Thong Girl -or- Media and the Rise of Fetishism in Visual Culture

Sexual Fetishism -or- The Erotic Mise en Scene of Visual Culture

One evening a while back I was at a well frequented book store. Three young girls about 19 or 20 who appeared to be friends walk up to the section I was browsing. They are carrying on a conversation, which to my initial surprise was about dreams. The one girl was looking for a book that would explain the dream she had about a "guy she barely knows". "What could it mean?" As the one girl who had the dream leaned over to take a book from a lower shelf, her "thong" became visible to the public and myself. The girl's conversation carried on for a while. I listened with amusement to the ideas that were being discussed, while at the same time biting my tongue. Or was that with tongue in cheek.

Posted at the International Institute for Dream Research (IIDR) website is a dream interpretation, "Mysteries of Dallas" that partly focuses on "panties" as a feminine plot device for fetishistic desire. Searching my dream database for the keyword "thong", sure enough, it can be found in dreams. Here is one such dream;

Victoria, 18

I keep having this dream... it's never exactly the same, but it's always similar.

To start, I wear a purple stone on a leather thong around my neck. It was a gift from a friend, that i dearly treasure. Always in the dream I'm searching for something, and I'm fighting with a sword to get through a great army. I'm trying to get to the other side, sometimes I'm alone and others I'm not. By the time I make any leeway at all, the string the stone hangs on snaps in half and it falls to the ground and shatters. It's then I realize that I'm covered in blood, and only some of it's my own... and always, right before I wake up, I see a single white feather covered in drops of blood. I'm never afraid when I wake up, only mournful. What would you think this means?

Mr Hagen's Reply: Female Perversions in Dreams -or- The Thong Anthem 

Reportedly Monica Lewinsky lured Bill Clinton into an illicit affair by initially giving a "thong flash" to the President. The Lewinsky affair would nearly cost Clinton his Presidency.  The thong has had an influence on visual culture, in that it has tested our social boundaries and limits. The thong has also found poetic expression in your dream. You state that the leather thong hangs around your neck, and you must fight your way "through a great army". 

This popular culture idea is not a new one. A whole commercial franchise called "Thong Girl" has been built around this visual culture industry mise en scene fantasia, with the target group being girls your age. Then there is the "Thong Song" (watch music video) anthem by Sisqó. The influence of media in creating this visual cultural phenomena of "sexual objectification" by inducing such dreams is undeniable. 

Ariel Levi in "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Cultureargues that American sexual culture not only objectifies, it encourages women to do so. Some have argued that it marks the triumph of feminism. My dream research suggests that we live in a "divorce culture" and what has triumphed is pornography and the grotesque, at the expense of empathetic and loving relationships. Pamela Paul's "Pornified: How Pornography Is Damaging Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families" provides a similar message. 

Louise Kaplan's  "Female Perversions", lays the literary foundation for a moral indictment in the court of public opinion against our social institutions and our culture industries. In Kaplan's words; "...the fates of women and men I will describe are played out against the background of the perversions in our most revered social institutions-the family, the church, the fashion and cosmetics industries, the pornography industry, the department store, and not the least perverse among them the medical profession." The IIDR has attempted via the dream interpretations and articles posted, to make the social institutional and visual culture industry process by which failed psychosocial and psychosexual development is induced into each new generation transparent. 

You say by the time you have made any "leeway", "the string the stone hangs on snaps in half and it falls to the ground and shatters." The word "leeway" has the connotation of securing your freedom. In this sense, what the dream may be saying, is that the cost of freedom is that which you treasure the most. You never feel fear in your dream, well that's the psychological function of a fetish, it's by definition an "anxiety reliever". What you do feel is "mourning", in other words it's just plain sad. Why? As you realize in the dream while fighting your battles, there is always blood and it's not all yours. The fixed idea of blood on the feather, is like blood letting on your poetic soul. Some have called our poetic soul the "inner child", I call it our "true self". Taken to the extreme, some psychologically sell their inner soul for material freedom and success. The word "mourning" is connotatively accurate in that as a culture, we all participate in the ongoing spectacle and suffer from the ongoing "battle of the sexes". The Germans have a word for what you feel, "Weltschmerz" (loosely translated psychological pain). 

My article "Film Noir and the Battle of the Sexes" provides a more personal narrative of when I was a young man and lost my own poetic innocence and idealizations, and began consciously feeling "Weltschmerz". 

Further Reading: 

  • Erich Fromm "The Art of Loving"
  • Louise Kaplan "Cultures of Fetishism"





All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.