Tween Panties That Say “No”

PantyTrio[1]By Annie Shields @ Ms. Magazine Blog

What better way to reinforce family morals than by wearing underwear that doubles as a conversation starter, right? If the junior prom after-party starts to get dull, just take off your pants and encourage a dialogue! Awkward first date? Lift up your dress and ask for some feedback!

On the one hand, these panties were created by parents to encourage their teens to remain abstinent. On the other hand, these are panties. A strange choice of merchandise to hawk in the name of chastity.

Stranger still, these 75-percent “frisky” garments seem to be closely tied to a religious agenda. The very name of the line implies a Christian affiliation–subbing “your mother” for Jesus in the familiar WWJD. So what’s really going on here? Let’s take a closer look at some of the site’s offerings.

The messages on these panties – ”Dream On,” “Zip It!” and “Not Tonight” – coyly indicate non-consent to a potential romantic partner.

But the whole concept of abstinence-promoting underwear makes about as much sense as commemorating sobriety with flasks instead of coins at AA meetings.

It isn’t just dumb, it’s dangerous. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging your children to choose abstinence before marriage; there is something wrong, however, with not empowering them with the knowledge and tools to make that choice and confidently communicate it to romantic partners. Without pulling down their pants.

What’s more, the panties can really muddy the notion of “consent” in young people’s minds. What if a teen girl wears “Not Tonight” panties and decides at some point in the evening that she actually does want to have sex? Nothing wrong with that, but the dissonance between the panty-message and her ultimate decision may well reinforce the mistaken idea that “no means yes” in her partner’s mind.

This bizarre line of undergarments calls to mind what Jessica Valenti dubbed The Purity Myth in her book of the same name. In an interview, she argues that oversexualization of women in the media and pop culture has begun to intersect with the conservative movement, resulting in the fetishization of virginity:

If you are telling young women over and over that what’s most important is their virginity … then you’re sending the message that it’s the body and sexuality that defines who they are … With the virginity movement it’s adults–and a lot of men–deciding what appropriate sexuality is for younger women. It’s anyone and everyone except young women themselves defining (their) sexuality.

This is ridiculously displayed in WWYMD’s promotional videos, which feature abstinence-friendly songs and wind-blown girls posing suggestively in their skivies next to fully-clothed young men. Here are some of the choice lyrics:

No kiss, no touch, no makin’ out
hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey…
 
When men see a body like this, they have a tendency to dismiss
that I got anything upstairs, but I got me a lot of brains up there
 
Let me make it clear, so there’s no mistake
my life’s goin’ good, there’s too much at stake
to just hand it over, to any man…

The second video is even more explicit and confusing, combining gratuitous crotch shots with pro-chastity song lyrics:

I am waitin’, for my time in life,
I am waitin’ for love.
I am waitin’ on the world to change
I am waitin’ on you

Abstinence-promoting strategies as ineffective as these will certainly prove to be are, unfortunately, not unprecedented. With the rise of what’s been called the chastity-industrial complex, peddling purity is big business. Once again, social and religious conservatives say one thingdo another and wait for the money to roll in.

This lightly edited post was originally posted on the Ms. Magazine Blog on April 14, 2011

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on July 3, 2013, in feminism, objectification, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I think we need to start treating sex as just a normal part of life and arm young people with all the education they need to make informed choices. If people choose to teach their children that they should wait until they are married to have sex then fine, but holding up (mostly young women’s) virginity as the most important thing about them is not a good message. Can you imagine boxer briefs for young men with slogans like that. And that song was down right creepy. “when men see a body like this they think I have no brain” or whatever it was, once again girls, remember, it’s all about how you look.

  2. I bet they get most of their custom from strippers. Who else needs to regularly show off their underwear while at the same time discouraging sexual advances?

  3. Rohan 7 Things

    Oh my god lol. The fetishisation of virginity is the first thing I thought of when reading this. The stronger the message of virginity the more a women is defined and valued by her sexuality, and more specifically her genitalia. Kind of ironic because the other message they are sending is that a women is so much more than just her sex, as you pointed out.

    I’ll bet they end up getting most of their sales from kinky couples, and as joke birthday presents anyway lol!

    Good, thorough, sex positive sex education will always be safer and healthier physically and psychologically than an abstinence only model. The evidence speaks for itself.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Rohan.

  4. I’ve long held the belief that teaching kids that virginity is some sort of magical, all encompassing, sure fire way to determine someone’s “purity” is a load of bull. The fact that numerous adults in this movement have a “Do as I say, Not as I do” lifestyle is even worse. I agree with the authors…these types of underwear are a horrible idea.

    Something I’d like to point out is that there don’t seem to be any made for guys. As is common with this movement, female virginity is given a MUCH higher pedestal than male virginity. This is very troubling to me, as many parents who bring their kids (aka daughters) to these purity functions tend to endorse Abstinence Only Education…either by removing their offspring from health class during the sex education portion, or worse: By creating school districts that only teach Abstinence to begin with!

    The very children they are trying to protect from the “evils” of sex have been shown to be extremely ill prepared for it when they finally do it. Stories of not understanding how to put on a condom, believing sexual myths, not knowing how STDs are communicated, and having little knowledge of the human sexual response in either themselves or their partners litter the mouths of people who used to be in these programs.

    These panties, like most stupid ideas, are better off not being used by anyone.

    • Yes! For instance kids who take virginity oaths do put off sex for 18 months, compared with average. But that’s not really that long. And they are less likely to use birth control so they are more likely to get pregnant. They’re also more likely to get STDs.

      Which is worse? Sex or teen pregnancies/unplanned pregnancies and diseases?

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