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Why Do We Wear Underwear? - For Whom Are We "Sexy"?

To get rid of the shorts with elastic bands, I made boxer pants last time.
They were not for every day of the month for women of every generation, because there was no ‘crotch part’ to place sanitary pads or to protect outer garments from discharge.

Though they were exactly what I wanted, I got a question:
“Why am I wearing these in the first place while they're just hanging around my bum doing nothing? Is it necessary to wear them at all?”

When you Google with “why wear underwear”, what you get on the top page are like "why we shouldn't wear underwear". But most of them are for men and the situation must be different for women.

I considered the reasons for us women to wear underwear this time.

a woman half taking off her shorts and a lolipop


Functional Purposes

There are various types of underwear. In this blog post, I focus on the major ones, "the ones for breasts" i.e. bra and "the ones for crotch" i.e. underpants, the usual ones excluding those for special purposes like sports.

First, the functional purposes for bra are:
-   To reduce the shoulder stiffness by supporting (mainly big) breasts
-   To avoid the pain from the waggle while moving

This is it! Are there any more, ladies?
To avoid the breasts from drooping down from ageing or to improve the shape seem to have no scientific grounds. 
We should be aware of the big industrial propaganda going on for decades to sell products!
old advertisement of a bra

Next, the functional purposes for underpants are:
-   To receive the menstrual blood and discharge
-   To avoid the trace amount of excrements to shift to outer garments
-   To keep warmth

This is about it, isn't it?


Social Purposes

Now, the main thing is this. Beyond the functional purposes, underwear bore various significance depends on the era and the regions.
I have researched a bit about the transition of underwear in the West, Japan, and India, but I don't mention them. We focus on modern days here.

First I tell you my case.
I wear boxer pants always, including when I go to sleep. I don't use pads.
As for breasts, I'm 100% braless at home. When I go out, braless half the times and with bra the rest.
I don't need to wear bras functionally since my breasts are small and I don't do much exercise. I wear bras only because, when my nipples are sticking out or shown through, all the males on the streets would stare at them bluntly which makes me feel as if they're touching me with dirty hands, and I would feel like killing every one of them!

woman wearing a bra with applique on the nipples

About this issue, the recent movement to liberate women's breasts, #NoBra or #FreeTheNipple... I don't go into deep here since I'd like to write separately.

Besides mine, I suppose you have various reasons why wearing underwear. For each woman, underwear (the luxurious ones are called lingeries) have lots of meanings, including "looking sexy".


Why Do We Try To Look Sexy?

In 1980s in Japan, there was a word "Lingerie To Win". It meant the sexy underwear which women wore when they date with a man whom they wanted to "win". It was a mindset to cater to the males' taste.
I heard that women now use this word with a different meaning. They call the underwear which they wear to empower and develop confidence in themselves at important work-related events a "Lingerie To Win

Woman on the bed wearing clothes with the buttons of her shirt open and the underwear is showing

The definition of "sexy" is also changing.
Traditionally, "sexy" meant the underwear, clothes, movements, person etc. which provoke others a desire to have sex with the person.
Now the focus is shifting to whether one feels sexy oneself or not. In other words, to whom one becomes/behaves/dresses sexy, or not to be sexy - the object has turned.

woman wearing only underwear watching herself in the mirror and smoking

In the first place, people have different views on sex anyway.
For the people who think "others exist to fill my sexual desire", being sexy is for the others who provoke him/her.
For the people who think "others exist to admire me and fill my self-esteem", being sexy is a scheme to let others admire one's charm and satisfy oneself.
For the people who think "sex is communication between independent individuals", one filling the other's fantasy is not enough. With what significance, what kind of underwear, to feel what, to let others feel what - all these are included as self-expression and a part of communication.

It's the same as outer clothes. Beyond the functional purposes, underwear is also a tool for self-expression and self-satisfaction.


To Be A Feminist And To Be Sexy

Yes, I'm a feminist. MIRCHI KOMACHI stands for feminism.
The words "feminist" and "feminism" are still hugely confusing for many people.
A feminist doesn't necessarily wear simple "unsexy" "grandma's" underwear without laces or wires. The concept of feminism is not denying "sexy" but women having the options ourselves to be anything including "sexy".

a woman with short hair standing in front of a mirror wearing underwear only

woman lying on bed wearing g string and high heeled shoes

So, if a woman wears an "erotic" bra with lots of lace or a wire bra which exaggerates the cleavage, body-con dress, clothes with huge exposure of cleavage or legs, and so on, she's not a feminist? That's not true.
This still triggers controversy often (e.g. Emma Watson's "Underboob Incident"). For the people who don't understand the concept of feminism, when a woman is "seducing men" she cannot be a feminist. Even some feminists say that, there's a gap between feminism generations they belong to.

Wearing "sexy" underwear or clothes is for others or for ourselves?
I think it's a very familiar issue for Indian young generations who suffer judgement and slut-shaming when they wear this and that (anything!) and get astonishing words like "deserve to be raped" very publicly.

a woman wearing only underwear with a bath towel on her head smoking in the kitchen


So, Why Do You Wear Underwear?

What I want to say comes back to the same point.
Regardless of underwear or clothes, I think the purpose of clothing should be to express who we are, what we stand for, what we want to feel, and what we want to be. Not to present what "people" or "society" think we should be, nor imply what others can do to us. The subject should be always "I", "me".
So, what underwear do you wear now, and why?


Let's Talk More
Why do women have to be apologetic for being herself?
Women of short hair in India
What's your own style?


Bonus Video

This is an ad from 2013 by Wacoal, a Japanese underwear brand.
Has anyone here seen films by Jan Švankmajer? The inspiration for this ad must have come from his films. I remember watching his films in an art cinema theatre in Kyoto when I was a university kid, and felt like my brain was stirred hard with a coarse spoon.
Oh relax, this video wouldn't do that to you (much). Just, pretty edgy for an ad by a big mainstream company. 


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1 comment

  • Lingerie is functional and pretty and sexy. Who ever the woman is and whatever she looks like she looks prettier and sexier in lingerie. I like women. All women. When God made woman, Adam said, “Oh yeah…that will work”

    • Don Gjertsen