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Top image credits: Tech in Asia

For a period of about 6 months, Sandy peddled a product many consider an urban legend of sorts. To “make” it, she would dress herself in it for specific periods of time. Sometimes it was 6 hours, sometimes it was 12. Requests for bodily discharge could also be accommodated. It all depended on the customer.

While used panties can sound gross to the uninitiated, a quick search across e-commerce websites like eBay and Amazon reveals a thriving underground market for them. For Sandy, a Singaporean who will turn 21 in the coming new year, Craigslist and Locanto were her preferred platforms. The inspiration to do this was also a result of reading about its prevalence in the US.

Prices start at $50, and increase accordingly depending on the number of customisations. If she has to wear a pair of panties for longer than 12 hours, that’s an additional $10. For skid marks, blood, or other kinds of discharge, it’s an additional $15 for each.

“I did well because I could accommodate all kinds of requests,” she tells me. And these requests sometimes included pictures of herself in her products, which she sold for about $5 each. She would also agree, for an additional $20, to meet clients in person to make the transactions, something not often done for the obvious risks involved.

“A lot of these guys are sexually dissatisfied, which you can see from the kinds of things they talk about on Hardware Zone or Sammy Boy,” Sandy goes on to elaborate, “A lot are also just not really good socially or don’t have much luck with women because they’re not very good looking, so they can be pushy and don’t respect boundaries.”

There was once, for instance, when a client she met in person had his phone in his front pocket with its camera facing out to record her. Another offered her an additional S$100 to take her panties off her in his car. She refused.

For Sandy at least, she makes it clear that there are things she won’t do. For instance, she doesn’t have lunch or dinner with clients, or go on dates to pretend to be their girlfriend. While some might consider selling used underwear sex work, Sandy isn’t a sex worker in the sense that we understand conventional sex work to be.

But this doesn’t prevent clients from crossing the line. Some have flooded her email inbox with appeals for attention. One went as far as to ask for a bottle of her urine, and for her to watch him drink it over webcam.

“A lot of these guys are into humiliation for some weird reason,” she says.

Reddit is another platform commonly used to transact in used underwear. Image credits: Cracked

One biological explanation has suggested that underwear fetishism is caused by blood flow to the temporal and occipital lobes in the brain. Others echo Freud by suggesting that an incident in early childhood might explain such fetishes.

Regardless, a simpler explanation would be that everyone’s just got a thing. Some just get a kick out of the smell of worn panties or the thought of a hot girl walking around all day letting her panties soak up all the sweat. This isn’t just limited to men either. Sandy tells me that she had at least one offer from a woman.

At the same time, if we look at underwear fetishism in context, it’s not too different from say, someone who has a thing for lingerie, high heels, or a particular hair colour. Most of us experience a degree of fetishistic arousal, whether in response to particular body parts or objects. If we go one step further to glimpse how much of pornography is actually dedicated to “non-conventional” sex, it becomes clear that kinks of all kinds are far more common than we think.

The first client Sandy had, for instance, was an old Caucasian gentleman she met at an MRT station to make the transaction. She describes him as very polite and respectful.

Most of such clients go on to become regulars, which Sandy prefers. After all, having a small rotation of regulars who make purchases between once every two weeks to once a week makes such work a lot safer. Some of these clients are family men as well, who ask for the packages to be discreetly delivered to their homes – further evidence that not everyone with a fetish is a social recluse.

Even then, there will always be clients who resort to such purchases to manage certain untamed impulses. There is, for instance, a lucrative market for teen and pre-teen underwear.

Sandy says that a typical advertorial of hers would read “18 year old nympho wants you to snag her panties,” which gives us some sense of what a lot of these clients are truly looking for.

“You really have to be very emotionally stable to do it because people will push your boundaries.”

But she also tells me quite clearly that she has no such lofty goals of preventing sex crimes. Money is her only motivation. Having come from a difficult family situation, she left home at 18 and found herself crashing with her then boyfriend and suddenly paying for both rent and school.

While her biggest single order saw her make $400 on about 5 pairs of underwear and 20 photographs, this isn’t a line of work she recommends.

Like a disclaimer for one of those Mythbuster type shows, she says, “Don’t try it at home. You really have to be very emotionally stable to do it because people will push your boundaries. It’s an easy way to make money but you also need to think about emails, burner phones and so on. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you.”

For these reasons, Sandy no longer sells her used underwear online. The mailing and meet-ups were manageable, but the unsolicited requests for other inappropriate services soon became too much. While she never judged her clients for what they liked, peddling a product like hers eventually came with a world of undesirable consequences.

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