I have been selling my worn underwear online for about six months. Every week, I list a few items on a well-known auction site which definitely does not condone (or allow) this kind of trade, and watch the emails flood in. A lot of them are total macho bullshit – guys who assume you are desperate and/or stupid, and more often than not, they expect you to do exactly what they ask. Like, you’re selling your worn knickers on the internet — why wouldn’t you shove a beer can into your vagina and photograph it just for me? I’d like to say I’ve had meaningful and interesting exchanges with some of these men, but I haven’t. They know I’m whatever they want me to be. I’m a character, the same as they are to me. And it’s fun. Everything is fake.
I grew up in a quiet city in the south of England. It was well-known that the owner of a certain antique and second-hand bookshop would pay £7.50 for a pair of worn knickers — anyone’s knickers — provided you popped in and saw him; or rather he had seen you. Looking back, the only thing that really struck me as bizarre was the price — like, what?
To date, I have sold my worn knickers, tights, bras and vests, and have always maintained that I’m open to suggestions — sometimes guys will email asking about swimsuits and maternity bras (predictable!). It feels great waiting in line at the post office with an armful of these anonymous looking packages addressed to Clive, Eric or Kevin. The first time I did it I was convinced the woman at the post office knew what was in them. I stood there staring at her hands on the envelopes, wondering if she had felt the unmistakeable shape of a bra wire.
A lot of guys are after photos, too. Or photos of you wearing the knickers at least. To begin with, I decided I wouldn’t show my face in the photos, which seemed sensible and ‘the done thing.’ I soon began to think about this in relation to my art practice – I’ve never been shy to show my body, with or without my face, and am yet to really regret anything I’ve done. It seems obvious, but I decided I wouldn’t sell any pictures that I wouldn’t put on the internet myself. It’s funny how quickly a close up of your vagina begins to feel like a really detached thing. It says nothing whatsoever about me.
The interesting emails are from the guys who want really specific — to the point of being hilarious — stuff. It makes sense. Maybe they can’t find that perfect photo on the internet of a fat girl with red hair and a nose piercing masturbating with a banana with a pair of tights in her mouth to jerk off to. One guy asked for a recording of me gagging, another was willing to pay £6 a pop for my used sanitary towels. It starts to feel disappointing when guys are just after pictures of women in red lacy basques and high heels.
Aside from my underwear selling exploits, my internet presence is deliberately vague, although I have always maintained an accessible and ongoing portfolio of my art practice, particularly my photography. I’m sure these guys must Google me after they make a PayPal payment – my name is pretty memorable, and it’s definitely not Donna. There are loads of pictures of me on my blog, but I photograph lots of girls, and nothing is tagged, so it would take some casual detective work to work out what I look like/who I am.
When I started selling, it was out of curiosity more than anything, and I was excited about the impact it would have on my own sex life. But it quickly became apparent that I was simply helping to perpetuate a fantasy, and it wasn’t necessarily mine. Sure, I get that kick when I think about how many guys have cum over me in the last 24 hours, and it’s hot, but what’s new? I haven’t really learned anything about myself that I didn’t already know.
I definitely don’t think buying worn underwear is disgusting, or even that unusual. The only thing that has really shocked me (naively maybe) is how many men seem to keep their fetish a secret from their partners. I get that that’s part of the thrill for a lot of them, but it also means there’s often a lot of guilt attached to it. I mean, by the time you’ve gotten to the point of buying online, rather than just peeking in a friend’s underwear drawer or laundry basket, you’re probably kind of comfortable with the fact that you’re into it, right? And I guess the thing that kind of boggles my mind is that this is such a minor thing on the kink scale, and yet I receive emails every day from incredibly inarticulate men convinced they are ‘perverts,’ and that their wives would leave them if they found out about their ‘dirty little secret.’
I’ve had a couple of periods where I’ve stopped for a week or two. On occasion, often only momentarily, it has made me feel vulnerable in a way I rarely do in real life. Many of the emails I don’t respond to. A lot of them are barely written in full sentences. Most of them, I assume, are from guys I would never even come into contact with in real life. I’m pretty certain, however horny I was, there is no way I could send an email, especially to a stranger, without punctuation and full of spelling mistakes. Their urgency is kind of endearing/gross depending on my mood. Every once in a while one of these emails will catch me on a bad day, or I’ll just decide I have to tell someone exactly why I don’t think he should be sending photographs of his wife to strangers without her consent.
The idea that I/any of us would do this for any reason other than to please men seems beyond a lot of these guys. I’m sure lots of women happily play up to this and make lots of money from it, but as separate as my alter ego is to my true self, fundamentally we are the same person, and sometimes I just can’t help but put them straight. That being said, I get emails every day that are polite and funny and sweet, and hey, whether it gets you hot or not, it’s a great confidence boost.