A pair of drawers

But the alternative words have their own problems. Drawers and bloomers are specific garments, and anyway they’ve passed into history. Drawers are fine for birching the maid in a Victorian role play, though a Victorian maid wouldn’t have worn them. Bloomers are for schoolgirl scenarios set no later than the 1960s.

“Underwear” reminds me of Calvin Klein, and I loathe everything about the man, the empire and his advertising.

And “underpants” isn’t a good word. I like to be as polymorphously perverse as I can, but in this context “underpants” makes me think of a woman wearing grubby grey y-fronts, and that’s not a sexy image. To me, I mean. I’m sure there’s a fan-club on the net somewhere for women wearing grubby y-fronts, and I’m not disputing their taste. 

That leaves “knickers”.

Mrs Slocombe's pussy jokes just wrote themselves. And they were crap at joke-writing.

Mrs Slocombe’s pussy jokes just wrote themselves. And they were crap at joke-writing.

It sounds like a word from an ancient British TV comedy, with a drunk live audience who go into hysterics every time someone said “pussy” or “bedpan”. And it rhymes with “vicars”, which is also English in an unsexy way.

But those associations are preserved in TV series that have reached Sirius and Alpha Centauri by now. And if the Sirians and Centaurians are putting up with “Are You Being Served” re-runs, then they’ve taken on the cultural burden. Their brave work allows me to forget that AYBS ever existed.

So “knickers” it is. Sexy women wear knickers, and I approve of that. Except when they don’t wear them and I approve even more.

Panties, for want of a better word

A single drawer

A single drawer

Maybe “panties” is an awkward word because it has an overtone of childishness. Panties, the word and not the item of clothing, seems to fit the world of little girls best, along with Hello Kitty and My Little Pony, and blaming the teddybear for finishing the milk.

Though My Little Pony is cool with me.

And so are littles, who create a submissive persona out of pink icing, sparkles and balloons and what you might call emotional lability, switching from tears to hand-clapping glee at the drop of a party hat. It can be exhausting but it’s also charming, and I’m always ready to help build a fort.

Still, “panties” isn’t an adult word. But the piece of clothing, on or off an adult woman, has huge sexual significance. Men know that if a woman wears them in front of them, there’s a good chance that sex is going to happen. If she takes them off or lets them be taken off (outside of ordinary domestic contexts), then sex is happening. There are fetishes about female underwear, but they don’t need a fetish. They’re the difference between sex and not-sex, and that means that they’re sexy in themselves. 

Never, ever, wear this tee-shirt if you want to get laid

Never, ever, wear this tee-shirt if you want to get laid

So it might be the little-girl overtones of the word “panties” that makes it sound a bit creepy to some women. I know a woman who says the word always reminds her of someone heavy breathing down a phone: “panties arrrfffffff uh-herck ahhhhh panties”, and so on.

It’s not as if the word actually gets in the way. In practice. If I’m doing something bdsm-y they don’t stay on long anyway, and I’m not likely to use any particular word. I just smack her arse and say, “get those off. Now.” That works fine.

Still, a better word wouldn’t be a bad thing. 


I’ve always thought the word “panties” is kind of awkward.

What hentai girls wear has to be called panties. But maybe that's part of the problem with the word.

What hentai girls wear has to be called panties. But maybe that’s part of the problem with the word.

If you’d asked me why it’s awkward, a few years ago, I’d have given a vaguely feminist answer: that it’s a word for the female equivalent of a male piece of clothing that shows that it’s the female version by adding a diminutive. The diminutive form means that the women’s item is more childish and more frivolous than the male equivalent. So I’d have questioned it for the same sort of reasons that I’d question the word “actress”. Or “poetess”.

But that’s not quite the problem, I think. 

Ah hell, I’m out of time again. Duties call. This blog is still alive, really, and so’s its writer. I’ll be back shortly.