It's the shoulder.
A sleeveless shirt allows its wearer to work without hindrance. She can plunge her arms deep into any mess of bread dough, sewage, or medical specimen, while leaving her clothing unstained. But if a shirt has one sleeve? What was utilitarian
becomes ludicrously useless
. The missing sleeve explicitly exposes skin
for the very sake of visibility, and therefore fantasy
. Consider the off-the-shoulder
dresses and blouses that had their moment and died sometime during the eighties
. As clothing they generated sex appeal
by appealing to asymmetry
. Their effect on the body was one of enacting a discontinuity between the members of a given set of paired morphological structures. And so the strumpet
s coquettishly paired their Yves Saint Laurent
high heels and colorful slouch socks with off-the-shoulder dresses in order to announce: If I were working I would uncover both arms. If I were warm I would uncover both shoulders. But I am neither working nor warm. I just want you to see my skin. I want you to know that I want you to see my skin. Therefore, this arm is for looking at, but that one is not. This shoulder is for looking at, but that one is not.
Ever since that brief, heart-catching moment in time, Western fashion
has been reduced to an exercise in symmetry
and pretending. However, some in parts of the world, asymmetry is still practiced as a stylistic means to an end, resulting in identical hordes of fetchingly uncovered young men. Of course, the fashion in question may be a happy accident, born out some capriciously unknowable condition of an ancient textiles market, but this possibility does not alter its effect. Imagine a Buddhist monk
, wearing the robes of his order. Folds of billowing crimson and saffron on one side of his body contrast with a brazenly asymmetrical expanse of skin on the other. The monk's right arm is bare, leading your gaze tantalizingly upwards towards his one soft shoulder, and thence to his vulnerable
clavicle. Granted, all Buddhist monks don't dress this way. All French maid
s don't wear short, fluffy skirts. But they all can, and they all should. Our ideal monk exposes nothing of his chest, waist, or legs, and yet the shamdab
, and donka1
that compose his religious habit still convey eroticism
. They hide anything sexually
useful underneath swaths of fabric, while pointedly neglecting to erase skin altogether.
The monk's vows of chastity
render him eternally unattainable, but of course this only adds to his allure. As with any Catholic religieuse
, blushing and demure, he practically asks to be predated. His shaved head is fuzzy and infantile
and yet he resonates with maturity; perhaps he is even wearing wire-rimmed glasses
. He thinks no desirous thoughts, or rather, when they intrude upon his pristine mental space he chases them away, like a snake. He floats on an apparently sexless serenity, desiring nothing, focusing all of his concentration into ritual, meditation, and study
. But you know that he could just as easily be attending to your desire with the same all-consuming earnestness
, passionately selfless. The fantasy is potent insofar as you could be his only knowledge. Here he is, young, virginal and eager to please
. With no regard for the Himalayan cold he is barefoot, hairless, asymmetrically exposed.
Fragile, breakable; you'll ruin him
1Terminology assistance by interrobang.