The date had gone wonderfully-a night of perfect romance after months apart. So when Hanna stripped down in front of her long-distance boyfriend once they got home, revealing red lace panties with a matching bra and garter, she expected a reaction worthy of her fancy lingerie. "But he proceeded to look at me, say, 'I'm gonna go brush my teeth,' and came out and fell asleep," she says. "So not the reaction I wanted."
Hanna, 21, still loves buying and wearing lingerie, just not in front of her boyfriend. "Now I really just keep my lingerie to myself, where it's appreciated," she says.
Bummer as it may be, Hanna's story of a flubbed attempt at sexiness is far from unique. Every single day, women squeeze into fancy sets that more closely resemble elaborate safety harnesses than underwear, and every single day, men who have sex with those women are dumbfounded about how to respond. It's an issue that (unsurprisingly) plagues Reddit, where a guy recently asked women to weigh in on his own confounded reaction to surprise sexy undies. And it begs the question: does anyone really like lingerie?????
At its best, lingerie boosts sex appeal by making the wearer both look and feel hot. It's a common way of mixing things up, similar to the way eating your regular breakfast off a special plate on your birthday makes it feel somehow better. "Lingerie can be flattering and a turn-on," explains Sandi Kaufman, LCSW, a sex therapist in New York City. "Men are visual and lingerie spices things up. It's a form of foreplay without words."
\"His eyes widened like a little kid opening a present.\"
Over-the-top lingerie also boosts intimacy, Kaufman adds, because wearing it around someone else requires the ultimate sexy thing: Vulnerability.
For instance, one Valentine's Day, Cristina, 27, decided to bust out some lingerie when visiting her long-distance boyfriend in New Orleans. Even though they were "so in love," Cristina says she spent the entire plane ride worrying about revealing the red lacy set she wore underneath her clothes.
"But as soon as we got home, he started to undress me and loved it," she says. "His eyes widened like a little kid opening a present. I've never been one to show off my body, so he was very supportive. It was intimate, and brought back the passion that we felt for each other."
That kind of supportive reaction is basically the way everyone hopes their partner will respond to a surprise set of sexy undies. Ideally, a partner should be "complimentary, accepting, loving" and "never critical" of a vulnerable move like wearing lingerie, Kaufman adds.
To try and figure out whether your partner will leave the room to brush his teeth or rip your clothes off in excitement, Kaufman recommends starting with simple lingerie-like a silky slip or a fancy bra-or have a conversation about what kinds of underthings you and your partner find sexy. It might kill the surprise vibe, but it also lessens the risk of a lacy bedroom tragedy.
Or, take a note from Hanna's playbook and just wear lingerie when you're alone, completely mitigating the risk of a guy staring at you like you're wearing alien skin. That's also what Mira, 22, decided to do after one-too-many bad experiences with men under-reacting to the (expensive) undies she strapped herself into, thinking they'd be as into it as she is.
"Now I wear my lingerie alone at home for a self-care kinda night, with my music, candles a good book, bottle of wine... you get the picture," Mira says. TBH, this sounds like maybe the best context in which to wear lingerie: for your damn self.
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