Yesterday, an article from Natalie Dylan — the pseudonym of the women’s study student who is auctioning off her virginity — appeared in The Daily Beast. She now claims that the auction is more than a way to pay for grad school, as previously reported, but also a sociological experiment. The article makes for an interesting read. I recommend checking out the whole thing (it’s not very long), but these two paragraphs struck me as most relevant for discussion:
When I learned this, 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? I knew this experiment would bring me condemnation. But I’m not saying every forward-thinking person has to agree with what I’m doing. You should develop your own personal belief system—that’s exactly my point! For me, valuing virginity as sacred is simply not a concept I could embrace. But valuing virginity monetarily—now that’s a concept I could definitely get behind. I no longer view the selling of sex as wrong or immoral—my time at college showed me that I had too blindly accepted such arbitrary norms. And for what it’s worth, the winning bid won’t necessarily be the highest—I get to choose.
I hesitate to ask this question, feeling like the results are likely to divide along the common “anti-prostitution” and “sex-positive” feminist lines, but I’m also hoping that we might be able to have the conversation respectfully. So, what do you think?
For my part, I’m personally uncomfortable with the concept of selling sex, especially within the context of a patriarchy, but also believes that one has a right to do with their body what they will. I further think that Dylan is likely telling the truth about her intentions, and have thought the same things about this being an interesting example of how our society values virginity while watching this play out. As someone who is rather resentful of the social construct of virginity and how it is used against women, I really do like that aspect and think it’s quite subversive, at the same time as I have the conflicting thought that it’s not so subversive (if again, still not morally objectionable in my view) to partake in “the world’s oldest profession.”
For what it’s worth, I think that Renee’s essay on this subject over at Global Comment is also quite good.
Thanks to Anna for the link.
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