adventures in sex

The Great Spanx Sex Experiment

Photo: Corbis

In a time of fashionable breastlessness, Spanx has replaced the push-up bra as the “deceptive” undergarment du jour: Detractors will tell you that they are at best a bit of a physical white lie, and at worst deeply unfeminist.

But unlike the push-up bra, Spanx doesn’t simply pop off with a vaguely disappointing lacy whoosh during the natural course of foreplay. Spanx come in many shapes and sizes and grades of tensile strength, the commonality being that none are very sexy to touch or to remove.

I wear Spanx. Before they were widely available, I borrowed my mother’s DKNY “firm control-top” hose, because I liked the way they took me from an unwieldy mass of feminine curves to a sleek river otter, stuffed into a condom. Consequently, Spanx and its generic reproductions are enough of a staple in my non-jeans wardrobe that, when an acquaintance asked, “Do people have sex in them?” my immediate response was, “Of course.”

Conventional wisdom holds that, if a woman is wearing unflattering undergarments and realizes she is going to have sex, she must slip out to “freshen up,” then jam them into a handbag or hide them in the toilet tank for later retrieval. But it’s not always so simple: A friend of mine who claims she’s never let her long-term boyfriend see so much as a cotton brief once got stuck in Spanx after a party, and lie on her bathmat drunkenly weeping while he begged her to unlock the door. But why not have sex in the Spanx? Though I’d never had sex in Spanx, when I had a job that required dressing up, I often went directly from work to meet my boyfriend in “tight-end tights,” a Spanx signature item featuring the totemic “double gusset.” Double gusset is a fancy way of saying “crotch hole” — it looks a little bit like a third set of synthetic labia designed by H.R. Giger. One could, in theory, have sex through it, although I doubt that’s what anybody had in mind in research and development.

“Peeing,” my sister said when I told her about my Spanx sex quest. “That hole is for peeing.”

Ooh, baby, put it in my Spanx hole. Photo: Spanx

Indeed, Spanx’s web copy would have us believe that the scary little talking cooter flap down there is to “make life easier when nature calls.” Although nature could cover an awful lot of cloacal euphemy: Lots of stuff goes in and out of there in the name of “nature.”

“Peeing how?” I asked. I don’t know who these sharpshooters are who can aim their 1,800 PSI urine streams through an opening the size of a bobby pin. My sister rolled her eyes. “You sort of … ” and here she shrugged and made a miniature, horrible little Goatse gesticulation. (It should be noted here, though, that my sister pees like she’s putting out the fire in a tiny orphanage.) Obviously, I now had in front of me a spandex sex Everest: a journalistic quest to prove that one actually could have sex in Spanx.

While I am eminently equipped for the task of fucking in Spanx in pure terms of “having and wearing a lot of Spanx,” I am less equipped to do so on deadline in that I do not have a primary sex partner. If you’d like an excellent yardstick for testing the quality and rectitude of your love life, then by all means, stunt sex writing is for you.

For my first Spanx sex attempt, I wear tight-end tights underneath a short black T-shirt dress, to give the illusion that I’m doing that “leggings-and-a-tunic” look.

My stunt sex target is a guy who has let me write about our Super Casual relationship before. I want him to hook up in the bathroom of the bar where we meet, but alas, there’s a friend there and he and the bartender seem to be friendly as well. Politeness dictates that you don’t sneak off to the unisex while your buddy sits there, sipping his scotch as you fuck against a pee-splashed handicap rail.

I’ll have to wait.

After the bar, we retire for a nightcap at his place. Being in a bedroom only makes the fact that I’m not taking off all of my clothes painfully evident. I think briefly about trying to make it a sexy thing, and then realize that because I am literally up to my elbows in sweaty, feet-smelling spandex, there’s no way to pull a “What if we left them ON?” So I break down and tell him.

“You mean like, in … the hole?” he says.

And here, I realize, is why most stunt sex blog posts are written by married or partnered women. Their husbands know what they’re in for and are either good natured or wearily resigned to being an exhibitionist lunatic, plugging away joylessly over some new sex toy or trendy technique while they wonder why they didn’t ask for a Meyers-Briggs before signing the lease.

“I don’t think I can do this,” he says finally, and gently refuses my offer to remove the Spanx, forsaking the whole spirit of journalistic enterprise.

“Must have been the tallboys,” I say. He smiles wanly.

A few weeks pass. I heal, somewhat. Then, a guy I met a few months back texts me about a party we’re both going to. We’re more colleagues than anything else, but one time, after a couple of drinks, he kissed me in a cab. He seems like one of those “too polite to make a move” guys, which rarely complements my own “subtle hints to grope me” style. But, after a few glasses of Vinho Verde I remember that, underneath my minidress, I am wearing a Spanx high-waisted body tunic. They don’t have the Giger-vagina crotch hole my original Spanx sex quest called for, but they DO have a byzantine snap closure that is just as flummoxing and forbidding to delicate tissues both male and female.

Against all odds, he invites me back to his apartment, where he confusedly pats at various spandex-elastane lumps of the insane person on his bed. There’s a reason that Christiane Amanpour doesn’t psych herself up for a big interview with four glasses of party plonk, Absoluts, and adrenaline spit.

He says something nice about being a little hammered and not having a condom. I decide that worse than having sex in Spanx is the idea of actually sleeping in them, so I pack up and head home.

Walking through the West Village at 2 a.m., the crotch unsnaps and whips me in the ass.

I have now failed to have Spanx sex for just under a month, but there is light at the end of the crotch hole: a past hookup has a show in New York and will be in Manhattan, if I want to “get a late dinner.”

So I make plans to get drinks with a journalist friend in the city while I wait for this guy’s call; we sit in a bar so I can fill my cosseted torso with carbonation like a Mylar party balloon. At this point, I am beyond willing to fudge a little and am wearing a Spanx brand “open bust” cami, which is basically a too-small tank top with the boobs cut out.

After a few beers, I tell my friend what I’m hoping to get up to after he and I have drinks. I figure that, writer to writer, he’ll understand that the situation only looks insidious and reprehensible from the outside.

“Oh, so you’re writing a paid fuck piece,” he says.

“You know? That’s really reductive,” I tell him, yanking at my suspenders like Clarence Darrow and ordering another beer.

My past hookup never calls me.

Back at my journalist friend’s apartment, he listens patiently while I ramble on about the irony of Spanx being sold in a department called “intimates.” He listens to me talk about not getting laid while we sit on the couch and he makes Aperols. It’s only when he holds my hand that I say aloud to the stereo, “Waaaaait a minute. Is this Beach House?” We go to his room. Sex really does happen when you stop trying to have it, apparently.

Later, he actually snaps one of the straps. It makes a sound like a rock bouncing off the bobbin lace of a puritan bonnet. “You’re not keeping this on.”

The Great Spanx Sex Experiment