Virginity For Sale… Or Not

***UPDATE as of 5/8, Elizabeth Raine has called off her auction…WHAT A SURPRISE. Her blog has been moved here.

When a friend gchatted me 27-year-old Elizabeth Raine’s website advertising her virginity for sale, my first reaction was to groan and say, “Not again.” This was a storyline I’d heard before, so I proceeded not to care. However, in need of some procrastination later that afternoon, I started talking with my friend about how bad the sex would inevitably be, and wondered if the virgin-obsessed media ever followed up on these stories. I did some digging of my own on virginity auctions and got lost in a fruitless rabbithole that took my thoughts on a rollercoaster.

To address one of the more obvious moral dilemmas here, I’m only talking about adults making this decision, as opposed to the horrors that occur in sex trafficking. Given that, I don’t particularly care if someone makes their own decision to treat sex as a business transaction. While it’s  unfathomable to me personally, especially given the health and safety considerations, in a certain sense I also understand not attaching any meaning to sex and seeing it as a way to make a shit-ton of money.

What’s interesting is that in the vast majority of media-famous cases the sex did not actually occur. Let’s start with the most recent, Catarina Migliorini, a 20-year-old Brazilian Playboy model who put her virginity up for auction as part of a documentary film in 2012. The highest bid was $780,000 from an anonymous Japanese man, but Catarina called it off after meeting him in Australia when he didn’t match the description she had been given (she later clashed with the director, saying she felt exploited). She then tried to auction off her virginity on her own, via the Internet, and she reported bids got up to $400,000 but never panned out. She’s currently pursuing a reality TV show where men will compete for the chance to take her virginity AND win a million dollars (which, how did this go from profitable for her to profitable for the dude?).

This story plays out again and again. Natalie Dylan, a 22-year-old San Diegan, auctioned off her virginity in 2008 for a whopping $3.7 million. She arranged to consummate the deed at Nevada’s Moonlite Bunny Ranch (which would have gotten 50 percent), but backed out—after securing a $250,000 payout. A woman in Peru got up to $1.3 million in her virginity auction before having a moral turnaround. Wikipedia has an entire section on this (though I have to say I object to Raffaella Fico being included, as she said JK before there was ever an auction). Of the few girls who fall into the “completed?” category, all were from tabloids. The only one willing to talk about it is Alina, who sold her virginity for about $10,000. She was disappointed with the sum, but reported enjoying the experience—she supposedly moved to Italy where she continued to date the guy and became a “dancer,” only recently returning to Romania.

Interestingly, the documentary with Catarina also featured a male virgin who fetched only $3,000. As part of the film, he met with a sexologist who expressed concern that it would be psychologically detrimental to him to participate. It’s unknown if he actually lost his virginity and likely to stay that way, as the documentary series providing the big reveal seems unlikely to see the light of day (supposedly it will air “sometime this year” in Australia).

One of the most maddening aspects of these stories is that all the women claim they will go see a gynecologist to “certify” that they are virgins (the male was excused from this). There is no way to prove someone is a virgin. The classic sign of virginity, the hymen, can tear at any time, or not tear at all after sex, so it is not a reliable indicator. I find it incredibly dubious that a medical student such as Elizabeth Raine would play into this.

In fact, many of the stories from the women are similar. They all offer to be examined by gynecologists. They are all doing it for the money (duh), which most say they need for education. Most also throw in that they will donate to charity (then… why are you doing it for the money?). But, even when faced with more money than they’ve ever dreamed of (and the chance to do *so* much charity work), the women almost unanimously turn it down when push comes to shove and refuse to talk about it further. Elizabeth’s attitude in particular is mystifying to me, as she continually states that she is doing it for the money, but then says “I don’t need the money” and later changed it to “because, patriarchy.” I would like to think what she is doing is holding up a sign saying, “Hey, society—this is what you think a woman’s virginity is worth. Why?”

As mentioned, my thought arc on this subject has taken a lot of turns. Initially (and I am a bad feminist for this), I was judging the girls for having rules on who they would sleep with and backing out. I mean, you’ve created this much of a media circus, you have someone who will pay the money, and you’re not even going to do it? Then I realized this meant that I was essentially siding with the buyer, and feeling bad that this poor anonymous rich person who spends his money on virgins had wasted his time (and not even his money, as none was exchanged). Every woman has the right to choose who to have sex with, no matter what. I thought about how really, if the girls can get money and publicity without actually having sex with a stranger, why WOULD you go through with it?

Which brings me to my original point: Why is this news? It’s news because Elizabeth Raine is a pretty, thin blonde girl who sent out a press release advertising her auction (though she also said she was “not doing this for the publicity”). Have we not learned our lesson from this already? Let’s review:

1) There’s no way to prove that she’s really a virgin (or really, that sex has taken place), and implying that there is such a certainty is damaging.

2) The transaction will probably not even take place, it’s publicity for publicity’s sake.

3) We’ll never get the really good part of the story, which is: What happens after? How do they feel about their decision? If they are so public and positive about their personal decision beforehand, why not talk about it after?

Elizabeth’s auction just ended and a 12-hour date in which her virginity would be offered sold for a little over $800,000. She has said she doesn’t expect to be attracted to the man, or for the sex to be pleasurable. My guess is, she’s probably right, though I would venture to say that here she is not too far from the norm, as I would guess most people’s first time is only one for two of those expectations. I really, honestly hope that she shares what her experience was like so that we can finally know and maybe these stories can stop—and more importantly, I hope the charities report receiving the money.

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