On October 24th, 2012, Catarina Migliorini and Alexander Stepanov sold their virginity on the Internet. The former received $780,000 while her male counterpart got a bid of $3,000. This auction sale was organized by the Australian project Virgins Wanted and sparked controversy between those who consider it an empowerment of women and those who think this is the result of the extreme consumer-driven nature of our society.
Catarina Migliorini, 20 years old, will have her first sexual rapport in exchange for $780,000 with Natsu, a Japanese man, after a month of auction. More precisely, she will receive 90% of that amount and $20,000 for her participation in the Australian Virgins Wanted documentary. Directed by Justin Sisely, the film will follow people who decided to sell their virginity on the eponymous website. To justify her decision, Migliorini claimed that she needed that money to finance her education. Furthermore, she will give a part of it to a Brazilian charity.
On Sweet Briar College’s campus in Virginia, opinions on this matter diverge. Taneal Williams, an 18-year-old student who wants to stay a virgin until marriage, understands what led the young woman to this act: “Education is expensive. There are people who are going to university, and at night, they work in strip-clubs. I totally understand why she’s doing it and I don’t judged her for her decision.” Dr. Rosie Lewis, the president of The Sweet Peas, an association that promotes women’s wellness on SBC campus, is more critical of Migliorini: “It represents the continuing demise of morality. This overt action is bold, and no different than prostitution, which tends to be more covert. […] It is an act of desperation, or attention seeking. Her choice will have everlasting effects that will most likely include ridicule, continuing despair and vulnerability.” While prostitution is defined as having a sexual rapport in exchange for a remuneration, Migliorini does not see it that way: “If you only do it once in your life then you are not a prostitute, just like if you take one amazing photograph it does not automatically make you a photographer.”
For Deborah Durham, professor of anthropology at Sweet Briar College, the issue lies elsewhere: “I’m shocked, but not really, at the producers of the film who coerced the young woman and man through money, and at the audience that delights in the glance into forbidden and bad behaviors.” Taneal Williams adds that “Sex does sell,” but prefers to see the situation as an empowerment of the woman: “There are people nowadays who are losing their virginity to someone that they don’t care about. So, it’s like she’s taking control of it.”
Brent Shea, professor in sociology at Sweet Briar College, goes one step further: “Some sociologists emphasize the sexual agency of women, seeing involvement in sex work as a choice that an adult woman can make, and would even support decriminalizing it. […] Women in traditional patriarchal societies are subservient to their fathers and husbands, making this woman’s behavior highly transgressive of gender-specific social norms in some countries.”
This may be one of the reasons why the focus is not on Alexander Stepanov, a 21-year-old Russian who also sold his virginity on the website. He got $3,000 from Nene B., a Brazilian woman. Professor Shea explains this price difference of $770,000: “We still live in a society in which people denigrate sexual inexperience in men.” Moreover, the website provided 32 half-naked pictures of Catarina Migliorini while Alexander Stepanov was represented by 4 pictures of him, fully clothed.
Professor Shea does not believe that this story will affect society: “There are so few men anyplace with $780,000 to spend and fewer yet who would want or even need to spend it in this way. …Also, romantic love still exists as an ideal in our society, making this crassly commercialized coupling appear second rate at best.
For Williams, “There are too many sexual transmissible diseases out there, too many chances of pregnancy.” However, a contract has been made: the meeting will last an hour and will not be taped, they will have to use a condom, and kisses and any kind of propositions are forbidden. Furthermore, they will have to be sober and they will pass a medical and a judiciary control. Catarina Migliorini will have to supply a medical certificate of virginity but for Alexander Stepanov, Nene B. will have to trust only his word.
The teaser of the documentary: