Students have ever been a cash-strapped lot. Even before the rise in tuition fees, University has always been synonymous with trawling through Wilkinson's and an impressive knowledge of exactly when the reduced stickers will be popping up in Tesco's. However, students have hit upon an ingenious method of making some extra cash, and are jumping right out of their clothes at the prospect. [As a disclaimer I must state that you do not necessarily have to be a student to participate in this money-making scheme, although the dignity that students irrevocably lost in Freshers week may be a deciding factor.]
So, what exactly is this scheme that I am being so coy about? In short - panty-sniffing. Once the domain of weird perverts, the open and democratic nature of the internet has not only legitimised, but also commodified this particular fetish. Whether your particular tastes run to unwashed socks or a soiled thong, money seems to be the only barrier. So with one eye on their overdraft, and an enterprising spring in their step, students up and down the country have reportedly been making the most out of their dirty laundry by selling it online.
The process is actually painfully banal. You set up a profile with a corresponding email address, and post an advert on a free classifieds site. Having written something suitably seductive to accompany some cheeky photos of your desired garment (hmmm, red socks there? You minx!), and a menu of optional extras, the replies are sure to come in thick and fast. All that's left is to negotiate a specific service and price, depending on the time and effort put into it. It goes without saying that the requests will be peculiar, some more than most. Particular items may be requested, along with incongruously detailed notes on how these items should be, ahem, soiled. Basically, being asked to supply skid-marked smalls will be a run-of-the-mill request. Finally, the offending items are put in the post (in an air-tight bag, naturally), while the money goes straight into your PayPal account.
Once the domain of weird perverts, the open and democratic nature of the internet has not only legitimised, but also commodified this particular fetish
With no necessity for a specific set of skills, or anything more than a set of Primark underwear, this is undeniably the perfect pool for Generation X to paddle their entrepreneurial feet in. Whereas 30 years ago, budding young minds honed their talents on paper routes or while stacking supermarket shelves, Generation X is far more likely to take to the web. In fact, rather than viewing this as a sordid, x-rated source of revenue, we should regard this just another form of e-commerce. Graze Box for those who are hungry for undies, if you will (other personalised snack-delivery businesses are available).
The UK may have come out of recession, but this news is hardly going to make an impact on people's day-to-day lives. The cost of a degree can only get higher, and even with a degree, the chances of working for a credible wage are desperately low. Can we really judge people for merely supplying a demand? Simplistic, yes, but these students are demonstrating their resourcefulness by making some quick and easy money. In actual fact, you could say that these underwear-adorers are helping fund students' lives and degrees. George Osborne should really send them a thank you card. Or a pair of boxers. I imagine there must be someone out there whose tastes run to that extreme.
But what are the implications of this upon society? Fetishes are now practically mainstream. Personally, I blame 50 Shades of Grey, but Belle de Jour definitely has something to do with it. It seems that a penchant for light bondage has entered the realms of social respectability, to such an extent that London's legendary fetish club, Torture Garden, is the most sought after Halloween party around (according to a distinctly conservative-looking couple I eavesdropped upon while waiting to cross the road). The line between sexually-adventurous and just plain creepy seems to be getting thinner and thinner. The way things are going, I wouldn't be surprised to see trainers and their gimps alongside the traditional Sunday-morning dog walkers. You guffaw, but remember how fast Ann Summers sold out of handcuffs and whips after the bored housewives of England found 50 Shades of Grey? Yes, it's already started.
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