The Thong Show

There has been much discussion of Monica Lewinsky’s thong underwear. Thong underwear has even been adopted as a metonymic for the smuttiness included in Starr’s report. (In fact, underwear isn’t the raciest bit in the report–“oral-anal contact” is more shocking by far–it’s just the raciest bit TV producers will air.) If Lewinsky really seduced the president by showing him the skimpiness of her undergarments, she sounds like an office jezebel. That’s just a caricature, though. What’s the real story?

Teaching us what exactly happened with Lewinsky’s underwear may be the least important thing to flow from Congress’ release of a 500 page report and 3,100 pages of supporting documentation. But under the assumption that no story is too small to deserve Talmudic midrash, or close reading–and because of reader requests–here’s Explainer’s take on what happened.

The Starr report says: “In the course of flirting with [President Clinton], [Lewinsky] raised her jacket in the back and showed him the straps of her thong underwear, which extended above her pants.” Explainer called a local Seattle lingerie boutique and was assured that thong bikini straps–unlike traditional bikini straps–often continue above the waistband of a woman’s trousers. (Explainer also called his local Victoria’s Secret, but the manager thought Explainer was a pervert and hung up on him.) In other words, Monica was surely being saucy, but she didn’t do anything more than raise her jacket and blouse flaps to reveal her lower back.

And there’s a good reason she didn’t disrobe. Contrary to the Starr report, Lewinsky’s newly released testimony suggests that there were other people in the room! (The room was Leon Panetta’s office, the occasion was a pizza party for a staffer’s birthday.) Her Aug. 11 testimony says “no one else in the room could have seen [the thong]; this was something that Lewinsky learned to do when she was having an affair with Andy Bleiler.” (Bleiler, in case you’ve forgotten, is the married high-school drama coach with whom she dallied.) In other words, showing the thong isn’t a prudish way of saying that Lewinsky stripped for the president. Showing the thong was a lewd trick Lewinsky knew, something just slightly more salacious than a suggestive wink.

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