Social impact of thong underwear

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Rise in popularity of thongs among younger girls has been attributed to pop idols like Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.[1] Picture shows Britney Spears performing, 2011.

The social impact of thong underwear has been covered extensively in the media, ranging from a ban on wearing thongs to thongs for the underaged. The rise of thong usage has been asserted by Christian minister Oneil McQuick to be linked to a rise of sexualization in society,[2] and by Christian writer Philo Thelos to be linked to a rise in a desire to go unclothed.[3]


Woman wearing a T-back thong in Sunrise, Florida, USA in 2006

When discussing the trend of wearing thongs, Christian writer Sharon Daugherty comments in her book What Guys See That Girls Don't: Or Do They? that the fashion industry "may have changed the mindset of our society",[4] which was followed by the observation that "the whole idea of wearing so that no panty line or bumps can show isn't substantiated" and that "the thong was created by fashion designers to arouse sexual thoughts".[5]

Monica Lewinsky gave evidence during the Lewinsky scandal that she was flirting with Bill Clinton in Leon Panetta's office, and that she lifted her jacket to show him the straps of her thong underwear above her pants.[6] Some of the news media in America used thong underwear as a metonym for smut in the Starr Report.[7] According to feminist commentator Carrie Lukas, Lewinsky "with her thong-snapping seduction, forever changed the image of the D.C. junior staffer from aspiring policy wonk to sexual temptress."[8]

Marketing analysts Marian L. Salzman, Ira Matathia and Ann O'Reilly observed in the book Buzz: Harness the Power of Influence and Create Demand that thong brands are riding on the wide media coverage of thongs to create buzz.[9] Photographer Lauren Greenfield wrote in her book Girl Culture, "Understanding the dialectic between the extreme and the mainstream – the anorexic and the dieter, the stripper and the teenager who bares her midriff or wears a thong – is essential to understanding contemporary feminine identity."[10]

In 2004, political commentator Cedric Muhammad wrote in essay The Thong versus the Veil, "We wondered at the end of the day, of the two groups of women most prominently featured on American TV these days, who gains more respect for their intellect and spirit – the Afghan woman who is so totally veiled that you can't even see her eyes or the Black woman in the R&B and Hip-Hop video who dances while wearing a bikini and thong?"[11]

School restrictions[edit]

The dress code for St. Ambrose Academy, a Roman Catholic middle school and high school in Madison, Wisconsin, specifically addresses swimsuits with "thong-cut legs" as inappropriate.[12] At Dixon High School in Dixon, California, the dress code specifies that all undergarments – specifically listing thongs, along with bras and briefs – must be covered.[13] University of Victoria Law School briefly put the school logo on thongs, but quickly pulled them from sale after controversy sprung up.[14]

In 1999 a Miami University male professor was banned from using the school's recreation center because he refused to stop wearing thong swimwear. The professor challenged the school in court.[15] In 2000 a Salinas High School principal was in the center of a variety of controversies including bans on clothing to the extent that "thong panties were unofficially banned." One student alleged that she was given a dress-code violation note for wearing a thong.[16][17] This story made national headlines in the United States.[16][18]

In 2002, a female high school vice principal in San Diego physically checked up to 100 female students' underwear[19] as they entered the school for a dance, with or without student permission, causing an uproar among students and some parents and eliciting an investigation by the school into the vice principal's conduct.[20] In her defense, the vice principal said the checks were for student safety and not specifically because of the wearing of thongs.[21][22][23][24][25] In 2003, the head teacher of a British primary school voiced her concern after learning that female students as young as 10 were wearing thong underwear to school. This incident led to a media debate about the appropriateness of thong underwear marketed to young girls.[26]


The University of California 4-H program specifically forbids "string, thong or crochet" swimsuits for women.[27] For men, the dress code specifies "swim trunks only (no shorts, cut-off pants, or Speedos)." A similar policy by Virginia FCCLA bans "skimpy bikini or thong type suits" for women and specifies "swim trunks" for men ("no speedos").[28]

In 2001, Vicky Botwright, then 16th seeded in women's squash circuit and dubbed the "Lancashire Hot Bot", was prohibited by the Women's International Squash Players Association (WISPA) from wearing a thong and a sports bra in the British Open Championships.[29] Initially, WISPA was "suggesting a thong was inappropriate", but in the end decided no formal ruling was needed against thongs. Botwright stated that "we should be able to wear skimpy clothing if we want to, as some of the more conventional outfits we wear can be quite restrictive..."[30]

In 2004, Alexander Putnam competed in the London Marathon in a green thong and painted as a tropical tree to protest against logging in Congo.[31]

Female bodybuilders in America are prohibited from wearing thong or T-back swimsuits if contests are being filmed for television, otherwise they are allowed to do so by certain fitness organizations.[32]


In October 2002, Florida officials banned thongs from Daytona Beach and other public beaches.[33]

For younger girls[edit]

The 2000s saw a rise in the popularity of thongs among younger girls, who have been dubbed "thong feminists" by comedian Janeane Garofalo. According to child therapist Ron Taffel, when 12-year-old girls wear a thong, "it's not about rebellion against adults"; rather, he says that the thong is a "statement to other kids that they are part of this very, very intense, powerful second family of peer group and pop culture that is shaping kids' wants, needs and feelings."[34] Developmental psychologist Deborah Tolman does not agree that all young girl-thong wearing is sexualized; she states that "[k]ids are engaged with their sexuality at younger ages, but they're not necessarily sexually active", and she says tween thong wearers may be facing " pressure to look sexy — without crossing over the murky line into seeming slutty".[34]

The trend has been attributed to pop idols like Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez.[1] In 2002 Abercrombie & Fitch released a line of thong underwear targeted for girls ages 10–16, though critics pointed out that children as young as seven could fit one of the thongs.[35][36][37] A spokesman for A&F, Hampton Carney, stated that he could list "at least 100 reasons why a young girl would want thong underwear."[36] This controversy spawned a great deal of free publicity for Abercrombie, including a chain letter that received wide circulation.[38] British retailer Argos produced child-size thongs and padded bras for girls as young as nine, eliciting a similar response from the public.[39][40] Etam, another British retailer, produced sheer tops and thong underwear for girls of similar age.[41] In Japan, photobooks and DVDs of underaged girls in T-back thongs have become popular as "T-back Junior Idols", a phenomenon which has been criticised as a disguised form of child pornography.[42]

Indecent exposure[edit]

  • In August 2007 a man in Texas was arrested for indecent exposure for being naked in his own backyard. He reported that he was in fact wearing a thong and was not naked.[43]

Other impacts[edit]

  • A YMCA management firm has addressed thongs in dress code policy, stating (in different areas) that "thong-type wear isn't an issue." Additionally, an email from a university fitness center implied that there are safety issues ("thongs on bike seats") that would need to be addressed.[16]
  • In 2007 a man who had broken into a home wearing only a thong was sentenced to 20 years in prison for burglary and attempted rape.[44][45] He pleaded "guilty but mentally ill" at the May trial and was sentenced in July.
  • In 2007 the Tennessee Department of Correction banned prison visitors from wearing thong or g-string underwear. In the words of Correction Commissioner George Little, prisoners "don't need any help getting turned on."[46]
  • After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, thousands of thongs were donated to relief organizations sending relief packages to Sri Lanka. These were largely discarded amongst the influx of more culturally sensitive and functional utilitarian clothing items.
  • During photography for Google Street View, a woman in a thong was one of the images discovered that caused consternation over the project.[47]
  • In 2005, the New York Daily News reported an incident of female United States military soldiers in Iraq stripping down to their thongs to participate in mud wrestling as an entertaining show.[48]
  • In 2019, an online retailer's high-cut 'front thong' bodysuit garnered a negative response from women, who felt the garment was too revealing and that it could cause discomfort to the genital area.[49]

Popular culture[edit]

  • In 2000, R&B singer Sisqó recorded the "Thong Song" on his Unleash the Dragon album.
  • Writer-director Glen Weiss made three movies titled the Thong Girl, based on the comic book of the same name.[50] The story of the films revolved around the Thong Girl, an independent superhero. Parts of the film were shot in Nashville's mayor's office in 2007.[51]
  • Beermaker Rolling Rock aired a commercial poking fun of male thong wearers during Super Bowl XLI.[52]
  • In 2002, Shefali Zariwala, a model in India, became known as the "thong girl" for her performance in which her thong is visible, in the music video of Kaanta Laga.[53] The album sold two million copies and the music video became an overnight success in India.[54]
  • In 2008, a diamond studded thong worth US$122,000 was featured in a Singapore lingerie fashion show. It had 518 brilliant-cut diamonds, totaling 30 carats (6.0 g), studded into the front of a black lace thong in a floral pattern, as well as 27 white gold tassels hanging off it.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Grin and bare it, San Francisco Chronicles
  2. ^ McQuick, Oneil (2007). The Sexuality Series. L.I.M Publishing. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-4196-4225-8.
  3. ^ Thelos, Philo (2003). Divine Sex: Liberating Sex from Religious Tradition. Trafford Publishing. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-55395-400-2.
  4. ^ Daugherty, Sharon (2006). What Guys See That Girls Don't: Or Do They?. Destiny Image Publishers. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-7684-2368-6.
  5. ^ Daugherty 2006, p. 63.
  6. ^ Starr, Kenneth (September 1998). "Report to the House on President Clinton: Narrative Pt. II: Initial Sexual Encounters (extract)". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ "The Thong Show". 22 September 1998 – via Slate.
  8. ^ Lukas, Carrie (2006), "Sex: love's got something to do with it", in Lukas, Carrie (ed.), The politically incorrect guide to women, sex, and feminism, Washington, DC Lanham, Maryland: Regency Publishing, p. 21, ISBN 9781596980037. Preview.
  9. ^ Marian L. Salzman, Ira Matathia and Ann O'Reilly, Buzz: Harness the Power of Influence and Create Demand, Page 116, John Wiley and Sons, 2003, ISBN 0-471-27345-7
  10. ^ Lauren Greenfield, Girl Culture, Chronicle Books, 2002, ISBN 0-8118-3790-4
  11. ^ Laura Flanders (ed.), The W Effect: Bush's War on Women, Page 181, Feminist Press, 2004, ISBN 1-55861-471-0
  12. ^ "Ambrose Academy website" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 July 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  13. ^ "Dixon High School". Archived from the original on 11 October 2007. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  14. ^ "Indissent, University of Victoria". 10 August 2003. Archived from the original on 10 August 2003. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  15. ^ "Professor sues Miami U to keep thong swimsuit". Cincinnati Enquirer. 2 March 1999. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  16. ^ a b c Monterey County Weekly
  17. ^ "Metro Active". Metro Active. 14 September 2000. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  18. ^ "CNN transcript". 13 September 2000. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  19. ^ "Channel 10 news". 17 June 2002. Archived from the original on 20 November 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  20. ^ NBC San Diego Archived 11 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "> News > North County - 2 on RB High staff faulted for checks of undergarments". 5 June 2002. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  22. ^ "> News > North County - Demotion possible for assistant principal". 16 June 2002. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  23. ^ "USA Today". 18 June 2002. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  24. ^ "CBS News". CBS News. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  25. ^ NBC San Diego Archived 14 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ "Bbc (Uk)". BBC News. 28 May 2003. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  27. ^ "University of California, Davis". Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  28. ^ VCCS FCCLA website[dead link]
  29. ^ "All thong wrong @ BBC Sports Online". Archived from the original on 3 December 2002.
  30. ^ "Nothing wrong with a thong, says squash body". IOL. 26 June 2001. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  31. ^ "Mara-thong" Man runs from Congo loggers, Rainforest Foundation
  32. ^ Maria R. Lowe, Women of steel: female bodybuilders and the struggle for self-definition, page 191, New York University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8147-5094-X
  33. ^ Donna Leinwand (5 January 2003). "Alcohol-soaked spring break lures students abroad". USA Today.
  34. ^ a b Wallis, Claudia (28 September 2003). "The Thing About Thongs". Time. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  35. ^ "CNN Money". CNN. 28 May 2002. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  36. ^ a b JS Online Archived 14 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  37. ^ Kaufman, Leslie (24 May 2002). "New York Times". Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  38. ^ "Break the Chain website". 6 June 2002. Archived from the original on 22 January 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  39. ^ 20 Feb 2007 (20 February 2007). "(UK)". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  40. ^ This Is Money (9 July 2001). "(UK)". Daily Mail. UK. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  41. ^ The Sun (UK)[dead link]
  42. ^ Jun Hongo (3 May 2007). "Photos of preteen girls in thongs now big business". Japan Times. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007.
  43. ^ "San Marcos Daily Record "Backyard exposure leads to arrest"". 8 August 2007. Archived from the original on 7 September 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  44. ^ "WPCO 9 (ABC) "Thong-Wearing Burglar Sentenced"". Archived from the original on 15 December 2007.
  45. ^ "WKRC 12 (CW) "Thong Robber Sentenced to Prison Time"". 24 July 2007. Archived from the original on 18 May 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  46. ^ "Fox News "Tennessee Bans Prison Visitors From Wearing G-Strings, Sexy Lingerie"". Fox News. 7 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  47. ^ "» Google Street View Showing Sunbathing and A Woman's Thong » Blog Archive » SEO/SEM News". 3 June 2007. Archived from the original on 20 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  48. ^ Female soldiers dress down & get dirty for mud romps G.I.S GONE WILD, NY Daily News Archived 19 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  49. ^ Bartiromo, Michael (5 February 2019). "Online retailer's high-cut 'front thong' bodysuit gets backlash: 'Crime against humanity'". Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  50. ^ Lloyd DeBerry. "Thong Girl". Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  51. ^ In Dissent Archived 11 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  52. ^ "SplendAD". SplendAD. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  53. ^ 'I'm India's original thong girl', Times of India
  54. ^ Indian Government censors music videos, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  55. ^ Diamond thong shown to the throng Reuters