Why Do Women Throw Their Panties?

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29 Jun

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By Adam Welsch
Naomi & Nicole®

Last week, a news item caught my attention.  It seems that in the midst of a political campaign in Peru, women have begun throwing their panties at mayoral candidate Charles Zevallos.

Leave aside for the moment that Senor Zevallos would never be mistaken for the latest Hollywood Hottie.  He’s an average-looking, middle-aged man with a receding hairline.  And move past the fact that political issues are most certainly of passionate concern to the constituents of the Amazonian administrative region of Maynas.  Simply take the act at face value.  What on earth inspires women to throw their undies at famous people as expressions of their admiration or attraction?

Most of the time, reports of flying panties revolve around musicians and concerts.  The practice is most famously associated, and likely originated, with performances of Welsh singer Tom Jones.  Though at the height of his popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Jones’ career has now spanned five decades and the barrage of lingerie continues to this day.  The minute-long video below shows at least two pair of panties thrown at him during a concert in Portland in 2008 (Mr. Jones being 67 at that time).  If you look closely, you’ll notice a woman in the front row twirling a pair above her head before launching them on stage.

Though somewhat flattered by this practice, and seeing it as “sexy,” when it began in the 1960s, Jones has now tired of the ritual.  In a 2005 interview he said, “I want it to end because it has lost all meaning.”

Panties are thrown at musicians of all genres, in countries all around the world.  But not all performers are tolerant of the phenomenon.  In 2005, New Zealand-born opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa pulled out of a planned concert with Australian pop singer John Farnham after she saw video of women throwing their panties at Mr. Farnham at one of his previous concerts.  She was appalled, and couldn’t allow for the possibility of such distractions intruding upon her operatic performance.

So what’s going here?  The most obvious answer is that panty throwing is simply an expression of the excited attraction women of all ages often feel for their favorite, good-looking, musical or political stars.  Certainly, such emotional outpourings have probably been around as long as music’s been performed.  Stories of female fans swooning, screaming, and fainting at Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley concerts famously exemplify this.  It’s not difficult to see how the arrival of the sexual revolution of the late 1960s would encourage fans to go one step further and “sexualize” their expressions of adoration.  Throwing panties seems to be an available, tangible means of doing so.

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However, there’s probably more to this phenomenon.  One possibility is that the panty throwers see the act as a dare; something to wear as a badge of honor and be able to recount to close friends as something they “did.”  Another is that panty throwing has become an established practice – something that “one just does” when attending a concert, not unlike holding up a lighter or buying a T-shirt.

But one of the most interesting explanations springs from the comparison of concerts and political rallies to religious experiences.  In her 1999 article “Panty Raid!” published by Salon.com, author Virginia Vitzthum likened panty-throwing concert-goers to worshipers rushing up to pulpits to be saved.  The emotional connections fans develop with their favorite stars compel them to try to make physical connections with their idols.  Of course, the physical separation of fans and idols means that the chances of close contact are extremely small.  Transferring something to the star is the only way to achieve anything resembling a physical connection.

Looked at this way, panty throwing isn’t sexual in nature, as the chances of undies serving as lustful calling cards are remote.  Most of the time, the “man-of-the-moment” simply won’t know which pairs of panties belong to which adoring fans.  So, rather than representing “meet me later” text messages, the panties serve as tangible conduits of touch, enabling fans to simulate contact (indirect as it is) with their idols.  And why are panties chosen over shirts, shoes, or pairs of pants?  Perhaps, their intimate nature makes them the best incarnations of the emotional nexuses between fans and those they idolize.  This theory may explain what’s occurring in Peru.

So, next time you’re at a political rally or music concert, make sure to be on the lookout.  Panty throwers, inspired by a variety of motivations, show no signs of reining in their assaults.  And with guys starting to get in on the act, you may not want to stand too close to the stage.

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CC Image courtesy of noppyfoto1 on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/noppyfoto/ / CC BY 2.0
CC Image courtesy of itzpapalotl on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/lena// CC BY 2.0

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