“It just happened this way”

On the heels of a post about women attempting to become human Barbie dolls I suppose it should not surprise me–or you–that as I was reading more about those two women I also encountered a story about yet another woman attempting to auction off her virginity. I have to confess I sometimes forget what I have and have not addressed in this space before but it seems to me that this very subject has been the target of my commentary in the past.

I think what may have caught my attention about this particular situation, and prompted me to address it, is that this young woman claims that money is not really a motivating factor.

The woman in question is a 27-year-old medical student in the United States who is using the name Elizabeth Raine. I have no idea if that is her real name or not. She says she is a student at one of the country’s top medical schools and in order to circumvent prostitution laws in the United States she is using an agent in Australia.

Raine told EliteDaily.com, “Money is my motivation, but by no means do I need the money. I’m pretty safe and secure financially.” Why is she doing it then? “Many women are raised believing that they should hold on to their virginity and that it’s something that’s important for their marriage, for their relationship. It is a measure of how good they are as a person. I never believed that and I never even intentionally tried to stay a virgin. It just really happened this way.” In other words, Raine wants to confront the value of virginity, which she seems to think she can do simply by selling hers.

According to Raine the winning bidder will receive “a sensual 12-hour date” that will take her “from virgin to literal whore.” Oh, and she will donate 35% of her winnings to a charity that provides education from women in developing countries. That could be a considerable amount of money, I suppose, since Raine seems to have her sights set on a winning bid of at least $400,000.

Yesterday’s post brought more questions than answers as I–and we–wrestle with the idea of what beauty is, and is not, and what bizarre attempts people will make to achieve whatever they believe beauty to be. I think that discussion may be more fluid than this one. Raine says that many women are raised to hold on to their virginity because it is important to their marriage and is a measure of who they are as a person. At the risk of this being taken the wrong way, I do not think that virginity itself is what is so important to the marriage. What is important is the recognition that one’s virginity can only be given one time and the act of saving it for one’s spouse is an act of love, of respect and of commitment to the person one will ultimately give herself or himself to. I do not think I would go so far as to say that it is a measure of who anyone is as a person; I have no doubt that there are people who did not save themselves for marriage who are “better people” (whatever that means) than some people who did. Again, it is not the virginity itself that is the issue; it is but the evidence of a deeper conviction, the result of choices made after, hopefully, careful consideration. Of course sometimes one’s virginity is stolen, not given, and there is no diminishing of one’s value as a result of being a victim of such a crime.

On the contrary, I think that Raine’s choice reveals much more about herself than it does about anyone’s ideas about the value of virginity or the meaningfulness of it. She thinks that virginity is not something to be valued and yet she has quite literally put a value on it; apparently $400,000 is her idea of a fair market value. She thinks that virginity is not worth preserving for just the right person yet she “just happened” to preserve hers until her late twenties. Regardless of Raine’s flippant explanation of how she maintained her virginity until age 27 that does not “just happen.” According to the National Center for Health Statistics 85% of Americans have had sex by age 21 and only 11% of unmarried adults are virgins. So I don’t think Raine’s virginity “just happened.”

A far more realistic commentary on virginity came from Olympic athlete Lolo Jones several years ago. “It’s just something, a gift that I want to give to my husband. But please understand this journey has been hard. If there’s virgins out there, I just want to let them know, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Harder than training for the Olympics, harder than graduating from college, has been to stay a virgin before marriage.” That is the reality. In a culture that glorifies sexuality and celebrates sexual experimentation and encourages “exploration” one does not “happen” to maintain virginity to age 27…certainly not when one is attractive, intelligent and successful, as both Raine and Jones appear to be.

Raine suggests that virginity is seen as a measure of how good someone is as a person. What then does selling one’s virginity say about a person? There’s an old, oft-repeated story about a man who asked a woman if she would sleep with him for a million dollars. She considered briefly and said yes. “Would you sleep with me for $10?” he asked. “What do you think I am?” she asked, aghast. “We’ve already established what you are,” came his reply, “now we’re just haggling over price.”

What Ms. Raine seems not to recognize is that there is nothing commendable about auctioning her virginity on the internet. Not even if she does give tens of thousands of dollars of the proceeds to support education for women in developing countries. After all, Raine’s own actions make clear that education doesn’t necessarily make someone smart.

Selling What’s Priceless

WARNING: This post contains content that may be offensive to some readers. Discretion is advised.

You may have seen the story on the news this week: A 20-year old woman from Brazil, sold her virginity via online auction. The final price: $780,000, to a buyer from Japan. The highest bidder beat out five others who bid above $600,000 for “chance to bed the virgin,” as the Toronto Sun put it.

There are all kinds of stipulations and particulars attached to the auction. For example, Migliorini must be examined by a gynecologist and provide the winner with medical proof of her virginity. The winning bidder must submit to a medical exam and criminal background check, and cannot be intoxicated at the time of the “meeting.” There is absolutely no kissing permitted. Migliorini and the winning bidder will agree to the length of their rendezvous, though the rules for the auction clearly stated that “the minimum consummation time is one hour.”

There was, by the way, a young man who also auctioned his virginity. His was sold to a buyer from Brazil for $3,000.

Now, Migliorini says she intends to use the proceeds to start an organization that will serve the poor in Santa Catarina where she was born. In fact, she has pledged that at least 90% of the money will be used for that purpose.

She also says of what she did that she does not think of it as prostitution. That is interesting, since the definition of prostitution, according to dictionary.com, is “the act or practice of engaging in sexual intercourse for money.” It would seem that what Migliorini has done is exactly prostitution.

From a purely ethical and philosophical standpoint this topic could generate a very interesting debate. After all, I can imagine passionate and vehement arguments being made on all sides of the question of when, if ever, it is acceptable to sell oneself or one’s virginity. The fact that Migliorini purports to have noble intentions for the money makes the question all the more ripe for debate. Of course, the concept of buying and selling sex is not a new one; prostitution has been called the oldest profession. Big-budget movies starring major Hollywood players have addressed the topic of a one-time sexual rendezvous for a huge sum of money (Indecent Proposal).

The problem is, ones virginity is, short of life itself, perhaps the most valuable thing anyone possesses. Doesn’t it cheapen it to sell it, to surrender one’s most intimate moment to a complete stranger…for money? I would say yes, of course it does. But I would also suggest that we live in a world that has created the environment for this to occur. After all, sex has been devalued through a constant cultural shift. First sex was no longer something to be reserved for marriage. Then it wasn’t even important that sex be reserved for two people who were going to get married. After all, the argument went (and still goes) it is important to experiment and try it out before making (what is supposed to be) a lifelong commitment. It was not long before we moved into a “hook up culture,” with media of all kinds glamorizing the lifestyle of sleeping around and engaging in sex with lots of people, even complete strangers. Within that context, how can we fault Migliorini for at least putting a price on what our world has argued so long we should not treat as so valuable? Put another way, it is quite fascinating to ponder how she could cheapen something that so many give away every day for “free” by selling it for three-quarters of a million dollars.

This is what happens when we treat carelessly what God has designed to be special and beautiful and priceless.

I believe it was that great philosopher Yogi Berra who said, “Be careful. If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up there.” When it comes to the “sexual revolution” that has been going on around the world, I don’t think Yogi could have been much closer to the truth: No one stopped to consider where we were going, and now, here we are.