The Cocktail Bar

Minutes of Earlier Evenings


NOTE: This conversation runs backwards! For the benefit of regular readers the newest comments are put at the top.

Erotic Arousal by Degrees

Suzanne writes of her experience of the 1950s:

Sexuality was not expressed by rolling nude in the mud and having orgies. It was expressed by wearing girdles and petticoats, by dating, and flirting. Sure it looked less like actual sex than what came later, but it was arguably more intense because of that.

And then, on girdles:

In fact, I know that I, and my sisters, and my girlfriends, would invariably wear our tightest girdles on dates. The ostensible reason was that we wanted to look our best for our dates. But I don't mind admitting to you now what I knew then, but would never have admitted to anyone back then: since dates always involved some degree of sexual arousal, whether or not there was necking or petting involved, my sexual arousal was intensified by my tight girdling. And I loved that.

This raises a very interesting point. As Suzanne also mentions, the post-'60s notion is that the only "real" form of erotic enjoyment is actual sexual intercourse. Clearly this was not true in the 1950s. Not only was petting a form of erotic enjoyment, but "dates always involved some degree of sexual arousal, whether or not there was necking or petting involved".

What I am about to suggest is a bit crude, but I think it makes a valid point. Let us put erotic excitement on a notional one-to-ten scale. Just thinking mildly erotic thoughts would be 1. "Arousal" without petting on a date might be 2 -3 . Light necking or petting 4 - 5, heavier petting might run from 6 upwards toward 10 on (let us hope) the wedding night itself.

I suspect that with intercourse pretty freely available in the Pit, the degree of erotic excitement associated with it in the mind of the late-20th-century young person is likely to be around 5 - 7; in a promiscuous person possibly rather lower. This, of course means that the higher levels of erotic excitement have disappeared entirely from modern life.

Some people might argue that intercourse is an "absolute", being the true end of erotic feeling, and always reaches 10; but we Aphroditists do not believe that intercourse is the true end of erotic feeling; and surely no one would argue that a rather blasé married couple necessarily reaches the heights of erotic excitement every time they exercise their conjugal function. I even suspect that my own comments about the wedding night may be something of a conventional assumption. It is entirely possible that some particularly highly-charged date culminating in intense petting reached a higher level than the wedding night itself, perhaps even overshooting the scale and reaching 11 or 12.

However that may be, it seems pretty certain that with the unstringing of erotic tension in society by its overt sexualisation, the higher erotic levels have been, if not destroyed, at least made much more rare and unusual. An interesting result of the "sexual revolution", but one which an intelligent person might have predicted from the beginning. Did any one?

Freedom and Compulsion in Dress

Miss Alice Lucy Trent writes:

There is nothing free or rebellious or unconventional about bongo dress. It is just another set of conventions, enforced in just the same ways as all conventions have been enforced.

We are told that we are sacrificing elegance and charm and femininity for a new freedom. The freedom is an illusion, but the sacrifice is all too real.

How true this is. The pressure on me and other girls not to dress in formal and feminine ways was intolerable when I was at school and in my teens. Even now I don't think I could do it if I had not found the support of a group of like-minded girls. The pressure comes from everywhere: parents, other girls, the mass-media, school authorities, and every source that pressure comes from for any semi-compulsory style of dress in any society.

Of course you can dress in lots of different ways, including "outrageous" ones, but only if they fit in with what is being served up by the system. "Rebel all you like, but rebel in the permitted manner" is the message everywhere. Pierced eyelids, shaven heads and tattooed tongues are not true rebellion. They are all part of the new suburban respectability. They are part of the style promoted by the multi-national corporations and accepted by every one. The attitudes they express are the attitudes you are supposed to have. They are one of the four or five prepackaged sets of attitudes you are allowed to choose from. And, of course, you are allowed to mix-and-match your own personal variation; just so long as you don't stray outside the permitted range. Just so long as you don't try to get back to the roots and the realness that have been stolen from you.

Nothing could be more bourgeois and ordinary in the 1990s than to wear a 1950s frock with workmen's boots. But to dress in a real, demurely-stunning 1950s style with no quotation marks around it; and to adopt the inner loveliness and decency that goes with it: that is true rebellion. That is actually going against the compulsory attitude of the times. That is doing what the tyrant does not want.

Sue Estelle from Germany, in her postings to this Cocktail Bar [see Archive One -- Webmistress], continually reveals between her lines the pressure on her to conform to unfeminine styles, and her touching cry:

Thanks to you all that I am not alone.

Should in itself put paid to all the complacent acceptance of the claims of the "new freedom" in dress.

Granted, then, that the bongo style (or rather, permitted range of styles) is no freer or less compulsory than any other style, what are its merits? We all know it is not elegant. It is not attractive. Its great claim to existence is that it represents freedom. But now that we know it doesn't represent freedom, what good is it? We have swapped beauty and elegance and human dignity for a freedom that never was. We have exchanged real goods for fairy gold that turns to old dry leaves in our hands.

Isn't it time we changed back?


Freud and Sexual Perversion

Freud did not "invent sexual perversion." That honor goes to Richard von Krafft-Ebing, who viewed human sexual behavior as a collection of loathsome diseases. "For more than three quarters of a century his Psychopathia Sexualis was the chief vehicle for transmitting that doctrine from country to country and from generation to generation. It probably did more to elicit disgust with sex than any single volume." (Brechner, History of Human sexual Research and Study)
Eliot Handelman

You really hit the flood-button there, Dr. Handelman. Miss Snow's response was too big to fit in the Cocktail bar (besides, we are no sure that sexual perversion is quite cocktail-time conversation), so we have given you two (and any one else who cares to join in a page of your own. If you are at all interested in the philosophy behind Aphroditism, do read it. You'll find it a revelation.

Applause for Suzanne

Suzanne is a great writer. I read all her threads on and agree with nearly everything she said. SUE ESTELLE

Dear Aphrodite Girls:
Finding your web site was literally one of those life-changing events. I am a 42 year-old male, happily married, who has always felt "odd" because I strongly prefer a glimpse of lace and stocking top to Penthouse center folds. I am also politically committed to the ideal that each person should have the opportunity to develop her talents without the outside interference of idiot prejudices. So, the course which "feminism" has taken over the past twenty years or so has been very troubling for me. On the one hand, I have no desire to deny any woman anything because of her sex, but, on the other, I want women to look and act feminine. I fear that the political side has come to bury the feminine-appreciative side, which has expressed itself covertly.

I was hitting puberty about the time that the Sixties miniskirt rage was nearing its peak. Life was one long show of slips, underpants and stockings. It was glorious. The girls seemed to thrive on showing it off as much as I thrived on sneaking peeks at it.

And then . . . something happened. Subtlety went completely out the window and we're now bombarded with "erotic" images which I just don't find all that appealing.

There is indeed something about this hemline interplay between women and the men who truly appreciate that goes beyond sex or titillation. I truly feel reverent in the presence of these forces, and the watching is an end unto itself and not simply part of a primal hunt for sex. I have encountered, on occasion, what I can now call an "Aphrodite girl", a woman who enjoys the drama with no ulterior motive of manipulating me or gaining something from it.

I would be very interested in hearing what this feels like from the Aphrodite girl side. How do you feel when you realize that you are showing off more than social convention permits? I have always imagined it as a delicious combination of embarrassment and empowerment. What goes through your mind when that big gust of wind comes up or you realize that your hem is tucked up in the waist of your panties? (Understanding it as a positive experience for the woman is an important part of my giving my "liberated" self permission to enjoy.)

Please keep the site going. I'm sure there are thousands of men out there who need to hear the message. This is liberation in its finest sense.

Thank you and God (I mean Aphrodite) bless you.

Hem tucked up in the waist of my -- Gosh, I've never been that exposed. I think I'd die.

The Myth of Convenience

Suzanne's article is absolutely wonderful. It is splendid to see contributions of this calibre coming from outside Aristasia so early in the history of the site. I hope no one will mind if I pick on one small point of disagreement.

Suzanne says: "Pantyhose were understandably popular because they didn't show and the convenience of not having to deal with garters was appealing to women." I find myself a little nonplussed by this "convenience" line about tights (pantyhose). It has been repeated so often that many people seem to take it for granted as true, but in my own experience there is no shadow of truth in it.

I have been wearing stockings and suspenders (or garters as you Americans call them) for a few years now, and I have yet to find anything remotely inconvenient about them. I cannot really even see what the "inconvenience" argument might be referring to. I have worn stockings every day (with the exception of a few days when I was too ill to get out of bed). The only possible "inconvenience" associated with them is that of having to fasten four (or in some cases six) little metal clips. This takes all of ten seconds when I am in a hurry. If people find this task an "inconvenience" then I can't imagine what they make of such onerous chores as cleaning their teeth or brushing their hair (although from the look of many bongos, the latter is another inconvenience that has been swept aside by the glorious march of progress). In any case, it is a moot point whether fastening suspender clips is any more trouble than wiggling into tights.

Once the stockings are fastened, that is the last dealing one has with them for the rest of the day unless one changes them for evening wear. Not so with tights. I used to wear these (I blush to admit) in former days, and I found them to have an infuriating tendency of riding down all the time, which was both uncomfortable and irritating and necessitated continual adjustments of a highly private nature. If one does have occasion to adjust a suspender (which happens far more rarely) and if some one does happen to catch a glimpse thereof, the effect is really quite charming (please do not think I am in the habit of doing this for the benefit of the brunettes in the office), while the act of hitching up tights is clumsy, ungainly and manages to combine bordering on the obscene with being positively dys-erotic. It can only really be done by retiring to the rest-room, which is another inconvenience.

The only substance I can think of for the "inconvenience of stockings" argument is provided by the silly bongo suspender belts (garter belts) offered by companies which sell such things as seductive accessories rather than genuine everyday clothing. These flimsy items, it is true, are inconvenient and difficult to wear. They tend to slip downwards (rather like tights), leaving one's stocking-tops just above the knee. The elastic has no strength and after a few wearings has stretched out of all proportion. Young girls whose only experience of stockings and suspenders comes from these ersatz items may well wonder how any one could wear them all day and every day. Of course nobody could.

But a genuine suspender-belt or girdle equipped with sound, no-nonsense elastic suspenders is, in my experience, the only practical and convenient hosiery system ever devised (self-gartered stockings or hold-ups come second, but they too have a tendency to slip; though when they do, as with stockings, adjustment is easier and more discreet than with tights).

I should like, if you will permit, to develop this "convenience" point a little further, because I think it is a truly fascinating psychological phenomenon. It does not stop with clothes. I drive an early '60s (Infraquirinelle) Wolesley 16/60. I once met a rather nice bongo man who admired Wanda (that is the car's name) one Sunday, and then asked me what I drove during the week.

"Why, Wanda, of course," I replied.

"No, I mean seriously," he said.

"Wanda." I said, "with all the seriousness in the world and a bit imported from Venus. Why on earth shouldn't I drive my car all week?"

"Well, she's a vintage car."

It was pointless to try to explain that in my country (Aristasia) Wanda is not a vintage car. She is not quite as up-to-date as a Trentish (1930s) car, of course, but hardly vintage. Anyway, that would have been beside the point then, as it is now.

"Well, even if she is a vintage car," I said, avoiding the point as to whether she was or not, "what is wrong with driving her all week?"

"Well," said he, "it isn't convenient, is it?"

Now Wanda is a pretty sound car if I say so myself. They know how to build cars in Infraquirinelle. I can't imagine a ten-year-old bongo car running anywhere near as well. Furthermore, she has automatic gears, which very few British cars have at any date, and my interrogator's car certainly had not. What could be more convenient than automatic gears?

So what could he mean by "inconvenient"? Anything?

One more example. A girl-friend of mine, a rather half-hearted half-Aristasian bought a gorgeous bakelite telephone from Quirinelle (the 1950s), but she still uses a nasty plastic thing from outer bongo-land. "Why?" I asked her. "Well, the real telephone wouldn't be convenient."

Stockings, cars, telephones and a hundred other things. We are told again and again (who is telling us?) that real things (however charming) are inconvenient, while bongo things (however ugly) are convenient, and in almost every case, when you examine it for even a moment, the claim is meaningless.

What I suspect is happening is that bongo life and bongo design adopt the language or iconography of convenience. The are not actually more convenient, but that is the image they choose to project. In breaking down style and elegance, taste and dignity (for which most people have a secret yearning), they continually tell you, both explicitly and implicitly, that in return for the lost values of the past you are gaining convenience and freedom. And, by extension, if you want convenience and freedom, you must sacrifice elegance and charm. The two are supposed to be incompatible. Therefore, if you see something charming, you know it must be inconvenient, just as the Puritan knows that anything pleasurable must be sinful.

There is a parallel here -- and by no means a coincidental one -- with what is called "functionalist" design which influences most bongo household artefacts. Compare a bongo stereo system with a Trentish (1930s) radiogram and you will see what I mean. The latter is a minor work of art. The former emphasises stark functionality in the language of its design. And yet there is actually nothing particularly functional about functionalist design. We are not really looking at naked microchips and unclothed components. The equipment is housed in a mass-produced box which has been designed, and the design might just as easily and cheaply have been Neo-Art-Deco as functionalist.

Functionalism, in short, has no real connexion with functionality. Rather it is a language, an iconography, expressing an ideology. That ideology is the sacrifice of charm and human value, and of that side of life which is properly called the feminine to the harder, more materialistic masculine side of life. And we are bludgeoned into accepting this by the entirely fraudulent insinuation that if things were charming they might not work so well, or they might cause us some inconvenience, or they might rob us of some of our freedom.

Now, freedom is a whole new can of worms, but let us just look at it for one moment in the light of this topic of clothes. People often say that they would welcome a return to elegant, feminine clothes, but at least women now have the freedom to dress as they like, and one would not wish to take that away "again".

Now this line of reasoning holds just as little water as the "convenience" line. People are no more free in bongo-land than they ever were. Aristasians tend to be girls who, from quite an early age, before they ever met each other, have wanted to dress in an elegant feminine way, and you should hear some of the tales I have heard of such girls being forced into jeans and casual clothes by their parents. The pressure is just as strong as it ever was in the case of parents forcing Quirinelle (1950s) girls into girdles or other feminine attire. In both cases the pressure is not widely acknowledged until one is outside it because most girls willingly comply with whatever their environment expects of them. The idea that any large number of people, young or old, want to dress in a way individual to themselves is simply untrue. Most people, at any time want to follow the crowd. And that is certainly no less true of bongo-land than anywhere else. It is true that most people will find their own personal minor-variants on the prevailing style (or one of the prevailing styles: there is usually a small selection available). But it takes great courage at any time to rebel completely against the prevailing trend. How many sixteen-year-old girls would dare to go to school wearing a wide 1950s skirt and petticoats?

In any age there are a few genuine rebels and eccentrics, and in any age they are very few. The only difference in bongo-land is that millions of people (many of whom are quite old enough to know better) who are slavishly following the trends of the time are somehow convinced that they are rebelling and being "different".

An Aristasian friend of mine, up at Cambridge University, always attended lectures wearing a smart blouse and skirt and the traditional scholar's gown. Every one else in her class of 200 wore jeans. When people asked her "Why do you dress like that?" she would reply "Why don't you?" to which they would answer, almost word for word every time: "I don't want to look conventional." These were Cambridge undergraduates. Supposedly among the most intelligent young people in the land. And not one of them could see through the fraud foisted on them by the mass-media and the advertising industry. All of them seriously imagined that dressing in the same uniform as every one else was being "unconventional". And people wonder how mediaeval superstitions could fool whole nations.

There is nothing free or rebellious or unconventional about bongo dress. It is just another set of conventions, enforced in just the same ways as all conventions have been enforced.

We are told that we are sacrificing elegance and charm and femininity for a new freedom. The freedom is an illusion, but the sacrifice is all too real.

Girly Girl

Thank god! I was beginning to suffer from extreme nervousness and paranoia whenever in public. I am much more drawn to female eroticism and up-skirts is great, natural and girly. Perhaps you have a photographer who would like to take my pictures, as mirrors/self-timers are a bit haphazard!

Oh, yes, Helen one of our photographerettes would love to take some pictures of you. Let's arrange it by Elektrapost!

Girdles and Sensuality

I've read the posts that several of your members have put up on the board. While I am by nature skeptical of anything that sounds sort of flaky-utopian, I checked out your Web site and found it fascinating and intellectually compelling. I'm not sure about your rules or protocols with respect to the length of contributions, but if you are interested, I am sending a post I put up on a few months ago. Entitled "Why girdles became unfashionable," It connects with your philosophy at several points. The Aristasians, and those who access this Web site, might find it of interest. In any case, please feel free to print all or part of it if you like.

Thank you for your response. We love the article and find it very enlightening to get a view from some one who can remember wearing girdles and dating in them as a normal part of life. sigh<. The essay is utterly rivetting and we are printing all of it.


The articles that have recently appeared about girdles coming back in style always seem to insist on the fact that they're talking about new exciting girdles that are like biker shorts (Oh great!) and that aren't like the things "your mother wore." Well I suppose they need to do this for a generation that didn't think what their mother wore was sexy (as we did). But the fact that companies are making new kinds of girdles that really are girdles is an indication that the basic essence of the girdle is sexy. I read an interview somewhere with the designer Josie Natori, who essentially said as much (she makes fabulous new girdles, rich with reference to the old styles.) Tight, smooth garments are always considered sexy by men, and women have always felt sexy wearing them, for the way in which they look, and for the way they feel. If this is the case, it's hard to understand why they haven't been more consistently and recently popular. The comfort factor cannot have anything to do with it. Since when have women cared that much about comfort when they want to look good? High heels, tight jeans, all of these things young women like to wear are obviously much more uncomfortable than most girdles. I think several things have contributed to the bad image girdles have acquired over the past twenty-five years. 1) First of all, as I remember, girdles went out of fashion for one fundamental reason: it was difficult to keep them hidden under mini-skirts. Around 1968, when I entered college and almost all of my girlfriends still wore girdles, it was the era of the long-leg panty girdle. These just didn't go with mini-skirts, although we all wore them anyway, and no doubt the guys all had a voyeuristic ball (my husband confirms this, and he thinks it has a lot to do with his own fascination with women in girdles). You remember. You considered yourself lucky if only your stocking tops were showing. Ironically, we didn't forsake the long-leg panty girdles because if they showed, it was at least more modest than showing the actual garter and bare skin. I certainly felt this way. Of course, I didn't have the fashion guts at that time to wear my skirts at a dignified length. 2) So to solve the problem, pantyhose was invented. Pantyhose were understandably popular because they didn't show and the convenience of not having to deal with garters was appealing to women. But they didn't shape the figure. The invention of pantyhose therefore caused many women to consider the question of why they needed to shape their figures. When they considered it, they must have realized that a basic reason, perhaps the basic reason, for girdling young, slim women was the sense of modesty. I'm sure that this was part of the reason why my mother insisted that all four daughters wear them all the time, (as I've said, she didn't hold a gun to our heads, but we just wouldn't consider not going along with this very firm meunwritten rule). Although many of my slim girlfriends didn't need a girdle to shape themselves (I always did), they wore girdles so that someone walking behind them would not see them as what my mother called "sloppy." They would not, in other words, bounce back and forth in a way that men could find sexually suggestive. Well, in 1968 and 1969, people were beginning to worry less about being sloppy or immodest. I'm sure many men liked it if a woman, to use the terminology of the period, "let it all hang out." So the freedom to not wear girdles was in a large way part of a different sexual aesthetic made possible by the sexual revolution, an aesthetic that stressed that the less you inhibited the natural form of the body, the sexier it was, because it was closer to what was thought to be sexiest of all: nudity. 3) If you think that bouncing around and being nude is sexy, then you inevitably feel that not bouncing around and being contained is repressed. Girdles became associated with what was thought to be the sexual repression of the 1950's and early '60's. This false association is based on an assumption which also distorts our view of the Victorian period: the belief that prudishness is effective in suppressing sexual energy. I think that the reality is that the prudishness of a period forces sexuality to sublimate itself into all sorts of creative sign-making, especially in dress, which may explain why the clothing of the Victorian period and the fifties and sixties is so erotic. Sure the period 1950-65 was prudish, and sure, a young woman would feel that she was a slut if she had sexual intercourse, but that hardly means that sexuality was effectively repressed. I remember that period as being far more sexually charged than the world of today, and it's not just that I was younger. There was the constant erotic charge of all the sex difference and all of the elaborate play of symbols of sex difference. Sexuality was not expressed by rolling nude in the mud and having orgies. It was expressed by wearing girdles and petticoats, by dating, and flirting. Sure it looked less like actual sex than what came later, but it was arguably more intense because of that. 4) The association of girdles with repression is particularly easy because they cover the genital area and are hard to get off or out of. So one can make a facile analogy between them and chastity belts. I'm not saying that they didn't provide a certain protection in certain dating and necking situations. But that didn't mean that the young lady encased in the girdle wasn't feeling anything. In fact, I know that I, and my sisters, and my girlfriends, would invariably wear our tightest girdles on dates. The ostensible reason was that we wanted to look our best for our dates. But I don't mind admitting to you now what I knew then, but would never have admitted to anyone back then: since dates always involved some degree of sexual arousal, whether or not there was necking or petting involved, my sexual arousal was intensified by my tight girdling. And I loved that. And to be honest, I wouldn't have loved it as much if what I was wearing underneath was easier to get off. I would have felt more vulnerable. So the irony is that, far from repressing us, our girdles offered us the opportunity of intensifying our pleasure while protecting our virginity. This was not, in retrospect, a bad thing. And it is entirely different from repression. But because the generation after us only seems to recognize intercourse as appropriate sexual expression, they can only see girdles as obstacles. 5) Another major aspect, as I see it, of the discrediting of girdles was the belief, associated with the sexual revolution and related to the valorizing of nudity, that any form of unnaturalness in dress was bad. Artificiality itself came to be seen as suspect, even though it is an unavoidable feature of all art, culture, social interaction, and, I think, sexuality. Wearing girdles, like all forms of dressing up, was seen as somehow equivalent to lying. You weren't being "yourself." You were being "formal" rather than "casual," "fancy" rather than "down-to-earth," pretentious rather than "real." I can't stand the smug Puritanism with which people who don't like to dress up look down on those who do. I long for a world in which not everyone believes that one is only truly oneself if one is "flopping" comfortably in some non-public place. Girdles, involving as they do a sacrifice of some comfort for an artificial beauty and elegance, are more suited to a world in which people can understand why it might be fun to dress up and be formal, to look at others and have others look at you. This sense of a valued public space survives in a few cosmoplitan centers and in a few foreign countries, but it appears to be virtually dead in suburban America . . .