“So be honest,” one email started. “Did you get this idea from Orange Is the New Black?”
This is not the way these emails — replies to the Craigslist postings I make about undies for sale — typically begin. I’ve been selling my used panties for over a year now, starting right before the time the ladies of Litchfield Penitentiary began elaborately hocking their own undergarments on the popular Netflix series.
A couple of years ago, selling panties was a seedy affair, an extra added on by girls willing to do more serious sex work or (like in my case) a quick and easy way for a cute 20-something to make a buck. Contrary to the female empowerment and pussy-scented pride Piper sold the girls on in the show's third season, panty-selling has always been strictly business for me. Although I’m a feminist and proud of it, my little side gig of selling used underwear (which, before you judge me too hard, honestly brings in anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per month) has never been something I view as a feminist activity.
That said, when I finally — sorta based on that Craigslist reply — checked out what was going on in Orange Is the New Black to see what the fuss was about, I absolutely identified with and loved Piper’s business strategy. Unlike the other girls, swayed by the promise of ramen flavor packets and just bored enough to do basically anything that makes them feel included, Piper’s panty business was intentional, just like mine. The girl had goals, techniques on moving product and was not afraid of the weird subculture that supports one-step-removed butt-sniffing.
There are some major differences between the ways Piper and I are able to make the big bucks. Piper has the advantage of offering strange and exotic goods — panties that have touched the butt of a criminal. In the panty-selling world, it’s all about marketing, self-promotion and professing why your thong is better than all the rest. As a girl without even a traffic violation, I confess I'm jealous of the marketability prison panties would hold.
On the other hand, I have the advantage of freedom to meet — let’s call them “clients” — in person. Usually a pair of panties sold online would go for a quick $20. Meeting a client in person, I make anywhere from $75 to $100 a pair. It’s a game changer, although one that frightens away a lot of girls who don’t want to see the person who is going to be sniffing their goods.
Of course, I’ve developed ways to make meeting these guys in person both safer and as discreet as sneaking panties out of Litchfield. I set ground rules. We can only meet in a public place that I choose, like a Starbucks or inside a busy mall. I don’t meet after sundown. I stock up on black plastic bags the local liquor store gives out, as these are the perfect hiding places for lacy lingerie. And just in case anyone wants to be creepy, I don’t go directly home. I’ll go grab some ice cream or do an errand after I meet so nobody can follow me home. I doubt many of the notorious prison panty gang would be either OK doing the in-person meetings or, to be brutally honest, successful at it, since meeting men in person gives them extra opportunity for them to judge how close you look to the hot girl they want to imagine.
With that said, you shouldn’t be watching OITNB thinking panty-selling is your new ticket to a plush life. The only reason the prison girls are able to make significant cash per panty without meeting the client in person is because they are behind bars. If I — a cute but pretty ordinary girl — tried to run my panty business online and through the mail, I’d flounder in the already overpopulated market. If the show has inspired you to start selling your dirties, bottom line, it’s gonna be hard, and unless you have some major advantage that separates you from the herd, you’re gonna have to do it in person.
A quick note before we go: The scent is not as un-inimitable as the show would make it seem. Maybe the part I loved most about watching the OITNB panty discussion were the scenes in which Piper’s sister-in-law sets up an elaborate science experiment involving cheese and tuna water to mimic the female odor. Her husband over and over tells her it won’t work, she can’t push product that way, but from my experience… A panty-selling friend of mine once, in a hurry, didn’t have time to wear the thong she was supposed to sell that afternoon. She took a slice of deli meat, rubbed it all over the crotch and butt of her panties and sold it to the guy. He emailed her back with glowing praise on “the best panties he’d ever bought.”
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