Why is animal print lingerie synonymous with sex?
When I set out to tackle this profound question, Hanky Panky Senior Designer Larissa suggested I re-watch Mike Nichols’ 1967 film, The Graduate, paying particular attention to Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft)’s clothes.
Turns out Mrs. Robinson wears animal prints in no fewer than six scenes: a tiger print dress to Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman)’s graduation party; a leopard print bra and slip underneath the dress, which Ben helps to unzip; a leopard fur coat to their rendez-vous at a hotel bar; a giraffe print skirt in the hotel room; a zebra skin lounge throw over her legs at home when Ben comes to call on her daughter, Elaine; and a leopard fur-trimmed jacket and pillbox hat to Elaine’s church wedding.
In her hunter and grazer animal prints, Mrs. Robinson is both predator and prey, as trapped as Ben in banal suburbia, even if her own poor choices put her there (a romp in the back of a car with a silly man, an unplanned pregnancy, an abandoned art degree, and alcohol, cigarettes, passionless sex, and beautiful clothes to fill the emptiness). Their affair transforms Ben from an angsty boy to a resourceful man who will stop at nothing to get the woman he wants (Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, alas, not Mrs. Robinson herself). Seduction, it seems, is not enough to bag the game.
But even without cultural references, nothing says Call of the Wild like animal print lingerie. As we know from PBS’s Nature series, or from taking Fido or Fifi to the dog park, other mammals are happy to do it in the open (on camera even). Does donning animal prints help us check societal inhibitions at the bedroom door? Do we assume the characteristics of a leopard when we wear her spots (most importantly, hand-eye coordination)?
All partying aside, the best thing about animal print lingerie may be its visual impact. Could any human-made pattern ever rival what Nature has produced on the coats of leopards, jaguars, tigers, zebras and giraffes? The striking look of animal prints, as much as their sexual connotations, is responsible for their being what one fashion writer called “an oxymoronic ‘trendy classic’.”