So I went to visit my college town a few months ago and, naturally, went to a bunch of my usual drinking holes. I had a bit of surprise when walking into this one joint that houses a lot of great local acts. For the most part, it looked exactly the same as I’d left it — murals on the walls, cushy couches strewn about haphazardly. Except for, of course, the festive assortment of bras draped from the ceiling.
I’ve seen this odd phenomenon before — in dive bars back home, or in random clubs in various cities. It’s by no means de rigeur (thank god), but it’s cropping up in the most unlikely of places and it leaves me feeling… well, uncomfortable.
I’ve been trying to parse out why this is.
To acquire these bras, bars typically offer some sort of incentive. Maybe a free drink, your name on the wall, that kind of deal. I’ve not been witness to any woman offering her bra up for this exchange, but I can only imagine these females demurely unhooking their bra and slipping the straps off their shoulders and handing the piece of fabric over. The typical locker room shuffle.
However, even if there is an exchange — monetary or otherwise — it still comes out in the bar’s favor.
What does the bar get out of this?
A) The titillation of nearby male customers watching the “show” — leading, perhaps, to increased drink orders (purchased for the very women who remove their brassieres) or increased regular customers
B) Increased interest in the drinks at the bar — buy one, get sloshed, want another.
C) Fueling the male fantasy of “girls gone wild” with an array of bras (a highly sexual symbol) at the bar — again, gaining more regular customers
D) Minimal cost: one shot per bra doesn’t add up to much.
Meanwhile what does the woman get?
A) Dubious “admiration” from fellow bar-mates
B) A drink totaling perhaps $5 in bar-money, $1 or less in reality (given the over-pricing of bar drinks)
C) Handing over an expensive swath of fabric that probably cost upwards of $50 (considering most of the bras I saw were specialty brands or Victoria’s Secret. Most looked new, or in good condition.)
Who comes out on top?
As a female customer, I see these bras and feel uncomfortable. I don’t enjoy looking up and feeling this weird pressure to take my own bra off and add it to the collection. I don’t like wondering why other women took theirs off, or imagining the hooting and hollering that might’ve occurred while they did it.
Maybe I just find it crass and my secret Emily Post is coming out, full of tsk tsks and condescension. Mostly, though, I find it mildly (or flagrantly) exploitative. Which sucks, because goddamnit, I liked that bar.
What do you think? Is it semi-harmless fun a la Girls Gone Wild? (For a parsing-out of that cultural product, see this post). Or is it more insidious than the neon-colored bra-art would lead one to believe?
A Guy Weighs In:
You have to look at what each person is getting out of it. The woman in this situation gets to be edgy/sexy/risque or what have you, without crossing any boundaries that weren’t set by her grandmother, who still thinks that wearing skirts above the knee is a big deal. She also gets to point out to anyone who will listen that the bra that now adorns the bar is hers, and will probably giggle out a solid exaggeration of what too many Cosmos will do to her, and if anyone gets the wrong idea, she can always point out to them that “she’s not that kind of girl” and that the public never actually got to see the twins, so stop getting any ideas, creep.
Meanwhile, the bartender gets a decoration that insinuates to his hordes of alcohol and testosterone fueled minions that the female half of his establishment’s patronage are the the type who will sleep with you if you pump them with enough drinks. At the very least, you’ll get see some titties. This means that every dude in the place trying to get some will be buying for two and mister barkeep will be seeing dollar signs.