By Sarah Vandervennet
I got into selling my dirty panties on Craigslist sort of the same way I tried anal for the first time. I’d heard stories: people who liked it, people who didn’t, and the classic tale of those who shat all over the bed. I did a lot of research and all the necessary preparation. Sufficiently lubed up with an uncertain grimace plastered on my face, I braced myself for anal ingress. Very un-sexy.
I went to grad school for poetry. I’m not the most responsible adult. I keep telling myself I’m going to start paying off my student loans, but then a dude with a face tattoo throws a candle at my head while I’m bartending and I buy a one-way ticket to Mexico. Then in Mexico I buy a ticket to Bangkok. You get the picture. I’m in a lot of debt and have little concern about my future, both characteristics that encouraged my foray into the domain of Craigslist dwellers.
There are a lot of enticing booty shots on Craigslist, all of which advertise juicy, filthy, nasty, cum-drenched panties, for as low as $20 for 24-hours of stink. I had to stand out: ‘It Makes Me Wet To Sell You My Dirty Panties.’ Yeah, they love thinking you’re into it, too. This fetish is not purely transactional. It’s like bartending. People are seeking a personal connection. Dude sits at the bar to have a beer, but he really wants to tell you an unnecessarily long story about his vintage lighter collection. And being a good bartender, you pretend to care, and he gives you money.
The problem is that these dudes also mistake your customer service/winky face emoticons for genuine interest. Add to that the power of anonymity and the sleaziness runs rampant, and you can’t eighty-six someone from the internet.
Most requests are harmless: offers of $200 to suck on my tits, or eat me out, or to do the exchange in person, or to let him take the panties off me, or watch him jack off with them. I used to engage with these people and explain my reservations. But I quickly learned if you give an inch, they’ll ask for full-blown prostitution. Props to anyone who’s cool with these sorts of exchanges, but for me, Craigslist rule #1 is don’t meet in person. I admittedly have a very high tolerance for creepy, but I still don’t want to see the face of the person who wants to smell my dried vagina sweat, so I ignore them.
I may not be meeting any murderers, but this venture has still been emotionally trying. Rude remarks aside, my worst experience was with this one dude. Being the generous and trusting purveyor that I am, I sent him a couple promo shots. But dude never sent any money, just proceeded to harass me for more pics. “Just do it.” “Send one bent over.” “Send a vid.” “Just do it. I’ll send you $1000.” After several refusals the threats started. “I’m going to send these to every social media site and every porn site.” Now, I don’t care if my vagina ends up being one of the trillions of vaginas on the internet. But his disrespect reignited in me all the pain and confusion of navigating my identity as a woman.
I’ve read bell hooks’ The Will To Change. I understand that men feel pressure to fulfill society’s image of masculinity, and sometimes they go about that by becoming violent, especially towards women. Most people avoid antisocial behavior, but I tend to pry. Like when this guy responded to my ad asking for “innocent” white cotton panties and calling me “little sister.” I wasn’t about to role-play incest, but I did ask questions, and he ended up telling me he and his sister used to go down on each other.
I don’t judge. I make a point of it. Weird shit happens, and people cope with events in different ways, often sexually. I like talking to people about their psychological shit, but sometimes it infiltrates my own.
Why did that guy upset me so much? Past moments of introspection bring to light general shame and insecurity about my sexual identity as a woman, much of which derives from the impossible sexy-but-not-slutty paragon. I mean, I totally take nudes and then show off how hot I am. But as soon as they end up in the wrong hands, I feel ashamed.
Let’s focus on this shame. Let’s focus on the entire reason this article is of any interest to anyone: fetishes are social taboos, discussed only by seedy digital dwellers. They’re also entirely misunderstood. Sibling sixty-nine-ing? Not hurting anyone. Potentially psychologically damaging to the partaking parties, yes, but only because society shames us into believing our desires make us subhuman.
Which makes sex really confusing and, as I’ve theorized, is why I tend to be more submissive in bed: it makes me feel good to conform to this ideal of femininity, and it exonerates me from the sin of being a sexually active woman. It’s win-win: I get to be a delicate flower and get properly pounded, just the way the patriarchy wants it. Even if I were to embrace my inner dominatrix, I can’t help but think it would be on some level a response to the pressure of gender normativity, whether a rebellion or an escape. Either way, these sexual proclivities stem from the internalized oppression of women. What I’m saying is, when it comes down to it, maybe the most fucked up kind of sex is standard, relatively vanilla banging.
There is a happy ending to this dirty panty business. I have one very courteous regular client who purchases a pair every few months for fifty dollars, plus a little extra for shipping. Then he launders them and mails them back to me. In between purchases, he e-mails me to ask how I’m doing. I’ve even complained to him about other Craigslist dudes. My relationship with my panty fetishist is probably healthier and more mutually beneficial than most sexual relationships I’ve had. No shame, no power dynamics, no psychological duress. Just panties and respect.