Virginity On the Auction Block

When Edward Dalberg wrote that "what men desire is a virgin who is a whore," he might as well have been talking about Natalie Dylan (an alias), the 22-year-old from San Diego, California, who is auctioning off her virginity in exchange for a one-night stand at the Bunny Ranch, a legal brothel in Nevada. Her goal, she says, is to raise the funds to pay for her graduate education as a family and marriage therapist more efficiently than her sister, who worked for three weeks as a prostitute at the same brothel.

"It's shocking that men will pay so much for someone's virginity, which isn't even prized so highly anymore," Dylan told the Herald Sun, an argument belied by both the current high bid of $2.5 million and the controversy surrounding the auction. Then again, much of the young woman's blasé attitude toward exchanging her body for money sounds as naïve as one would expect from a virgin opining on human sexuality.

In response to the controversy, Dylan argues that her auction is actually empowering: it is of her own volition, and she expects that both parties will "profit greatly." Yet even as a reported 10,000 men have vied to deflower her, Dylan remains oblivious to how she has turned not just her virginity but her body itself into a mere object. "I think it's become some kind of competition between all these men," she says. "It's like a contest they all want to win."

Those applauding Dylan's entrepreneurial spirit are quick to note that "we're all whores," and many liken it to the daily grind of going to work in an office. They, of course, overlook that a worker can have many first times at new jobs, and that few are literally surrendering an ounce of flesh to their employer. A woman owns her body, their argument goes; by exchanging it for money she strips away a man's ability to use her to her own detriment. How conveniently they ignore that such an argument ultimately objectifies us all, turning every person into little more than a walking bag of flesh to which a price tag should be affixed.