HOPEWELL, MI – It has been said that human subcultures are fractally nested, and that there is no bottom. Pundits have also claimed that in the age of the internet, people with interests so specific and so far outside the mainstream can come together and commiserate in ways that would have once been impossible. Putting both of those ideas to the test is the emerging subculture of “benchwarmers.”

Despite what the name may suggest, “benchwarmers” are not people who are left on the sidelines during sporting events. As an anonymous “benchwarmer” put it in an interview with the Hopewell Democrat-Tribune, “we call ourselves ‘benchwarmers’ because we’re on the bleachers all the time.” In other words, the “benchwarmer” subculture is made up of people who regularly drink bleach.

One might think that, given bleach’s propensity to cause chemical burns, that such a subculture might go extinct after its first outing. However, the “benchwarmer” that spoke to the Democrat-Tribune disagreed. “We start with a very low concentration, just enough to get the taste and the burning sensation,” she said, “and then we gradually increase the percentage of sodium hypoclorite.” This accelerates the formation of scar tissue that protects the drinker from the full effects of the caustic chemical.

Gathering on web sites and forums like “The Bleachfields” or “Sodium Hypocrites,” the “benchwarmers” share their stories of internal injury, oral and coleorectal scarring, and different ways of diluting bleach so that its ingestion does not cause instant and painful death. The sites also maintain “Benchwarmer MVP” lists with information about fallen members of the subculture and the highest percentage of sodium hypoclorite they were able to ingest before death.

“Cloroxian1977 is still a legend on The Bleachfields,” said the anonymous source. “He was able to get up to a solution of 37% NaClO before his organs ruptured.” Our source maintains that the dream of a human being who is able to drink pure, undiluted bleach–100% sodium hypoclorate–remains the dream of the subculture.

Responding to criticisms that “benchwarming” is a suicidal fixation and most likely a manifestation of a mental illness like pica, the Democrat-Tribune‘s source became defensive. “It’s a very freeing, cleansing thing, and extremely important to our mental well-being,” she said. “People ingest dangerous amount of chemicals all the time, we are simply more open about it.”

At press time, the “benchwarmers” associated with The Bleachfields online forum were attempting to have their first in-person convention at the Southern Michigan University convention center. The head of that facilty told us that he would not be “party to a suicide pact” and had refused to let the space. In a response, the campus diversity officer blasted his concerns as “exclusionary” and “divisive.”

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