Thursday, January 29, 2009

The ($3.8 Million) Question of The Day

And is it a good one, with a few sub-questions.

Meet Natalie Dylan, as 22-year-old Women's Studies graduate (BA) who will soon begin an MA in Marriage and Family Therapy.

Natalie Dylan is a unique individual. Natalie is selling her virginity to pay for her MA and a few other things. Well, auctioning it really through the Bunny Ranch's website. The Moonlite Bunny Ranch, of course, is a legal and licensed brothel in Nevada and the "act" will take place there.

So, why Natalie she doing this (--besides paying for Graduate work). At The Daily Beast, Dylan writes:
Like most little girls, I was raised to believe that virginity is a sacred gift a woman should reserve for just the right man. But college taught me that this concept is just a tool to keep the status quo intact. Deflowering is historically oppressive—early European marriages began with a dowry, in which a father would sell his virginal daughter to the man whose family could offer the most agricultural wealth. Dads were basically their daughters’ pimps.

When I learned this, 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. And the value of my chastity is one level on which men cannot compete with me. I decided to flip the equation, and turn my virginity into something that allows me to gain power and opportunity from men. I took the ancient notion that a woman’s virginity is priceless and used it as a vehicle for capitalism.

The questions:

(1) Is Dylan correct about the nature of virginity or is this just more academic banality or is she just another capitalist, um, I won't say it?

(2) If Dylan is correct, would you encourage your child to do this, knowing that is could make your child financially secure for the rest of her, or his, life?

(3) Is this comparable to pornography, which some scholars, such as Catherine MacKinnon, argue is just another violent and oppressive act against women or does Dylan possess agency and does her auction "transcend" the oppression?

6 comments:

megsg-h said...

1. Look, I think Dylan is partly correct in her understanding of the price put on women's virginity, but her understanding is limited from an undergrad perspective. I don't mean that as an insult. She's obviously read lots of stuff as a WS student, but to call fathers pimps is turning an incredibly complicated grayscale of family relationships, land ownership, financial and political power, etc. into a black and white he-did-this-or-that-to-her question. If this were her only argument, shouldn't she angle for not only the monetary "dowry" but also, perhaps a house or property, a lucrative job, dual citizenship, or any other gains that women did--and still do--marry to obtain?

2. Given my answer above, no, I wouldn't encourage our girls to do this. In addition to the lack of complete reasoning in Dylan's argument, I have to admit that I'm a quasi-romantic. I don't believe that virginity is something to be saved for the one--or even several--right person or people. But I do like the idea of sex as something to enjoy with someone you trust, someone who is your equal and gains as much pleasure as you do with equal or similar risk or sacrifice. Call me old fashioned, but there it is.

3. I'm not sure where I stand on the porn issue. I mean, Dylan does have agency here, but so do the women who "sell" themselves to a video audience. The level or amount of agency may be different, but I'm not totally convinced that it is. One could argue that Dylan's education--and, in particular, her WS degree--makes her perspective a little more transgressive, but again, I'm not convinced.

Ultimately, Dylan is using her sexuality for gain the way women (and men, for that matter) have and do and most likely will. I guess we all have done it, whether its using our sexuality for power or reputation or just for pleasure, plain and simple. I'd like to think that I'm more of a purist but, when it comes down to it, we've all made complicated choices with our bodies, sexually or not, that have led to gain and loss. Is this so different?

The Roof Almighty said...

I call an Intentional Heisenberg on this one.

My suspicion--as with the guy who was going to cut his leg off online a few years back in order to raise money to get an arificial leg (which he needed anyway), or anyone who has auctioned their kidney or child or soul on EBay--is that this is a fairly savvy, if stale, attempt to shock the world by doing something which the press can ONLY report in shocked tones.

For every lothario with a checkbook, there are three suckers who will pay for her to save herself like Jesus intends.

In other words, I bet each of you the street value of a Women's Studies undergrad's virginity (where I grew up: a strawberry dacquiri or a soupcon of a father-figure's approval) that she will never go through with it.

The Roof Almighty said...

Two notes:
1) Like LSD, this is a commodity which has proven deeply resistant to inflation since our parents' generation.

2) This isn't even my cynical response. In a post Karl Rove / Ted Haggard world, my cynical answer is that I tend to assume that she is not only a non-virgin, but a dude with Super-AIDS.

And "just one teaspoon of Super-AIDS in your butt and you're dead in three years."

solon said...

Roof-

With all of this publicity, is Dylan at the point at which she needs to sell her virginity and engage in the act to fulfill her beliefs in Women's studies?

The Roof Almighty said...

Would denying the world of their expectations of her sexuality not be an even greater show of agency.

There are sooooo many pressures for young girls to lose their virginity, what with MTV, sex ed classes, and vampire baseball. How brave of her to make her own choices.

Like the runaway bride, she may be getting TOO MUCH attention, but she got what she wanted.

The Roof Almighty said...

You know, I realize I'm coming off as too critical of her literal attention whoring.

Maybe I will get to watch how this plays out. And the eventual unauthorized video. And her future talk show appearances. And her season of Celebrity Apprentice. And her book tour. And her soul die in her living body, rotting with self-deception.

Take that, patriachy.