Apparently, to some men and one woman, it is worth at least a million dollars – apparently as high as 3.8 million dollars.  Today’s post is ruminating primarily about adult sexuality.  Just FYI.

Natalie Dylan has been all over the news recently because she’s selling her virginity.  Not to the highest bidder, notably, because Natalie is taking applications as well as bids and choosing among them.  She’s doing it to pay for her graduate education, plus quite a bit of extra it sounds like.  She is being dogged all over the news cycle – from CNN to The Tyra Banks Show.  Frankly, I think the emotional and psychological beating she’s taking by being so public with her decision might be much harder to work through in the end than actually having sex for the first time for money.  (And, of course, it is also driving her price much higher too.)

Natalie’s story brings up two questions for me.

First, What is the DEAL with virginity?  I’ve written about this in the past (and here and here and here).  There seems to be some intense psychological attraction that some men and women have about having sex with someone for the first time.  I honestly don’t get it.  I remember my first time having intercourse just wasn’t all that.  I mean, I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t really know how to respond to my partner other than just kind of lying there.  Frankly, I kind of sucked as a lover.  I know that I certainly would not have wanted to have sex with me when I was a virgin.  And there are plenty of people who see eye-to-eye with that perception.  I know men and women who have said they would decline to have sex with a virgin because there’s too much emotional intensity to the encounter or because the virgin will likely be a poor lover.

Maybe it’s primarily a gender thing.  I’m having flashbacks to Memoirs of a Geisha.  It was a fabulous book and a decent movie, but the image that’s really stuck with me is the outrageous one-upmanship of the two men bidding for the main character’s virginity.  So maybe this desire to have sex with a virgin, and more to the point a willingness to pay obscene amounts of money for the honor, is essentially a pissing contest between men where the focus is really on being better (i.e., richer) than other men rather than getting to have intercourse with a virgin.

Because intercourse is what we’re talking about here, right?  I mean, Natalie is going all over the place saying she’s a virgin and she’s taken a lie detector test and maybe there will be some physical exam, all of which is to say she’s never had a penis inside her.  Maybe girlfriend is a lesbian and has had plenty of hot lesbian sex that didn’t involve penetration.  And more power to her if she is and she has, but the point I’m making is that there’s been a lot of the word “virgin” thrown around without much attention to what it means.  (Natalie does say on the Tyra Banks Show that she’s both given and received oral sex with a man.)

Can anyone clarify this point for me?  Why is having sex with a virgin so sought after in some circles?

My second question is, What do I really think about sex for money?  Or sex for food or housing or education?  This is a really hard question.  With my college sex ed classes, when we reach the Sex for Sale session towards the end of the semester, the students by and large come in expecting a diatribe on my part against prostitution.  But as Natalie Dylan is constantly pointing out, there is far more gray here than much of popular America believes.  I start out my class on prostitution with a story:

A woman in medical school is living with a platonic, male friend.  One month, she’s a bit short on rent, she’s depressed and not sure what to do.  She and her roommate get a bit drunk and end up having sex.  The next day, he tells her not to worry about the rest of the rent, he’ll cover it for her.  The same thing happens the next month.  Eventually, she has stopped paying rent, but is having sex with her roommate about once a week.  There’s no romantic attraction on either of their parts, and they’re both pretty happy with the implicit, unspoken arrangement.

Then I ask: Is she a prostitute?  By and large the students agree she is not a prostitute.  Then, I have them answer a series of questions anonymously with some nifty little hand-held gadgets the college has.  Here’s what I ask:

  • After someone has taken you out on a really nice date, have you ever felt obligated to give them a goodnight kiss?  Or a quick make-out session?
  • After you have taken someone out on an expensive, thoughtful date, have you ever felt that there was some sort of…obligation for a physical connection at the end of it?

Pretty much everyone agrees that there’s an understanding of what happens at the end of a date.  The students get my point pretty quickly – that this is an implicit exchange.  Inevitably, this leads to a conversation about whether it’s okay if there’s a feeling of romantic and sexual attraction between the two people.

The shades of gray start to emerge.

And so I ask, assuming that you’re not in a relationship, would you…

  • have sex with someone really hot for a million dollars?
  • have sex with someone of the gender you do not usually have sex with for a million dollars?

This is generally a pretty mixed question, with lots of students asking for clarification.  What if there is a romantic and sexual attraction between you and the person offering the money?  Does it make a difference if it’s money being offered rather than food, shelter, or educational funding?

Eventually we move into talk about the implicit understanding that most monogamous couples have that sex will occur with some perhaps-unstated frequency.  This implicit understanding is often too much (or too little) for the individuals involved, but they generally work it out and do it anyway.  How is this expectation different – or “better than” – an explicit exchange of money?  There’s some serious gray in that question.

Ultimately what matters the most is that everyone involved is actively choosing his or her sexual encounters.  What kinds of implicit or explicit expectations occur around individual, mutually chosen sexual encounters are not necessarily for me to judge.

But back to Natalie Dylan.  If you want to see her talk about what she’s doing, here’s a pretty long clip from the Tyra Banks show: