John Yohe

The Power of Pantyhose

Part of the thrill of wearing pantyhose is, like buying a porn magazine used to be, ‘having’ to buy them, in public, in person. The humiliation/shame creates tension, the secret no longer secret, though, like with magazines, the thrill only comes (excuse the pun) from buying them from an attractive woman. The fact that anyone in retail even cares about who buys what is something I choose to ignore.

Though once, living in Los Alamos, New Mexico for the summer, I went grocery shopping, and feeling perverted/horny, threw some pantyhose into my basket (a good ruse—hideable under the apples and rice, in case I actually ran into someone I knew) looking, of course, for an attractive woman checker. None were to be had and I almost put them back, but went through with it, getting a male checker who, I hoped, would just assume I had a girlfriend at home wanting me to pick up some pantyhose for her, because that happens all the time, right? But, luck: a cute young woman bagged my groceries. I watched her. When she got to the pantyhose, she paused, holding them in her hand, having a ‘one of these items does not belong with the others’ moment. Then she looked at me and grinned knowingly. My god, that was the fantasy: She knew exactly what I was going to do with them, and her smile said that she found this amusing and kinky and freaky and she’d probably even tell her girlfriends about it later. After I’d paid, she handed me the bag, saying, again knowingly, ‘Have a good night!’ I should have asked her to marry me.

I resisted the curiosity/desire to wear pantyhose though it had been with me for years, telling myself that actually doing it would cross some kind of line, on a slippery slope to gayness, or bisexuality, or at least true perversion (as if any of those things were bad). Becoming a fairly serious runner changed that. At an expo for my first marathon, in Chicago, I bought a pair of running pants, for colder weather, and, that night, put them on, alone in my bedroom. I already knew they were going to feel, and look, weird, because ‘real men’ don’t wear tight stretchy clothing, and rolling them up my legs, I was extremely conscious that they were basically hosiery. And, they, I, felt erotic/sexy/and yes feminine, as hell. Sexy and erotic because feminine. Black and shiny, my legs, my whole lower body, felt caressed. Naked almost, knowing my body was being (or would be, if I were in public) shown off, and my cock and balls forming a bulge, but my legs and ass sleek, smooth. This was too important to deny: I would have to wear pantyhose. I wondered about the embarrassment, or potential embarrassment, of wearing the running pants out in public, but that didn’t turn out to be true, or mostly not, not that big of a deal at all, and the erotic feeling of wearing them is basically, mostly, gone. I do often wonder though, what women think, whether seeing men in running pants is at all as erotic for them as it it for us (or, me) seeing women in them, or if we men look a little ridiculous/emasculated. And if that is erotic to women.

One of my favorite writers, Charles Bukowski, hated pantyhose, and wrote on more than one occasion with nostalgia for the time when one could sometimes catch the magic and madness of a woman stopping in public to lift her skirt and adjust her stockings.

A generational thing? Women around my age act horrified by pantyhose, because their moms and grandmothers wore them, and they were, admittedly, back then kind of murky and dull-looking. But younger generations of women seem to have embraced nylons again, in the form of colored tights.

Like many things in my life, it took the encouragement of a woman to actually make me cross(dress) the line and wear pantyhose for the first time. Part of my attraction to that woman, M., was that she wore pantyhose. The first time we had sex, I undressed her except for her pantyhose and, after especially dirty pantyhose-enhanced/inspired foreplay, only pulled them down enough to actually enter her from behind.

She was up for anything really, recently divorced and wanting to do all the kinky things she’d heard about but had never been able to do. We didn’t live in the same city, so had a long distance relationship, which went on for over a year, thanks in large part to phone sex, and the thing about phone sex is it’s conducive to confession, because you’re just talking to a disembodied voice, in the dark. So, she very soon knew about my perversion. And, didn’t reject me. In fact, the next time we saw each other in person, she showed up in a long black wool coat (this was Chicago in the Winter after all), smiling, and before even kissing me (or I don’t remember the kissing part) took a pair of Victoria’s Secret pantyhose out of her coat pocket and handed them to me. She was wearing a matching pair underneath and, after showing me, sat on the bed and watched me put mine on. 

I was actually trembling, fearing/knowing I was going to look ridiculous, guilty knowing she was doing this for me, that she’d have been just as fine with me fucking her naked like a normal (real) man. But the pleasant surprise was seeing her face light up as I pulled the lace panty section up around my cock and balls: she liked it! She liked seeing me in pantyhose! It wasn’t just something she was doing for me anymore—it turned her on. Of course I was still embarrassed and ashamed, but very very grateful.

The gusset is the cotton panel section between the legs (I hate the word crotch) which allows the pussy to breathe. The gusset might be the main reason women don’t think pantyhose are sexy, because, compared to the diaphanous goodness surrounding it, it’s not, and in fact blocks the pussy from sight, but that is the magic: gusset as tease enhancer. A woman can wear pantyhose in front of a man, revealing almost everything but that one thing, the gateway, still denied.

One of my guilts about pantyhose is that nylon is a petroleum product. Meaning it’s kind of like a woman has been picked up by a crane and dipped in a vat of oil. The only alternative, silk (mm, silk….) is just too expensive. Then only rich women could show off their legs, and only rich men could enjoy them.

Other guilts: that human sexuality, sexiness, sexual pleasure, are all determined/informed by/a result of technology and consumerism. That is, one has to buy a product for sexual pleasure. But, I guess we passed that point of no return centuries ago. Taking sexy clothing away from women (if you could tear it from them) would merely make us look like China in the 1950s. Or like the Taliban.

Another erotic in-person night with M.: buying matching black pantyhose/tights at a grocery store, plus a disposable camera to take pictures of each other (with black and white film, so as to be classy). We went back to her apartment, put on the pantyhose, and posed for each other, which she loved, wanting both ‘classy’ shots of herself, plus some raunchy porn mag angles. Then she said, ‘You need to wear a dress.’ I hadn’t suggested it, she was taking the initiative, which was scary. Unfortunately, she was so petite that the only thing of hers that would even barely fit was a knit-wool one-piece dress—not exactly slinky, though tight. When I put it on, she made her sexy ‘Mmmmm’ sound. One of the most erotic moments in my life. That, plus being behind her, my hands on her smooth warm back and breasts, my pantyhose cock rubbing against her pantyhose ass. I felt like a lesbian.

One sub-fetish of the pantyhose fetish is ‘encasement,’ in which a woman is ‘encased’ in nylon: a pair of pantyhose where they’d normally go, a second pair with the gusset cut out, so the she can wear them like a shirt, then a stocking over her head and face, the excess material tied off in a ponytail.

One embarrassing though seemingly relevant incident: In junior high, having problems in algebra, not doing well, my mother arranged to come in after school to talk to my teacher, and she actually dressed up for it, the only time I remember her wearing pantyhose and a dressy skirt. She arrived just as kids were leaving, and as she was walking up the main hall towards me, guys I knew and didn’t like whistled and catcalled, looking at her legs. I did do better in class after that though.

More: My stepmom has great legs, and used to wear a business suit/skirt outfit to work every day. She’s closer to my age than my dad’s. She has, along with most (American) business women, since switched to the pantsuit look.

I wore my stepmom’s pantyhose.

The first time ever seeing myself in pantyhose in a full-length mirror: me as a woman. That is, if I were a woman, that’s what I would look like. Or, the woman that had always been inside of me? And even while I knew I looked ridiculous, I also felt, and (therefore?) looked, sexy. No dress, no make-up, just a wispy piece of nylon to make me re-see myself.

I jacked off looking at myself. 

I jacked off to myself. 

I jacked off wanting to fuck myself, somehow.

In the UK, pantyhose are called tights—females of all ages just wear tights. In America, somehow the term pantyhose ended up being for what women wore, while ‘tights’ were for girls, though pantyhose were/are generally flesh-colored, while tights were/are colored (green, blue, etc.). My theory is that Americans, as Puritans, had to come up with a different name for what girls wear, so as to de-sexualize them, which of course backfired, because now young women wearing tights is sexy as hell, having an aura of ‘appearing younger than they are’-ness, à la the catholic schoolgirl plaid skirt.

College. My dorm room. A girl, H., I am just starting to see, agrees to come to bed with me. I can get naked if I want, and do, and she even takes off her dress and bra, but she keeps her blue tights on. We lie on our sides, my cock rubbing against that warm nylonned ass. Her comment: ‘They’re not stockings or anything.’ 

Same girl, a week later, at her place. I’m sitting in a chair, she stands in front of me and raises her skirt, revealing green stockings and a garter belt, no panties. She climbs on my lap, kissing me, aggressive.

Conclusion: for women, dressing sexy for sexy-sex means easy access to their pussies—or the potential, that a man could easily (if she wanted him to) lift her skirt and be inside her quickly. Pantyhose would have be taken off first, thereby losing the heat of the moment. Curious the admittal that thigh-highs are sexy because they show off the legs, which is exactly what pantyhose and tights do. Men in most cases never knowing (unless women grant them access) the difference, which kind of hosiery she is wearing. All they see are the legs.

I remember when pantyhose started to be marketed as sexy in the late 70s. That one commercial, for Sheer Energy (or L’eggs?) of an astoundingly sexy asian woman (so as to emphasize the silkiness I suppose) smiling and showing off her shiny legs. My god, I was eleven or twelve, just hitting puberty, just discovering masturbation. After seeing that commercial, more than once I ran back to my room and rubbed myself naked against a pillow thinking of her, her shiny smooth nylonned legs.

Note: tights also refer to the type of hosiery worn in northern climes, mostly by girls but also women, which is still ‘tight’ and stretchy, but fuzzy and warm, so as to be able to wear a skirt/dress in cold weather. They’re very much less sexy—not shiny or diaphanous or sleek—and not as common, especially for women, as when I grew up in Michigan, though seem to be coming back in fashion, a little, where I am now, in Portland. 

Minor awkwardness: getting to know a woman on an online dating site, at the email stage. At one point I sort of flirtatiously ask her what she’s wearing, and she says tights. My response? ‘Mm, tights, I love tights.’ Which I could tell she thought was a little odd, but she was into some pretty kinky stuff (if I told you, you wouldn’t believe it) so was fine with it, and in fact, said she liked wearing them. When we met in person, she wore some for me, which was awesome, except they were the warm fuzzy kind. We didn’t date long—she lived in another city, and we just didn’t quite have enough spark, but I wonder—what if she’d shown up wearing, say, shiny black tights? Except, she just wasn’t a shiny black tights kind of woman? But still.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to six continents over the years, and pantyhose are way more common in other parts of the world, at least in cities. Something about America precludes women wearing hosiery more. I know some people would argue this is because America is more enlightened and American women more equal/liberated. And that may be. Can’t be a coincidence that latinas, from Mexico to Chile, wear pantyhose all the time, in a decidedly machista culture. Ditto Japan: Barbara Kingsolver’s gobsmackedness in an essay about Japan on seeing Japanese girls playing tennis while wearing pantyhose. Except, how then to explain the Middle East?

Seamless pantyhose, designed for no other purpose than to be sexy: No gusset, the pussy visible behind the diaphanous protective layer if the dress or skirt is raised or discarded. Visible and even enhanced, but still not truly touchable/lickable: the woman still has control, can still deny.

Companies whose sole product is designer pantyhose. 

And the women who buy them.

If you are a woman reading this, and still doubt the power of pantyhose, buy a pair and see how you look in front of a mirror. How they make you feel. Notice the attention you receive in public.

The argument: that clothing is sexy because worn by sexy women. But not with pantyhose, or at least not completely. Pantyhose add at least 10% to a woman’s attractiveness level. Physically, plus they signify something. About a woman’s personality. 

The teasing-ness. The confidence in knowing she is showing off her legs.

Young women embracing hosiery, wearing tights: colored and/or black (mmm, black) with a little ‘streetwalker chic’ thrown in in the form of fishnet tights. I am all for this, though I fear they would just say they are trying to look ‘nice?’

My favorite mens magazine, back when men’s magazines were a real financial option (i.e. before the internet really took off) was Leg Show, originally edited for many years by Diane Hanson. Full disclosure: she was the first editor to ever buy a story of mine (later chosen for the Best American Erotica of 2004!). Diane was highly aware of men’s various hosiery/leg/foot fetishes, and in many editorials she talked about trying to balance readership demands between women in pantyhose, and women in old-school stockings and garterbelts. She always included some of each, plus women in ‘modern’ thigh highs, and different kinds of pantyhose (gusset vs. seamless for example). And, to appease the real foot fetishists, Diane would always include a couple photos in each pictorial of bare feet. Meaning, unfortunately, that the woman had to take the hosiery off. I always skipped those photos, pretending they didn’t exist.

The whole point of hosiery—ok, not the whole point, but an important one—is that a woman’s feet should be encased in nylon. I don’t necessarily have a foot fetish, I can’t just jack off to a picture of a woman’s feet like some guys, but feet are erotic. Or can be. I love to give women foot massages, mainly for the effect it has on them (i.e. they tend to lose complete control) and kissing and worshipping of the feet is part of this. So, ok, I guess I do have a foot fetish. But, I would kiss and worship every part of an attractive woman. And have. Still, anyways, those tights American Apparel sells? The footless ‘leotard chic’ ones? They’re less, though still, sexy. But ballerinas in leotards and tights? Fucking hot.

I even like bare feet: I go barefoot all the time and would love a girlfriend into the barefoot lifestyle. Thus, more guilt.

Should I should mention yoga pants and/or leggings here? They have kind of the same effect, and at least right now, as of this writing, women are wearing yoga pants out and about instead of, say, tight jeans. Which I understand—they’re more comfortable. But goddamn are they sexy too, because tight (and usually black and mysterious) and anything tight is good, though the emphasis is less on the legs than the ass. Surely women must be aware of this. Surely they don’t wear yoga pants purely because they’re comfortable. Otherwise they’d just wear sweatpants?

En France, pantyhose and tights are ‘des collants.’ ‘Collant’ means ‘tight’. Sometimes ‘bas culotte’—literally ‘panty stockings’. Thigh-high stockings? ‘Les bas à la cuisse’ or ‘bas pour jarretelle’ (jarretelle = garter belt).

A French woman invited me to bed (as they are wont to do) and took off her jeans to reveal black pantyhose underneath. She only wore them for an extra layer in cold weather, but mon dieu, I basically attacked her.

Surely my love for hosiery must be related to my love of superhero comic books when I was younger, both in my desire for a world in which strong smart athletic women go around wearing tight body suits all the time, and in seeing ‘men in tights.’

Pantyhose signifying different things to different people, especially depending on gender, but also sexual orientation, age, and location. Also, race, class and religion.

Another long-distance relationship girlfriend, N., up in Minneapolis, normally a jeans and t-shirt kinda gal, getting ready for her symphony rehearsal, walks out of her bedroom in just blue tights, and even though we had sex earlier, I immediately grab and kiss and touch her, telling her how hot she looks. Though we’re running late, she lets me pick her up and carry her back to her bed, where, with her legs on my shoulders, I pull the tights up just enough to fuck her. Uncharacteristically (I swear), I last about five seconds. She seems strangely satisfied and amused about this.

I’m not even advocating high heels. I know they’re horribly bad for feet, though I know too how sexy they feel, but, and I know some men (and women) will disagree, women wearing ‘flats’ are just as sexy. With hosiery.

My Winter in Salamanca, Spain, where all the teen girls seemed to be wearing mini-faldas with pantyhose and hiking boots. As if, yes, I enjoy dressing sexy for you, but if you treat me badly I’ll kick you in the balls.

En America del Sur, pantyhose/tights are ‘pantimedias.’ En España, ‘pantis’ or ‘pantys,’ while panties are ‘bragas.’ Stockings are ‘medias’ in both places.

My attraction to K., another girlfriend, was that she wasn’t a high maintenance woman—we’d met working at a National Park—and she generally just wore jeans, or shorts, and holes in her underwear were not uncommon. She just didn’t really understand my thing for hosiery, though nonetheless we did talk about sex, and share fantasies. Or rather, I did, since she claimed she didn’t have any (?!), and always accused me of being too much in my head, and not in my body. Which was true: eroticism, to me, is in the mind. Or at least a mix of mind and body. She was all body though. Still, one time—we would break up and I would move out soon thereafter—I bought her some Victoria’s Secret pantyhose and she wore them for me, even taking me up on my request to sit on my face. Our incompatibility with sex a manifestation of our incompatibility in general. Or, her medical problems and bi-polarism not compatible with my depression and fear of intimacy. But, talking on the phone with her a little later, maybe trying to appeal to me one last time, she said, ‘You know, I actually kind of liked wearing those pantyhose and sitting on your face that time. I liked feeling your warm breath through the material on my pussy.’

My fear of intimacy: are pantyhose a way to keep a barrier between me and a woman? And/or, especially in wearing them, are they a ‘safe’ way for me to be close to a woman?

For an unusually long time, in Union Station, downtown Chicago, there was a larger-than-life picture/advertisement (it took up a whole section of wall, like 10 by 20) for Shear Energy (or L’eggs?) pantyhose in the waiting room: a woman wearing nothing but white pantyhose. Just her, no furniture, white background, sitting at an angle with her arms crossed over her knees so as to cover her breasts, with her legs stretching off to the right, staring directly at the camera, so that no matter where you were in the waiting room, she was staring at you. At me. Red toenail polish. I sat in a chair right in front of her, the room crowded, though no one but me seemed to even notice her.

That picture was there for years, if not decades: I first saw her when I was around twenty-five, so mid-90s, and her hairstyle was from the 80s. She was still there when I was in my thirties. My theory is that whoever was in charge of that waiting room was a pantyhose lover too, and just kept her there—I doubt Sheer Energy paid to keep her up. If so, you’d think they’d update the model every few years. I looked forward to seeing her every time I traveled through, which wasn’t that often, though I’m still amazed an advertisement like that would even be permitted in public. Maybe in New York City, or Europe, but the Midwest? I can’t help think she was finally taken down because of a complaint, though maybe not. Maybe someone just finally realized they weren’t making any money off that wall space. But she was, finally, gone. I still look for her.

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