From Virgin to Whore: Is Selling Your Virginity a Feminist Act?


You may have read about American medical student Elizabeth Raine (not her real name) who has decided to auction her virginity to the highest bidder. She hopes to raise around $400k, use some to pay her tuition fees and give 35% to a charity funding education for women in developing countries.

She has written candidly about her decision on her website and addressed many of the questions that spring to mind when learning of her decision.

I was thinking about this earlier and wondering what I make of it (as if it matters what I think of it!) It reminds me a lot of the situation described in Memoirs of a Geisha in which the trainee geisha’s virginity is auctioned off by her mentor. She herself has no say in who wins.  This is different, of course, in that Ms Raine is entering into this voluntarily and has said that she may vet the leading bidders, and she won’t necessarily accept the highest bid. So it’s not strictly an auction either.  In the sense that it reminds me of the situation in Memoirs of a Geisha, it makes me feel uneasy. I know it’s not something I could do willingly and I do wonder how well she will be able to vet the bidders – I hope she doesn’t end up in a difficult or dangerous situation. I also wonder about the kinds of men who are likely to bid. Maybe I’m making assumptions, but I imagine that men who are likely to bid on someone’s virginity would be creepy, to say the least.  Has she considered, do you think, the emotional impact this might have on her if she sees it through?

I don’t think I have any moral objection to her auction – it is her body after all, and I firmly think she should have the right to choose what to do with it. And that in itself is a feminist act. Does her decision devalue women though? I can’t decide. In thinking about it, I considered women who enter “glamour” modelling and the porn industry. I dislike both of these industries, but if the women involved are truly there of their own accord, having made informed decisions and having not been coerced, then I suppose I have to concede that those too, are feminist acts – to use your body as you see fit.

pagethreeAnd then I took that further – if it is indeed a feminist act for the individual woman involved, what does it do for women as a whole? Should individual women be expected to consider the rest of their gender when making decisions? Does posing for topless photos in a daily newspaper to pay your way through college (let’s be generous here) devalue other women and make men more likely to treat women as objects?  Can the act of posing and being paid for the picture be considered feminist at the same time as the publishing of the picture is considered sexist (and let’s not pretend that those who publish or buy the photos have any grand altruistic aims in publishing pictures of half-naked young women).

So if feminism is the right to choose what it right for you in your life, do feminists have to consider the effects of their actions on other women, or is their sole responsibility to themselves?  Where do you draw the line?

I’m genuinely interested in responses because I’m not sure where I stand on this. I have no issues with Ms Raine and her virginity auction (beyond, as mentioned, my own personal feeling that it’s a bit icky, and a more general worry about her safety in this action), but I have fairly major issues with the objectification of women through things like Page Three. And I don’t know if that’s a double standard, or if they are two different things.

What do you think?

 

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5 comments on “From Virgin to Whore: Is Selling Your Virginity a Feminist Act?

  1. I hadn’t heard about this. It’s definitely not something I would have considered, but each to their own 🙂

    Louise x

    Confessions of a Secret Shopper | An Undomestic Goddess
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  2. I don’t consider these as ‘feminist acts’. I may be biased as I’m not female but I see this sort of thing as furthering the objectification of women in general. I do not agree personally with the objectification of anyone, regardless of gender. Auctioning a sexual act can’t really do anything but objectify it to my thinking.

    I believe there is a place in a healthy society for prostitution but this is not that society. If both sexes were seen as equal and the people went into that profession of their own free will, without the stigma that covers all sexual acts in Western society even now then I can see it being a great power in that society, but not in this one.

  3. Not heard about this – not something I would have done myself but I suppose people do what they have to.
    Michelle Murray recently posted..I’m looking for a sponsor for britmums liveMy Profile

  4. I don’t see it as a feminist act at all. Selling sex for money is prostitution, no matter how you try to glam it up. It would not surprise me if this wasn’t some publicity stunt. Looking at how her website is made and the progressional photos of her.

    Corinne x
    Corinne recently posted..The Makeup Mishaps TagMy Profile

  5. I think the trouble with the world is we all worry about others too much and what their actions will cause, when really what does it matter? Is that person happy if so leave it at that. I couldn’t do what she is doing partly because I don’t have the innocence anymore, but also I conjure an image of the type of man that will offer X amounts of money for the pleasure. I kind of admire her for having the courage to do this and openly admit that this is what she is going to do, my only hope is that she doesn’t later on in life hate herself into depression.

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