Thoughts on Girdles as Kink and Cultural Artifact

By | January 29, 2009

I have done something I swore I would never do again. I bought a girdle. Well, actually, a girdle and a pointy bra. But the girdle part is the part I had sworn off. I got these in black (probs NSFW). I’m buying them because I have been fantasizing about wearing a girdle and bullet bra to seduce my lover (who has a penchant for old fashioned underwear) for a few weeks, and it is one of my favorite fantasies, so much so I want to make it a reality.

Until recently, aside from an appreciation of the nostalgic aesthetic, I had a burning hatred for girdles. That’s because I have actually worn one as a fat hating and hiding device. I remember my first, a high waisted, shorts length, white panty-girdle that my mom bought me because we agreed that my tummy showed too much in my fifth grade graduation dress, and my “lumpy” body should be tamed and kept from public view. I was ten. Every now and then we would drag out that girdle, and I would squirm into its confines, but only when I had to look my best.

By seventh grade, I graduated to my mom’s hand-me-down girdles. They are a staple of her wardrobe (which is funny to me in retrospect, since at that time she was vacillating between size ten and fourteen, and I never thought of her as a fat woman, since I grew out of that size by middle school.) I sort of assumed that’s what most women wore, or later that my mom was just particularly old school in her approach to clothing.

In those days, we would crash diet together, so it seemed only natural that I wear one of her girdles when I wanted to be more presentable. This is before my great awakening of eighth grade; prompted by a horrible diet program we were doing together, and the fat-positive trainer I had lucked into (looking back that stroke of luck, where Marilyn Wann, who shared the trainer, became gym partner to a precocious fourteen year old me, it seems more like a miracle). Fat Activism and I just clicked, and I soon began the painful process of quitting the diets and explaining to my mother that I could no longer willingly participate in my own oppression.

Luckily, I am blessed with an exceedingly kind and progressive mother, who recognized immediately that she needed to leave me alone on this one. Eventually she would become a cheerleader and an ally for my Fat Lib efforts. So, I left the girdle behind, eschewing any pretense of faux-thinness, and uncomfortable gendered underwear. Girdles now seemed anachronistic, ridiculous and supremely oppressive, a view that I still pretty much hold for myself, with one big exception. Sometimes, girdles can be pretty fun and sexy. But it’s taken more than ten years for me to forgive the girdle for it’s past tortures.

Around the same time I discovered Fat Activism, I also discovered kink. That also just clicked with me. From kink came the idea of pain giving way to pleasure, experimenting with sensation and role-play, with its endless costume possibilities. Kink was one way I found sexual empowerment and it was crucial in shaping my sexuality. Over the years I had a couple of corsets. I thought deeply about the corset and its symbolism, since it is also synonymous with Victorian gender oppression. After a while I felt that I didn’t really need corsets to feel sexy or kinky, as I had in the past, but I always enjoyed the aesthetic and might like to wear one just for fun and dress up.

I never thought I would want to wear a girdle for fun. But now I view it as a sexy costume, kind of like a corset, but with an important difference. For me, the sexiest thing about a girdle isn’t putting it on, or wearing one, or how it feels or looks. It’s taking it off. It’s the thought of being released from this mold of what femininity is supposed to look like, and enjoying and appreciating my body for what it is. Enjoying the freedom of movement, the softness of the flesh, enjoying the sensitivity to touch that was so recently denied, and the way a fat body looks naked.

This idea has been percolating since I have stepped up my daily fashion and have found that I prefer a vintage type look from somewhere in the 20th century, which has given me an enhanced appreciation of some of the fashion eccentricities of the time, like the molded figure. Also, since the TV show Mad Men (one of my favorite things of all time) and the iconic Joan Holloway showed that girdles once served as another mask of acceptability, but they also held potency because they were the thin line between civilization and nature. All of that lace and boning is there to tame the wantonness of the flesh, a talisman to protect the wearer and the observer from giving in to their animal instincts. To me, there is little sexier than eschewing the restraints of misogyny and puritanism, to signal the start of passion with the revelation of what my body actually is.

I’m also all about the tease. I like to tease my partner and myself into frenzy. The girdle is very, very good for this. It’s hard to put on, hard to penetrate. It molds the body into an alluringly old fashioned form, and makes sure that one can not indulge in genital stimulation until it is off (or, at least the one I want does). Peeling it down slowly, flesh overflowing over its restrictive fabric, (one of my lovers’ favorite things) finally able to breathe and move and feel. What better foreplay?

In my rookie activist days, my more reactionary days, I would probably be horrified that I would even wear a girdle as a lark. But now I feel a new sense of self-acceptance from toying with the idea of using this body-controlling device, and subverting it’s function so deliciously for my own personal kicks. What’s sexy about a girdle is ME underneath. I don’t think I have ever known that so confidently.

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