Note: This essay on lesbian panties first appeared in 1991 in “On Our Backs,” a publication for adventurous women.
Whenever I see another lesbian looking at me, and feel the rise of my responsive blush, I am immediately hurled backward in time, stopping only when I reach third grade, Bufford, Indiana, 1967.
More precisely, I feel as alive and as daring, and as outside the law, as I did when I was eight years old and would stay after school in the dead of winter with no one’s permission, to swing by my knees upside down on the cold, metal monkey bars, my green suede coat and plaid skirt inverted so that my belly-riding white nylon panties shone in the twilight like the mischievous smile of a Cheshire cat.
I am girl—see me swing! That’s how proud, happy and self-assured I felt there by myself on the monkey bars. I felt like a crazy blonde bat, doing and being the forbidden, right there on the grounds of an institution which was (or so I felt) hell-bent on getting me to acquiesce to some Betty Crocker version of a nice girl.
And Betty Crocker would never swing upside down after hours, letting all of Bufford catch of glimpse of her underalls; of that much I was sure.
Swinging by my knees in the dead of winter, not caring what God, boys or the principal might see (because the point was that this was fun and felt natural) became for me an early form of lesbian protest.
This knee-swinging, panty-showing, after hours act of mine, was, I now realize, the daring act of a 1960’s girl-dyke, who develop slowly throughout the decade, like the world’s most patient Polaroid.
I spent a great deal of time on those monkey bars, always after hours, because during the day, and with the blessing of our third grade teacher, Mrs. Windhorst, those chilly metal bars were the province of boys only, who were encouraged to swing, climb, grunt, and sweat their way their way to manhood, with their private parts (or Johnnies as we called them with a giggle), safely tucked inside their warm, tailored pants.
We girls got jump ropes, chalk for hop-scotch, a walk-in size doll house that was subject to constant redecoration, and a pink plastic sink with an assortment of half-cracked dishes.
Girls were not allowed to swing, grunt or sweat on the monkey bars because, according to Mrs. Windhorst, ladies did not swing, grunt or sweat; but more importantly, girls could not play on the monkey bars because such knee-swinging antics would undoubtedly lead to the mortal sin of panty flaunting.
And panty-flaunting (according to Mrs. Windhorst, who spoke for all womankind) was an immoral sin, maybe even a 13th commandment which Moses and the big boys had somehow omitted.
We didn’t even dare say the word “panties” aloud, taking our cues from Mrs. Windhorst who always said “bloomers,” when speaking of women’s underthings. “Bloomers,” as if what we girls wore beneath our mandatory skirts was something as silly as my grandmother’s Easter time crocus.
All of this sidestepping secrecy and hush-hush covering up of girl’s dainties all through grade school is probably where this lesbian got the erotic idea that panties are very, very powerful, and therefore, much to be panted after pieces of apparel.
Consequently the word “panties,” and the sight of the same, like any forbidden entity, has come to have a highly charged erotic aura for me, and many of the lesbians I have known and/or pleasured.
“Take your panties off, baby,” is enough to get me bot and hothered. This gentle, yet firm, feminine command makes me lubricious all the way down to my unmentionables, so that when a woman—any woman—whispers the word “panties” in my presence, I, a rationally inclined and PC potent urban dyke, am reduced to a drop-my-drawers sort of Hollywood swoon.
Only girls can wear panties, so I know when a woman starts talking panties we have entered one of those secret domains of Dykedom.
Panties make me so dizzy with desire that I cannot trust myself to go lingerie shopping alone. Contemporary urban saleswomen—who obviously did not grow up in Bufford, Indiana, home of 600 people, 13 churches, and a ton of sexual guilt—seem genuinely fond of both saying and showing panties.
In fact, they are so eager to please and proud of all their panties that I have been known to run screaming from the Macy’s lingerie department leaving behind some bow-shouldered, overly helpful, elderly saleswoman whose only act has been nothing less innocent yet more provocative than taking a pair of white, nylon Gloria Vanderbilt’s and stretching them tautly across her spotty fingers in an effort to highlight the durability of double crotch reinforcement.
Maybe straight women can hack this kind of sales approach but as a true-blue lesbian from the rural Midwest I have found that having a pair of panties publicly animated by the fingers of a strange woman does something very unsettling to my psyche and erotic urges.
“Take my panties off.” That’s the first thought that leaps from my mind to my mouth when a woman catches my eye regardless of where I am when the eye-catching occurs.
“Oh Gawd and Artemis, please take my panties off.”
That thought has occurred to me during job interviews, on the 38 Geary bus, and when shopping at the Clement Street Safeway.
I have said it to my lovers, and I have had it said to me. And as simple as it sounds, I have always found this one little plea to be the most irresistible.
Somehow it’s like saying, “Make me a lesbian. Now.”
Perhaps this is because panties, unlike other attire, are pan-lesbian apparel. Only we girls have them, and they are hidden, by their nature glimpsed by only a chosen few.They’re worm snug to our hips when we’re alone doing our daily chores, then down around our knees or ankles when we’re with our chosen women busily making ourselves into self-respecting dykes.
“Make me take my panties off,” a woman once whispered to me; I stayed with her for seven years.
Even butches wear these little dainties. And while it is true that some butches wear boxer shorts some of the time, it is also true that the girls who are busy making these butches are often busy thinking: How am I going to get this girl to take her panties off?
Boxer shorts, to many a lesbian mind, are nothing more than generously cut panties with sexy fly-fashioned fronts. Boxers are the panties of choice for the rough and ready girls who like to project that tough yet tender persona which so many of us love when we’re flat on our backs and upright in our desires.
Today panties are a glitzy-ritzy affair. They come in every imaginable color or style. The white and beige belly-riding nylon of my Hoosier girlhood have been replaced by fabrics and cuts which look, feel, and let’s face it, smell better.
I’ve heard it said more than once that lesbians need to pay more attention to their panties; that there exists within the community such a reluctance to claim ourselves as lusty lasses that more lesbians than necessary cling to the belly-riding nylon of yesteryear in a secret pledge to be evermore PC.
I have to say I have encountered this problem more than once among otherwise dateable dykes; and I have to say that while white nylon may wilt the passions of most of us, I know at least one lesbian who prefers the old-belly-riding nylon of bygone days because they correspond to her secret fantasy of at last being able to get it on with her high school English teacher.
Of course some lesbians do not wear panties; and that in itself can be pleasingly provocative. “What happened to this girl’s panties? That’s the first thing I want to know when my fingers discover this absence.
We all understand that a girl without panties is bound to be B-A-D in oh so many nice ways. A girl without panties is oh so irresistible, for we all know that whatever happened to her panties is exactly what we hope will happen to ours.
Update: IN 2013, General Mills baked gay wedding cakes in Minneapolis as they announced that Betty Crocker was in favor of gay marriage and that the company, GM, supported loving families of all types. Thank you Betty (50 years after I needed you. but better late than never.)
Ana B Good is the author of the award-winning lesbian romantic comedy, The Big Sugarbush, which can be ordered in print or ebook formats. CLICK TO ORDER BOOK NOW.