February 16, 2009

Monday's Wise Words: Selling your virginity

Natalie Dylan, who is selling her virginity and has received a whole lot of attention because of it, wrote an explanation of sorts for The Daily Beast recently. In the article, she describes her traditional childhood belief in purity and sanctity and so on, but that her whole moral code changed in college as she was educated on the historical and current status of "woman" and "virgin." It's interesting to see where she's coming from, and my favorite part is when she points out that "for what it's worth, the winning bid won't necessarily be the highest -- I get to choose."

My favorite comment on her story is this one:

"Okay, but seriously, the objection from the more traditional feminist viewpoint (I know, "Mom, get out of here!") is that establishing a price for sex with a virgin reinforces the patriarchy's viewpoint that the value of a woman is set by her body and that for women sex is always a means to an end and not an end unto itself (that is reserved for men, you see). Does the fact that this woman is in a privileged enough condition that she can afford not to care what men think help women who are in less fortunate conditions? You don't have to be trafficked to feel forced into Sex Work and I've talked to many dancers who feel (and are made to feel) terrible about what they do. One woman in particular stands out in my mind. She was poor, had few friends and apparently little in the way of family and had made enough mistakes that she was undereducated in a community that didn't have many opportunities. For her, dancing wasn't a shocking and empowering way of embracing her femininity, it was survival. And after she took that job, getting any other job proved almost impossible -- inevitably someone would recognize her and then the harassment would begin. But she fought back, thank goodness, found a way to get an education and eventually a job away from that community where hopefully no one would recognize her. I will always remember how happy she was when she told me the news. So, I can sympathize with the idea of embracing that scarlet letter as a way to fight against oppression and society's norms. But just remember that not everyone is as privileged as you are, and be careful not to romanticize sex work as the ultimate expression of a woman's sexual power."

An excellent point. I think someone else mentioned the perplexing fact that there really should be more talk in general of how virginity relates to men - because as it stands, virginity seems to only be important, sacred, righteous, revered - or in a noir sense, damning - when it can label a woman. I actually would thank the Jonas Brothers for recently bringing male virginity into the spotlight, even though the media has already forgotten about it but will continue to harp on Miley Cyrus's and Taylor Swift's status for years to come. Remember when Britney was claiming to be a virgin? We cared about that for way too long. Anyways, this really is an interesting social experiment.

Perhaps on Wednesday I'll talk about some of the horrible comments made toward Miss Dylan.

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