the concept was a joke. Even Amanda Hess expressed a negative opinion over on Slate XXFactor, saying that she didn’t buy the company’s pitch that men would wear bras because they liked how they feel.

These negative reactions to feminine underthings designed to accommodate penises and broad shoulders aren’t surprising, but they are depressing. They show that, as always, things that are coded as feminine in our society are seen as laughable, frivolous, humiliating and oppressive. I’m getting tired of this, and I would like to see people with all kinds of bodies have as many feminine as masculine options to choose from without ridicule, questioning or labeling of their desires or identities.

I can see how some people would call into question the way that HommeMystere is marketing their products. They appear to be aiming for customers who identify as men, are heterosexual, and are wearing feminine lingerie because they like how it feels, not because they find it erotic. This does erase many people on the trans* spectrum and those who incorporate feminine dress into their sex lives—the people who would probably buy these products anyway, without prompting. The mainstreaming and normalization of sexual products and ideas that are viewed as transgressive does come at a cost; more widespread acceptance is often accomplished by distancing the product from the kinky, queer or trans* folks who were its originators.

Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.