Is the Slip a simple sex mask?

Eugen Sandow (1867-1925) first known bodybuilder, using rubber straps which gave his name to this device.

What is a “legless underpants, very fitted, more or less indented on the thighs, worn by men and women as swimming or sports pants” This is the exact definition of slip which takes its name from the English verb to slip meaning “slip”… It is so called because it is an undergarment that is easy to put on, which slides on the skin but also easy to take off, which was a novelty in this first era of sexual liberation, at the beginning of the 20th century. , where it was invented. In France, we find the slip in 1906 in the Manufrance catalog. It was sold for 2 francs and was aimed at athletes at the time, to contain the “genital package” (this is the medical expression for talking about scholarships and the penis!) and facilitate physical exercise.

Previously, in the 19th century, for example, men most often wore no underwear, but used the tails of their shirts to push them into their pants, which was a way of limiting friction.

Previously still in history, many protections enveloped the male sex, the leaf, the shell, the knot, the fabric, the pocket, the case… Depending on the time and the cultures, modest or ritual envelopes have thus embellished the genital region of the males of the human species. Because extremely rare are the populations to have lived completely naked. We can hardly mention the Feugueans, the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, in the extreme south of the American continent, who still lived naked on the almost ice floe at the end of the 19th century. So why these envelopes, why these protections?

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Penis sheath, Papua, New Guinea.

And Slip*the beautiful book by Manuela Morgaine, makes a reasoned inventory of all the protections of the penis and its two acolytes, the testicles (from the Latin testicle, “witness”, because they are, closer to sex, “witnesses to the act”!). In Melanesia, these protections range from a simple vegetable thong held in place by an abdominal strap to the classic Oceanian penis sheath from Papua New Guinea made of a calabash held in place by a natural fiber and covering the penis. This case is primarily used for protection and men have a whole range of them, of different sizes, colors, decorations, they are adorned with boar’s tusks, feathers, teeth or animal claws. Manuela Morgaine specifies their usefulness: “The penis sheath reflects the social status of the man, it warns his enemy, it increases the magical and fertile powers of his penis, it attracts women to it. We thus understand the major importance of this garment, an attribute of virility for the man who wears it, but also a social badge and an emblem of domination. Elsewhere, still in traditional society, it is made of rope, pearls, feathers or raffia… It is magic, it is identity. From the large triangular ceramic cache-sex worn by farmers on the large island of Marajo, in Brazil, to the metal shell of Renaissance lansquenets, this male attribute is primarily protective, but its symbolic functions are numerous, reflecting above all the social status of its bearer.

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During the Renaissance, the pocket-fly contained sex… and its smells!

Whatever the population, the male sex was first wrapped in animal skin and then, with the development of textiles, a fabric, frequently a cotton loincloth woven, embroidered, dyed and decorated with ritual motifs. The fabric is now a second skin. It is the triangular loincloth of many African ethnic groups; the langota Indian, long strip of fabric covering the crotch; it’s the perizonium ancient, or loincloth of purity, which covered the sex of Christ on the cross, nudity being considered by the Romans as a humiliation, should not be shown; it’s the fundoshi, the traditional underwear of Japanese men; or the triangular loincloth of Tarzan, the ape-man imagined by Edgar R. Burroughs. The peasants of ancient Egypt, on the other hand, wore the chendjit, linen loincloth tied with a leather belt, very close to the dhotithis simple and unique square of white cloth that Mahatma Gandhi wore.

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Two ways of the Indian loincloth, the langota, a simple outfit for yogis. “They tell us, Manuela Morgaine tells us, that the langota is favorable to celibacy because it slows down the course of blood in the genitals and prevents untimely erections. It is the outfit of all the great yogis, it has the reputation of making you master of yourself. »

We become aware of the universality of the loincloth, the sex thong, the penis sheath and, ultimately in men, the obliteration of sex which must in no way be seen, a pledge of modesty** more than protection. It is certainly one of the first marks of humanity, a sign that distinguishes humans: the dissimulation of sex.

Unlike the naked monkey, the clothed man is a complex being, both solid but fragile, and the underpants contribute to concealing this vulnerability, both of the body and of the feelings. In all languages, this region is charged with emotion and contains words with very complementary meanings: shame, honour, modesty, modesty, fear, respect… Remember that the word modesty comes from latin to be ashamed, “to be ashamed” and that, even today in anatomy textbooks, the genital region is always decked out with this qualifier of shame: the small pelvis is called “shameful region”, region where “the arteries and veins circulate pudendal nerves” and which is innervated by “the pudendal nerve”. If the brief conceals and envelops the sex in a protective movement, it is much more than a cache-sex, it is still an emblem of virility, often a symbol of reassurance – some men regain confidence in them by touching their genitals – but it is also an object of desire for the romantic partner.

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Kangaroo Brief advertisement, 1956.

Protective case? Manly attribute? Concealer box? Symbolic or magical emblem? contraceptive method? Erotic accessory? Its functions are plural and not always conscious. Its protective role is certain, as we have just shown, it shelters the fragile genital bundle and conceals it. Its magical value, on the other hand, is only valid in traditional society when the codes of its action are known from childhood, as in Papua where the magic of the case can cast a love spell on the chosen one.

Its contraceptive function, meanwhile, is today undeniable but little known. Briefs that are too tight, lined with tight-fitting jeans around the crotch, worn permanently, compress the testicles and maintain a temperature, 37°, which is too high for the production of spermatozoa. It is for this reason that the scholarships are located outside the body to maintain the gametes at a temperature of 35 to 36°. We have also recently marketed a contraceptive heated underpants which, by a sort of tourniquet, keeps the testicles in contact with the body to reduce fertility.

The erotic dimension of briefs is now obvious insofar as it participates, as much as women’s underwear and whatever the orientation of its wearer, in the sensuality of the intimate approach through the game of dissimulation. which arouses desire and stripping due to its ease of slipping away, of “slipping”!

Manuela Morgaine is a filmmaker and writer, Prix de Rome in scenography and winner of the Villa Médicis Hors les Murs 2004. And Slip is a delicious work, rich in iconography to arouse desire.

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* And Slip by Manuela Morgaine, the Threshold, 2021; ** history of modesty by Jean-Claude Bologne, Hachette, 1986.

We want to say thanks to the author of this short article for this remarkable material

Is the Slip a simple sex mask?


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