Who Is Bidding On Natalie Dylan’s Virginity?

My co-contributor and co-blogger Cara has a post at Feministe about Natalie Dylan. Probably you’ve read the broad outlines: auctioning virginity, bidding at $3.8 million, etc. I am not interested in rehashing the same discussion that has happened elsewhere.
I am interested in the invisible man — or men (or perhaps women or even folks who reject either label, but I’m guessing men). I’m interested in the bidders. It seems that everyone wants to have a discussion about what she’s doing — she has a women’s studies degree, she says this is in part a sociology experiment to study the response. Well, the response is that everyone wants to talk about her virginity, her morality, whether she’s a good or bad feminist (which is the secular lefty version of talking about her morality), and whether she’s really a virgin. I am not going to engage any of that shit, but if that’s what she wanted to know, she has her answer.
I’m not going to wag a judgment finger at her, or even try to answer any of those questions. I want to know who offers $3.8 million to have sex with a partner who has not had sex before.


The whole notion, as many people have said on this topic and as I’ve written more generally before, is silly. Certainly, a hymen is not proxy for sexual experience, and neither is the penetration of a vagina by a penis. Someone who has given three thousand handjobs and topped widely varied BDSM scenes is sexually experienced by any reasonable definition, even without one or several particular sex acts on their resume. To maintain otherwise is like saying that vegetarians are not experienced eaters.
But getting past the silliness of defining virginity or using it as a proxy for experience, what is the benefit of a sex partner without experience? In my YMY essay, I write that if we think of sex as a performance like music, a virginity premium makes zero sense:

The commodity model … further assumes that sex earlier in her history is more valuable than sex later. If she has a lot of sex early on, what she has left will not be something people will esteem highly. But a musician’s first halting notes at age thriteen in the basement are not something of particular value. Only an obsessive completist would want a recording of a young musician’s practice before she knew what she was doing; and then only after that musician has made her mark by playing publicly, well and often. She gets better by learning, by playing with different people who are better than she is. She reaches the height of her powers in the prime of her life, as an experienced musician, confident in her style and conversant in her material. Her experience and proven talent are precisely why she is valued.

YMY at p. 38.
I don’t think the bidders are obsessive completists betting that Natalie Dylan will later be famous for her skills as a sex partner.
It seems obvious to me that the premium is all about the more traditional notions of the value of virginity — all of which have to do with control of women’s sexuality: virgins are not pregnant by another man and if controlled will not become so; the inexperienced have no basis for comparison; if virginity is a proxy for youth and innocence then it may also mean easily controlled and manipulated. These are not reasons I can respect. So the bidders, whoever they are, are pieces of shit, beneath contempt. And I wanted to say that because I want to see someone — anyone — put them back into the discussion. Just because we don’t know who they are doesn’t mean they should be exempt from the discussion.
Cross-posted at Yes Means Yes Blog.

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19 Comments

  1. alixana
    Posted January 26, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Good point. The previous conversations about it have been worthwhile, but there IS more than one party to this transaction. Since the bidders are invisible except for their bid, it’s easy to forget them – because really, who are they? How old are they? What do they do in life? We have no idea.
    I’ve mentioned before on this site that I spent some of my college career with an abusive boyfriend. He once whined to me, “I wish I was your first.” Not, “I wish we were each other’s firsts.” Since he was a controlling asshole, the sentiment has always creeped me out, because I felt like he was a dog lifting his leg on me. He didn’t wish that he hadn’t slept with people before me. He only wished I hadn’t slept with anyone before him.
    These guys can’t possibly be doing it for the great sex – my first time was with my first boyfriend, for whom it was also his first time. Technically, it was very clunky and boring and a little awkward and a little scary – what made it great was that it was us, together. That loss of virginity would have absolutely no meaning outside the two of us, no value to any other person.
    And then there were all the other first times – the first time with each subsequent partner, all exciting in their own ways, whether it was a boyfriend or just a non-relationshippy encounter. But you don’t have to spend money to get that.
    I’m sort of meandering here, but I’m trying to sort through all the things that would make this virginity so special and worth money. And my only answers are creepy.

  2. Lydia
    Posted January 26, 2009 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    I also wish we knew more about the bidders, though for different reasons.
    It seems to me that there would be vastly more interesting reasons for a person to bid on somebody’s virginity than mere control over an impressionable person and an opportunity to deflower. Those things are available from droves of impressionable virgins for free, but, as I understand it, people are still bidding in the millions.
    I think a bidder would be more interested in the situation, in being the person who bids on the virginity of an enterprising young woman who claims that auctioning her virginity is empowering. I don’t think that there would necessarily be anything wrong with that, with paying to participate in a really unique experience and meet an interesting person under extraordinary circumstances.
    I really hope to hear about whoever wins, and why he chose to bid. And I’ll be disappointed if he’s just some creep with boatloads of money.

  3. tobecontinued3
    Posted January 26, 2009 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    In another post here about Natalie Dylan, I wrote a comment about how I noted that whenever there was discussion about what Dylan was doing, nobody really talked about the people who were bidding on her virginity. While many had criticised and slut-shamed Dylan, mostly no criticism was going to the people bidding, nor questioning of what kind of guy would buy her virginity. This was at least the case at my school (where she graduated from, and there was articles about her in the school newspaper) and some other places I read about her. I’m glad someone else noticed that too.

  4. homebird
    Posted January 26, 2009 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Could this whole absurd valuing of virginity have any element of protecting the male ego from being judged as lacking in comparison to another?
    “It was fine honey, but the previous guy made me cum three times a fuck.”
    Sorry, guess I’m still pissed about the stereo “object”.

  5. Raquel 666isMONEY Baranow
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Natalie’s action/auction is subversive & empowering: Money & Sex = Power, she has world-wide publicity. On January 13th, after CNN, the biggest cable TV news station and largest on the web, “NATALIE DYLAN AUCTION” was the 66th most Googled item.
    http://www.google.com/trends/hottrends?sa=X&date=2009-1-13
    Recently, there were more that 6000 web articles on Natalie Dylan (excluding, “Charlie’s Angels” of which “Natalie & Dylan” are two of the characters) in the past 24-hours and more than 1,000,000 articles all-time.
    If Natalie really wanted to be subversive, she would accept my proposal for marriage . . . she & I have exchanged many emails. See the video I posted as a comment on her MySpace & mine, “The Natalie Dylan Fan Club (Unofficial) 666isMONEY”.
    IMO, losing Ur virginity has to be between a man & a woman. I was a 44-year-old virgin and then had a sex-change, was in a hurry to lose my V so I could join in the fun, became a slut & casual prostitute. (I’d take $$$ if it was convenient . . . like I did it at Blacks nude Beach in San Diego where Natalie lives.) I still feel like a virgin and have never been happier! (I’m no longer a slut ’cause I consider it a risky waste of time & dissatisfying.)
    Laura Ingerham tried to shame Natalie. Miraculously, my phone call to the show got through to Laura, I was the only caller on the air. Laura essentially told Natalie to, “Get a job.” Natalie said she has two jobs. (She said elsewhere that she does volunteer work.) When I called in, I told the story above and told Laura: “Why don’t U get Alan Greenspan on Ur show so U can ask him where the $531-Trillion, yes, Trillion went!” Read about it, with links to a podcast through MySpace Blog.
    Yeah, really, I’d like to hear what these guys expect to get out of it.
    Obviously, the highest bidder wants to make a deflowering video out of this. There’s a whole, sad genre of Deflowering videos on the net. Mostly in Russia. Obviously some of ‘em aren’t virgins but some look soooo sweet, pretty and young.
    Maybe some of the top bidders want publicity 4 whatever! (Their used-car dealership?)
    Anyway, I proposed to marry Natalie. (She could keep her V-card or whatever, I’m game 4 a three-way Deflowering video too.) She and I are Top Friends on MySpace.
    Peace & Love,
    Raquel!

  6. doubleb
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    You think that the bidders are pieces of shit beneath contempt? Why? I see an adult woman making an obviously informed decision about what she is going to do with her sexuality. Whoever is bidding on this is one of the few johns in the world who can be relatively sure that the woman they are paying for sex isn’t being coerced or forced into it.
    And just in general, why would you choose a performance model of sex? Why would you choose any model of sex? Isn’t a huge point of this that sex can largely be understood by individuals however they find to be most appropriate for them? I’m assuming that you are totally fine with basically any form of adult consenting sexuality that you can think of. You would probably approve of things that would make plenty white picket fence folks cringe. But virginity is the antithesis of the values that you happen to hold for sex, and so you’re going to project reasons for desiring virginity onto all the men who might bid for it.
    I just find it problematic that you are almost certainly going to take a position totally against rendering judgment of most sexual activities; you are going to want to totally allow for all sorts of different motivations and backgrounds for pursuing all of those different activities; but because the motivations of this particular fetish were traditionally counter to many feminist values, these men receive immediate condemnation without any knowledge about them, their backgrounds, or their motivations whatsoever. It’s totally counter to the whole theme of sexual freedom among consenting adults. This is just conservatives talking about why BDSM is perverted, but in reverse. You have something that was traditionally problematic, and so you’re just applying that standard blindly to all future instances. Maybe the winning bidder is a totally educated feminist who happens to be wealthy and supports this girl and the message of sexual freedom that she is spreading. Of course, if you take that message seriously, then even if he pays her, and has sex with her, what’s wrong with that? If you find that problematic, you’re obviously not really getting the point in the first place.

  7. Thomas
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    doubleb, I don’t subscribe to the notion that, because some people don’t approve of my sexuality, I must approve of everything anyone does. We all do things someone else disapproves of — for example, using contraception. Does that mean we can’t disapprove of anything, like genocide? Obviously not. Being the subject of disapproval does not obligate us to forswear any ethical views of our own.
    I can’t imagine you’re seriously suggesting that anyone is bidding $3.8 million without regard to whether she’s a virgin. If they were, that would be very different. My ire is specific to paying a premium for virginity. And I don’t think we should just pretend that isn’t historically problematic in deciding what to think of it now.

  8. Bekka
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    The part that bothers me most is not that she’s selling her virginity. It’s not even the sleazy people bidding on it. What bothers me is that this woman, a virgin, is worth 3.8million dollars to someone. As a non-virgin, I am not. Is a membrane really so worthy? Is it a chance for a man to stake his claim, plant the flag of victory, that he has conquered another woman? I have noticed that men will prize the virgins they take over all other sexual partners. I have been friends with many men over the years and they always counted the number of virgins they had been with as more special than the non-virgins. As they are more special, or something.
    Why is virginity something to be conquered, another notch in a man’s belt?
    I lost my virginity to a friend because I was confused about my sexuality and thought I may be a lesbian. I’ll send him a message telling him to write me a check. Turns out I shouldn’t have given him something so rich for free.

  9. Magpie_seven
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    There’s certainly an element of truth to this. As a teenage boy, I didn’t know if the first time I had sex I wanted it to be with a virgin or not; society was sending me totally contradictory messages to what I’d gleaned from actually talking to those few adults who’d have a rational conversation with you about the sex.
    Here’s some of what I was thinking- subjective, but possibly an insight.
    I didn’t want to be judged for bad performance. I didn’t want to have any part of hurting a girl, and for girls losing their virginity is hella painful. (this was the source of a lot of angst. I wanted sex, and my girlfriend did too, but I kept holding off because she was a virgin and I was afraid that wanting sex meant I wanted to hurt her).
    I didn’t want their first time to put them off something that was supposed to be fun.
    I was not a typical young man- no sports, lots of female friends, short and skinny- and I’d been called gay so often I was afraid that I secretly was, and didn’t want to find out I was by attempting and failing at sex (this one, in retrospect, was really stupid- I’d never been aroused my the male form or any man).
    I think it’s just an example of how damaging the importance of virginity pressed by the patriarchy is damaging to everyone involved. And infinitely more damaging to women, because while women are pressured to keep theirs, men are pressured to lose theirs in a rape-enabling society.
    Ugh. The whole thing’s a mess.

  10. ikkin
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I only fault Dylan for wanting to be a sex therapist and, at the same time, capitalizing on the value of virginity. She knows she is attractive and she knows about society’s attitude towards virginity. She knows her virginity is worth more because she’s pretty and white. As someone who wants to be a sex therapist, she should be promoting the equality of sex. This is a slap in the face to any woman of color who busts her ass (literally) trying to make a living as a sex worker.
    On the other hand, she is making a daring and bold decision. I can’t speak to what her economic background may be, but there is no doubt that she will probably surpass her current economic situation by making this transaction. It also speaks loudly about how far women have come in a sense of living in this patriarchal society and learning how to manipulate it.
    As for the men — well, I think we all know what is going on there. Regardless of any empowerment she has as a woman who is supposedly calling the shots about her first sexual experience, the man with the winning bid has the most power. He’s got the money and in the end she is just another prostitute selling her body to try and make her way in the world.

  11. SaltyLilKipper
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of weird messages: There’s a lot of emphasis on how painful first sexual experiences are for women. I know women can and do experience pain having sex the first time, but not all of them do. I know a woman in her 20s who has never had vaginal intercourse before, but regularly uses a vibrator the same size as a human penis. I doubt she’s going to bleed or be in pain the first time she has sex.

  12. SaltyLilKipper
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    The men bidding don’t care that she “doesn’t know what she’s doing”. A woman really doesn’t have to know what she’s doing in bed for a man to get off and if they wanted to pay for sex with a sexually experienced woman, they’d go see a regular prostitute.
    I really don’t believe in virginity, personally. I’ve never had vaginal intercourse, but I know what it is and I’d know how to do it if I wanted to. I also don’t have a hymen because I intentionally broke it myself after getting sick of it getting caught on tampons. Does that mean I lose my virginity to me? Whee!!!

  13. Athenia
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    Honestly, at this point, it’s not even about her virginity, it’s about her fame. So, it’s not “I was the first”, it’s “I’m the guy who paid the 3.8 million dollars, look at how rich I am—girls!!!”

  14. Honeybee
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I totally agree with this comment. I think to some it’s like a game, they might not even remember what the prize is anymore – they just want to win at all costs.
    I also don’t want to discount how much she would get if she wasn’t a virgin. Are we sure it would be so much less? There’s alot of rich guys out there who are desperate to get laid and would get caught up in a similar bidding war even if she wasn’t a virgin. That’s what I think at least.

  15. Kristenique
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    I always find it ironic to hear that even in our society female virginity is considered to be so valuable. I’m a woman who didn’t lose my virginity until my twenties, and I actually felt very insecure about it because I thought it was weird to not be in the same place the majority of my peers were. In my case, I’m a nerd, plus-sized, American, white, and gay, so that could be why I saw my virginity as something to be ashamed of rather than something that I could sell…(not that I wanted to sell it! Not saying that). But I think there’s more to this desirability of the female virgin thing than just gender and tradition. I think lookism also must play an almost equally strong role in order to continue it’s relevance in today’s society. I don’t know, though. In any case, I never had the experience of feeling though my virginity made me more desirable (although my partner didn’t seem to mind it, so maybe it did make me more desirable and I just didn’t pick up on that)…which seems to be weird, because I’m a woman…Does any other females have a similar experience with this?

  16. a.k.a. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    I find your performance model problematic, I guess, because to me it commodifies women and sex as well, just in a different way.
    For instance, like a poster above, I’ve never felt virginity is considered valuable in our culture.
    In fact, I’ve known many more men my age who were interested in finding a partner who would have sex soon and was already good in bed without them having to take some time to learn together.
    In some ways, I think that’s just as shallow as looking for a virgin.
    And also, person above:
    I find it so sad that people don’t know this even on a feminist forum, but pain does not have to do with whether you are a virgin or not. It has to do with how aroused you are and how well you know your own body…

  17. medea
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I had a similar hang up about the first time I was going to have sex: I didn’t want to suck at it when I had sex with someone I cared about. My solution was I started sleeping with people I didn’t really care about. I’m not sure whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, but I’m certainly not traumatized from it.
    Both genders have performance anxieties the first time; and I don’t think that’s an issue. I think there’s an issue when society puts some sort of mystic value on someone’s virginity, while simultaneously building up the “first time” as some fabulous experience to be had only with true love… blah blah blah.

  18. yodelittlelady
    Posted February 2, 2009 at 1:48 am | Permalink

    I feel like I should know the answer to this question, but I was just wondering if someone could tell me how this is legal and, if it is. I have been confused about this for a while. She is selling sex, after all, and whether you believe that that should be legal or not, it itsn’t in America. Is she getting a pass because she’s white and seems to have privleges that many people don’t? Or is there a legal loop-hole of some sort?

  19. Vividblack
    Posted February 10, 2009 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    It’s legal in the state of NV – the Bunny Ranch etc.

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