Hey Natalie Dylan, Here’s Some Advice for Selling Your Viginity

January 30, 2009

Liz Langley, AlterNet.   more posts in Sex & Relationships   header.jpg

“Virtue has never been as respectable as money.” — Mark Twain

“I always thought of losing my virginity as a career move.” — Madonna

Obama, Blagojevich, the economy, Gitmo, torture, Mickey Rourke … it’s been a juicy news month. So, who do you have to screw to get a little attention around here?

The answer: The highest acceptable bidder.

We are now officially in the 15 minutes of Natalie Dylan, the pseudonym of the enterprising 22-year-old who is auctioning off her virginity through the Moonlite Bunny Ranch in Nevada as part of a thesis project for a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy (she recently completed her BA in women’s studies from California State University, Sacramento). The bidding began in September and, as of this writing, is up to $3.7 million.

Natalie’s maiden muff is hers to do with as she wishes — sexual desires, values and limits vary wildly, and as long as no one gets hurt, t’ain’t nobody’s business what you do. We just wonder — what if some religious group buys it and decides to keep it intact forever?

Any pro-virginity faction could pool some loot and once the “Sold!” sign is planted (but not too deep) — WHAM! — on goes the chastity belt. Then she’ll be screwed — or not — for life. Imagine getting punk’d by Ned Flanders.

Presumably Natalie has some kind of filters in place to avoid any such weirdness and has said, in a story written for the Daily Beast, that the highest bidder won’t necessarily be the lucky recipient. She’ll make the choice. “It’s not like an eBay auction …” she says in theEdinburgh Journal. “I don’t have to take the highest bidder. I’m taking time to get to know the guys. We contact each other back and forth.”

It sounds a bit like online dating, which means she should feel the novelty wear off and close her account right about nnnnnnow.

It’s interesting that virginity should command so much when it’s common knowledge that the first time isn’t usually a charm. “I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 18,” Adam Ant once told an interviewer. “The first time was a nightmare. Who shows you how to use a condom?” This is a pretty universal first-time experience, but with maturity, education and good partners (or by being huge rock stars), most of us get better at it.

Good for Adam, though, for being forthright about safety. First-timers aren’t always, and may be less so if they don’t allow themselves the latitude that it might happen. Virginity pledges — vows by young people to stay cherry until marriage — first popped up in our culture in the early ’90s, and a recent report from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows that teens who took pledges were just as likely to have sex as their counterparts who didn’t and more likely to engage in risky behavior. Pledge or not, half the youths surveyed were sexually active before marriage, writes Rob Stein in theWashington Post, “but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.”

It’s hard to imagine Natalie not being safe, but if she needs any tips on her enterprise, she can get them from those who have auctioned off their virginity before her. Radar Online lists five virginity auctions that have taken place since January 2004.

Britney Spears was not among them, but a high price was once offered for her much-touted virtue. Laura Carpenter writes in her book,Virginity Lost, that “when the singer was just 18, a wealthy American businessman offered to give her over $7 million if she would lose her virginity with him. Britney was outraged, telling journalists, “It’s a disgusting offer. He should go have a cold shower and leave me alone …” (US Weekly reported in 2007 that Spears “lost her virginity at 14 to boyfriend Reg Jones” and that Eric Ervin, a lawyer who worked with Spears, said the purity pitch was a PR blitz.) Seven million dollars — you could probably buy a Senate seat for that. It’s nearly twice what Natalie’s is commanding, but then, she doesn’t have the kink factor of having once been a Mouseketeer).

Prizing — and pricing — a woman’s soft opening is hardly a concept brought about by the digital age. “Late Elizabethan drama is full of jokes about virgins who hung on to their virginity until its ‘currency’ was devalued — a woman had to know when to trade in it,” says Lawrence Green in his guide to Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

Natalie writes in the Daily Beast “…early European marriages began with a dowry, in which a father would sell his virginal daughter to the man whose family could offer the most agricultural wealth. Dads were basically their daughters’ pimps.”

And indeed, if anyone’s going to get some buck for her bang, why not the young lady herself? CNN gives a scientific answer about why men set so much store by the untried: it “harkens back to the days of early humans — if a man has sex with a virgin woman, he knows for sure that her children will be his, anthropologists reason.”

The cynical answer is that it’s not hard to imagine a man who wouldn’t pay for the attentions of someone who might not know good sex from bad, for whom someone else’s ignorance is bliss. It’s like someone from another country thinking that a McDonald’s hamburger is a hamburger, who doesn’t know that there are way better burgers out there, hotter, juicier, more fulfilling burgers that leave you unable to wear the tight pants you arrived in. The naïve eater is the desirable audience for the insecure cook.

Thanks to the advent of the VCR, though, damn near anything can be relived. If Natalie is unhappy about her experience, she can get revirginized, both physically and emotionally. An MSNBC story on “born-again” virginity describes the experience of a young woman from a religious background who regretted her first experience, wanted to feel renewed and through meditation and prayer felt she was.

The shame is really more that she felt bad than in anything she did — as Ellen Goodman astutely pointed out in her essay on the subject, it’s cultural attitudes about sex as dirty that needs to be fixed, not women.

On the other hand, who hasn’t had a lover they don’t want to Eternal-Sunshine off their emotional resume? As long as you’re not passing on infections or continuing problem behaviors from that incident that never happened, denial is a commonly visited vacation spot. Physical revirginization, “surgical replacement of the hymen, the small membrane that stretches from the walls of the vagina and that typically breaks when a woman first has intercourse — or for many other reasons, from tampon use to vigorous exercise,” — sounds loopy but can be quite serious.

Dr. Red Alinsod, of Laguna Beach, Calif., says in the MSNBC story that many of the women who come to him to are going back to an arranged marriage in a home country where “honor killings” still go on. “The majority do fear for their lives. So this is a life-saving procedure in the majority of women I deal with,” he said. In our own culture, it’s a bit ridiculous to place so much burden on deflowering that hormone-addled teens feel guiltier for a natural act than corporate thieves or wartime torturers about their actions.

That said, as a romantic, I think the first time — the first time today, the next time, the last time, that time on your honeymoon, that time in the airplane bathroom — it’s all special and it’s worth preparing for, whether your prep involves buying condoms, a stretch of celibacy or Windexing your corset. Everyone has different limits and desires — our own and our partners’ are the only ones we really need to worry about.

One thing about Natalie that gets overlooked in all the wittering about right, wrong and eBay, is this: Natalie is 22. There are a lot of things 22-year-olds do that seem like weapons-grade silliness when you get to the creaking old age of 42. Futons. Roommates. Waking up with unplanned piercings. We all do bold, unexpected things when we’re young, and if we don’t end up with a police record or a toe tag, usually we just look back and smile at our youthful spunk. That’s probably all that will happen to Natalie.

Whatever comes of this, hopefully she will get what she wanted — how could anyone wish anything less for a young girl on a big adventure? One bit of advice for her though: if someone brings their loot in a basket on a stick and there’s a lot of loose change and envelopes in there, she should think twice about accepting it. Oklee doklee!


Liz Langley is a freelance writer in Orlando, Fla.

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