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Is the Manly Half-Thong Really Any Weirder than What Women Wear Regularly?

We deal with uncomfortable wires all the time, you know.

There seems to be a bunch of hullabaloo about the male half-thong — a piece of fabric that encases the twig and berries with a wire holding everything in place via the butt crack.

Don’t get me wrong, it sounds pretty uncomfortable, and I have some practical questions regarding unexpected boners, but is it really any weirder than what women (I’m using the terms “women” and “men” to include anyone who identifies that way) are expected to wear on the regular?

Let’s take bras, for instance. For many, if not most, of us, they usually involve wires. No, they aren’t going into our cracks, but an old bra, one that doesn’t fit perfectly, or just the wrong movement can mean being poked in the sides for hours on end. There’s one key difference, here, though: socially, most of us HAVE to wear a bra. There are some smaller-chested gals out there who can get by without, or with just those tank tops with the shelves — plus some women have medical reasons why they can’t be worn — but for a significant portion of women, it’s not generally an option. Employers and schools often require that they be worn (whether or not that’s appropriate is a whole other argument, but suffice to say, if you want to keep your job you tend to comply), and even if they don’t, stares and rude comments abound. Women who go braless that aren’t tiny get labeled as sloppy or not taking care of our appearances. And for the larger-chested, wires are a necessity for adequate support. So we wear them every day, and subject our torsos to rubbing and poking, not to mention the indentations that can come from straps or the permanent marks on our backs.

Similar problems arise with thong underwear, as well. It’s less of a daily “requirement,” but if you wear something tight and have panty lines, you’ll probably hear about it. We’ve all seen judgmental celebrity rags take steaming dumps on famous women for having visible lines under gowns or even their regular clothes.  In order to avoid the gossip, a lady has to wedge a piece of fabric between her butt cheeks. There’s never a time when men are equally expected to do the same.

But since the man-thong is beachwear, we’d be remiss to neglect bikinis. Let’s take the most extreme and skimpy example, since that’s what the nut-sling is, and talk about the string bikini, thong or otherwise. Like the tiny dick-sock, many string bikinis cover as little as possible while still adhering to local laws. Ladyparts, most of the butt (unless it’s a thong, then not very much of the butt), nips. And basically nothing else. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s basically the same territory as the manberry-bag. The only difference is that in women it’s encouraged (assuming you fit certain standards about the “right” body for it) while in men it’s laughed at.

And then there’s the “gayification” (for lack of a better term) of the half-thong — a lot of the write-ups I’ve seen focus on this being a trend in the gay male community. Whether or not it’s true, it’s a problematic statement to make, especially anecdotally. In addition to perpetuating many different stereotypes about gay men, it implies that the only reason to wear (or not wear) something is for the male gaze. Just like how it’s constantly assumed that women do many different beauty-related things, like wearing make-up or shaving our legs, or wearing revealing items like bikinis, to impress men, this assumes that the butt-gripper-wearing dudes are doing the same. Only gay or bi men are supposed to be attracted to this, which leaves out millions of heterosexual and bi women who might want to lust after the male form. When a man wears something ultra-revealing, we laugh at it, or say it’s for gay men only, completely neglecting the fact that women also have sex drives and might want to see as much of a hot male bod as the law allows.

It doesn’t matter if you actually like this garment, or would wear it (or would want the men in your life to). Personal sartorial choices are irrelevant to the larger conversation. When something risqué and revealing is marketed to men, the reaction is incredibly different than it is when it’s marketed to women. And that’s a conversation worth having.

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[E] Liza

PhD student. Knitter. Brooklynite. Long-distance dog mom. Reluctant cat lady. Majestic unicorn whose hair changes color with the wind.

3 thoughts on “Is the Manly Half-Thong Really Any Weirder than What Women Wear Regularly?”

  1. The male body is definitely treated like it’s more sacred while the female body is treated like decoration. I detest thongs personally, and I can’t imagine that thing would stay put doing anything other than posing for a photo shoot. Even string bikinis and thongs (while people are discouraged from objecting to women wearing them for fear of being branded “jealous” and/or “gay”) are not practical active wear.

    As an aside, I think the top urbandictionary definition for granny panties is pretty great, just for its comment about female athletes.

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