Over the past two years, I've worn lingerie for my live-in boyfriend, Ben*, exactly one time, and it was a relatively conservative black sheer thingy with lots of padding. In other words, I'm not really a lingerie person. It's not that it doesn't appeal to me. It's just that the few times I've worn it, I've felt fake, and honestly, I feel better naked.
So back to my padded black thingy: When I spontaneously decided to try wearing lingerie for Ben, we'd been dating for a year or so. I felt sexy in my outfit, but I also felt a little silly dressing up for someone who'd seen me naked so many times and could describe my go-to PJs (polka dot shorts and a cotton tank) with his eyes closed. It didn't help that Ben had once told me he's "not that into lingerie." I had to chug two glasses of wine to stop myself from changing into basic PJs before the big reveal.
When I whipped out that first and only outfit, Ben was all about it (and has been hinting for a repeat performance ever since). The perfect occasion presented itself in the form of an idea: I'd challenge myself to wear lingerie for a week and write about it. So I raided the office fashion closet and brought home a bag of brand-new lingerie to get down to business.
Babydoll Chemise, SAPPHIRE BLISS, $238
I had every intention of going all out for night one: Garters, stockings, the whole bit. But by the time we got home from a boozy dinner late that Friday night, I kind of wanted to pass out. But it'd been a week since we'd had sex (Ben had been sick), and even though we were full from dinner, we were both in the mood.
While he was off brushing his teeth, I slipped on the most forgiving and least revealing outfit in my lingerie arsenal: A low-cut, lace-edged silk chemise. I lit a candle and fussed with the chemise straps in the mirror. I worried that the getup looked too old-fashioned with the flowy skirt and lacey detailing. But the second Ben saw me (and started kissing me immediately), it was clear that he L-O-V-E-D what he saw. I liked it too: The silk made me feel sexier than the cotton I usually wore. After breaking our dry spell and blowing out the candle, I fell asleep wearing the outfit, which made me feel like I was wrapped in a silk sheet.
A few hours later, I started having one of those ridiculously vivid sex dreams. While it's Ben who typically initiates sex, I took the reins this time, kissing his neck until he was awake enough to kiss me back. We had sex and then slept for a few more hours. This time, I woke up with Ben's hands all over me. It was like that silk was magic!
After I thoroughly enjoyed a third orgasm since I'd put on the chemise, Ben offered an unsolicited review: "I like the way this thing feels — that I can feel the silk and your skin," he said while slipping his hand under a strap. "Can you wear it every night? It really turns me on." I laughed. It was only night one — he had no idea what was in store for him. And I didn't tell him.
Slip, VICTORIA'S SECRET
I got a little shy around bedtime on Saturday night. I didn't know how Ben would respond to seeing me in négligée two nights in a row — Suspicious? Fatigued? I chose a deep teal, thigh-length nighty I'd bought myself over six months ago but never got around to wearing. With a wide open back and lace-paneled sides, it was subtly sexy.
Ben was already in bed when I walked into our bedroom in my outfit. He couldn't believe his luck. "Two nights in a row?!" he asked. "You'd look sexy in anything you wore, but I think I like this," he said, pulling me into bed.
We had sex that night, leaving the slip on. And Ben didn't complain when I set my alarm half an hour early for morning sex before brunch the next day. "This is great," he said, referring to our sex track record: Five times in two days. "Maybe you can get seven outfits and rotate?" [Ed. note: He really said this — you can't make this stuff up.]
We were going out of town to visit friends overnight. I only packed one sleep outfit: a red lace cutout bra and panties with a matching garter belt and stockings, plus a silky black robe. I knew Ben would never expect me to go the distance with his friends on the other side of the wall. (Surprise!)
But then the lobster happened. Lots of lobster. Our hosts prepared a massive barbecue that left us both food-coma-ed out on the couch. There literally couldn't be a worse time to have sex but I hadn't packed anything else to sleep in — and it was night three of my challenge!
So while Ben washed up, I put on the bra and panties under my robe, skipping the garter belts and stockings because I couldn't even (They have no give!). When Ben walked into the bedroom, his eyes got real wide and he raised his brows. "Three nights?!" We started kissing and he untied my robe to see what was waiting underneath. "Wow. But you'd look amazing in your polka dot boxer shorts," he said. (Confirmed: My boyfriend is the sweetest.)
We made out for a while before he admitted that he'd forgotten to pack condoms. Because I'm not on birth control, do not want a baby at the moment, and I wasn't dying to have sex in the first place, we settled for snuggling. (Neither one of us was super disappointed, although I sort of wondered whether he was lying about the condom situation just because he was sexed out — a real fear when you start initiating sex on the regular.)
Back at our apartment the next day, I parlayed my condom theory. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," he responded, adding that forgetting condoms was a tragic mistake. "I love seeing you so in touch with your sexuality — all these outfits turn me on, and you turn me on in general, regardless of what you wear." As if to prove his point, he peeled off my sweat-soaked clothes (we'd just returned from a bike ride in 80-plus degree heat) and led me to the bedroom, where we had sex in the middle of the afternoon.
Lace Thong, VICTORIA'S SECRET, $12
A house guest (Ben's sister) threw a wrench into my seven-day plan — she planned a spontaneous trip and was going to be on our couch for three nights. While we live in a one-bedroom apartment, the walls are paper-thin and I didn't want to disrespect her by coming on to her brother just a whisper away. But a streak is a streak, and I didn't want to let our newfound sexual peak flounder. So I had to think strategically, wearing regular PJs outside our bedroom for show. In the bedroom, I stowed a low-maintenance sheer black romper, wondering how Ben would respond to a piece of clothing that's practically designed to confound men (and/or to make peeing more difficult).
But he got into bed before I had a chance to change out of my regular pajamas. "It's over?" he asked when he saw me, referring to the lingerie I'd worn the four previous nights. While he didn't know it, my challenge wasn't supposed end so soon. So, in an uncharacteristically bold move, I pulled my T-shirt up over my head and shimmied out of my shorts so all I was left wearing was a thong. It wasn't an official lingerie outfit, but it was less clothing than I'd worn on the previous nights. We snuggled up skin-to-skin, eventually having sex again (with the air conditioning on for background noise). By my count, I'd had nine orgasms over one long weekend. Life was good! So I vowed to pick up with the lingerie the following day.
Whisper Teddy, ONLY HEARTS, $99
I was particularly excited for romper night, mostly because it was two nights coming and requires no underwear. I was totally coming around to lingerie and feeling much more confident — especially after Ben's disappointment when I showed up in PJs the previous night. It confirmed he was on board with the sexy stuff, even after seeing it on consecutive nights.
Surprising Ben with new outfits was starting to feel like a game that I could easily win by acknowledging the rules: It's like, you know men like when women wear sexy stuff. So if you wear it, then you effortlessly dominate anything that competes for your boyfriend's attention (Bye, phone!). Besides, while Ben and I had always been super affectionate, it was like he couldn't take his hands off me since night one.
After we said good night to his sister (who was still sleeping on our couch), and Ben went to the bathroom to wash up, I swapped my PC pajamas for the black romper, using the plan I'd failed to carry out the previous night. Then I slipped into bed. When Ben joined me, he was, again, overjoyed. We turned on the AC and had sex super quietly.
Playsuit, L'AGENT BY AGENT PROVOCATEUR, $90
Ben's sister was out with some friends for the evening, so we were finally alone in our apartment. It was the perfect night to wear something ballsy: A hot pink, lacy, jumpsuit. It was something that I would have never, ever, imagined myself wearing before, let alone wearing with confidence.
But six nights into my streak, I had very little modesty left and a boyfriend who (god bless him) still seemed hungry for more.
So I strapped into the getup, giddy with confidence. I laughed when I looked in the mirror. How insane is this? I thought. He'll love it.
When Ben walked into the bedroom and saw me huddled under a sheet, he seemed more suspicious than intrigued.
"Um, wow," he began as he peeled off the blankets. "You know I like this ... but I hope you're not spending all your money on this stuff," he said, his practicality piercing the mood. For a second, I felt not sexy but silly.
"You're not writing this for work are you? Are you writing a story? Did you get this stuff for free?" He was on to me. I conceded and told him about the seven-day experiment.
I never planned not to tell Ben about the whole thing. At the time, I thought we'd have more fun if I maintained the element of surprise. And we did have fun! Loads and loads of toe-curling, neighbor-waking fun.
We'd had a super intimate, sex-filled week and were feeling especially close to one another. Here he was, thinking he had the world's best girlfriend — one who decided to upgrade her pajamas out of the kindness of her heart and the desire to please him. Then, all of a sudden, he was blindsided by a major ulterior motive and the prospect of an audience peeking into his sex life.
Ben accused me of faking my way through everything that had gone on that week. "It's not real. You never would have worn that stuff just for me, and we wouldn't have had all that sex," he said. Still in my hot pink outfit, I realized he was right.
But only partially. The intimacy, the sex, the confidence I'd developed from wearing sexy stuff — all that was the real deal. And I wouldn't have volunteered to go so far outside of my comfort zone for any old assignment. I was doing it for Ben.
To me, it was clear that the most fake part of our steamy week was the lingerie. Before the challenge, I'd felt like lingerie was just a costume that women wear to put on a show for their partners. But my relationship with Ben goes so much deeper than theatrics. In real life — in our lives — sex isn't a show and seduction shouldn't require costume. After all, we've always had amazing sex without any lingerie.
Feeling terribly guilty and teary-eyed, I awkwardly shimmied out of the jumpsuit and back into my PJ shorts and tank top, folding into fetal position on my side of the bed. "I'm not mad at you," Ben said. "I just need to digest it."
On the last official night of my challenge, I felt particularly conflicted. I'd grown to love wearing luxe negligees. It just felt so classy to slip into bed wearing boudoir garments, and it had helped me feel way more confident about my body. But I worried that I'd ruined lingerie for Ben.
Ultimately, I decided to say forget it. While I'd begun the challenge with Ben in mind, it was becoming clear that I was the one who'd reaped the greatest rewards. Just six nights of skimpier sleepwear made me feel immeasurably more comfortable in my skin and my bed. Besides, I thought, it's just as easy to slip on something sexy as it is to put on any old PJs. So I picked out a lacey cropped tank and matching undies from my stash. They were sexy but full-coverage, so I didn't feel like I was trying way too hard.
"I'm wearing this because it feels good, just so you know," I announced to Ben as I entered the bedroom.
"You look great," he said. "Come here." Then he lifted the covers for me to climb into bed next to him.
We had amazing sex that night. Now that he's over the big betrayal, and I'm over dressing up for the sake of dressing up, I have every intention to keep my new stuff in my regular PJ rotation — but not just for Ben. For me.
*Names have been changed because some writers' moms (and their boyfriends' moms) may read this and don't need all the details.