NOTE: This conversation runs backwards! For the benefit of regular readers the newest comments are put at the top.
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
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?
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
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?
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.
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.
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
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
MISS ALICE LUCY TRENT
Oh, yes, Helen one of our photographerettes would love to take some pictures of you. Let's arrange it by Elektrapost!
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.
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