As a queer person, my relationship with lingerie is a little strange.
Whenever I feel insecure in a romantic relationship, I find myself spending hours upon hours googling lingerie. I sit in front of my laptop or lie in bed at night on my phone and start to build out narratives for each item. I could wear this or that, and suddenly I’d feel like this or that, and then my relationship would be more like this or more like that. I build up and up and up until it feels imperative that I own something I never really wanted to begin with.
Because I’m not buying the lingerie because I want to. I’m buying it because it feels like it’s what women are supposed to do.
Sometimes, I worry that my relationships aren’t “right.” Not because we’re both women, but because of how easy it is. I worry that I’m getting lazy and not putting enough effort in to attract and appeal to my partner. I worry that it’s bad that we’re always having sex in oversized T-shirts; that by not following the rules of what people are supposed to wear when they have sex, we’re somehow failing in some way.
It was pretty awkward for me when I started turning to lingerie as a way to step up my sex life. After all, I don’t even wear bras unless absolutely necessary, and even then I reach for a super-simple bralette with no wires and minimal fabric.
But when I started to worry about whether or not I should be trying to “spice things up” in my relationship, turning to lingerie felt instinctual. Maybe it’s all of the romantic comedies and novels I’ve internalized, but I felt like fictional moments were constantly playing in my head: a woman frantically searching for the perfect garter belt and push-up bra that would fix her marriage.
I’m not buying the lingerie because I want to. I’m buying it because it feels like it’s what women are supposed to do.
What made things especially complicated is that I’m a woman dating another woman. I can’t think of a single example of a queer female couple struggling with their sexual relationship in mainstream media—it’s always assumed that women who have sex with women have instantly perfect sex.
There’s the idea that women all “have the same parts,” which causes two major issues for me. First off, some queer women are trans—what’s more, there’s so much variety amongst vaginas that nothing is ever really the same. Second, the assumption that things are always easy and perfect for queer women makes it really difficult to talk about struggling with your sexual relationship, and sexual confidence in general.
That’s where the lingerie came in.
As I sat scrolling through more and more lingerie, I realized something: I’d never asked my partner her take on lingerie. While past partners had made their feelings clear (they loved it, they liked to see it but not to wear it, they liked black lace, but never red), I’d never actually asked this person before taking on this strange, and kind of huge, personal project. So I asked. Instead of scrolling through lingerie sites on my own, I pulled one up on my phone one night and said, “What do you think?”
And her response, to me, was shockingly simple, and made me feel like I should have probably just asked her to begin with: “What do you think?”
“The assumption that things are always easy and perfect for queer women makes it really difficult to talk about struggling with your sexual relationship, and sexual confidence in general.”
Being queer is a huge part of my identity. Trying to find lingerie that’s lacy and sexy in the expected ways make me feel kind of alien to myself and my own body. There is lingerie made specifically for queer people, like what’s sold at Bluestockings Boutique (which, sadly, is closing), the first (and only) LGBTQ+-focused lingerie store in the United States.
But while lingerie may empower other queer people, and other women, it just doesn’t make me feel sexy in the way I want to feel sexy.
So when I finally stopped to think about it, I realized I’d never really considered my own feelings in this endeavor. I knew my own take on it, but I hadn’t actually valued it: I was valuing my partners’ feelings toward my body, and their sexual experience as a result, over my own. And there was nothing empowering or worthwhile about that at all.
Most of the time, my partners and I have sex in oversized T-shirts. It might be the result of our version of queerness—or our laziness—but it ultimately provides us with a kind of comfort that makes for more sex and better sex because my partners don’t want to have sex with an uncomfortable version of me that’s just putting on a show. They want to have sex with me, T-shirt and all.