Why Are People So Attracted to the Thong?
In April 1939, an all-star cast of artists, architects and cultural pioneers gathered in Queens for an audacious extravaganza, the New York World's Fair. It was a lavish spectacle, conceived as the country suffered through the Great Depression. Determined to push forward with utopian visions, the fair's organizers spared no expense: From marionette shows to choreographed underwater dances, the event promised to showcase the "World of Tomorrow."
The fair's biggest success story was inadvertent. Burlesque dancers were booked to perform racy striptease shows, but Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was adamant the women weren't allowed to dance naked. As a pragmatic solution, they designed the earliest-recorded examples of thongs: über-skimpy panties that rose high enough to leave their posteriors largely bare.
Nearly a century later, society's love of thongs shows no sign of slowing down, despite the fact they're often critiqued as highly uncomfortable. Wrestlers roll around in neon thongs for horny viewers of pay-per-view matches. OnlyFans stars create custom thong content.
From posing pouches to G-strings, there are more options than ever for the barely there underwear.
What's the appeal of wearing a thong, and are they healthy for your backside?
Thongs are a fail-safe turn-on
The year is 2000 and pop star Sisqó is cartwheeling across a picturesque beach begging scantily clad volleyball players: "Let me see that thong!" Two years earlier, the leaked details of a sex scandal claimed President Clinton fell deeply in lust with Monica Lewinsky after catching a glimpse of her thong in the White House. These cultural moments cemented the underwear's reputation as a cheeky, risqué symbol of feminine sexuality.
"If it's not about specific underwear, it's about how they want it worn," she said. "Some want it pulled to the side, others want it pulled down past the cheeks. People are really invested in how you're wearing a thong."
In Vanniall's eyes, the appeal is simple: "Thongs are hot because they frame the buttocks and provide a sexy flourish to any eye. Everyone likes that!"
Emme Witt, an online pro-domme and sex educator based in Los Angeles, concurred.
"Thongs encapsulate the art of the tease," she explained. "They're basically telling the consumer, 'Look at my butt. Get mesmerized by it. But I'm still clothed. It's off-limits to you.'"
The evolution of the thong
The growth of the global lingerie industry means there are more thong-adjacent underwear options than ever before. Competitive bodybuilders wear posing pouches, barely there designs cut high at the back to show off their assets. Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy character Borat popularized the mankini, a neon-green, all-in-one thong bikini with straps that extend over the shoulders.
There are beach thongs, sport thongs, G-strings—thong-like, but usually with an even slimmer strip of fabric to keep your genitals covered.
Another change is that thongs are no longer marketed solely to cisgender women. Men in thongs used to be a punchline, like Jesse Metcalfe's thong-flashing scene in the teen movie "John Tucker Must Die." This is still the case sometimes, but men's underwear has evolved.
Now thongs are increasingly marketed toward athletes; there's even a blossoming market for "men's lingerie." Male wrestlers wear them to avoid wardrobe malfunctions, and the thong-clad wrestlers of gay porn nod to this fact in horny, one-on-one battles.
Whether on the beach or in the ring, the market for thongs is expanding. People love thongs.
Thongs and sexual health
Anecdotally, you might hear thongs are bad for intimate health. In 2019, a research paper published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research put this hypothesis to the test.
In total, 986 respondents—186 thong wearers and 800 non-thong wearers—were surveyed over a period of 12 months on their intimate health, and the results showed the reported rates of urogenital infections were not significantly different for thong wearers. When it came to underwear choice, fabric was the most important factor: Non-cotton crotch underwear was associated with yeast vaginitis.
Comfort is another story. Thongs can lead to chafing and irritation, so be sure to choose your perfect size (tight-fitting underwear is more likely to cause abrasions) and go for a breathable fabric. As long as your intimate hygiene is on point, a thong is nothing to worry about.
The bottom line
A lot may have changed with thongs since 1939, but people are still horny for them.
"Adult content creators can't be nude on a lot of social media platforms. But they still want to be as sexy as possible," Witt explained. "Other creators don't want to be totally nude, either. Wearing a thong is a way to get around that."