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  1. mk
    mk January 24, 2009 at 4:16 pm |

    I’m intrigued by the whole thing. Since she specifies that she’ll be choosing the winning bid, not necessarily the highest bid, I have to wonder if any of the bidders are offering to buy the virginity without sex involved. By that same token, has anyone put in a bid to stop her from having sex with any of the other bidders?

  2. freedomgirl
    freedomgirl January 24, 2009 at 4:27 pm |

    as a lesbian, I find that as soon as you remove the male experience from the sexual event, the definition of virginity becomes extremely hard to pin down.

    is it the moment when your lover first inserts her finger into your vagina? her tongue? is it the moment when the hymen is torn? (this would imply that many lesbians who have been sexually active for decades are virgins, but this is clearly bollocks)

    Or perhaps it is the moment of first orgasm at your lover’s hands — this is my own personal definition of loss of virginity. It is certainly not the moment of first sexual encounter, because everyone agrees that a kiss is not sex.

    so I wonder what her definition of sex is, and what her definition of virginity is, and yet again I am amazed by the heterosexual normativity of the larger world, where words like virginity are so taken for granted that we can have this conversation and almost everyone thinks they know exactly what everyone else means.

  3. Sady
    Sady January 24, 2009 at 4:47 pm |

    To be quite honest, I’m torn. I’m fervently sex-positive, and believe that the rights and humanity of sex workers – and Natalie Dylan, albeit for one night only, is doing sex work – are far too often diminished by people who want to “protect” them by shaming them. We do, right now, exist within a society wherein men are so valued that there is an entire industry dedicated to ensuring their sexual access to women. Women get exploited and hurt working in that industries, but they’re so very devalued that they have precious little REAL protection from those threats – only people telling them that they SHOULDN’T have been involved, or that they were “asking for it.” Lots of women don’t even get to choose whether or not they’ll be sex workers – they’re forced into it, and that’s fucked up. Still others choose it because they feel it’s the only way to make a buck. And others honestly go into it because they don’t attach that much intimate or personal value to sex qua sex and think it’s a decent living. The pay is often so much bigger than that for any other form of unskilled female labor that I can’t blame them. So, honestly, the idea of one woman working the system, voluntarily, in order to make a (huge, in this case!) payday… yeah, it’s weird, and it raises questions of complicity, to which I am not blind, but I honestly think that condemning one woman’s choice without taking the whole picture into account is counter-productive. What Dylan’s doing may be effed up, but there are other people within the industry effing women over on a far huger and scarier scale, and it makes me sad that the mainstream media pays more attention to shaming her than to covering those people and what they do.

  4. rachel
    rachel January 24, 2009 at 5:24 pm |

    This is really interesting. I can certainly see how the selling of one’s virginity can be a politic/almost artistic statement in protest of the mainstream view of it (that it is central to a woman’s virtue and even, as freedom girl queried, that the act of penis in vagina is invested with such a degree of social significance), although I’m not entirely convinced that’s what Natalie Dylan is doing.

    Then again, this is the first time we’ve directly heard her voice on the subject, and as someone who works for and observes mainstream media closely, I know well how it can distort stories of this type.

    I’ve seen others point out elsewhere that the kind of guy who’s willing to fork out millions for a woman’s virginity probably isn’t the kind of guy who really respects women, but I’m heartened that she’ll get to choose who “does the deed”.

  5. chingona
    chingona January 24, 2009 at 5:52 pm |

    I have a hard time seeing this as actually subversive, but I’m probably not the intended audience for that subversion.

  6. Nia
    Nia January 24, 2009 at 6:10 pm |

    I think this is a very simple act of prostitution, and it is problematic only in the sense that prostitution is problematic. Legally, she’s in the same place as any prostitute working on a street corner. In other respects she’s more or less like any high-end “escort”. What I find worse about the case is the cold-blood in it, the premeditation. I understand loveless sex, sex for money, but the idea of sex with such premeditation and cold blood is upsetting.

  7. The Amazing Kim
    The Amazing Kim January 24, 2009 at 6:26 pm |

    Oh, brilliant comment, Sady.

    I pretty much agree with Echidne

    If anything, it is an anti-feminist act, reassuring us that women sell sex and men buy it and that the value of a virgin is higher than the value of a woman who admits to having had sex before in the same way a brand new car (or at least one with that new car smell) is more valuable than a second-hand car.

    At least she gets to keep the money, you might argue, rather than having to hand it over to her father as is usually the case in traditional societies. Isn’t that an improvement? An improvement over what, I might answer.

  8. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 24, 2009 at 6:44 pm |

    I don’t think anyone actually thinks it’s “subversive” except obnoxious hipsters but I do think, “good for her.” Seriously, that’d do you for life. Beyond that, none of anyone’s business except the people involved.

  9. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 24, 2009 at 6:45 pm |

    (the 3.8 million, I mean, would do ya for life)

  10. Lauren
    Lauren January 24, 2009 at 6:47 pm |

    Call me a calculated capitalist, but if I were as socially conscious at her age as she is — and could pass for a virgin, whatever that means anymore — I might consider it too. Then I’d write a book about it and live off the proceeds for the next decade.

  11. Natalia
    Natalia January 24, 2009 at 6:49 pm |

    An improvement over what, I might answer.

    An improvement over what Echidne mentioned before, which is not keeping the money. I’m all for money nowadays. Not having any will do that. Student debt sucks for all, feminist and non-feminist alike. And while progressive movements may have great plans for shaping the future, practical solutions for the here and now are rarely discussed. People do what they have to do, no matter how much good theory they read.

    I understand loveless sex, sex for money, but the idea of sex with such premeditation and cold blood is upsetting.

    But don’t we all premeditate, to one degree or another?

  12. LisLoh
    LisLoh January 24, 2009 at 6:53 pm |

    agreeing with freedomgirl’s comment from her point of view, excellent food for thought,,,

    the last paragraph should be read again by everyone,,,

    [traditionally] breaking the hymen is considered loss of virginity, and I could take this into other realms that could cause non-consensual loss,,, but we won’t go there.

    I say Ms. Dylan is an excellent entrepreneur, and I wish her the best.

  13. Natalia
    Natalia January 24, 2009 at 6:57 pm |

    Call me a calculated capitalist, but if I were as socially conscious at her age as she is — and could pass for a virgin, whatever that means anymore — I might consider it too. Then I’d write a book about it and live off the proceeds for the next decade.

    Honey, if I had been born with a little bit more chutzpah, I’d probably be riiiight there with you. If I would have ever thought about it, that is. Or seriously considered the implications of being in debt to Sallie Mae. Call me a calculated capitalist or a sell-out whore.

  14. rachel
    rachel January 24, 2009 at 7:03 pm |

    Have given this some more thought and written a post in response here.

  15. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes January 24, 2009 at 7:03 pm |

    I have a number of thoughts about this.

    1/. The fetishisation of virginity and the value put on it by men is one of the driving forces of sex trafficking, and in particular the traffickers’ choice of underage girls as their victims.

    2/. What happens if the winner decides to resell her virginity without using it (in other words, decides to pimp her out)? If virginity is treated as a market commodity, why shouldn’t the winner seek to profit from the transaction in some way other than by having the “honour” of being the first dude to fuck her?

    3/. (Inspired by freedomgirl’s comment) What if a lesbian wins the bidding?

    4/. It’s not actually an auction if the highest bid is not guaranteed victory. It is more like a tender for bids from service providers, or for buyers of a company (where the winning bid is the best offer for shareholders but also takes into account other issues).

    5/. It’s not subversive because of the symbolic value placed on a woman’s virginity, and the fact that this is being presented as a one-off (that is, she is not setting herself up as a prostitute/callgirl/escort). These combine to make it reinforce the patriarchal “gatekeeper” role of women, who are expected to wait for a man to prove himself “worthy” (in this instance, by having the best bid).

    6/. In light of points 4 and 5, what will the reactions be of men whose higher bids are rejected in favour of a lower but “better” bid? In what ways will this reaction reflect on and reveal the nature of male privilege and entitlement?

    7/. Her virginity is currently valued at $3.8M – does that mean that she would have been underselling herself if she had opted for marriage to a partner who hadn’t spent that much on her? Given that a man making median earnings and working for 40 years will make less than $2M in his working life (working 40 years multiplied by $45k p.a. = $1.8M – even corrected for inflation along the way it won’t reach $3.8M) what conclusions can we draw about the relative value placed on Natalie Dylan’s virginity?

    8/. Considering market forces and the laws of supply and demand: if, as she says, she may be at the start of a new trend, how far might the market value of a woman’s virginity fall? What would it take for it to fall to zero (or as near to zero as makes no odds)?

    9/. Again, if this is the start of a new trend, and returning to the point about age, ethnicity, attractiveness and other factors – would there be a role for “sexual estate agents” (I think “estate agent” is “realtor” in US English?) who assess the likely selling value of a woman’s virginity before she chooses to put it on the market? Would those same agents provide a service to women seeking to sell their virginity and helping her to advertise it in the best way possible – and collect a commission fee at the end? In what ways would these differ from/be similar to, escort agencies that operate now?

  16. bleek
    bleek January 24, 2009 at 7:31 pm |

    3.8 million? Good grief, if only I had known….. ;)

    While a small part of my feminist core is creeped out by the auction, a larger part of me wants to cheer, “YOU GO GIRL!”

    Sex workers: 1 Stupid Misogynistic Men: 0

  17. Constintina
    Constintina January 24, 2009 at 7:50 pm |

    1-her statement reads pretty weird and false to me. I’m wondering if she’s not a virgin and/or is planning to cop out and this is just a bunny ranch/Natalie Dylan mutual publicity stunt.

    or maybe:

    2-“Like most little girls, I was raised to believe that virginity is a sacred gift a woman should reserve for just the right man. But college taught me that this concept is just a tool to keep the status quo intact.”

    Wait, so we’re supposed to believe she was all “I’m worth waiting for” and then took a women’s studies class and realized that was bs, and yet remained a virgin through the rest of college? Did she have this plan all along? Or is she, perhaps, a big old dyke who has been happily sexin’ it up for years and yet by ridiculous patriarchal standards is still somehow a “virgin” and thought of a way to make some money off this precious status?

    so…

    I don’t find this to be that much of a story, though it is a good illustration of how ridiculous the cult of virginity is. But I mean–some rich dudes are willing to pay an insane amount of money for a fantasy–shocking. If this woman actually had *no* sexual experience prior to this (assuming she goes through with it) I would worry a bit about her, but I really doubt that’s the case (though the illusion that it is is part of the marketing strategy.) It also seems likely that this is a big sexual fantasy thing for *Natalie* herself, and I think it’s telling that none of the coverage entertains that possibility!

  18. oldfeminist
    oldfeminist January 24, 2009 at 7:51 pm |

    I think this says at least as much about race and class as it does about sex.

    What are the chances she will get arrested and get nothing? Very small. If you’re a student and pretty and a virgin, it’s okay. But if you’re older, or not a virgin, maybe not so pretty, and not a student, you will get arrested for selling sex.

    As for the “sociological experiment” explanation? I think it’s fabrication after the fact. Why? Young male students have tried this for years: “I wasn’t trying to buy the services of a prostitute, I was just collecting data for a sociological experiment.” I guess it was just a matter of time before we heard it in reverse.

    TV reporters have tried to claim something similar, too (not so convincing when you’re a weatherman).

  19. auletrides
    auletrides January 24, 2009 at 7:59 pm |

    “I’m personally uncomfortable with the concept of selling sex”

    This seems like the base reason behind most anti-sex work arguments. And this is, of course, followed up with the “BUT women should be able to do what they want with their bodies (even if I really think they’re fucked up)” and some comment about sex trafficking and on and on. Seriously, get over it.
    It’s just as reasonable to expect a sex workers’ actions to be “subversive” as it is the expect the same from someone working at McDonalds. We all are living within a capitalist system, which is inherently oppressive, and as a function of that oppression need to do things that aren’t always PC to get by. I think it IS subversive, in a way, for a women to take the well established concept of “virgin purity” and profiting off of it. Seeing as this concept applies to all of us within this culture, why not?
    But back to the point I’m making, it doesn’t matter if you’re “comfortable” with sex work. Even if you say you “support” some sex workers who are trafficked or forced into it. If you go up to a streetworker and say “hey, your job makes me queasy and you must have something wrong with you to be doing it. Also you’re anti feminist…but if you need anything I’m here for you,” do you really s/he’s going to feel anything but insulted? All this attitude does is alienate sex workers from feminism. And seeing as a lot of sex workers are people of color, queer, trans, and from poor/working class backgrounds, that’s also drawing a line in the sand that says you have to be from a more privileged background to be a feminist.

  20. akeeyu
    akeeyu January 24, 2009 at 8:08 pm |

    What if the winner then says “Okay, I own that virginity. Please keep it fresh in the box* for the next X years. I’ll be back to pick it up later.”?

    *har.

  21. Angela
    Angela January 24, 2009 at 8:27 pm |

    Clearly, this is what poor or no self-esteem looks like. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have tied her virginity to her worth as a human being.

  22. bleek
    bleek January 24, 2009 at 8:29 pm |

    I’m confused…she states that she was raised to believe in abstinence or at least clutching one’s hymen…UNTIL COLLEGE and yet every google link I open regarding this woman says that she claimed to have gotten the idea when her older sister performed several weeks of sex work to pay off her own degree.

    Perhaps she is fibbing a wee bit on her pre-college notion of good girl.

    Meanwhile, the most infuriating aspect of those links is that even in video, journalists commented “Well, she doesn’t look like a virgin.”

    Did I miss something? Do people now wear their hymens on their forehead?

  23. fishbane
    fishbane January 24, 2009 at 8:31 pm |

    My thought process was,

    – she should do whatever she wants.
    – The process is pretty icky.
    – There’s probably a book coming about this later.
    – That process is pretty icky.
    – I hate that sexuality is pushed into this particular perversion so frequently. (I’m mostly fine with other consensual pervy behaviour).
    – She should hope, for her future career, that she doesn’t become identified. It doesn’t matter if this is a game, research, simple prostitiution, or what, she will be remembered. And that is a function of the patriarchy, as well.

  24. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 24, 2009 at 8:39 pm |

    oldfeminist, she’s doing it through the Bunny Ranch, so, not illegal.

    Angela, are you a troll? In case you aren’t, obviously SHE isn’t doing that, she’s just profiting off the dumbasses who do.

    Come on people.

    Does no one else but me think that it’s really inappropriate for us to be sitting here speculating about this shit? Seriously. Who the fuck cares. If you’re not interested in bidding, why is it any of your business. Go save your outrage for the people who rape and beat and murder sex workers with impunity and leave this Natalie Dylan chick be.

  25. Angela
    Angela January 24, 2009 at 9:17 pm |

    PC, what’s up with the name-calling? If someone disagrees with my opinion, I don’t call them names. Clearly, you have my post mixed up with someone else’s. I see this as Ms. Dylan not valuing her quality of life.

    As for your quip about “why is it any of your business?” All the more reason to be concern, it’s instances like this (and God knows there are too many), that can lead to many more rapings, beatings and murders, of not only sex workers, but of women and young girls in general who are not even tied to the industry. If so-called fems like you want to get rid of the patriarchy that’s behind this, then don’t condone the foolishness up front.

    Too often women (not those who are forcefully taken against their will) blame the men, when in fact we play just as big a role.

  26. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 24, 2009 at 9:26 pm |

    Oh yes, riiight, of course, this chick selling her virginity for 3.8 million is actually going to MAKE people go do violent shit. Of course. It all makes perfect sense now. Let’s not blame the men who commit violent crimes, oh no, it’s all the fault of those slutty women who think they should be able to have sex, or sell sex, what the fuck ever. Let’s lock her up in prison for life, all those rapes and murders she’s causing. Give me a fucking break.

    And why the distinction between sex workers and non, sounds like you care more for the sweet virginal girls than the sex workers yourself.

  27. corwin
    corwin January 24, 2009 at 9:40 pm |

    Does anyone here think
    1)this is legit?
    2)If so,her higher bids-by this I mean more than 3 figures-is legit?
    Anyone who will believe this will believe the winters are growing warmer.

  28. shah8
    shah8 January 24, 2009 at 9:57 pm |

    I think it’s just another internet phenomenon, and laugh it off.

    If people really want to talk about it, I think other topics like communications, internet, the value of notoriety are a bit more important than sex-positivism or not.

    I mean, sex positivism isn’t really about the single of sex, or about a stunt. It’s more about being open in the way sex is involved in our lives and being nonjudgemental. To be sex-positivist is to gossip about this as we would any other topic.

    …I think

  29. kb
    kb January 24, 2009 at 9:59 pm |

    yeah, I guess my question is, “why does it have to be subversive?” I’m kind of with auletrides, in that we all need money to survive, and who is she harming? Yes, she would be an example of an extremely privileged class of sex workers(even if only for one night). Does that require her to be subversive? I don’t know.
    and yeah, I want to know why this kind of premeditated sex is so much worse than going out to a club when I’m horny/calling a friend that I know will be willing to have sex. or is it? are those both wrong too?

  30. sophonisba
    sophonisba January 24, 2009 at 10:26 pm |

    So, what do you think?

    I think people, emphatically including feminist bloggers, have a reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally hard time coping with a prostitute who has a sense of humor.

  31. Izzy
    Izzy January 24, 2009 at 10:54 pm |

    I support Natalie and her experiment with a few caveats.

    *I completely agree with everything freedomgirl wrote.
    *While I know not all madams are sisterly, I feel a little uncomfortable that Natalie is doing it through Moonlite BunnyRanch which that freaky sounding Dennis Hof owns.
    *I also agree with someone up there who said race and class are incredibly important here. Being an attractive, white woman is surely of enormous importance here.

    Just to reiterate, I support Natalie and agree with most of her analysis. I wish her well.

  32. piny
    piny January 24, 2009 at 10:56 pm |

    On the most basic level, I feel like it’s her body and her choice. I’m not sure that I have the right to evaluate her sex life in terms of its value to mine, however voluntarily public her behavior.

    Of course, blogs are for chewing, so.

    I think that one of the most interesting things about this experiment’s prospectus is the way it talks about virginity as a type of property. Historically, virginity has had a great deal of value: the right to get in first has meant the right to an intact patriarchal lineage. A woman’s virginity was therefore the foundation of property, and the foundation of any wife’s worth. This wasn’t true for all societies–and there are a couple other assets a marketable female body might harbor even in a patrilineal system, like proven fertility or a widow’s dowry–but it was important to many.

    This did not mean that a woman’s virginity was her own property. Like every other bodily trait, it was owned and controlled by her family until it could be traded to her husband. The concept of clean certain virginity itself–and its corollary, the contaminated slut–is pretty contrary to the idea of the woman as an agent in any transaction. Female subjectivity, sexual or emotional, was not only irrelevant to preserving virginity; it was seen as counterindicative. A willful woman was a lustful, grasping woman. A biddable woman was likely chaste.

    So Dylan’s endeavor is indeed a modern gloss on an old custom: she’s an entrepreneur, not chattel. I don’t consider this experiment an improvement in terms of raising the national discourse on sexism, but that is a big change.

    And it raises some fascinating questions about the meaning and symbolic value of virginity. Her subjectivity is the very thing that might threaten the value of the property on offer. From the traditional perspective that privileges intact hymens, all her actions and statements make her a sucker bet.

    The prospect of being conned has in the past resulted in many misogynist theories about female honesty and sanity, many invasive controls on women’s bodies, and many vicious punishments for women who threatened to act on their own impulses. She doesn’t live with those consequences. Her society doesn’t enforce them. What if she is lying? What would that mean to the men involved? What does the possibility mean?

  33. u. s.
    u. s. January 25, 2009 at 12:04 am |

    “Wait, so we’re supposed to believe she was all “I’m worth waiting for” and then took a women’s studies class and realized that was bs, and yet remained a virgin through the rest of college?”

    It happens. Sometimes people just don’t end up in a relationship, and they don’t really want casual non-relationship sex, so they end up remaining virgins. Other people are just asexual, or have low enough sex drives that it’s not hugely important to them. Not all post-teenage virgins are rabid fundies, liars/”technical virgins”, or damaged goods. In threads like this (or the equivalent thread on Pandagon), it can be really frustrating and demoralizing to see feminists make precisely those assumptions – or say that they’d never want to sleep with/date a virgin because virgins are [insert one of those assumptions]. Natalie Dylan’s stunt is pretty dubious on several levels, and there are a lot of legitimate criticisms to be made, but it’s no excuse to abandon shah8‘s more inclusive definition of sex positivity: “it’s more about being open in the way sex is involved in our lives and being nonjudgemental.” I’d think that being sex-positive, a feminist, etc. ought to mean being ok with the choice not to have sex as well as the choice to have sex, right?

    I know this is a little tangential to the main discussion, and it was just an offhand remark, but damn, it’s frustrating (on a pretty personal level) to see comments like that on feminist websites. They’re all too common…

  34. MomTFH
    MomTFH January 25, 2009 at 12:55 am |

    I don’t find it subversive at all. Taking something that is valued by a patriarchal capitalist society and selling it for a lot of money for personal gain is not subversive and really isn’t much of a social experiment.

    And I have a question. What if she was a virgin who did not meet conventional beauty standards? What if she is truly a hetronormative virgin, but she is not young, not thin, or not attractive? How much money would her virginity be worth, then? She is using a pseudonym. Has she promised that the picture is accurate and current? Would it be a breach of contract if she is indeed a virgin, as promised, but somehow fails to meet some of the other epitomes of patriarchal dreams? Is that all part of the bargain?

    It’s hardly likely, but I would be highly amused if some millionaire paid for his wet dream and ended up with something less, in his estimation. (Not mine). THAT would be a social commentary.

  35. Reply turned post, high priced prostitution style « Mom’s Tinfoil Hat

    [...] prostitution style Posted in Uncategorized by MomTFH on January 25th, 2009 Feministe has a good post up about the women’s studies student who is auctioning off her virginity on the internet. [...]

  36. Natalia
    Natalia January 25, 2009 at 5:11 am |

    Angela, I’m sorry, but that’s just dumb.

    The logic that Natalie Dylan is helping “cause” rape or whatever is no different than the logic that says that a bit of decolletage also “causes” rape.

    …that can lead to many more rapings, beatings and murders, of not only sex workers, but of women and young girls in general who are not even tied to the industry.

    I don’t want to pick at your language, but like Puppycat, I’m wondering why rapes, beatings, and murders of sex workers should in this instance be differentiated from rapes, beatings, and murders perpetuated against people outside the industry. Although the sex industry is classified as a high risk profession – it is by the virtue of our sexist society that such high risk is deemed acceptable by many, after all.

  37. Jha
    Jha January 25, 2009 at 5:33 am |

    Isn’t the point of feminism to empower women to do whatever it is the hell they want to do?

    Dismantling the Patriarchy occurs by changing the mindset of men as well, and since the Menz are so resistant to change, why not charge the suckers for buying into the institution?

    She’s not being trafficked, so that problem doesn’t apply in this case. She’s not a prostitute since she doesn’t sell sex for a living, so that problem doesn’t apply in this case. She may or may not be a real virgin, but as she writes, the issue itself is so fraught with symbolism, which makes the reactions of the men who are bidding all the more interesting.

    I wish the focus wasn’t so much on Natalie Dylan herself as it is on the men who actually think her virginity is a commodity that can be bought – THAT is worth social commenary. But of course it won’t happen – sooooo much easier to villify Dylan herself for doing something to her body that’s not socially approved.

  38. tim f
    tim f January 25, 2009 at 6:30 am |

    My problem is not so much her actions but her attempt to justify it as some kind of subversive social experiment, above. She seems to be trying to draw a dividing line between herself and other prostitutes and expressing a lack of solidarity with them. I’d like to be proved wrong by further statements she makes.

  39. Mary
    Mary January 25, 2009 at 6:37 am |

    I agree with Natalia. Working at a gas station is also high risk for crime for women, but we don’t just accept that it’s “part of the job” and that they should just deal with it because that’s what they chose.

  40. Richard Jeffrey Newman
    Richard Jeffrey Newman January 25, 2009 at 10:06 am |

    I wish I could remember in more detail that argument Andrea Dworkin makes in Intercourse in the chapter on (it may even be called) virginity–not because I know for sure that it is historically accurate or because it is entirely persuasive, but I think it’s really interesting as a lens through which to talk about all this. If I remember correctly, she argues that there was a historical shift in the view of what a woman’s virginity was–and she uses Joan of Arc and Madame Bovary as examples, I think–from it being a state that a woman could move in and out of by deciding to have or not to have sex to it being a state that was “broken” or “lost” as the result of penetration by a man. More to the point, the losing of this second virginity became, I think Dworkin argues, equated with being (or being “made”) a woman, and I think she gives several examples of cultural thinking that equate a woman’s first experience of genital penetration with a penis with her first real experience of herself as a woman; and then fucking itself becomes for women, in this logic, the ultimate experience of womanhood; mix that in with all the crap about women needing to be pure, virgins when they are married, blah, blah, blah, and you get the situation we have now. That, at least, is what I remember.

    I guess I am responding to the thread in this discussion about what constitutes, for a woman, losing her virginity–first orgasm? first penetration with anything, not just a penis? breaking of the hymen?–because I think it’s really useful to broaden that discussion a bit to question the whole notion of what virginity–female and male–is in the first place. (I do not, however, want to derail this discussion into a discussion of male virginity; that is something I plan to write about eventually on my own blog. In the event that someone here wants to talk more about that, though, there are a couple of related posts on my blog, here and <a href=”http://itsallconnected.wordpress.com/2006/01/27/a-personal-story-about-rape/”here–two takes on the same experience–that would be appropriate for that discussion. And if this parenthetical statement is enormously presumptuous of me, moderators, please just delete/edit it as you see fit.)

  41. Richard Jeffrey Newman
    Richard Jeffrey Newman January 25, 2009 at 10:08 am |

    Oops! I screwed up the second link in my last comment, it’s here. Sorry.

  42. Sarah
    Sarah January 25, 2009 at 10:23 am |

    I don’t think this kid has a clue of the harm she’s doing to her sex. I’d give her an F in women’s studies.

  43. Angiportus
    Angiportus January 25, 2009 at 11:43 am |

    Thanks, u.s., Natalia, Jha, Cara, for clearing up points I couldn’t. Some years back Dan Savage suggested that virginity ends when you personally see someone’s O-face (whether they see yours or not).
    All this woman is doing, it seems to me, is trying to turn a profit off some stupid and harmful myths. In doing so, she might or might not cause some folks to start thinking about these myths, perhaps in more places than on someone’s blog. Of course, a lot of people will still believe the myths, so more things need to happen. If this whole thing isn’t a massive hoax in the first place.
    Showing the world how stupid some [not all, fortunately] men are, isn’t enough. She could use some of the prize money (that is, what the place she worlks for doesn’t take out) to help sex workers, or educate teens on how the whole virginity concept is suspect, clear down to the part about the spilling of blood. If I ever really thought someone was going to spill any of mine like that, I’d take them out first, as I have said elsewhere.
    On Hugo’s blog, folks are doing a good job on the other nuances of this mess. But how to preach to other folks besides the choir?

  44. Natalie
    Natalie January 25, 2009 at 12:49 pm |

    I feel like I’ve been hearing about this for a really long time at this point, which ups the likelihood to me that this is a stunt. If millions of dollars have been offered, then what is she waiting for?

    I don’t think it’s subversive to game the patriarchal system for personal gain. l There are some ways that a limited number of women can always “defect” in a way that’s profitable for them, but harmful to women in general. I don’t think it helps any woman for the exclusive value of virginity to be reinforced. I’m certainly not saying she doesn’t have the right to do it, but I do think she’s kidding herself about it being subversive.

  45. sophonisba
    sophonisba January 25, 2009 at 1:36 pm |

    Some years back Dan Savage suggested that virginity ends when you personally see someone’s O-face (whether they see yours or not).

    That is so awesome because of the number of heterosexual men who would be retroactively re-virginized under this definition. Was that Dan’s point? It’s a great point, if so.

  46. We are not your tools with which to fight the patriarchy « What a crazy random happenstance

    [...] and Ren deal with just for trying to engage but after witnessing two posts, one by Cara about Natalie Dylan and one by Renee about legalizing prositution I’ve finally been able to put my finger on what [...]

  47. Bushfire
    Bushfire January 25, 2009 at 4:06 pm |

    I really liked Jha’s comment (#39) because the interesting thing here is not what Natalie is doing but what the men involved are doing. It makes sense, in a capitalist society, to do something that would gain you 3.8 million dollars, even if it’s something unpleasant. It means a lifetime of security and freedom. But how many of us would play 3.8 million to stick a body part in someone else’s body? That is an act that doesn’t even mean much outside the cultural connotations. If you have that much money to throw away shouldn’t you build a hospital or do some research to help cure a disease or build infrastructure in developing nations? The conversation here should be about “what’s wrong with these guys?”.

    None of us actually know precisely what Natalie’s history and motivations are and it’s useless talking about them. She is going to succeed in making a point, though. Look at all these feminists discussing her behaviour instead of men’s behaviour. There’s a point to be made right there.

  48. Ens
    Ens January 25, 2009 at 5:35 pm |

    Angela’s comments are horrifying. Apparently this woman is causing other women to be raped.

    Sarah’s comments could do with some exposition, but could probably do without the F in women’s studies business.

    But somehow Constintina’s argument is the most disappointing to me. I expected the other comments to some degree. It’s a kind of subtle judgment on everybody about their sexual practices. Following it to its conclusion, any virgin who doesn’t think “virginity” is sacred must have something wrong with them, or else they would not be a virgin (by whatever definition of virginity we go with), because nobody could possibly make any decisions differently or have a different situation. I’m sure Constintina doesn’t mean any harm, but that’s why it’s so insidious.

  49. piny
    piny January 25, 2009 at 6:21 pm |

    Bushfire, I think that is a good point about inconsistent scrutiny. And I didn’t bother to criticize the bidders myself, and that is a problem. On the other hand, I’m not reading much complexity imputed to the men’s motives, and I don’t think I see much myself. What’s wrong with them is the misogyny we all implicitly understand; you seem to frame their choices in that premise, and I think a bunch of people here agree with you.

    Virginity fetishes are nothing new. It’s about seeing a woman’s sexuality as a function of your potency and dominance, and as vested in her body rather than her psyche. That mentality might seem archaic or evil, but it’s not illegible to us. I’d much rather hear from Dylan. If there’s anything unconventional about this, it’s her volubility.

    Of course, that’s not an argument for extra criticism of her sexual morality or even business ethics. And I think her actual virginity, physical or emotional, is at best beside the point. I don’t think she’s guilty of fraud for selling a conceit rather than a technicality.

  50. Maria
    Maria January 26, 2009 at 10:50 am |

    It has to be a marketing stunt. Either we are all being fed lies, or only the rich idiot that is paying 3.759.000 extra dollars for a high end call girl is. After all she is different from other sex workers only in one aspect, and it´s one that makes sex worse. It´s a typical “the emperor has no clothes situation”.

    I think virginity has lost a lot of market value already, but this smart girl has simply found someone who didn´t know. And she gets to vet candidates, as well. If the story is true it´s patriarchy that is being played, not Ms. Dylan.

  51. Sailorman
    Sailorman January 26, 2009 at 12:11 pm |

    One of the main arguments against prostitution is that generally speaking it is horribly exploitative.

    This situation presents an alternate view, where it is much more difficult to take the position that the women is being exploited by the john, and/or that she “has” to be a prostitute for social or personal reasons. The price is too high.

    In my view it is a bit like the arguments against selling a kidney: if kidneys were sold for a fixed price of 10 million dollars, would it be exploitation of the donor if you allowed him/her to sell?

    Obviously that wouldn’t apply everywhere. Prostitution can be–is–exploitation in most circumstances. Where does that line exist? I don’t know: somewhere below a million dollars, I imagine. I may work my entire life and fail to earn a million dollars. Many people I know HAVE worked their entire lives and have not even come close–and they have bruises, bad backs, injuries, and the like to show for their years of toil. I don’t see how it would be less exploitative to force her to risk the costs of being poor.

  52. Endor
    Endor January 26, 2009 at 12:37 pm |

    “I don’t find it subversive at all. Taking something that is valued by a patriarchal capitalist society and selling it for a lot of money for personal gain is not subversive and really isn’t much of a social experiment.”

    Agreed. I just don’t buy her story about it being more than it is. Sounds to me like she’s trying much to hard to explain away the simple truth – she wants quick cash and is willing to sell herself – meaning, she’s not being forced, this is what she claims she wants to do. So, who cares? This isn’t all that interesting – it’s a case of a woman choosing for herself. Though, it is interesting that she has to go to such lengths to pretend its something bigger and deeper, I don’t quite understand why I’m supposed to be interested in what she goes with her virginity.

    “It’s hardly likely, but I would be highly amused if some millionaire paid for his wet dream and ended up with something less, in his estimation. (Not mine). THAT would be a social commentary.”

    And TRULY subversive, as opposed to this “pay no attention to that patriarchy compliance behind the curtain” thing she’s doing now.

  53. Alyssa
    Alyssa January 26, 2009 at 1:13 pm |

    I’m a little bothered by the comments that say something along the lines of she is hurting women as a whole. I’m not sure how this does hurt women (except if you are one of those people who think that one woman represents the whole). But what I really don’t understad is why she needs to consider women as a whole first. Just because she is one means that she has to look out for all women?
    While I agree that she really isn’t being subersive to the community as a whole, maybe she is being subversive to her upbringing. Isn’t that worth something? Changing the way you think about something?
    My only problem I have with this is if Natalie really understads what she is getting into. Yes it is enough money to live off of, but she will be marked for life. She might find it harder to get a job (if she so chooses to get one) neighbors will talk, etc. If she understands this, then I have no problem with what she is doing.
    But on another topic- the thing that stands out the most to me (and has been alluded to) is how to determine the price of virginity? Does it cost less (and therefor you aren’t as valued) if you are a minority (or old as some others have noted)?

  54. Endor
    Endor January 26, 2009 at 1:41 pm |

    “Just because she is one means that she has to look out for all women?”

    uh . .. isn’t this kinda the point of being a feminist? Isn’t it a universal feminist goal to reduce (and ultimately eliminate) the harm we do to other women?

    “I’m not sure how this does hurt women”

    While I make no statement about whether I agree with this idea or not, it seems pretty clear that those who think she is hurting all women mean that her collusion with patriarchy’s sex toy mandate of women validates it, gives anti-feminists a poster girl, gives an air of privileged disconnect from her dabbling in sex work and the infinitely larger group of anonymous, ignored, maligned sex workers. At least, that’s my impression. It’s not that they’re saying she’s personally hurting anyone, but that her actions are aiding and abetting those they do and will.

  55. Alyssa
    Alyssa January 26, 2009 at 3:08 pm |

    @ Endor: Maybe I missed it but, did Natalie Dylan ever state she is a feminist? Did she ever state that she is doing this for all women? If she did, then I think those people mad with her for doing this are right to be mad. But otherwise I wonder why we are expecting her to be a feminist? Did we get that impression because she took a woman’s studies couse?

  56. Thomas
    Thomas January 26, 2009 at 3:24 pm |

    Over at Yes Means Yes Blog, I posted about the bidders. Everyone talks about Dylan and her motivations, but I want to see the bidders scrutinized.

  57. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 26, 2009 at 3:40 pm |

    One of the main arguments against prostitution is that generally speaking it is horribly exploitative.

    This situation presents an alternate view, where it is much more difficult to take the position that the women is being exploited by the john, and/or that she “has” to be a prostitute for social or personal reasons. The price is too high.

    Obviously that wouldn’t apply everywhere. Prostitution can be–is–exploitation in most circumstances. Where does that line exist?

    Uh, what do you mean by “arguments against prostitution”? Against allowing prostitution? For locking people up for it and giving them criminal records and making it harder for them to get jobs? Basically giving police free reign to rape and abuse prostitutes like they do all the fucking time without consequence? If you are doing that because you see it as exploitative then you are punishing the victim.

    What you said reminds me of that jackass Ronald Weitzer, who thinks that prostitution should be de-facto legal at the high end but that street/survival prostitution should be punished. How fucking classist is that.

  58. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 26, 2009 at 3:47 pm |

    Where non-forced prostitution is most exploitative is also where the women are most dependent on it. If you take that away you are forcing them further into poverty. And yes there can be programs to help but it is never going to be enough, especially when people have criminal records, when the couldn’t get another job or weren’t earning enough to survive in previous work…and anti-prostitution feminists are too busy attacking sex workers to do the work anyway.

  59. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 26, 2009 at 3:59 pm |

    While I make no statement about whether I agree with this idea or not, it seems pretty clear that those who think she is hurting all women mean that her collusion with patriarchy’s sex toy mandate of women validates it, gives anti-feminists a poster girl, gives an air of privileged disconnect from her dabbling in sex work and the infinitely larger group of anonymous, ignored, maligned sex workers.

    I don’t get your latter point because as far as I can see I don’t think she’s trying to represent herself as a representative sex worker, or someone who speaks for sex workers. So who cares if she just dabbles in sex work? I hold no grudge against people at the upper end and I’m pretty far from there myself, and I’ve been farther. As for giving anti-feminists a poster girl…just, huh?? Only if they have a really weird interpretation of her actions I guess. This reminds me of those people who say women shouldn’t wear make up or get married or whatever because they are being “colluders.” It just doesn’t make sense to me. And the whole “sex toy mandate” thing…huh?? Obviously many men think women should be their sex toys. But I don’t get how anyone could think that Natalie Dylan’s profitting off of sex affects those attitudes, any more than any woman who has sex willingly with men ever does.

  60. Endor
    Endor January 26, 2009 at 5:05 pm |

    “don’t get your latter point because as far as I can see I don’t think she’s trying to represent herself as a representative sex worker, or someone who speaks for sex workers. So who cares if she just dabbles in sex work?”

    Eh, I don’t care what she does. But to be clear, I meant that the media will use her story as a pretty-woman-esque sex work story, not that she’s portraying it that way.

    “As for giving anti-feminists a poster girl…just, huh??”

    Oh, c’mon. They love it when women, self-professed feminists in particular, do something that “proves” women are just x. X can be sluts, gold diggers, manipulators, whatever. And they will use this as “proof” for just that – she’s using men! etc ad nauseum.

    “And the whole “sex toy mandate” thing…huh?? Obviously many men think women should be their sex toys. But I don’t get how anyone could think that Natalie Dylan’s profitting off of sex affects those attitudes, any more than any woman who has sex willingly with men ever does.”

    This goes back to the poster girl thing. Sexists need very little “evidence” to proclaim all women are x. Dylan’s stunt is a sexist two-fer. Not only is she using her “feminine wiles” to part poor, poor menz from their money, she’s not sorry about it! she’s a brazen hussy! You get the idea. When someone says that a particular woman’s actions are “hurting all women”, I don’t think they mean *she* personally is causing the damage, so much as giving justification to that that will.

    ****************************

    “Maybe I missed it but, did Natalie Dylan ever state she is a feminist?”

    Possibly not, but I assumed from her being a Women’s Study major. I find it hard to believe she isn’t if that’s what she’s studying. Of course, I could be wrong.

    “Did she ever state that she is doing this for all women? ”

    *she* doesn’t have to. Remember that xkcd comic showing two frames – two guys standing in front of a math problem (with the wrong answer) and a guy and a girl standing in front of the same problem (also with the wrong answer)? In the first, the first guy tells the other that he sucks at math. The second frame shows the first guy saying to the girl, “wow, girls suck at math.”

    The point being that women aren’t treated as individuals – what one does we *all* do, according to popular patriarchical consensus. So to me, like I said above, when someone says person x is doing damage to the cause, as it were, what they mean is society at large will use person x’s actions to hurt the cause. Because women aren’t allowed personal autonomy and agency. (of course, one would think THAT is the attitude that needs to change, not the women themselves, but hey, wev).

    If she did, then I think those people mad with her for doing this are right to be mad. But otherwise I wonder why we are expecting her to be a feminist? Did we get that impression because she took a woman’s studies couse?”

  61. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 26, 2009 at 5:30 pm |

    So are you just commenting on how sexist people will judge her or do you think she should behave differently because of it?

    Personally, I’m trying really hard to NOT change who I am or what I do based on how assholes will judge me.

  62. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 26, 2009 at 5:37 pm |

    BTW I think it should be pretty obvious to anyone with a rational brain that any kind of transaction/monetary exchange means someone parts with their money, and its obviously not really manipulative if you see what your getting up front and still decide to go ahead with it.

    But I guess that’s not really your point huh. You (or the people you are arguing for, since you said you don’t necessarily agree) don’t care whats actually going on, just how dumb sexist men will interpret it. But, you know, people can interpret almost anything almost any way. If dumb men want to see women as slutty or manipulative or whatever they will just see that in *whatever* women do and it becomes sort of a futile exercise to try and structure your life around that. Not to mention, well, like you said, why should we have to change, just because some dumb misogynists will interpret every action stupidly.

  63. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 26, 2009 at 5:42 pm |

    Not manipulative to the purchaser that is.

  64. Sailorman
    Sailorman January 26, 2009 at 10:30 pm |

    # Puppycat says:
    January 26th, 2009 at 3:40 pm – Edit

    One of the main arguments against prostitution is that generally speaking it is horribly exploitative.

    This situation presents an alternate view, where it is much more difficult to take the position that the women is being exploited by the john, and/or that she “has” to be a prostitute for social or personal reasons. The price is too high.

    Obviously that wouldn’t apply everywhere. Prostitution can be–is–exploitation in most circumstances. Where does that line exist?

    Uh, what do you mean by “arguments against prostitution”? Against allowing prostitution? For locking people up for it and giving them criminal records and making it harder for them to get jobs? Basically giving police free reign to rape and abuse prostitutes like they do all the fucking time without consequence? If you are doing that because you see it as exploitative then you are punishing the victim.

    What you said reminds me of that jackass Ronald Weitzer, who thinks that prostitution should be de-facto legal at the high end but that street/survival prostitution should be punished. How fucking classist is that.
    # Puppycat says:
    January 26th, 2009 at 3:47 pm – Edit

    Where non-forced prostitution is most exploitative is also where the women are most dependent on it. If you take that away you are forcing them further into poverty. And yes there can be programs to help but it is never going to be enough, especially when people have criminal records, when the couldn’t get another job or weren’t earning enough to survive in previous work…and anti-prostitution feminists are too busy attacking sex workers to do the work anyway.

  65. Sailorman
    Sailorman January 26, 2009 at 10:36 pm |

    # Puppycat says:
    January 26th, 2009 at 3:40 pm – Edit

    One of the main arguments against prostitution is that generally speaking it is horribly exploitative.

    This situation presents an alternate view, where it is much more difficult to take the position that the women is being exploited by the john, and/or that she “has” to be a prostitute for social or personal reasons. The price is too high.

    Obviously that wouldn’t apply everywhere. Prostitution can be–is–exploitation in most circumstances. Where does that line exist?

    Uh, what do you mean by “arguments against prostitution”? Against allowing prostitution? For locking people up for it and giving them criminal records and making it harder for them to get jobs? Basically giving police free reign to rape and abuse prostitutes like they do all the fucking time without consequence? If you are doing that because you see it as exploitative then you are punishing the victim.

    What you said reminds me of that jackass Ronald Weitzer, who thinks that prostitution should be de-facto legal at the high end but that street/survival prostitution should be punished. How fucking classist is that.

    Er… huh?

    That prostitution is exploitative in many situations–are you debating that? Seriously? I don’t think I actually said a darn thing about any of the stuff that you seem to be suggesting, so if you’re not debating exploitation at all then I can’t figure out what you think you’re replying to.

    [shrug] I don’t actually have a definite opinion as to the best solution for that exploitation, as both legal and illegal prostitution have their own sets of problems. Irrespective of that question, exploitation is (1) a problem in most prostitution, and (2) not IMO a problem here, as I said above. That’s all I was saying.

  66. octogalore
    octogalore January 27, 2009 at 12:40 am |

    I agree with many above who say there is nothing subversive about this.

    Dylan is simply rebranding what she’s doing as part of what it actually is: capitalism. She has identified a product — a pretty white college middle class college girl’s virginity — and found a unique way to market it to her target demographic — lonely, wealthy 40-60 year old insecure men. As part of the wealth creation scheme, she has likely realized that she will be identified and therefore disqualified from many jobs, and has identified a “back end” profit mechanism — a book or a set of Playboy/Maxim spreads. To market and sell the back end, she is marketing the front end scheme as “subversive.”

    I’m hoping this bunch of feminists is less guillible than the front end buyers.

  67. Jessica
    Jessica January 27, 2009 at 12:45 am |

    I find it very disturbing that people seem to have a lot to say ( and judgments to make) on this woman’s decision to sell her virginity, and virtually nothing to say about the thousands of men who are trying to buy it! I don’t think anyone should be vilified or Praised for making a Personal choice on what they do with their virginity.

    Instead of making judgments, the larger picture for me is trying to educate boys and girls, men and women about women; our body’s and minds. Rising young people who know, and believe that sex is neither bad nor shameful. To teach boys and young men that you can be sexually attracted to a woman and RESPECT her at the same time ( what a concept). Building a society, wherein men don’t feel the need to buy a women’s body at all, and women don’t feel the need to sell themselves to gain power in this world.

  68. Natalia
    Natalia January 27, 2009 at 10:11 am |

    Sexists need very little “evidence” to proclaim all women are x.

    And how is this Natalie Dylan’s problem, exactly?

    I was at a bar a few nights ago, when I distinctly heard several women next to me discussing my appearance and saying that “Russian women are sluts.” So perhaps I shouldn’t go to bars anymore? Or, you know, spend a few hours thinking about how some asshole might interpret my dress should I dare show myself outside?

  69. sina
    sina January 27, 2009 at 10:51 am |

    I think that there’s a fairly simple but unexamined distinction that’s at work here. Some people are arguing that she should do what she wants. Other people are saying she should do what she wants, but we don’t have to celebrate it as feminist or subversive. Because, though I agree with alot of what Jha wrote, I don’t agree that feminism is about empowering women to make choices, any choices whatever. That’s neoliberalism; that’s capitalism. Feminism is about critiquing the existing world so as to change our notion of the possible, so we can all make better choices. And in the meantime, trying not to blame people for making the choices they need to make in order to survive. But that doesn’t mean that we stop critiquing the world, or that all choices women make are empowering or subversive or whatever.

  70. Kristen (The J one)
    Kristen (The J one) January 27, 2009 at 11:32 am |

    willing to sell herself

    [cringe] Could we put a moratorium on this phrase, please? As a number of sex workers have argued (persuasively) on this blog and others that particular phrase is inaccurate and hurtful.

  71. Endor
    Endor January 27, 2009 at 11:42 am |

    “So are you just commenting on how sexist people will judge her or do you think she should behave differently because of it?”

    The former. I’m saying what I think people mean when they say “x is hurting the cause” or whathaveyou. Notice I never made claim to this idea as something I agree with. Like, I said a few times now, I don’t care what she does.

    “Personally, I’m trying really hard to NOT change who I am or what I do based on how assholes will judge me.”

    Ideally that’s what we all should be doing. Not all of us have Dylan’s privilege to be “above” it.

    +++

    “And how is this Natalie Dylan’s problem, exactly? ”

    Where did i say it was her problem, exactly?

    “So perhaps I shouldn’t go to bars anymore?”

    *lol* yes, that’s EXACTLY what I’m saying. Nevermind what I actually wrote, just run with whims!

    +++

    “Feminism is about critiquing the existing world so as to change our notion of the possible, so we can all make better choices. And in the meantime, trying not to blame people for making the choices they need to make in order to survive. But that doesn’t mean that we stop critiquing the world, or that all choices women make are empowering or subversive or whatever.”

    This needs repeating every hour of everyday. I think some people, when this subject comes up, think that criticism, or those in support of it for that matter, want to silence the other group. We need to get past that knee-jerk response. I don’t have to like what another woman is doing in order to be a feminist. She doesn’t have to agree with my personal feelings on a matter to be a feminist. Personally, though its clear from earlier in the thread people disagree, I think one can be anti-whatever and still not be the enemy of those that engage in the whatever. We can help each other, support each other, etc without being in perfect lockstep with each other.

  72. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 27, 2009 at 12:51 pm |

    Sailorman, not arguing that it can be very exploitative, just objecting to the idea that that can be an “argument against prostitution.” As I explained.

  73. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 27, 2009 at 12:56 pm |

    If you didn’t mean that the way it sounded, Sailorman, what did you mean?

  74. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 27, 2009 at 12:59 pm |

    Yes “buying a woman’s body” and “selling themselves” are pretty dumb phrasing. I don’t take offense to them personally but I know a lot of people do.

  75. octogalore
    octogalore January 27, 2009 at 1:15 pm |

    My guess is that no front end sale will take place here, and that this is a marketing play to sell the back end — book, articles, magazine spreads. Anyone want to make a little wager?

  76. B. Dagger Lee
    B. Dagger Lee January 27, 2009 at 4:11 pm |

    I think I’d find it unethical to bet real dough on this, octogalore, but I’ll bet my hotel on Boardwalk, and all four railroads (Reading, Pennsylvania, the Short Line and the B&O) that there is a front end sale.

    It reminds me a little of an art performance piece of a few years ago.

  77. Sailorman
    Sailorman January 27, 2009 at 10:10 pm |

    # Puppycat says:
    January 27th, 2009 at 12:51 pm
    Sailorman, not arguing that it can be very exploitative, just objecting to the idea that that can be an “argument against prostitution.” As I explained.

    You are simultaneously claiming that (a) prostitution can be very exploitative, AND (b) that said exploitation shouldn’t even count as an argument against prostitution. That doesn’t make much sense, unless you don’t care about women being exploited. And you surely aren’t in that category, so what’s up?.

    Sure, the ultimate CONCLUSION may be (depending on the setting) that the exploitation is balanced by some other benefit of prostitution, or any number of things. But I don’t get it: don’t/can’t you acknowledge that something can have both pros and cons and still be a good idea? Think of cancer treatment: chemo sucks (counts against doing it) but it keeps you from dying (counts for doing it.) The fact that chemo may be the best option for some doesn’t mean that the negative effects don’t exist. And the fact that declining treatment may have benefits–no vomiting!–doesn’t prevent it from being the wrong choice for some folks.

    Same here. You seem to be so focused on arguing in favor of prostitution that you won’t even admit that exploitation can be seen as a negative feature. That doesn’t make any sense, and it makes you very difficult to converse with.

  78. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 27, 2009 at 10:49 pm |

    WTF do you mean by an “argument AGAINST prostitution”? Pros and cons for who? Pros and cons for locking sex workers/prostitutes up for it? Because that’s what most people mean when they say that. Pros and cons for the sex worker, for the client, what?

    And arguing “in favor of prostitution,” what do you think that means? I would argue that it should be decriminalized, though I haven’t really made the argument here yet. Whether each individual should participate in it should be up to them. If that’s what you mean by “in favor of prostitution” then I guess I am arguing that.

    But yes it can be very exploitative. And no I don’t think that is an argument “against” it in the sense that it should be illegal, or “against” it in the sense that its necessarily the wrong choice for any given individual. Its a reason to fight for decriminalization, less police violence, police who take crimes against sex workers seriously, and so on and so forth. That is my priority.

  79. Natalia
    Natalia January 28, 2009 at 4:04 am |

    Actually, Endor, that’s exactly what you’re doing here. First you said that Natalie Dylan is “selling herself” – which I agree is a completely ridiculous and demeaning phrase. Is Judi Dench also “selling herself” when she gets a hefty paycheck for an Oscar-bid role? I mean, seriously, folks, the hate against sex-workers here is pretty telling. So yes, the sexist interpretation of the act is placed squarely on her shoulders, because, after all, she is “selling herself,” and really ought to know better, right?

    You also singled out Natalie Dylan as an example of someone who is performing an act of “patriarchy compliance” while trying to deny said act. Which is interesting, because if you accept that we all live within overlapping systems, many of which happen to be patriarchal in nature, we all perform such acts. While what Natalie Dylan is doing is obviously both big in scale and very visible, I think it’s fairly obvious that she isn’t trying to deny much of anything. She’s operating within the existing system available to her, and stating as much. Of course, you imply that if only she knew better, she wouldn’t do it at all, or else at least act ashamed about it. I mean, it’s in NO WAY possible that a single act could have several meanings or interpretations, right? If only Natalie Dylan wasn’t such a “sell-out” she would adopt the “correct” interpretation of what’s going on here, yeah?

    You interpret the conversations surrounding Natalie on this page as no more than statements to the fact that she is “aiding and abetting” those who will hurt other women (of course, any hurt that may come to Natalie herself is off the table here, I’ve noticed). You repeatedly state that sexists will use this against women – now, this is something that I actually agree with, but wouldn’t blame Natalie Dylan for. believe that sexists use *everything* against women. You, on the other hand, condemn her for “selling herself.”

    So yeah, I’d say you blame her for what the sexists will think or do. Which is ridiculous – hence my example of being called a “slut” in a bar due to the way I looked. It’s all part of the same problem, when it comes down to it.

  80. Arnica
    Arnica January 29, 2009 at 5:44 am |

    Interesting indeed (Especially so that this has been picked up by a newspaper I read in India) and good for her. She is an educated woman making an independent and informed choice about the sexual nature and value of her body.

    However,

    I would like to add two things that I have not seen covered. First, selling sex, virginity, or whatever is not just “selling sex.” It is selling full sexual access to a person. The winning bidder will be free to do whatever he likes with the product he has won and this may include torture, rape, sadism, maiming, etc. As much as I like the idea of an empowered woman profiting from the sale of her virginity, this is the reality of prostitution. I’d be interested to know how she plans to maintain her power in this interaction.

    Second has to do with the broader implications of this spectacle (and it is indeed a “spectacle”). Cross cultural studies have shown that when asked “If you could, would you leave prostitution today?” 85 to 90% of prostituted women said “Yes but I can’t.” This means that Ms. Dylan is of the 10 to 15% of women who are exercising a free choice to sell full sexual access to their bodies. This is not the majority group. Abolitionist feminists will have this particular example of freely chosen prostitution thrown in their faces for many years to come. What this means for the majority of women who are forced and/or coerced into selling full sexual access to their bodies is yet to be seen but the potential for damage is great.

    So as interesting, though-provoking, and empowering as this situation may be for Ms. Dylan and those following her, I fear that contributing to an image of prostitution where free choice and empowerment is the norm may cause great harm to prostituted women for whom “free,” “choice” and “power” are words rather than realities.

  81. Irene
    Irene January 29, 2009 at 6:15 am |

    I think it’s important, in this discussion, to draw a line between subversive action, and politically feasible feminist strategies. The first need not be feminist in anyone’s book, or according to some or most feminists – subversive action is action which subverts structures of inequality, lays them bare for anyone to see, and hence demonstrates their artibrary, and oppressive nature. They are not revolutionary – they do not necessarily change things. They do, however, make people aware of the way in which seemingly natural categories or sex-relations are, indeed, oppressive to some and beneficial to others.

    I am reminded of Orlan – a french artist who has spend the 1990s undergoing lots and lots of plastic surgery to refashion her face in accordance with (renaissance) standards of beauty. her surgeries where filmed, broadcasted to screens in museums across the world. She was under only partial anesthetics, so she would talk to the audience, read poetry and (psychoanalytic) works, etc. Her performances raise all kinds of questions, for instance, is this art? who si the arist (the surgeon or Orlan)? More interestingly, her work has attracted lots of attention from feminists. Orlan herself states to want to challenge the seemingly natural and eternal status of standards of beauty and make explicit the grip technology has on the female body. Feminists have reacted in ambivalent ways… for plastic surgery is dangerous to women’s health; and plays into the Cartesian mind/body divide, the mind associated with the male, the body with the female. yet there is no doubt her performances are subversive, that is, she subverts the relation between women’s bodies and technology, taking the scalpel, so to say, in her own hands. She asserts her status as a subject using the prime technology/tool in the objectification of female bodies… of course, her strategy is nothing like other (more feasible) feminist politics, i.e., challenging beauty ideals and the objectification of female bodies.

    I think this is also what is going on here. I think Nathalie is subverting structures of inequality, laying bare their oppressive nature. Women’s bodies are commodified, earn lots of men lots of money (men working in pornography, pimps, etc) – yet it is somehow taboo for a woman to take advantage of her “market-price”. The question if this has been a social experiment from the beginning isn’t really interesting, I feel – it is not intentionality that is at stake but the perception of her actions, the debates they give rise to in society. It almost works as a consciousness-raising exercise. It makes people wonder: who are, indeed, those men paying so much money for her virginity? Why is her virginity worth so much money? Why is there such fiss fuss about virginity anyway? Why is this worth reporting on? The answer is that her actions subvert one of those contradictions in capitalist patriarchy – that sex sells, and that “sex” equals “female body”, yet that females themselves are not supposed to earn money with it… In marxist terms… they are thoroughly alienated from the ‘labor’ patriarchy sets apart for them. (I know it’s not very fashionable speaking in Marxist terms. I’ll do it anyway)

    Yet her actions seem indeed not very different from those of prostitutes. I think that they do, however. I believe her virginity is central here – the question is: is she indeed a prostitute? But prostitutes are not virgins – they are, in the patriarchical mind, opposites. Yet she, at the moment, is both – a virgin, and a whore. Which is why her actions are incredibly unsettling. They defy attempts at categorization and the binarism underlying thought about women’s sexual agency: frigid or sexually insatiable; virgin, and whore. This destabilization is something taking place not necessarily on a manifest level. Perhaps a more unconscious ‘uncanny’ realization which, I feel, does play a role in the ambivalence with which her actions are received and only adds to their particular subversive force. Again – subversive does not equal liberating, or revolutionary. Her actions need not be politically motivated or feasible political alternatives to existing structures of sexism and inequality to have a politically charged, subversive edge.

  82. Irene
    Irene January 29, 2009 at 6:16 am |

    pfff I’m sorry it is such a long post. and: artibrary – arbitrary :) (stupid mistake!)

  83. Puppycat
    Puppycat January 29, 2009 at 4:09 pm |

    I would like to add two things that I have not seen covered. First, selling sex, virginity, or whatever is not just “selling sex.” It is selling full sexual access to a person. The winning bidder will be free to do whatever he likes with the product he has won and this may include torture, rape, sadism, maiming, etc. As much as I like the idea of an empowered woman profiting from the sale of her virginity, this is the reality of prostitution. I’d be interested to know how she plans to maintain her power in this interaction.

    What Cara said, and as someone who has been a prostitute on and off, and who used to do survival prostitution, I would just like to say that you are absolutely WRONG. Not all johns think like that and those who do should have their asses in jail on ASSAULT. Prostitutes/sex workers have every right to negotiate what happens in the exchange, and clients/johns who take it further than that are the worst scum of the world. Some of them (not all of them) do go beyond what was negotiated, yes, which is why we need police who are actually willing to investigate crimes against sex workers without arresting the sex workers too. Because those things you mention, those are crimes. The right to do whatever you want does not come as part of the exchange.

    Second has to do with the broader implications of this spectacle (and it is indeed a “spectacle”). Cross cultural studies have shown that when asked “If you could, would you leave prostitution today?” 85 to 90% of prostituted women said “Yes but I can’t.” This means that Ms. Dylan is of the 10 to 15% of women who are exercising a free choice to sell full sexual access to their bodies. This is not the majority group. Abolitionist feminists will have this particular example of freely chosen prostitution thrown in their faces for many years to come. What this means for the majority of women who are forced and/or coerced into selling full sexual access to their bodies is yet to be seen but the potential for damage is great.

    There is too much force and coercion in the sex trade. This is absolutely true, and if you are looking for ways to remedy that, or interested in changing what is not working in that fight, I would start here. But someone wanting to leave the industry does not automatically mean that they have been forced into it. Many people have shitty jobs they would like to leave. One thing that would help unhappy people leave prostitution would be to stop arresting prostitutes and giving them criminal records that they have to explain on every future job application. Another thing that would help is increasing opportunities for people in poverty, especially women in poverty. Or you could work to reduce transphobia. Shaming and attacking and trying to “abolish” the sex trade is not something that helps, not at all.

    Also, what Natalie Dylan is doing has pretty much no bearing on the rest of the sex trade. I could care less, and I’m guessing the same is true of most prostitutes. Whether or not “abolitionist feminists” care is absolutely the furthest thing from my mind. As far as I’m concerned, they are meddling in things they know absolutely nothing about and doing a tremendous amount of damage.

    So as interesting, though-provoking, and empowering as this situation may be for Ms. Dylan and those following her, I fear that contributing to an image of prostitution where free choice and empowerment is the norm may cause great harm to prostituted women for whom “free,” “choice” and “power” are words rather than realities.

    Nope, it has pretty much no effect on those prostitutes. You said it yourself above, the people who really care so much about Dylan are just these “abolitionist feminists.” Boo fucking hoo.

  84. Missy
    Missy March 20, 2009 at 9:40 pm |

    I’m just wondering if this story is real at all. I can find no current information on either “Natalie Dylan” or her supposed auction.

    Anyone hear anything recently?

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