Why Virginity Auctions Haven't Disappeared Yet
There's a specific bit of historical context to the idea of valuing first-time sex, and it doesn't seem to be changing just yet.
This article originally appeared on VICE Canada
Her name is Katherine Stone. Stone is 21-years-old, has long black hair, speaks in a shy voice and if you have the right amount of money, you can take her virginity.
The virginity auction—being done through the Kit-Kat brothel where Stone works in Nevada—currently sits at more than $400,000. Stone's says she's selling her virginity to help her family after an electrical fire took their home.
Virginity auctions are nothing new. Every few years or so a new one seems to pop up in the mainstream media but few, if any, ever come to fruition. The most recent high profile example is that of Elizabeth Raine, a medical student who announced in 2014 that she was selling her virginity online and was offered $801,000 but cancelled at the last moment.
There was also a Peruvian woman who turned down $1.5 million for her virginity.
More than a few questions spring to mind. Why would people pay so much to be someone's first? How did virginity become so fetishized that some people are willing to pay over a million dollars for it?
According to sexologist Shan Boodram the main reason is control.
"Virginity auctions are outdated and antiquated," Boodram told VICE.
She said that the reason men are attracted to virgins in a primal sense is that if a man sleeps with a virgin he knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a child he has with that woman is his.
"Virginity has such a high price on it because we still have that need to identify. It's outdated... the idea and obsession around virginity is just stupid and I wish people thought thoroughly on why people put such a high price on it, literally and figuratively."
This element of controlling a woman's sexuality is why male virginity auctions are practically non-existent.
Therese Shechter, the director of the documentary How to Lose Your Virginity, said that our culture defines virginity in a certain way which brings along built-in value judgements. Almost all of these judgements are based around the idea of women as property—property that loses its value when it is "used."
"There is a prevalent belief that a woman's worth is genuinely calculated on her sexual history," said Schecter. "That is whether a woman has pledged virginity to her father at a purity ball or is being slut shamed because her shorts are too short. All of this goes into the idea that a woman's worth is based on her sexual choices."
"It prevails because this is still the way our culture is structured. It's only recently that women have been able to make their own decisions in their sexual lives. It's prevalent for the same reason that other things—racism, homophobia—are still prevalent"
In her videos and on social media, Stone says that she is taking control of her sexuality not losing it. Boodram says that may be the case and, in the long run, it isn't Stone who she is worried about.
"People are industrious and they will always look for ways to make money," said Boodram. "A carpenter is going to build something, and a woman if she has something that is a value for society and you can make money you're going to be inclined to sell that off.
"When you're thinking about industries in right and wrong terms, I always err on the side of the users as being the ones that we should be trying to reform versus the supplier."
But those "users" who are super into virgins exist, and they exist in droves. Think of all the abstinence balls, the sex education programs promoting virginity, the movies where the gorgeous female virgin comes walking down the hallway with a badass 80s soundtrack behind her, Madonna's biggest hit, the Barely Eighteen pornos and the super weird Silver Ring Thing.
A woman's virginity is still held at an almost mythical status in western society.
"I think there is definitely still a large aspect [of our culture], as you can see from the current election, fixated and obsessed with owning and controlling a woman's sexuality. And I do believe the kind of people that find bidding on a virgin alluring fit into that category," said Boodram.
Schecter said that if she had to guess why the idea is still around is because of the culture men grow up in.
"Our movies, music, our utter lack of sex education where people don't even know how many holes a woman has," she said. "It's all around us, it's everything."
"I think it's more interesting to ask guys why do they think they have magic penises. Like what are they thinking, what do they think they're doing, what do they think they're taking? They must think they're taking something if they're going to pay that much money to do this."
On the website auctioning off her virginity it states that Stone "has the one thing that every man in the world wants—and that's her virginity, and it's that priceless female commodity that this brave and selfless girl is putting up on the auction block to rescue her family from ruin and destitution."
The men who are advocating for other men to sleep with virgins are, obviously, a little hard to find. But on some of the less fun websites on the internet you can find it if you are so inclined.
The majority of pro-virgins are focused on finding one and making her their wife, which is a little different than virginity auctions. The latter is more about being someone's first sexual encounter—but Boodram says the underlying drive is the same.
"I feel often when it comes to sexuality we attribute things to magic and feeling as opposed to biological motivators and we don't assess or give enough weight to them," she said.
"I think that the initial draw towards virgins is, again, a biologically motivated decision and because we don't acknowledge [that] we give it power to this day. It continues to be something we seek even though it's completely stupid."
Schecter agrees, saying that the whole notion of virginity is a complete crock. Virginity is something that is defined by the person, not by a particular sexual act, or else there would be a wide array of sexually active people considered virgins.
"I can tell you that pretty much everything we think and know about virginity is a myth," said Schecter. "That myth has made men think about women in a certain way. [It] has made men want to know how many partners they have had."
"Why do people talk about it, saying she's giving away her 'most precious gift.' Like the greatest thing about her is that she has an undisturbed vagina. Why is that her most precious gift? Maybe she's a great pianist or maybe she is just really good with dogs," she added.
"I don't think her most precious gift is the status of her vagina."
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