Success in market for fetish objects an elusive undertaking

The advent of the Internet has made sharing information infinitely easier. Among the information shared is knowledge of different fetishes and sexual preferences.

With the increased knowledge of fetishes has come an online market for the buying and selling of fetish objects. Items such as used underwear, pictures of feet and used personal items are sold at prices upwards of $20 per item. With such a wide variety of fetishes publicized, it’s easy to assume that almost anyone could find success in this market and make a little extra money on the side. I am here to tell you this is not the case.

To be successful in the sex industry, you have to know how to market yourself and who your target audience is. You have to anticipate what people are going to want. You can’t get discouraged when you don’t get a response to your well-thought-out advertisement and most of all, you have to do research and figure out the best method of performing your service. Working in the sex industry takes time and careful planning.

How do I know all this, you might ask? In the name of extra spending money and genuine curiosity, I put myself on the inside and tried my hand at selling fetish objects.

To make myself clear, I did not prostitute myself or sell my body, degrade myself in any way or participate in any illegal activity. I tried to sell my used and worn underwear.

I was so excited as I rushed home from class. I had posted my first underwear ad online that morning. I was hoping to open up my account and see a private message waiting for me from someone willing to buy what I was offering. In the moment it took for the webpage to load, all my hopes of becoming a successful underwear seller were dashed — I didn’t have a single message, comment or view on my ad. In that moment, I realized working in a sex-focused industry was a lot harder than it seemed, and that it was, indeed, actual work.

I had decided to post the ad in question on the website Reddit. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Reddit is one big site made up of thousands of tiny, specialized pages called subreddits, each devoted to a different topic. I happened to discover there was a subreddit focused on connecting buyers and sellers of used underwear. Bingo — I had found my platform. In order to erase any outside factors that might have come into play while attempting to sell underwear, I made a fresh account just for the occasion.

The subreddit was my go-to place for almost all of my research. I closely studied the FAQs and posts focused on how to get started, taking note of tips such as the fact that PayPal was unreliable and the suggestion to be absolutely clear in describing what I was selling. I paid attention to how other sellers marketed their wares and titled their posts, hoping I could emulate their successes.

All the preliminary work setting up different accounts and ensuring I actually knew what I was doing took a few days to complete, and then all that was left was posting the ad. I had gone out earlier that week and bought several pairs of cheap underwear for this experiment. The trick now was advertising them tastefully, which proved difficult in a task that was surrounded by sex and sensuality. I added an eye-catching title to the ad, clicked submit and I was finally on the market.

In all honesty, after reading up a bit on underwear selling, it seemed like a super easy way to make some quick cash. I wear underwear every day, so it wouldn’t actually be too much work. How hard could it be to take a picture of my underwear and post an ad selling them online?

I spent weeks preparing myself to undertake this task, much of the time being spent researching everything involved in starting this type of business venture. I had to find a platform on which to sell my wares, a method to through which I could receive payment, a base price at which to sell my underwear and a way to contact my buyers outside of the subreddit. I read reviews written by other underwear sellers about the proper way to advertise, accept payment and package my underwear for mailing to buyers.

Even with all my research and careful planning, I never did sell any underwear. Even after two or three posts, there was no interest in what I was offering.

After some quick Googling, I realized that I wasn’t the first person to realize sex-focused work was actually a pretty difficult industry in which to achieve success. A woman named Gaby posted a blog post on the women’s lifestyle blog XO Jane where she came to a conclusion similar to mine: Sex work is hard work. Going into this experiment, I already knew that I was horrible at self-promotion — any job interview I have attended in the past few years is proof of this. Attempting, and failing, to sell my underwear only made me realize how shameless you have to be in the promotion of your product. I will admit, I had my reservations while conducting this experiment, since I was researching for work and not solely to smother my burning curiosity. These reservations ultimately led me to be more cautious in advertising my product, and not taking risks ultimately caused my failure. 

Although there is an expansive array of sexual fetishes and it seems like almost anyone can cater to one or another, this is not necessarily true. My failures in a sex-focused trade have taught me lessons I plan to use moving forward — in a much less intimate way.

Write to Ellie at [email protected].