Sasha talks capitalism – and feminism – with a woman who’s auctioning off her virginity
A couple of months ago, a young American woman using the pseudonym Natalie Dylan got the bright idea to pay for her studies by auctioning off her virginity through a Nevada bunny ranch, thereby guaranteeing the transaction would be legal, safe and well-publicized. Natalie has completed her undergrad in women’s studies at Sacramento State, but wants to become a family and marriage counselor and can’t continue her education without the appropriate funding.
Auctioning off one’s vaginal virginity (and the various virginity subcategories: anal, etc.) through a brothel is nothing new; it’s been going on for as long as whorehouses have been around. Women have also long been funding their academic and social betterment through sex, and even before there were women’s studies courses on the sex trade, they used the same rationalizations taught by the whore-positive theorists: that sex work is intrinsically feminist, that we live in a capitalist culture and that they are merely providing a service without moral attachment. They are fully in charge and are using their sexual power for their own advancement as women.
Natalie, herself chock full of the latest batch of truisms about sex and sex work, feels this way about virginity: “It’s a socially constructed abstract thing of importance we preach to women to save and men to take. Having said that, that is why I think some men are so willing to pay huge money. In my psyche, I don’t subscribe to this idealized fantasy, which really boils down to a common, mundane act, hence the reason I have no problem with it whatsoever. I know this is a controversial move in our puritanical society, but what I hope everyone can agree on is that what is good for some is not for others. Everyone should have the common courtesy to live and let live.”
Let’s face it, though: leaving people’s sexual choices alone is never going to happen because almost everyone wants to be right when it comes to the subject, which is why the message boards ‘discussing’ Natalie’s choice are just boiling over with either scathing insults or ‘You-Go-Girls.’ Natalie, who predicted there would be a real divide, says, “The experience is fascinating – my thesis is basically writing itself as you may have guessed!”
By the way, the crux of Natalie’s thesis is, “in a sense pointing out the hypocrisy of people saying my actions are taking the feminist movement back when I am employing my own sexuality in a way where I feel rather empowered.” Oh Lord, not that old chestnut again.
I think we can all see the double standard in using feminism to justify profiting off a patriarchal construct. Still, I don’t think what Natalie’s doing is not feminist, it’s just that when I think of sex work, feminism isn’t the first political issue that springs to mind. For me, the big issues are decriminalization and labour rights; again the banner of feminism is often unfurled from a privileged station, the one occupied by academics and women’s studies majors, though, as a sex worker, I’ve used it myself to bolster my choices and it certainly feels legitimate in an empirical setting. My body, my choice: feminism at its essence.
Natalie describes herself as “pro-sex” (a stance I find slightly amusing seeing as how she’s never had it) and insists that she feels that she is in the position of power because she gets to call all the shots. This is also interesting, the concept of using a stipulated position of non-power, sexual ignorance, to garner a position of power. When I ask about her suitors, Natalie writes, “Men are very territorial by nature. They want to be my first because they never want to be forgotten and I will not ever forget this experience. Most have not expressed concern over my sexual pleasure. To be quite frank, my pleasure derives from the money and they are aware of that.”
Natalie hits all the theoretical notes perfectly: our puritanical society, social constructs, idealized fantasies. but is she going to live up to the astronomical bids? She confirms the rumours that she has been offered up to $3.8 million are true. That’s a lot of money. I mean, you wouldn’t catch me slogging away at a hackneyed dissertation with several million in the bank, that’s for sure.
I’m left with one question and that is this: Why must we bring feminism into it at all? In a way, and despite her capitalist claims, Natalie is simply pandering to the image of an apologetic woman unable to accept what has traditionally been reserved for men: the making of craploads of cash under contentious circumstances. Whatever the case, I would certainly have rather gotten $3 million than HPV my first go round.
Questions? Comments? Contact Sasha at email@example.com.