The $3.8 million virgin speaks

Natalie Dylan explains her more-or-less feminist reasons for auctioning off her virginity.

By Kate Harding

Published January 23, 2009 7:05PM (EST)

Today is chock full of important women's news: the "global gag rule" being lifted, the Senate passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand being appointed to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. So, obviously, it's the perfect time to talk some more about that chick who's auctioning off her virginity.

I've been following the story kind of half-assedly -- as in, I'm aware that this is happening and that the bidding recently topped $3.5 million (!) -- but it hasn't pinged my Feminist Outrage Meter hard enough for me to bother giving it much thought. Today, however, the virgin in question, Natalie Dylan (a pseudonym), posted an explanation of her reasoning at the Daily Beast, and I was surprised to find myself quite intrigued -- and not even all that judgmental. (I know!)

Dylan writes that, after taking some women's studies classes in college, "it became apparent to me that idealized virginity is just a tool to keep women in their place. But then I realized something else: if virginity is considered that valuable, what's to stop me from benefiting from that? It is mine, after all. And the value of my chastity is one level on which men cannot compete with me. I decided to flip the equation, and turn my virginity into something that allows me to gain power and opportunity from men. I took the ancient notion that a woman's virginity is priceless and used it as a vehicle for capitalism. Are you rolling your eyes?"

Well, yeah, but not as much as I expected to. I'm not so into capitalism that I think anything with a market value can and should be sold; I don't think offering up one's body as a commodity is a bold feminist stroke; I cringe at the equation of money-for-sex with "power and opportunity," even if I can't necessarily fault her logic; and personally, I don't think millions of dollars would make sleeping with -- or even talking to -- the kind of guy who'd pay millions of dollars to deflower a virgin worthwhile. I do, however, believe in bodily autonomy, admire creative problem-solving, and like the idea of getting millions for very little work. So there's that.

Most important, though, reading Dylan's thoughtful essay made me realize that objecting to the whole concept of putting a price on a young woman's virginity implies that I do believe it's priceless. Which would put me in the camp with people who throw purity balls and believe "hookup culture" is a threat to young women's sanity. I don't believe virginity is priceless -- I believe that in an ideal world, it would be valueless. What I want is a world in which there are no virginity auctions because there are no bidders, because nobody fetishizes a woman's "purity" or actually thinks of a sexually active woman as dirty and spoiled. In the meantime, maybe an increase in hymen auctions will eventually drive down the market value of a deflowering and diminish the cultural mystique of the dewy young virgin. That's the kind of cold capitalism I could get behind.


Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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