I’ve always done my best not to shy away from tackling sensitive subjects and taboo issues on this blog. I’ve written about getting an accidental hand job from a masseuse. I’ve written about period sex, and angry sex, and sex when I don’t come. I’ve written about strap-ons, because I like them, and about blowjobs, because I
However, until today I avoided confronting perhaps the most sensitive subject – the most taboo issue – of them all…
…yes, I’m talking about men who keep their socks on during sex.
Even Ella Dawson – one of the most sex-positive people I know – blanched at the notion of hopping into bed with a chap who declined to bare his toes before getting down to business.
“For me it comes down to the fact that socks are goofy,” she wrote. “When I see the guy I’m fucking is still wearing his socks, I immediately laugh.”
And it’s hard to argue with that response, especially when it seems to reflect conventional wisdom on the subject. Socks are not sexy, and men who wear them in bed – well, they’re even less so. Socks are smelly and sweaty. They draw attention to the feet – not a strong selling-point for most guys. With very few exceptions they look either boring or ridiculous; and as a society we seem to have decided that, by association, the same must be true of any man who can’t bring himself to remove them pre-shag.
I should add at this point that I have no vested interest in the topic, beyond a general desire to debunk ridiculous sexual myths and stereotypes; because even bearing in mind what I wrote in the last paragraph, sock-wearing feels to me like an example of finding the idea of something unsexy, rather than the something itself. We mock it because we think it says something about the guys who do it, not because socks look any more inherently unattractive on men than they do on women.
Does that matter though? Or rather, are the things it says about those guys actually true? When I first started thinking about this yesterday afternoon, I was struck by the fact that – in my head at least – the one type of sex where socks on men are both common and accepted is the type that takes place on camera. When I think about male porn stars, I picture dubious facial hair, enormous dicks…and yes, little white ankle socks. A bit of research confirmed that I wasn’t imagining things: of a random sample of 10 Youporn clips (I know, the sacrifices I make…), six of them featured men whose footwear remained in place for the duration of the scene.
At the time, I thought that was going to be the perfect rebuttal to a tired old cliché. If we watch porn to get off, and if the men in porn generally wear socks, doesn’t it follow that socks must, at the very least, be no great barrier to arousal?
It was only this morning that I realised my mistake. Most mainstream porn (straight and gay) is made by men for men – if it turns women on too, that’s really just a happy accident. As a result, those ankle socks aren’t there because women find them arousing; they’re there because the men can’t be bothered to take them off, and because they don’t intend to stick around after shooting their load. The socks symbolise the fleeting, transactional nature of the sexual encounter, and if that’s true in porn, maybe it’s true in life as well.
My conversation with Ella brought that idea into sharper focus.
“I know other women who think socks are symbolic,” she said. “If a man leaves his socks on it means he has one foot out the door.”
Then there’s the late Kirsty MacColl. ‘Don’t come the cowboy with me, Sonny Jim,’ she implores, and why? Take it away, Kirsty…
‘Some boys with warm beds and cold, cold hearts
Can make you feel nothing at all
They’ll never remember and they’ll never mind
If you’re counting the cracks in the wall
They’re quick and they’re greedy
They never feel guilty
They don’t know the meaning of hurt
The boots just go back on
The socks that had stayed on
The next time they see you
They treat you like dirt
The next time they treat you like dirt’
Socks are dull and boring. Socks are goofy and ridiculous. So far, so blah. What I hadn’t considered is that for some people, socks symbolise impermanence. Lack of intimacy. ‘One foot out the door.’ Or that if a guy can’t be bothered to take them off, maybe there are other things he can’t be bothered to do either, like give head, or prioritise her orgasm, or stick around and cuddle afterwards.
Do I occasionally leave my socks on when I fuck? Sure. Sometimes it’s because I don’t want to break off to remove them. Like putting on a condom, it’s possible to do it in a sexy way, but it can also feel fumbling and awkward, jarring you both out of the moment, however briefly – unlike putting on a condom, it’s never essential to the whole process, so why not skip it every now and then?
At other times, I leave them on because we’re both so desperately, pantingly horny that every extraneous action gets forgotten: all that matters is getting down and dirty, even if that means we forget about a pair of socks here, or a bra there.
For the most part though, when I think about leaving my socks on during sex, I think about serious relationships, and about the sort of easy comfort where neither of us has to worry about the impression we’re giving – because we know each other well enough to look beyond and inside that.
I didn’t expect to come to this conclusion yesterday afternoon, but maybe when that deep, intimate connection doesn’t exist – and when it’s not clear from the start that it’s just a casual hook-up – there are good reasons for men to make a bit of an effort and leave their socks on the bedroom floor, where they belong.