An Australian filmmaker is organizing a mass virginity auction and filming it as a documentary. Selling virginity, of course, is nothing new — what is new is pretending such sales are ideologically interesting.
According to Australia's Daily Telegraph, director Justin Sisely has recruited both male and female virgins for his auction, which will take place at a Nevada brothel. Apparently the event will be face-to-face, with bidders in the same room as virgins — presumably the slave-auction implications don't bug Sisely. To his credit, Sisely is paying his recruits well — $20,000 plus 90% of their sale price, with the remaining 10% going back to the brothel. But there's no word on whether he'll be giving them a cut of his documentary's proceeds, and several virgins claim they're not in it for the money.
"John" says, "money is a good incentive but I'm really more excited about the journey I'm about to go on." And "Veronica" was willing to speak to the Telegraph in greater depth, using a pseudonym though she let the paper print her picture. The 21-year-old waitress says, "I've had two proper boyfriends but mostly guys are just friends. I don't know why it hasn't gone to the next level, there's something inside me that stopped me. I wasn't ready." But apparently she's now ready to sell her virginity to a stranger. Of the process, she says, "It's a good opportunity, I can benefit from it financially. That wasn't the main reason why I wanted to do it, it was more about challenging the way people think of this."
Sisely's recruits aren't the first to talk about selling one's virginity as a groundbreaking act — Natalie Dylan made that claim last year. The 22-year-old women's studies major turned virginity auctioneer wrote in The Daily Beast that her sale was "in part a sociological experiment-I wanted to study the public's response." She added that at college, "it became apparent to me that idealized virginity is just a tool to keep women in their place. But then I realized something else: if virginity is considered that valuable, what's to stop me from benefiting from that? It is mine, after all." Dylan attempted to frame the sale of her virginity not only as empowering, but as a sort of joke's-on-you way of exposing outdated attitudes. But since the high market price of virginity (or at least the allegedly high price — Dylan may never have actually closed a deal) relies on those outdated attitudes, the supposed sociological experiment falls flat.
Writing on Dylan's piece, Megan pointed out that "lots of women are still traded in the world like chattel, and virginity remains fetishized throughout the world. And owning and selling one's own isn't a feminist statement, though it is a capitalist one." Obviously consenting to auction one's virginity isn't like being the victim of sex trafficking, but simply participating in a system that places monetary value on a person's first sexual experience isn't the same as challenging that system. And, as Megan also noted, selling virginity is "nothing new." Sisely's recruits can talk all they want about their "journeys," but Sisely himself is likely eager to profit from his documentary, even if he doesn't make money from the auction directly. His project is no different from the sex trade as it has existed for millennia, and while it may not deserve stigma, it's hardly blazing a new trail. As the recent Rethinking Virginity conference made clear, concepts of virginity deserve recontextualization. But Sisely and his recruits are just putting them in the oldest context possible, and then pretending it's new.
Image via Daily Telegraph.
Director Justin Sisely Auctions Off Aussie Virginities [Daily Telegraph]
Why I Am Ready To Sell My Virginity, Reveals Veronica, 21 [Daily Telegraph]