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The $3.8 million prank

By Amanda Marcotte
Saturday, January 24, 2009 1:08 EDT
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Man, today is a weird one for a feminist, because it’s a “stuff going right” day. Lilly Ledbetter Act passes the Senate, the global gag rule was rescinded, and I discovered that I can crap diamonds. (Just checking to see if you were paying attention.) I had to revise my podcast at the last minute to reflect how quickly the changes are coming. Which is why I’m reading about this woman who is selling her virginity for $3.8 million, and my first inclination is to generously assume that she’s pulling one awesome prank on some patriarchy-addled man and just on the world at large. Someone who doesn’t realize that when you “take” someone’s virginity, you end up empty handed.

The virgin in question is Natalie Dylan, and she’s written an apology for herself for anti-feminist magazine The Daily Beast, which is in the habit of running articles from self-described feminists who have developed anti-feminist beliefs, like mothers shouldn’t work or Sarah Palin is the shit. But I’m choosing to be sanguine and believe that she’s pranking The Daily Beast as well, by exploiting their desire to needle feminists to transmit the more important idea, which is that men who invest value in concepts like “virginity” are fucking idiots, including presumably the editorial staff at The Daily Beast.

I realize that Dylan has had some Moonlight Ranch doctor confirm that she’s a virgin, which is something that you can only confirm by asking someone if she’s had sex and trusting her when she says, “No.” People like to believe that the hymen is some sort of sure shot way to tell, but if Dylan has been examined with a speculum, that’ll do it in as surely as intercourse would have. If she had one to begin with—a lot of women don’t past puberty, especially if they were active at all. I don’t know why this isn’t talked about more, because I think it would save a lot of teenage girls some anxiety. Not to be TMI, but I never had one that I know of, and my feeling about that is gratitude, because women I know who did didn’t particularly enjoy tearing it up. To make it more confusing, some women still have a hymen after having sex, even a lot of sex, because it stretches, you know. Virginity is not a physical state. It’s a mental concept. And because it’s a concept, we can extend it to men even though there are no myths about physical changes to men’s bodies after the first time they have sex.

The most illuminating treatment I’ve seen of this issue is Hanne Blank’s book Virgin: The Untouched History, where she explains in great detail how humanity has never been able to really get a handle on this three point problem.

1) Virginity is just a concept.
2) However, virginity is VERY IMPORTANT to the patriarchy.
3) Trusting women to define virginity themselves is out of the question.

Of course, the most logical solution to the problem is to let a woman’s deflowerer to decide if she really had this “virginity” and he really took it. And that was the initial solution for much of history, but it creates massive problems, namely that many grooms will decide their wives weren’t virgins and either have them executed or returned to their families in an unmarriageable state, because their virginity is definitely gone now. Now, if you’re a feminist, you see the major problem with this system, which is that it treats women like property. But the perceived problem was the expense and trouble of it, as well as the family dishonor issues, so lawsuits were inevitable. Since taking women’s word for it was out of the question, people started to come up with physical tests of virginity. I recommend reading the book for all the various ones, a variety that shows that, in truth, there was no test, and that includes the hymen test, which is just our culture’s specific myth.

And that’s not even taking into account that anyone can define “virgin” however they want. Maybe you only think it counts if you have PIV intercourse, but then are “gold star” lesbians virgins, even if they’ve slept with a hundred women? Some teenagers subject to abstinence-only education think fooling around but avoiding PIV isn’t sex, but they’re engaging in sexual behaviors, so isn’t that a form of sex? Where do you draw the line? This problem is obviously a looming one for the Christofascists who’ve become positively obsessed with sexual “purity”. Realizing that virginity is an amorphous concept, they’ve desperately been defining it with an ever-growing list of “Thou shalt nots”, at least if you want to make sure, and so now you’re seeing couples crowing about how they never even kissed or held hands before their wedding. (Which makes me wonder if they think their first kiss at the altar is a form of pornography for their own families.)

I just hope Dynes makes sure the check clears and she has a contract that says he can’t sue her if her eventual customer finds that taking someone’s virginity looks and feels exactly like having sex with a woman who isn’t a virgin. Because someone who believes in virginity enough to pay $3.8 million for it probably believes in all the baggage around it, including the male prerogative to decide that there was no virginity there because it didn’t feel like he imagined it would. And that’s a lot of money to spend on something that doesn’t really exist in a physical sense, and so the odds that he’ll feel cheated are sky high. But as long as she’s protected herself from getting fucked over instead of merely fucked, the I say go with the Disco Ball. And I’ll choose to believe you’re punking a bunch of dumb motherfuckers.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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