Friday, September 12, 2008

Virginity For Sale, Natalie Dylan's Off To Grad School

image Natalie Dylan has decided to auction her virginity to pay for grad school.  "I don't think auctioning my virginity will solve all my problems, but it will create some financial stability," the 22-year-old Sacramento State graduate said. "I'm ready for the controversy... I'm ready to do this."

I fully support her right to pay for her education in any way she sees fit.  I do believe that some women actively choose prostitution because it is the best option for them, and that it is something that they enjoy doing.

My problems with this story are two fold.  On one hand, the idea that virginity is something special, that can be offered as a prize is problematic to women.  The cult of virginity helps reinforce the Madonna/Whore complex.  Women who are deemed sluts are unfairly targeted by society, and in in some circumstances it can lead to death.  In a world where young girls pledge their virginity to their fathers, auctioning it off only maintains the idea that virginity is something that elevates a woman.

The cult of virginity is something that is specific to women.  It exists to control womens sexuality.  Men are not encouraged to remain chaste, in fact their male status is heightened by their ability to have sex with various partners.  Men are socialized to consume, and women are socialized to submit.

Virginity became prized with the advent of private ownership.  As men began to leave an inheritance, requiring virginity and the chastity of women was the only way to ensure the paternity of their offspring.  In this we can see the biological imperative to reproduce taking precedence over the so-called male need for sex. Of course men did allow themselves an out.  By actively supporting prostitution they can participate in "meaningless" sex, and then return home to a proper domesticated wife.  Each woman plays a key role in maintaining patriarchy by serving male needs.  Although each woman is significant to a mans life, their value is based solely on their vaginas, and the pleasure or status that it provides.

My second issue with this auction is class related.  Dylan is selling her virginity to pay for grad school.  While it is certainly her choice to do with her body as she sees fit, I doubt that she would make this choice were it not for financial difficulties.  This calls into question how active her decision is, because it is a choice made by constrained circumstances.

Poverty is a feminized phenomenon and in difficult economic times it is women and children that suffer the most.  Whether or not economists will admit it, the US is in a recession, if not a depression, and therefore those already living on the margins of society will have even greater difficulties achieving subsistence.  There is already a spike in women selling their eggs, and now we can add virginity auctioning to the latest specifically female attempt to manage economic disparity.  As the economy continues to worsen, I suspect we will see more and more cases like this.

While I fully respect Dylan's choice, I must wonder how many women will be forced to make similar decisions because of the sudden poverty that they find themselves in?  There is a difference between choosing prostitution because you need the money, versus wanting the money.  The terrible part about this is that no one will rail against a government that refuses to provide education, which is a human right. Dylan will be slut shamed, and left with a spoiled identity.  If you have any doubt about the slut shaming, just read the commentary posted on the first link that I provided.  Good luck to you Natalie, but I certainly hope that some significant changes occur, so that women will no longer have to make the "choice" that you did.


27 comments:

Shae said...

Like you, I think it's possible that some women choose prostitution or sex work freely and enjoy it.

The really troubling factor, for me, is the idea of having to have sex with the type of man who would shell out the big bucks just to pop a cherry. I can't picture that man being anything but a disgusting creep, interested in rape and pillage and possibly kids. There's just nothing about responding to this ad that can suggest a genuine interest in grown-up mutually fulfilling sex or in the woman herself.

Yuck.

The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

Poor her. Of course she is free to sell her body, free from slut shaming. And I am free to point out that the disgust I find in what she is doing has nothing to do with the selling her body part. However, many will silenced my opinion in the name of slut shaming. Doing so, allows the status quo to continue. It is my cynical opinion that this woman is no poster child for class-poverty. It took me twenty years to get a B.A. and the thought of graduate program is nowhere in the picture right now, including the fact that I cannot afford to up and move to a school with a program nor do my circumstances allow me commute to a school with a program. My friends are poor. They are all child hood friends. I have no friend who is not poor or is not living from paycheck to pay check, this includes all, ALL, of my family members as well. We owe loans. Some of my friends have been forced to default on their student loans. And unable to pay the minimum that requires to be paid in order for the loan to be put into rehab status, many of my friends cannot return to school and finish, as in several dropped out because they could not afford it (even with financial aid). There income refunds are being gobbled up for their defaulted loan. Penalties are being applied each year that makes the previous year refund appear as if no payment was made at all. My best friend in the world who cleans airplanes for a living, lost a day of pay just yesterday because she absolutely needed a tooth pulled, and the free clinic scheduled her appointment and would/could not change it, because if she did, it would be another six or so months before a dentist did pro bono work for that clinic.

With this girl I see privilege, that is what I see. I see a white girl, or white looking girl take advantage of white male supremacist society’s preference for clean looking pretty white girls. Just like how Casey Anthony is being treated. She killed her child, but there are anonymous donors bailing her out and aiding in her defense fund. All of course, I’m sure, with the back burner fantasy of fucking her real good one day. Anthony is already wearing Paris Hilton glasses and having her door opened for her by (not saying the very act implies an expectation of fucking) her attorney and other little gestures that imply they are fucking or if not fucking now, they will be fucking soon or he thinks they will be fucking soon.

You think Myiesha would get some donations if all evidence points to her killing her baby daughter? Do you think Maria would get some donations, do you even think Morgan (the closest name I could think of that may imply lower class white people (or as some people so vulgarly may say, “white trash”) would get some money from strangers.

The same goes if Myiesha, Maria, and Morgan had not killed their baby but was on line selling their virginity. Would they get offers of 250,000. No, because their ass would not be in the university to begin with. Not at 22 years old. At 22, they would still be struggling with community college perhaps. Or they will have had a baby, or not be a virgin because circumstances derailed that shit long before the age of twenty-two. I agree that the whole sacred virginity perpetuates the Whore/Madonna complex, I also believe that the Madonna is more privy to class, the higher than the lower.

I doubt seriously this woman wants to go to graduate school and to be honest I doubt she will ever get there. Instead, she will be in Hollywood or in high budgeted porn before long. But I suspect Hollywood first though, if porn at all, but I would not be surprise if she did make it to porn, and if not porn Playboy. She will be held up as a great businesswoman, a capitalist’s capitalist. While Tomeka will be a whore for doing what she has to do with her baby daddy who she is trying to break off with, to get her electricity bill paid.

To me, this woman is a colluder and is worthy of the title colluder of the week. Not for having and selling sex, but for promoting a system that preferences her already and will force shit to roll down hill and fall on women who are not preference.

AR said...

While the degree to which someone can be said to have chosen to do something when the alternative choice is extremely horrible, I don't think this is one such case. She doing this to pay for graduate school, which means she already has a 4-year degree. Such specialized training at such a high level can hardly be considered either a necessity or a human right.

Jenn said...

AR - if someone told me that I couldn't pursue higher education after I graduate in a year without auctioning off my body, I'd be tempted to kill myself. Seriously. What kind of world do we live in that it's just business as usual that a young woman is forced by financial difficulties and her human want of knowledge to sell off her bodily sovereignty to the dominant male class to use?

Holy hell, does anyone else see how disgusting this state of affairs is? I almost want to go out, find the dude that is going to buy this woman and pat himself on the back for being such a swell dude and supporting her college dream, and pull a Lorena Bobbitt. Anyone who assumes that by their wrongful class status that they have the right to use others, others that cannot pay for the quest for knowledge that was handed to them, might just deserve a massive reduction in agency that a swift gelding can provide.

Lyndon said...

If I were a woman, I would be outraged. This woman is paying credence to the idea that her body is her most valuable asset. It sets women back by leaps and bounds. It's not much different than a woman paying her way through college by being a stripper.
She's not empowering herself by becoming sole proprietor of her body; this only serves to keep her mind (and body) enslaved to the idea that she can't do anything without the help of a man.

Renegade Evolution said...

"It's not much different than a woman paying her way through college by being a stripper."

Spoken like someone who has never done just that.

Listen, to some of us, getting those damn degrees is real important, and we will do what it takes to get them, even choose to do it, and not hate doing it.

Some people have mommies and daddies who can pay for their college educations and whatnot, others of us do not. And sorry, getting an education sets women FORWARD.

Less focus on what other women (in this case and in others) choose to do with their bodies, and maybe a check on dismissing them as human beings with feelings and thoughts are in order.

As a wise person once said: "If you're not feeding me, fucking me, or financing me, STFU"

Ouyang Dan said...

It's not much different than a woman paying her way through college by being a stripper.

Oh FFS!

Not everyone can find someone to pay their way through school. If we want an education then we deserve to do the work we choose to make it happen since no one else is going to fucking hand it to us. That remark reeks of privilege that I can't even begin to tackle!

I had a friend in college who did exactly that to pay her way through college. She wound up w/ a Master's in Opera performance, which some may scoff at, but it was what she loved. As poor as I was, she didn't even have a tribe to help w/ tuition like I was lucky enough to have. She paid her bill every semester in cash, and unlike a lot of people I also know, she had exactly zero debt when she graduated from her Master's program.

We deserve to get education, and since no one out there is going to give it to us, some of us have to get it the best we know how, and we have a right to do that w/o fucking judgement. We are not the sum of how people view our jobs. We are people who happen to do jobs, and some of us really enjoy them.

Personally, I don't see stripping your way through college that different than me joining the military to get my education. I did what I thought was best for me, and I got a great education out of it.

And I second what Ren fucking said.

pizzadiavola said...

If we want an education then we deserve to do the work we choose to make it happen since no one else is going to fucking hand it to us. That remark reeks of privilege that I can't even begin to tackle!

It's a multifaceted way of keeping women down - shaming them for getting their education if they pay for it via sex work means treating those women as less than, subhuman, bad women not worthy of consideration, etc. However, the unspoken alternative is for those women to not get the education they're working for, which conveniently means that they remain uneducated and will thus be more likely to have a harder time getting a job and the other doors that a degree can open. The patriarchy wins in both scenarios!

pizzadiavola said...

Good luck to you Natalie, but I certainly hope that some significant changes occur, so that women will no longer have to make the "choice" that you did.

Thanks for walking the line between analyzing the larger context within Dylan is making her decisions while also allowing that she's a thinking individual making her choice. I found it a thoughtful analysis on the whole situation that pointed out how things could be made better for everyone (except privileged men who benefit from this gendered & classist & racist system) without slut shaming.

pizzadiavola said...

I doubt seriously this woman wants to go to graduate school and to be honest I doubt she will ever get there. Instead, she will be in Hollywood or in high budgeted porn before long. But I suspect Hollywood first though, if porn at all, but I would not be surprise if she did make it to porn, and if not porn Playboy.

WTF? What grounds are you making that assumption on? You're correct in that Dylan is privileged by whiteness; if she were a woman of color, she'd be slammed racist and racist&sexist attacks in addition to sexist ones, and it's doubtful if her scheme would attract any positive attention (it would all be sexist&racist attacks and exoticised fetishism). However, that's no means for stating that she doesn't intend to go on to graduate school and will end up working in porn (not that I think there's anything wrong with sex work or pornography, but you seem to think so). That's a slut-shaming and sexist assumption to make, to assume that because she's selling sex once, she'll continue to work in sex work - it's a variation of the thought that if a woman has sex once, she's always up for it again in any circumstance. And so what if she decides to go into sex work? It's not an inherently bad choice; what I'm objecting to is your characterization, based on no evidence as far as I can tell, that Dylan must be/will be lying. The "lying/deceptive sex worker" trope is deeply sexist and classist, as it casts aspersions on a person solely based on her occupation.

pizzadiavola said...

She's not empowering herself by becoming sole proprietor of her body; this only serves to keep her mind (and body) enslaved to the idea that she can't do anything without the help of a man.

My dad paid for most of my college tuition. My male teacher wrote my recommendation letter. My male professor wrote my rec letters and advocated for me in a grant committee. That's different, but my point is that there's more than one way to benefit from the "help of a man." Should women reject the help of all men at all times? It's not inherently sexist to accept it, although this situation has other dynamics based on the peculiarly gendered conceptions of virginity and sexual freedom, as Renee pointed out. To me, Dylan doesn't seem to be thinking that "she can't do anything without the help of a man," she seems to be thinking that she can't pay for a graduate degree without any money and this is the route she's taken to earn it.

Also, it's awfully heteronormative to assume that it's only men who can apply to have/take Dylan's virginity.

Alexa said...

While it is certainly her choice to do with her body as she sees fit, I doubt that she would make this choice were it not for financial difficulties. This calls into question how active her decision is, because it is a choice made by constrained circumstances.

I don't agree. She could just as easily take out student loans to pay for her education if she wished to.

The reality is that every one of us works in some form or fashion to pay for what we want, including education. Does the fact that we have to work to pay for the things we want "call into question how active" those decisions are?

Spoken like someone who has never done just that.

Indeed. Dancing paid for my undergraduate degree, and prostitution is paying for my graduate degree. I have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about either. And, of course, I could take out student loans, too. If I wanted to. I *choose* to do sex work.

Octogalore said...

I agree with your thoughts here. But one minor add -- one is not forced by financial difficulties to sell oneself for tuition. Dylan can't pay for grad school? I couldn't pay for college OR grad school, and I took out full loans and worked 20 hours a week during school. There ARE other ways.

Renee said...

Couple of things: I believe that education should be free right through to the level of PHD. The more educated the individual the more chance she/he has of actively contributing to the growth and potential of society. As a group we suffer from ignorance not from knowledge.

When I wrote about this piece please remember that I am coming from a Canadian perspective. Getting a student loan here is not necessarily a simple thing. Even though you have to repay the money if the government decides that you make to much money the loan will not be granted I don't know whether or not this is true in the states but it is true here and I probably should not have assumed the same circumstances.

The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

So, Pizza, am I to understand that this white woman’s privilege is excused in this instance because of the perception of slut shaming, when in fact there has been no slut shaming. She can sell her body until the cows come home, that still does not negate the fact that she is benefitting from something white women, specifically desirable white women benefit from the patriarchy. And by utilising her privilege she is in fact contributing to the oppression of women of colour because she is colluding with the status quo, which is to provide a product for men, more than likely white men or men who identify as white because presently they are the men who hold most of the U.S. wealth and they prefer white or white looking women of a certain size and look. You can twist it all you want, this woman is benefitting with her privilege at the expense of other women. Is she too good to clean toilets, walk dogs, work in the galley, McDonalds, join the military, work in the writing center or the math lab, fill out scholarship applications, compete for departmental grants, or even get a loan if admissions require the money up front, money that can be paid off before her graduate program is over with if she really budgeted and work some of the above jobs, you know the stuff other women have to do if they do not want to sell their bodies, when they do not want to contribute to the oppression of other women?

If we are going to ride the owning our privilege train, then why depending on the history of whatever, should one privilege be excused over another?

It is amazing to me how privilege white women have managed to utilise the reputation of slut shaming in order to avoid owning their privilege.

Then again, the reality can only come to each and every person in their own time. Although Renee attempts to keep a free area for discussion here that does little for people who are hell bent on starting wars with commenters by linking back here without much commentary other than an exclamation of disdain. I won’t enable it, therefore, spit your venom and turn up your nose and accuse me of slut shaming until the cows come home, in the meantime I will wait for evidence proving this woman is exploiting other women for own benefit because she thinks she is too good to do gender-neutralising work in order to “pay for graduate school” (what a farce) and not provide you a further comment to make yourself feel superior to others.

Renee, yes student loans are practically guaranteed in the United States, regardless of credit history, income, etc. The only disqualifying factor is a previous defaulted student loan. And at the graduate school level the available amount is well above $5500 a semester. As of three years ago when I was senior the going rate was $5500 a semester (which will pay for most state and open universities), it increases substantially as a graduate student, not to mention possible scholarships and other ways of making money such as Teacher Assistant positions, tutoring and such. It is all about getting to the graduate level. Once a student is at the graduate level, providing that they did not barely get through their undergraduate years, whole new doors open up, even at so-called inferior university (e.g. state schools) will find money for a graduate student especially the ones that can live on campus. If she applied to be a resident aide, she could have free room and board. I was in class when a young man announced that he was living in his car, before the end of the day a room had been donated to him. The struggle, the possibility of dropping out is more likely at the undergraduate level. It’s almost like they make it harder in order to weed people out. If you have children and/or elderly parents (grandparents) to care for
and are poor or not as privileged as the middle classes (and above) it is a different story. However, this woman is supposedly a virgin, which would imply no children, no one but herself to worry about.

And I also believe education should be free.

Renegade Evolution said...

Kitty-

The comment that annoyed me was Lyndon. Does Natalie have what I would call "pretty privilege"? Absolutely.

However, is she a blue eyed blonde with a ski-jump nose Whitey McWhite looking woman? Not so much.

The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

Ren, I did not assume it was anything I said, but just because it is not about me does not mean I don’t recognise it when it happens. Of course you are entitled to link, rant, whatever (and please don’t take this like I am giving you permission to, I am trying to let you know that I don’t think anyone should feel inhibited) but when there is little comment attached to the link, can you honestly deny that it does not open up an opportunity for others who enjoy finding a reason to attack someone attack and use your entry as the safe haven? (not declaring that as your motive) It’s a topic I have been thinking about a lot, and it is a topic that I believe keeps a lot of people from truly getting their voices out there. There was a time that I believed no one should feel inhibited, I never could afford to be inhibited, but now I am beginning to see why people are in fact inhibited (including my own opinions). (Not resting any of this on your shoulders however, just the trend I have seen and your link reminded me of it).

As far as her eyes not being blue or her hair being blond, you are splitting hairs. She may not be the pinnacle of representation, the ideal model, but she is in the ballpark. Who knows, the blond blue eyes model may have fallen a few notches. We will never know that for sure unless men (the controllers of what is placed up on that pinnacle) are open and frank about their detailed preferences. In general we can say the preference is in fact white and white leaning and thin (or thinner than average) and euro-pretty and -----da da dum, a virgin, which places her dead into the category of choice.

I just hope when it comes time to pay up, she is not brutalised.

Renegade Evolution said...

Kitty-

I link to Renee a lot without a ton of commentary because usually what she says stands great all on its own, and the majority of what I had to say on the matter was here, in the comments.

I also do not think the decision Natalie made was one she made on the fly or lightly. I too, hope she is not brutalized.

LaJane Galt said...

Is she too good to clean toilets, walk dogs, work in the galley, McDonalds, join the military, work in the writing center or the math lab, fill out scholarship applications, compete for departmental grants, or even get a loan if admissions require the money up front, money that can be paid off before her graduate program is over with if she really budgeted and work some of the above jobs,

Instant gratification!!! I had the privilege of the 'rents picking up the tab for undergrad and covering for me in a jam. BUT I'm up to my ass in 6figs of debt w/o making a dent.

So is this why she didn't have sex? Will there be a obgyn or polygraph to make sure the buyer gets what he(she) pays for?

pizzadiavola said...

So, Pizza, am I to understand that this white woman’s privilege is excused in this instance because of the perception of slut shaming, when in fact there has been no slut shaming.

Kitty, I did not excuse Dylan's race privilege. If you think I did, I suggest you reread my comment, where I said, "You're correct in that Dylan is privileged by whiteness; if she were a woman of color, she'd be slammed racist and racist&sexist attacks in addition to sexist ones, and it's doubtful if her scheme would attract any positive attention (it would all be sexist&racist attacks and exoticised fetishism)."

I called out your assertion that she would not go to graduate school, and would instead work in porn or Hollywood, which was based on nothing but an assumption that because Dylan is engaging in sex work, she must be an untrustworthy liar. If you want to talk about race privilege, that's completely relevant to this case, but there's no need to engage in slut shaming at the same time.

pizzadiavola said...

I won’t enable it, therefore, spit your venom and turn up your nose and accuse me of slut shaming until the cows come home, in the meantime I will wait for evidence proving this woman is exploiting other women for own benefit because she thinks she is too good to do gender-neutralising work in order to “pay for graduate school” (what a farce) and not provide you a further comment to make yourself feel superior to others.

Yes, because it's totally about me wanting to feel superior to you. @.@

cheshire-bitten said...

Just wanted to say that this is a great post, it is wonderful to see writing which takes in both the choice of a women, doing tbe best she can with the options provided, and also the social issues surrounding class and sex which meant that there are not other option which she could have taken (such as public education, or student support which paid a living wage for full time study)

Good luck to her, my the problomatic views of this society do one women some good.

Gem said...

Dylan is indeed a more famous representation of many women who chose to make a living from "selling their bodies". Her decision is not something that comes out from an educated woman like her.

But I still insist that she had probed other ways funding her graduate studies. There has to be other options. Can she not go into other pursuits like starting a good business? Can she not go into part-time jobs? Are there any scholarships available? Can she delay taking up courses in the university?

Now I doubt Natalie's decision making skills. It does not do good to her career. I hope that after this no employer would figure out that she had done this kind of decision. If they do she has to give a strong answer to this.

Good point though, Renee!

Renee said...

@Gem (just curious from the cartoon? no offense intended)

I hope that after this no employer would figure out that she had done this kind of decision. If they do she has to give a strong answer to this.

This is the part that really bothers me about the whole situation. No matter what she does now she will have a spoiled identity but it will not attach itself to the male that purchases her virginity. The John should not be able to leave this situation unscathed because if we are going to deal in morality it should apply equally to both sexes.

Renegade Evolution said...

"Her decision is not something that comes out from an educated woman like her."

....

WHAT? Excuse me...what???

my oh my I cannot believe I just read that.

Anonymous said...

Trust me ladies, if men could get paid large amounts of money for their virginity, they'd do the same thing.

Why do you look at every gift you are given as a downfall?

Why some of you care how this girl decides to pay her way through college is beyond me. Do you think losing it to some guy behind a bar at 3am is any better? Or how about losing it to a first-love, who as we all know, isn't really a "love" at all?

Men enjoy being a woman's "first". Is that really such a bad thing?

Anonymous said...

@#26: One day, maybe men and women will be socialized the same. Women won't be sluts and whores for having lots of sex while men are studs and "pimps"*. Men won't be told that they are the ones who look and judge, while women are the ones looked at and judged. But until society treats sex the same for both genders, the comparison is pretty useless.

* The fact that men consider this a compliment is just barf all on its own.