Though no empirical data giving us exact numbers has ever been gathered, pantyhose fetishism is thought to be fairly common. There are several social patterns that support this. For instance, though there’s a lot of variety within the overall spectrum of stockings and pantyhose (style, quality, etc), the garments themselves are fairly commonplace and easily accessible. Pantyhose are also regularly eroticized and frequently utilized as primary and/or ancillary sexualized objects in various forms of erotica and adult content. Factors such as these may result in a sort of “recognizably sexy” quality that has the potential to be appealing to many people.
But why pantyhose as a fetish, specifically? According to Kinkly, pantyhose are often fetishized because “they make legs appear ‘perfect’” – and the capacity for garments to alter the shape and appearance of bodies has a long history and is something people have written about at length.
For instance, in scholarship, Maria Carolina Zanettea and Daiane Scaraboto recently published “From the Corset to Spanx: Shapewear as a Marketplace Icon” in the journal Consumption Markets & Culture. In their article, the authors claim that “whether promoting female autonomy or oppression, shapewear… shapes the female body while symbolically articulating women’s roles.”
So, does it?
Shaping the female body while also articulating women’s social roles – What?
Zanettea and Scaraboto define shapewear as “a type of garment whose function is to alter the shape of the human body by compressing or enhancing it.” Though most obviously consisting of items like bras, corsets and girdles, stockings, pantyhose and related garments also fall under the rubric of shapewear.
The authors argue that, throughout history, tensions between various body-centered market assemblages – sets of objects and discourses that simultaneously determine and reflect the social positioning of bodies in a consumption environment – have been showcased via shapewear. For instance, they recount a scene from the mega-blockbuster film Titanic (1997) wherein the character of Rose DeWitt Bukateris pained by her tight corset lacing… or, by the fact that she is required to impress some dude for the sake of her family’s survival – or actually, probably, by both. In this example, the corset is physically determining the shape of DeWitt Bukater’s body while also reflecting the social status of women at the time.
Defying and Creating Norms and Values
Fast forward to another example discussed by the authors: a corset-wearing “Blond Ambition”-era Madonna in the early ‘90s. This particular corset and its associated look “materialized a combination of seduction and power, drawing on the fetishism references from the Victorian era and on the controversies enacted by the [corset] itself,” (page 9). Madonna’s corset wearing was very different from the fictional-yet-historically-accurate corset wearing exemplified by DeWitt Bukater. Whereas DeWitt Bukater was being physically and socially constrained by her shapewear, Madonna “both defied and created norms and values. Her body wore the corset but was not shaped or modified by it,” (page 10).
Put simply, though the actual messages vary over time, shapewear both shows where ladies fall in the social order of things and also helps place them there. As such, the authors conclude that shapewear can be both empowering and oppressive for women.
What does an erotic shapewear professional say?
Ashley Sinclair got started in adult entertainment on cam in 2010. Today, she is the driving force behind Ashley4k.com, Nylons4k.com, and Humiliation4k.com, three highly successful fetish and fetish-adjacent sites. She’s also a nationally qualified fitness competitor.
Sinclair’s sentiments about shapewear invoke a more empowered, Madonna-esque take on the garments. Rather than being shaped, reshaped, or confined by nylons and pantyhose, she uses them as props in cultivating her own fetish content empire.
“I am in favor of gaining results through hard work and using [shapewear items] more as a toy than a ‘reshaping’ device,” she explained.
I asked Sinclair, for people just getting started making nylon and stocking fetish content, what is one key detail they must pay attention to from the get go?
“Always the clients,” she said. “There is a variety of interests in pantyhose, stockings, and other nylons and being open to everyone’s ideas and experience with them is how I’ve been able to become so popular among nylons enthusiasts. They actually write all my scripts for me. I use their ideas, not my own.”
Sinclair recommends “baby steps” for producers and content creators looking to find their space within various niches.
“Once your content is out there, it’s out there. You wouldn’t want your misinterpretation of a fetish to leave a lasting impression on those who view it,” she said. “I’d find something you are good at and tackle that and then gradually move and experiment with other fetishes. The best way I have found to do that is through cam shows. You gain a lot of experience on specific fetishes as people interact with you their needs and wants on cam.”
Ultimately, fetish content is created to meet the needs of viewers and customers, which in Sinclair’s view is primarily about acceptance.
“This may sounds odd, but I think [viewers]want acceptance,” Sinclair said. “Until recently, this type of content has been so difficult to find and many [viewers] have difficulty expressing what it is they want exactly.”
When considering pantyhose and stocking fetishes, as well as the many other related social patterns that influence the space – from the dual meanings associated with shapewear to evolving social norms and stigma – it’s not surprising that people feel drawn in by and also unable to articulate their interests and desires.