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Why men get into a twist over buying lingerie

Your man gifted you with knickers and a sexy nightgown, so romantic hmmm. However, you may never know how awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing it felt for him

Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi

Just a fortnight ago, Valentine’s Day came and passed. But one thing that stood out on that day and many other days such as this, is the way shop owners and malls splash sexy items on their displays.

Lacy bras, panties, stockings, teddies, bikinis, garters, thongs, fetish wear, nighties and more. These sexy items are clearly women’s items, so they obviously were supposed to be gifts from their men.

But whether men purchase lingerie for their women in Kenya, is the critical question, and a subject of hot debate. Joseck Oiruria says there is nothing more embarrassing than a man being seen entering a lingerie shop let alone buy. “So how do you begin?” he poses.

“Even worse, how much does that thong go for? Then how do you go ahead and discuss with a stranger about the so many types and sizes of some stuff you won’t even recognise? No, some things are just private,” adds the 37-year-old.

Donna Mwangi, 32, agrees. He describes purchasing lingerie as an intimidating experience. He says the funny looks on other buyers and some saleswomen are hounding. “I tried once to a buy sexynight wear for my wife, but I don’t think I would do it again.

Especially in the event where I had to come face-to-face with a salesperson to discuss size, colour and the many types of underwear I could choose from.

The woman took me around the shop as she pointed at the different types, my palms were literally sweating. I don’t remember one thing she told me, I just paid for one item and left,” he laughs. Is it really that awkward for men?

Mwangi says being seen encircled by panties, stockings and fetish wear is just as humiliating for them as a woman being caught googling ‘how to naturally get bigger hips’. Debora Kalekye of De’Bras Bliss lingerie shop says she has experienced men who have come into her shop and without buying anything left in a hurry as if they forgot something.

But she points out that men’s hesitation to purchase lingerie could also be contributed by the fact that in many lingerie shop salespeople know that men spend big and don’t bargain much when it comes to under garments.

They want to get over with it and leave. “The general feeling about men is that they would buy anything in order to get out of the store as quickly as possible. That means they would spend more money, maybe that extra attention is the reason why they feel intimidated,” she discloses.

Women on the other hand, Debora says, are more value-oriented, and so they show them deals. But Gilbert Marango, a sociologist says, it is mostly an African problem.

He says, where and how one was raised has a huge impact on how you approach many things. “Someone who was raised in a conservative or deeply traditional setting would not feel comfortable to purchase an underwear as they are seen as private garments,” he explains.

This does not stop at only buying. Marango says that even looking or washing underwear for a spouse for such men would be a huge taboo. He says men also fear and cannot hold back the disappointment upon gifting someone with a gift they may not appreciate.

However, he says the inhibitions about buying underwear are quickly fading away. In the past decade, the idea of men giving their partners a bra and knickers for a special occasion is romantic.

As to whether a man should feel embarrassed about buying the smalls or not, Marango notes that it depends on the purpose for which the underwear is being bought and for who.

“As long as the man is in an intimate relationship with a woman, it should not feel intimidating and the best way to do it would be to walk into the shop with confidence and mention that you are buying it for your wife. It breaks the ice,” he offers.

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