Over the shoulder boulder holders
Last night, on Playing It Straight, the boys were challenged to the “Bralympics“. In this task, they had to go along a line of women (and one man), removing the bra that each was wearing. Their vision blocked by a pair of joke glasses, the winner was whoever could unhook the bras fastest.
Somehow, in some production staff member’s mind, this would be a test of who is straight and who is gay. The logic, it seems, is that straight guys would have past experience with bras. Their attraction to women would have given them more opportunities to unhook bras and therefore more expertise in the task.
The oldest contestant, 27-year-old Dean, won the challenge, but it wasn’t as if any of them was stood there for 20 minutes, pawing helplessly at some woman’s back. (Although there’s a minor continuity issue — the strapless bra is a different colour for some of the guy — so I do wonder if one of them got the bra off by tearing it.)
I understand that this is all light entertainment, and by no means a scientific way of testing sexual orientation. The idea that every straight man is Joey Tribbiani, though, just strikes me as odd.
The pop culture representation of men and bras is extensive. Even within Friends, the various relationships of men and bras is discussed at length. Joey instructs Phoebe to show Chandler her bra because he’s afraid of them, not knowing how they work. Yet Joey can unhook a bra almost by sight. In The King of Queens, Doug is criticised for spending too much time trying to unhook Carrie’s bra, not realizing in the process that it was a front closure.
That was another thing that surprised me last night. Despite having four bras to unhook, the biggest difference between them was that one didn’t have straps. The bra closures were all the same — a few hooks in the back. There wasn’t even a massive difference in the number of hooks. The bras were decoration more than function.
There are all sorts of bra politics. The sexual revolution of various waves of feminism have taken bras off of women. They are portrayed as being an item of sexualization, as some perverted shackle placed upon us by men. You know what? They aren’t.
The wearing or non-wearing of a bra becomes a source of bullying in the pubescent years, and it has nothing to do with the boys. I have distinct memories of an older girl running her hand down our spines, checking for the feel of a bra. Those who didn’t have one got bullied and called babies or something equally clever. Only a year earlier, though, one girl’s wearing of a training bra was mocked. Girls are bitches at that age. You can’t win.
A bra is a necessity for some of us. A bra isn’t a chastity belt for the boobs. It isn’t the gateway to some hidden sex toy. It serves a function — one that I’m really quite thankful for. A bra is a symbol of the feminine, true enough. But it isn’t the evidence of anything other than boobs.
And, contrary to the cultural idea, it isn’t an innate skill of the hyperhetero male to remove them. There are bras that I struggle to get off, where a hook is being pesky. I’ve had a past bra that got thrown away pretty quickly when, on more than one occasion, it popped open with any of a number of normal daily tasks including, but not limited to, reaching down, reaching up, being hugged, and leaning back in a chair.
Yet here we are, once again, watching a parade of 20-something boys fumble about with four bras, claiming that a certain type of manual dexterity is somehow equal to being heterosexual.
As a final point, I refer to one of the greatest television comedies of all time, Seinfeld. The bra features regularly throughout the series, both in terms of male understanding of and female attitudes towards the bra. Here, though, is the ultimate breakdown of the concept that bras are innately feminine… I give you, the bro.