The Erotic Cloth - Abstracts

Session 2: The Undisciplined Cloth

Articulating Our Tactile Experience With Textiles: Undisciplined Conversations On The Unspoken - Bruna Petreca et al

Tactile experience with textiles is largely subjective and still poorly described by research. We propose a study into how people’s personal experiences influence their perception of textile materials, and of themselves in turn. At the start of this investigation we were soon challenged to recognize where touch begins: on the hand touching the fabric; or before, in the movement initiated by the hand that moves away from the body and towards the textile; or even earlier, on the movement of the textile that seduces visually and draws the attention, triggering a desire to move the hand towards the fabric? Seduction, anticipation, encounter and experimentation (Tallis 2003 and Sennett 2008) – these moves seem inherent to our experience with textiles. Literature highlights personal experiences (Berthoz & Petit 2008; Merleau-Ponty 2012) and expertise (Goodwin 1994; Kirsh 2013) as crucial for perception processes, and that we perceive the world with mind and body (Merleau-Ponty 2012), actively exploring it (Nöe 2004).

We move to experiment new ways of stimulating (Greiner 2010). Hence, it is improbable that any two people perceive it equally. Still, we can talk about these experiences (Obrist et al. 2013). Building on such knowledge and on accounts on embodied and affective experience with textiles (Petreca et al. 2013) we present a qualitative exploratory study applying a first-person approach (Varela & Shear 1999). Using the “Elicitation Interview Method” (Petitmengin et al. 2013), we interviewed 5 professionals whose sensory experiences with textile materials are crucial for their practices. Initial results suggest the introduction of this method as promising tool to access tactile experiences with textiles and support design research. We discuss facets of this rich experience and present a refined framework for our future research. 


  • Berthoz, A. & Petit, J-L. (2008). The Physiology and Phenomenology of Perception. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.
  • Greiner, C. (2010). O Corpo Em Crise: Novas Pistas E O Curto-Circuito Das Representações.  São Paulo: Annablume.
  • Merleau-Ponty, M. (2012). Phenomenology of Perception. New York: Routledge.
  • Nöe, A. (2004). Action in Perception. Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Obrist, M., Seah, S.A., Subramanian, S. (2013). Talking About Tactile Experiences. CHI’13, pp.1659-1668.
  • Petitmengin C., Remillieux A., Cahour B., Carter-Thomas S. (2013). A gap in Nisbett and Wilson’s findings? A first-person access to our cognitive processes. Consciousness and Cognition 22 (2), 654–669.
  • Petreca, B., Bianchi-Berthouze, N., Baurley, S., Watkins, P., Atkinson, D. (2013). An Embodiment Perspective Of Affective Touch Behaviour In Experiencing Digital Textiles. Proceedings ACII 2013.
  • Sennett, R. (2008). The Craftsman. London, UK: Penguin Books.
  • Tallis, R. (2003). The hand: A Philosophical Inquiry into Human Being. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Varela, F. & Shear, J. (1999). First-person Methodologies: What, Why, How? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6, No. 2–3, pp. 1–14.


Kink in the classroom: pedagogy and erotic clothing - Brigitte Stockton

Kink without clothing is simply a naked experience! Historically, culturally, and in global, contemporary society, clothing and accessories can be considered as the enabling erotic factor; determining roles, causal effect and psychological impact. Yet how can a student of fashion design learn these aspects to ensure they can meet the needs of their target consumer?

This paper will explore how fashion design students are consciously and subconsciously taught to consider ideologies of attraction and how these supporting mechanisms of design are able to influence their ability to work across consumer target groups. As texture, fit, function and narrative of a garment may be critiqued through the development stages of design it is the awareness of the erotic interpretation that determine future marketing criteria: styling, branding and product placement.

Acknowledging the diversity of international teaching environments that may restrict the development of such an explorative and critical approach, it is the placement of the subject, level of investigation and the availability of resources that will be presented

Thus establishing our role as educators not to determine or influence opinion on erotica or sexuality but to promote design excellence. Creating garments that fulfill consumers needs, apply experimental construction, innovatively use textiles and acknowledge aesthetic and alternate sensory stimulators whilst academically supporting their concepts with contextual knowledge, research and awareness.


Beyond the Mat: Deciphering Eroticism in the Over-the-top Aesthetics of Professional wrestling - Ali Khan & Farida Ali

‘Sports figures embody the ability to overcome poverty, the desire to never give up, and some of the highest physical and mental potential of the human species. (Sehmby, 2002) Wrestling, while mimicking the style of true sport contest simultaneously undermines it by making a parody of it.

The paradox does not end there. Its characteristic subject matter (the homosocial relations between men and the focus on physical means to resolve their conflicts) draws on generic traditions which critics have identified as characteristically masculine; its mode of presentation (it’s seriality, its focus on multiple characters and their relationship, its refusal of closure, its appeal to viewer speculation and gossip) suggest genres often labelled feminine. These contradictions may reflect wrestling’s uneasy status as a masculine drama’. (Sehmby)

The hyperbolic emotional and physical expression displayed in this ‘sports’ opera further leads to a display of ‘human form for both the male and female gaze in both sexual and nonsexual ways. Unlike the clearly objectified female or clearly objectified male, wrestling bodies are presented in marginal manner.’ (Sehmby, 2002) With regard to the gaze, Laura Mulvey writes in her paper ‘Visual Pleasure and narrative Cinema’ that “In a world ordered by Sexual imbalance, pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its phantasy on to the female figure which is styled accordingly”. (Mulvey, 1992) ‘Applied to the situation in wrestling, this is enacted when there are scantily clad, heavy built women who accompany wrestlers to the ring as managers, girlfriends, and so on. Their role is to satisfy the heterosexual male viewer’s sexual gaze. Yet at the same time male wrestling bodies are abundantly available for the heterosexual female gaze. (Sehmby, 2002) Furthermore, the male wrestlers battling with one another provide equal possibilities for homosexual viewing pleasure and has led to such sub genres as ‘Apartment Wrestling’, ‘Erotic Wrestling’, ‘mud wrestling’ and so on. Wrestling has thus become a legitimate fetish within porn.

At the same time, the convergence between pop culture, fashion and male sexuality is stronger than ever and both the bikini underwear and swim trunks have been an equally important erotic style for men as they have been for women. (Dean, 2009) In fact, the minimal, skin hugging and colorful dress of any wrestler itself becomes an object worth the sexual gaze. This colorful underwear or leotard can easily be linked to gay erotica that has always emphasized the scantier and provocative underwear or jock strap. But the sexualizing of the wrestlers goes beyond just their gear and is actually ingrained in their persona. Characters like ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Ass’ are just a couple of examples that confirm such links between wrestling and erotica. (Maguire, 2010)

In this paper we aim to decipher the erotically charged and styled wrestling garb and its implicit and explicit sexual connotations in relation to the sexual gaze of both heterosexual and homosexual male and female viewers.


  • Dean, T. “Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Bare-backing.” University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 2009.
  • Maguire, Brendon. “Defining Deviancy Down: A research Note Regarding Professional Wrestling.” Deviant Behavior: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Vol 21:6. Routledge, London, 2010.
  • Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Film Theory and Criticism. Ed. Gerald Mast, Marshall Cohen, and Leo Braudy. New York: Oxford UP, 1992.
  • Sehmby, Dalbir S. “Wrestling and Popular Culture.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 4.1. Purdue University Press, 2002. 


Video:  A Man of the Cloth - Sharon McElroy

This semi-narrative film aims to demonstrate that a paradox exists between function, intention and outcome in relation to meanings that are embodied in ecclesiastical clothing. Using highly edited audio recordings of my interviews with a Roman Catholic priest the work investigates the transformative qualities of cloth in relation to a priest’s transition to ‘Other’.

Clerical vestments exemplify holiness and signify a priest’s dedication to God. They also symbolize a barrier between the sacred and the profane and function to protect him against his own desire and the desire of others.

The subject’s candid reflections, as both a maker and wearer of vestments challenge the Church’s attempts to de-gender and de-sexualize the ‘Sacred’ body. It transpires that the very drapery of the ‘Dress of Innocence’ intended to disguise and conceal through a plethora of layers, paradoxically evokes a suggestion of an eroticized, idealized physical form that lies beneath.

 This return to the corporeal over the spiritual body also highlights how multiple, complex and conflicting meanings such as desirability versus unavailability and chastity versus the libidinous are embedded in such clothing, which leads to a ‘carnivalization’ of the body. Further observations on ceremony, colour, texture, embellishments and hierarchical signifiers explore the erotic and the sensual and examine certain taboos that exist within the context of Roman Catholic ritual.