Usha
A friend sent me this link and asked me what I thought about it.
For those of you who are too lazy to follow the link it is the story about a 22 year old woman from San Diego calling herself Natalie Dylan who is auctioning her virginity at bunnyranch.com.
I had read about this a few months ago and thought that this was one of those publicity stunts backed by some TV reality show. I was a bit surprised that the story had not yet seen its natural death. I was asked for an opinion and being the ever-conscientious opinion-giver, I went online to read the details.
OK why is she is doing this? To finance her studies. Excellent motivation I admit.
How did she hit on the brilliant idea? From her sister who had worked as a prostitute to put herself through college. Hm, looks like a disease that runs in the family.

According to reports the bid has reached $ 3.7 million which has even surprised Natalie.
"It's shocking that men will pay so much for someone's virginity, which isn't even prized so highly any more. It's become some kind of competition between all these men that they all want to win," she said.
The newspapers also quote her as having said:
"I am not being sold into this, I'm not being taken advantage of in any way. Me and the person I do it with will both profit greatly from the deal."

My initial thoughts were that it is her body and what she wants to do with it is her problem. But then I was quite intrigued that someone would want to pay 3.7 million US dollars just for sleeping with a virgin and just once.
Obsession with virginity is characteristic of patriarchal societies where women are held subservient to men. Liberal societies do not place such a premium on it and virginity is not associated with issues such as morality and honour. In traditional societies one reason why men want to marry virgins is a perceived and accepted sense of Masculinity about being the one to 'deflower' a virgin. Of course the other and more important reason is to ensure the purity of the bloodline for the offspring. Hence the practice of honour killings etc. in traditional societies even today.

Going back to the story, this report
says ‘she had no moral dilemma with her decision and found it "empowering".
Empowering? It is one thing to be in control of one’s body but is it really empowering to have to sell your body to the highest bidder?
Allowing one to be treated as a commodity – is it empowering or demeaning? I have heard the argument that if a woman decides to use her body as the stock for her trade, she should have the liberty to do it and should not be treated as a criminal. I agree, but is it the same as saying that prostitution empowers a woman?

What is interesting is that she did not offer just her body but used the virginity card. Obviously she was pandering to that secret desire of men to be the first man in a woman's body which gave them a sense of dominance. So this whole experience is not going to be about her own sexual pleasure but about making man feel important and special and for him to 'own' her albeit for that short period. He is paying for it isn't he? She is going to sell herself to him for him to use her- What is so empowering about it?

Considering that this woman is a student of women’s studies , I only hope that she is doing this as some kind of an experiment for some project related to her course.. Perhaps she is trying to expose the hypocrisy among U.S. society which claims not to place too much emphasis on a woman’s virginity. Or am I giving her way too much credit?

And what about the bidders? Something seems fishy when in a sexually free society, someone is willing to buy sex with an inexperienced person at a phenomenal sum of 3.7 million. Why? Is it a statement about the importance of virginity as a valuable possession for a woman to have? Aren't there enough honour killings already based on this belief? And aren't there enough crimes against innocent virgin women and girl children in parts of Africa based on the myth that sex with a virgin is a cure for AIDS?

Or is it simply that there is too much money in the hands of stupid people?
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37 Responses
  1. Oh, I've read this and saw a show on Oprah too. The audience, mostly women and only a few men, were shell-shocked and one could hear the collective gasp when she said it was empowering and she was raising the money for her college! I went cold at her reply too and could not get myself to believe that such a thing could happen! It makes me think that she will now forget about college and enjoy the millionaire status she now has!


  2. Enchanted Says:

    I am not surprised. You just need to take a small look at crazy shows like jerry springer, mowry, Dr Phil, Tyra ( well tyra still does some good ones some times) to understand what level people have fallen.


  3. Thought Room Says:

    If the girl were to peddle her body by doing physical labor, or if she were to get a job at a diner, would that make the girl more empowered than if she were to prostitute herself? She is giving up a bit of herself in order to earn a living. By giving up her virginity she is merely catering to a market that requires that particular adjective. If by that she is empowering the masculine gender, then by working in a diner, or working for a creative firm she is empowering the end user of her skills there too. If she were to become a private chef to some one or a private secretary to some one, there too she works on a one on one basis with the person who provides her monetary benefit, and she will probably be in just as much a vulnerable state as she is if she peddles her body. What she has found is a smart way to get educated. She also points to the social hypocrisy, that while we talk from ear to ear about women’s emancipation, we still hold a woman’s vagina a criteria of her power or her morality. A woman’s power is not how she chooses to use her vagina. It is in her.

    By selling her virginity I don’t believe she is making her self a commodity. She is not selling herself or her soul or her mind. She is selling merely her virginity. It is a part of her identity, which she wishes to sell. Just as a sports star sells a part of his appearance to a commercial. Sorry for the long post.


  4. nrimaami Says:

    It's interesting that I should read about this topic today on your blog. Yesterday, I was watching the concluding part of the televised version of Thomas Hardy's book "Tess of the D'ubervilles". I have to admit I never read the book and had only heard about it somewhere. If you've read it you'd know.. Angel - Tess's husband who dearly loves her and everything, finds out the day after they are married that she was raped and bore a child as a result, and instantly his love turns to anger and frustration at marrying an impure woman. I found it hard to understand, but attributed to the way things used to be in old England. Apparently things haven't changed all that much.


  5. WhatsInAName Says:

    Ah! Its a world of glamour these days where no publicity is a bad publicity! Peopl like to be in news for any reason. And our media is not to be left far behind in making mountain of molehill!

    We are in a society that needs a repair!


  6. SBora Says:

    this is nothing but as you rightly call it, a publicity stunt. people will do anything to get their '15 seconds (in this case much more)of fame' even as much as to stoop down to this level. there was actually a show on HBO a while ago that profiled the Bunny ranch..and although the girls in this place dont call themselves prostitutes, they are nothing but just that, glorified call girls!


  7. Words fail me, honestly. I have no idea how/why on earth the idea came to he. As you say in a sexually promiscuous society it escapes me why such a premium is put on virginity.. And who the fools bidding are..
    An afterthought- Is the mademoiselle pretty, or are the fools only interested in a membrane?
    Empowering- yeah, it can help that a bit of membrane can get fools all ready to dish out money by the barrels.
    What happened to love, I wonder?


  8. How could one pay so much attention to the virginity and not to the person for who she is? Beats me.


  9. maami Says:

    Oooh, the things you can sell? Kidneys, eyes, heart, sperms, eggs, wombs for research, to save lives etc.

    But a hymen?

    I think you said it in the last line of your post.


  10. Praveen Says:

    Remember reading this ages ago:

    "For sex, brain is the most important organ in contrary of what u might have heard"

    Most men think from below their belt and there are a lot of men out there who are'nt aware of this young woman so she can keep the bid on for a little longer.


  11. dipali Says:

    Usha-too much money in the hands of stupid people? You bet!
    Virginity for love/bloodline purity/belief is fine, but for sale?
    Something is rotten.....


  12. Suresh Says:

    Hi Usha, I have been reading your blogs for quite some time. Have been a passive reader. I really appreciate the depth of your blogs and I like reading the comments to those blogs also. I have to appreciate that the comments were also equally thoughtful! (May be that's why I haven't commented on any of your posts. Didn't want to sound foolish :-)

    I couldn't resist giving an opinion on this.

    I have heard people say "If you can't be the first, be the best!" So, people DO give importance to being the first. This may not be only specific to men.

    Coming to this case, I really really think that that woman has the right to 'sell' her virginity.

    Ethics apart, there is a market to serve ANY demand.

    I do understand that men want to be seen 'apart in a group'! So, some 'idiot' wants to have the feeling of 'being the first'!! May be he can brag 'I deflowered a girl' to his group! Think of what ahs and oohs it will create if he is an 80 year old man! And, he has money to spare! Probably he thinks that bragging is worth more than that 3.7 million. That created a demand.

    And, this girl understood the market and she is serving the demand!

    I don't see anything wrong on her part - as long as it is legal. I don't see anything wrong by those men - as long as it is legal!! By legal, I include marriage vows also!


  13. Swarna Says:

    Usha. I endorse with a 'YES' in answer to your last query.
    Can think of more - possibilities. (pardon if I sound too frivolous!)
    Who has certified her innocence? :)
    (or her sanity? :)) )
    Which of these is applicable when and if the deal is clinched - VAT or service tax?
    Does this 'pioneer' want to set a precedent?


  14. oorjas Says:

    'sex for sale' has never been new.. and a virgin has always been a favourite. though inexperienced, there has been a liking for virgins because for the feeling of being the first as Suresh has mentioned.and many-a-rich-idiots are competing for that.

    also getting to marry a virgin is quite impossible in liberal countries. so they want to have that honour of atleast sleeping with one once in a life time.


    the girl has every right to sell any of her body parts incluing her hymen if she is ready to admit herself as a prostitute in doing so. as when u sell any other body part u r doing some good by saving someone's life, here it is just shallow pleasure.

    i wouldn't mind if she made love to her many boyfriends. atlest there will be some love or atlest attraction involved. but just the body....mmhm!

    i also feel that education is supposed to elevate u socially, ethically & morally.. but selling self for educaton...?

    sorry for the long comment. had to express all this.


  15. Bhavna Says:

    I was amused to read the article and let me draw an analogy from the corporate world where I work. sometimes, someone in a meeting will come up with an idea, brand and market it effectively and get the required promotion. No Einstein brain required, just some clever timing. There is a customer and there is a market...capitalise. Would I have done this or will I let my daughter do it- No


  16. Jane Turley Says:

    I'm going to sit on the fence on this one. Inherently, I find this kind of behaviour abhorrent but at the same time she has the right to do what she pleases with her body -as do all of us. She is not the first woman to sell herself for advancement (or even to save her life) and in doing so she may dramatically alter her and her family's future prospects. It's a pity women have to contemplate such actions at all.

    I guess I'm not prepared to cast the first stone.

    Ps; great title to this post Usha.


  17. Curry Pan Says:

    i think it's the last. way too much palm grease and next to nothing in terms of brain grease.
    and doing this as an exercise for a course? come on! you're kidding - she's probably getting kicks out of this.
    but then, it's her life.


  18. ahumanbean Says:

    Honestly, I'm dissappointed in your post.

    Why?

    For all the media covergae of this story ( and it's a story as old as the hills), I haven't seen one take on the MEN doing the bidding. I would like to see the names and professions of these fellows who are willing - and able - to shell out USD 3.7 million for virginity.

    And I'm sure we'll see some pretty famous names in that list! The Gary Glitters of this world exist in all elevls of this world...

    And yes I agree with Jane: there is a a market and there are sellers and buyers. That's how the world has always been w r t sex. music, potatoes, computers...


  19. Usha Says:

    SnS: It might be interesting to watch if she really feels the need for that university education now. :)

    Enchanted:With too much media attention and all the ado about reality TV, sensationalism has become a way of life?

    Thought Room: I find it difficult to equate any other kind of labour with porn and prostitution. It is my opinion that in any other job it is a skill or effort that you sell which is not the same as renting out one's body.
    I do not think I had any comments on her morality not even about her using her body the way she wants. My point was about the way she would advertise her Virginity a the product and also about her claim to empowerment.

    Nrimaami: Things haven't changed all that much. Even today a raped woman is considered dishnoured before and after marriage and that is precisely why rape is used a means of revenge in many rural parts of India.

    WIAN: We are in society that needs rehab.

    Sbora: Mmmmm.

    JLT:She is very pretty if that is indeed her photo in the websites with the story.
    You need love for sex? what are you - a dinosaur?

    Nalini: I am even surprised that Virginity commands such a premium in North America.

    Maami:And it is for tearing the hymen, if it exists at all. Not even for transplanting. Hehehe...

    Praveen: Oh not everyone is worried abut brain. For a lot of people, sex is enough for its own sake. That someone would pay so much for one time is what beats me.

    Dipali: Rotteny fishy? we will know when they withdraw the bid with some excuse soon.

    Suresh: I have no opinin on the ethical aspects of it all. I am only surprised at the hoohaa about Virginity and the value of the bid for such a deal.

    Swarna: Very interesting questions. I think 3.7 mn would have to be net of all taxes. Virginity can be fixed with a hymen repair surgery and a doc certificate obtained.
    well if there is so much money in it, many virgins might see a good career in it and she might become the pioneer.

    Oorjas: The story makes one thinks of a lot of contradictions that seem to exist in American society.

    Bhavna: You are being too principled. But as an individual I have no comments on her choices. I was only wondering about the response from the society in which she lives - Virginity valued at 3.7 million in the U.S. of A?

    Jane: Of course she has a right to do what she wants to - it is her body and I am not casting stones at all. That she chose the word empowerment to describe her choice and that there is such a demand for this offer in a society like the U.S of A.
    Just watched a local adaptation of hardy's play. Must have been itching to use it somewhere. hehehe.

    Curry pan: Had she not chosen to do it, we might not have gotten a glimpse into the hypocritic attitude among men.

    ahumanbean: I am sorry you were disappointed.
    I know it is an old story - didn't I mention it somewhere too? My interest was not in the person or her choices - it was more about the premium that virginity seems to command even today in a supposedly liberal society such as the U.S. of A.
    I would not be able to talk about the men involved in the story as I have no clue to the way their mind works and that is why my last paragraph.
    You do have a blog dont you? why don't you give some of your insights covering the angle you are talking about. Mioght be intersting and insightful.


  20. ahumanbean Says:

    ( Sorry! But I don't have a blog, although I yam being asked to write one alllll the time. I do have a different take on many matters....!)

    My apologies first: I missed your important statement i.e. "And what about the bidders? Something seems fishy when in a sexually free society, someone is willing to buy sex with an inexperienced person at a phenomenal sum of 3.7 million"

    Since I do hold you (AgelessBonding) to a far higher standard than the knee-jerk media we are subjected to, I did sub-consiously and otherwise expect a humanist+feminist take on the market value of modern American virginity. And I still firmly think of the patrons of prostitutes and rarely the prostitute himself/herself each time I hear the word "prostitute" being used, in any manner!

    Where on earth is the media / blog / anywhere coverage of the losers who will bid serious moolah for virginity?

    And - here's the kicker - would a rich woman bid USD 3.7 million for a young man's virginity? That would be interesting...and maybe it has happened but the world does not know about it...!

    Hence my dissappointment. And yes I do need to write about it in my own ( yet to be born! ) blog...!


  21. ahumanbean Says:

    oh, btw, I know from my close American friends who work with battered women / women abuse centres there that they think very poorly of the Britney Spears/Hollywoodisation of virginity/sexuality in the US.

    It's no different from Indai: it's simply expressed differently. Case in point: the media coverage of the ( ?!!!!!) important news of Britney Spears losing her virginity. I mean
    a) who cares?
    b) enough ( stupid) Americans cared enough to write about it and
    c) virginity is the same the world over: it's how it is perceieved and used/abused that makes us gag/sigh/feel awe / endorse via white dresses etc etc etc...!


  22. Usha Says:

    ahumanbean: Ah sorry, I mistook you for another blogger.
    The only two issues that piqued my interest in the story were that she felt empowered by doing this and that men were bidding at such high prices.
    My feminism stops with disagreeing with making oneself into a commodity and I cannot blame the men in this. There is no exploitation - in fact they are helping her in her mission. Where is the humanity angle to this?
    And you are welcome to air contrary opinions in this space - by asking you to write a post I was only asking you to expand on the points you had mentioned in your comment.
    Not in any rude sense.
    I guess anything celebrities do is news there and from what I read and see,in the lives of ordinary people virginity is not so high on the list?
    A friend says that there is this new emphasis on abstinence more to prevent indiscriminate and unwise sleeping around among school children and not because of any hangups about virgins. Perhaps it differs from state to state and religious faith may play a role too.


  23. Usha Says:

    @ JANE; I meant Wilde's play 'The importance of being ernest'. Where did Hardy come from? I think from Nrimaami's comment above.


  24. Jane Turley Says:

    I knew you meant Wilde's play and that it was just what we call here in the UK " A senior moment!"

    Ps... I know you weren't casting stones Usha; that's not your style. It's just Mrs T's way of saying she would like to balance precariously on a very high wall and would like everyone else too as well! Cos let's face it, balancing precariously is a hell of a lot harder than jumping and a lot more fun!(Especially if you have a big bottom.)

    Umm..did that make sense Usha? Umm...no! Oh well, must be time for some chocolate. Blimey, I talk some gibberish; nobody take any notice please -it's my hormones again!

    Ps Has that little something arrived yet? Or do I have to get down off my wall and berate the postal service?!


  25. ahumanbean Says:

    This is a late late reply! Sorry! Just got around to writing.

    I totally agree with you in your last comment: the girl felt empowered ( enough to even have her picture publicly posted!) and the men apparently kept bidding.

    And no, I didn't see any 'rude' manner at all in your reply, AB! I was just rushing my reply out.

    I did view the whole matter in pure marketing terms. In effect, it's no different than an olllld geezer paying a dowry to marry his fourth wife, who may be all of 15 years old...


  26. Aarushi Says:

    I think it's the case of too much money in the hand of idiots, I have yet to meet a guy who really wants his girl to be a virgin, a complete novice, reticent to most things, sometimes I think it's just a thing they say but privately would want an experienced person....great writing btw


  27. Hip Grandma Says:

    'Or is it simply that there is too much money in the hands of stupid people?'
    That is perhaps the only explanation.


  28. The girl has every right to feel empowered, because she has discovered the best value for her virginity, and how to go about realizing that value. It's infinitely (in this case $3.7m) more empowering than losing it to someone with whom she thought she was in "love" in the back seat of his car.

    I sure would like to be endowed with a "commodity", a couple of sq.cms in area, made of a few moles of worthless C, N, O, and H, that has absolutely no use value for me, but worth a few millions of dollars. The very thought is empowering!

    As for the guy who'd eventually pay $x000000..., well, how much more or less stupid it is to pay thousands or millions of dollars for Tendulkar's bat, Buddha's tooth, Obama's tee-shirt or whatever!


  29. Usha Says:

    A senior momentg - hm, nice expression. My life these days seems to move from one senior moment to another. I look at eggplant and think "isn't it also called an aborigine?" See what I mean...
    Ah the something ...Not yet but it will, soon, I am sure. Will inform you immediately. And no , you don't take that walk to the P.O. I am sure the delay is on this end. There were a couple of Postal holidays last week and in any case where I live, things usually take a bit longer to receive. Oh, the joy of waiting ! and thank you Jane for the sweet gesture.

    ahumanbean:hahaha. yes.

    Aarushi:Ya ,I'd imagine that the first experience with a virgin is perhaps the least fun experience. But then what would I know about men's preferences - may be it makes them feel more powerful.

    Padma: Ya, from my limited perspective that is all I can think of.

    The RF:By the same token, is it also 'empowering' to sell parts of your body and other organs?
    I am a bit confused here - I think I may not have understood the meaning of the word empowerment.
    Perhaps she should feel empowered because she is doing it of her free will and not under force and she get to pocket the money and not some broker or relative who exploits her.
    I thought there was an element of one's own happiness involved in the act when you lose it in the back seat of the car which may not be the case when you sell it to the highest bidder?
    As for your last question ya, they are all the same. I agree. But there may be some resale value for the others while a broken hymen may not have any such value - right?


  30. Mama - Mia Says:

    I really dunno what to say Usha. This one has stumped me. as in not that she is selling her virginity or that some doofus is buying it, but the fact that i dunno where i stand!

    so i will just sit on the fence for a little more time!

    meanwhile you are tagged! http://amateurabe.blogspot.com/2009/01/cool-quotient.html

    cheers!

    abha


  31. Mahadevan Says:

    During Oliver Goldsmith's time, when a lovely woman stooped to folly, she had nothing else to do than to die. In modern times, T.S.Eliot says,

    When a lovely woman stoops to folly,
    She smoothes her hair with an automatic hand
    And puts a record on the gramaphone.

    A few decades later now, whether the action can be labelled as folly or not, if it can fetch her 3.7 million dollars because that is the price of her viginity in the market, she certainly would feel elated.

    The price of a commodity or a performance is the value the buyer attaches to it and it is purely subjective.


  32. luckypriya Says:

    Jus a tought..shift the scenario to India and imagine the aftermath..i even shudder to think about it.
    So maybe the fact that she can do this in America must be empowering.
    Also i feel, in a way, she is the winner. As you said, "in a sexually free society" she is making someone part with such a huge sum of money which is otherwise easily available (even virginity). Something fishy or men are foolish to fall for this competition.


  33. A.R.Malik Says:

    2 things come to mind:

    1. The way science fiction authors have played around with the gender/sex/sexuality straitjacket (Ursula LeGuin's The left hand of darkness);

    2. The motives behind putting a premium on virginity- u forgot to mention evolutionary biology... the ol' bloodstains apparently some guarantee of paternity of any eventual offspring- and the selfish genes rollin' along.


  34. remabh Says:

    oh my... look what the world has become


  35. gauri Says:

    ROFL! This is priceless! Arun Ahliani takes the cake!! :)

    Just discovered you from Rads'. Will find myself lurking more often!

    -g


  36. gauri Says:

    Ooops! Looks like I commented on the wrong post. Could you please delete my comment above (and this one too)?

    Will read this post as soon as I put my first comment on the right one :)

    g


  37. Anna Bond Says:

    There is too much money in the hands of stupid people. period.