Virginity to The Highest Bidder

I must have missed the after-school special about saving your virginity for your first love or your highest bidder. Apparently, the program is running in syndication in Brazil.

In the fall of 2012, a 20-year-old Brazilian student named Catarina Migliorini participated in an auction on an Australian website. The website is named VirginsWanted.com.au. So yeah, the thing up for auction was Catarina’s self-proclaimed virginity.

The whole thing is being featured in a documentary by an Australian filmmaker – the documentary addressing, I guess, the weirdness of the Internet. Or the many faces of sex-trafficking. Or the extreme lengths people will go to find fame. Or maybe, as the filmmaker has said, it’s simply a documentary about the “cherry-popping heard round the world.” Ew.

Anyway, when the auction finally closed, a Japanese man identified simply as “Natsu” had committed a $780,000 – yup, $780,000 – bid for the grand prize. Catarina was promised $20,000 for her participation, plus ninety percent of the winning bid. She claimed she would funnel all or most of her earnings to a housing project for poor families in her native Brazilian town.

The filmmaker planned on “delivering” Catarina, in mid-November, to Natsu on an airplane somewhere between Australian and US airspace. The act was to take place on the plane so as not to be subject to the prostitution laws of any country. Visa issues and pesky human-trafficking investigations fouled up the timing, though, and as of Christmas, Catarina reportedly still had something in common with the Virgin Mary. She had, however, successfully sold pictures to Playboy. I’m no Bible expert, but I’m pretty sure neither testament has a story about Mary landing that kind of deal.

Catarina also managed to inspire a copycat.

Rebecca Bernardo, an 18-year-old who also hails from a small town in Brazil, heard about Catarina’s “For Sale” sign and decided to throw her own virginity into the digital ring. With a sick mother to support, and claiming that her waitressing job barely covered expenses, Rebecca posted a video on YouTube. She stands humbly before a mirror, introduces herself, and matter-of-factly announces that she’s auctioning her virginity.

After netting “only” 14,000 views and a highest offer of $35,000, it seems Rebecca reached out to Virgins Wanted for a bigger platform. Not only does Rebecca want money to pay her mother’s medical expenses, she wants enough to buy both of them a better house in a better neighborhood. At least, that’s what she told the television station that offered to pay for her mother’s care when she turned down their offer.

For what it’s worth, Rebecca’s mother is not in favor of her business plan, and YouTube took the video down.

I don’t mean to sound glib about any of this. If I seem to be, it’s probably because I can’t believe any of this is true. The fact that all of it is true actually makes me very, very sad.

In a survey of 100 countries, the majority allow prostitution, or permit it with limitations. In Brazil, for example, prostitution is legal. In the US, it’s legal in certain counties in Nevada.

The world’s oldest profession may also be the world’s longest debate. Policy-makers, health-care experts and current and former prostitutes themselves cannot agree on whether prostitution should be legalized. If you say a woman should have control over what happens with her body, why can’t she decide to sell that body for money? If prostitution is going to happen regardless of what the law says, why not put it on the books so that it can also be regulated, and therefore made safer? Does legalization do anything to combat the exploitation and degradation that seem so entwined with the act of prostitution?

That is a debate I must reserve for another time, more screen space and several advanced degrees. But I believe that, regardless of your position on prostitution as a legal question, most of you would agree with my more simple reaction to these virginity auctions: that sadness I mentioned.

I am sad that Catarina and Rebecca believe having sex with a stranger for money after an online bidding war is their best option to achieve whatever it is they are hoping to achieve. I don’t care whether their motives are purely altruistic – houses for the poor, medicine for a mother – or are tied to a more selfish desire for fame in its basest, most enjoy-your-15-minutes form. It says a lot about the girls, their circumstances and our shared cultural values that they go for an attention-grabbing ploy that they know will raise eyebrows and other body parts. They don’t connect with Habitat for Humanity or reach out to Brazil’s public health system – which the World Health Organization has applauded for providing free health care to needy citizens – or take advantage of social media to start a charitable campaign. No. They don’t use what is between their ears, they use what is between their legs.

I am sad that these girls know how easy it is to get attention and get money by marketing their sex.

I am sad that there was a market ready to receive their marketing.

I am sad that, despite the progress much of the world has generally made on women’s rights and gender equality, there are still so many examples of a woman’s worth being tied to her vagina and what can be done with it. The reality star who becomes famous thanks to a sex tape. The businesswoman who is told she must quid-pro-quo her way to the next promotion. The teenager who thinks she’s unlovable if she doesn’t let him do it. The young women in Brazil who let strangers tell them how much they’re worth based on the sex they will have.

I am sad that Brazil recently elected its first female president, but Catarina and Rebecca are the Brazilian females The Huffington Post is linking to.

I am sad that, even in a country where prostitution is legal, these two girls have now exposed themselves to ridicule and mockery. They were already desperate enough to sell themselves on the Internet. I’m not sure where they have left to go when they feel trapped by belittling snickers and reputational condemnation.

I am sad that these girls thought a price tag could be put on a sexual act, but never realized their dignity was priceless.

Image via Shutterstock

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1510154078 Cali Lindsay

    Dude. You’re right that it’s sad that they’re being ridiculed and mocked. But you’re essentially joining those mockers. You called these girls “desperate”. Why? For doing…something legal in their country? They made a choice. As a feminist, you should realize that these grown-ass women are fully capable of making their own choices. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sex. If you were really upset about how “a woman’s worth being tied to her vagina and what can be done with it”, then you should be looking at these women beyond their sex lives. Otherwise, you are just as bad as the reality tv show exec, the boss, the teen boyfriend. These women are doing something legal, something they made the choice to do, and something that won’t hurt them. How is it any of your business? Who are you to judge them?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697155662 Dani Rae Garcia

      ^^^^^”dude” if you think that the psychological repercussions that these women will face later after the ridicule they will face and shame they will probably feel isnt going to hurt them…then you my friend are not a feminist but a feminazi. Im sorry but feminism shouldnt be about women being able to do whatever they want and forget the consequences. It should be about women having equal rights, equal protection and equal respect. But instead, so called feminists are far too busy worrying about what they cant do instead of worrying about what they can do and the safety and well being of our fellow woman. I dont understand you people that basically say sex should be a commodity. Obviously what she did wasnt legal or they wouldnt have had to set the act up on a plane. Also since when did legality trump morality? Is it right for this woman to sell sex? Is it good for her? The second womans own mother didnt think so. Shed rather stay sick and in a poor state of housing than to have her daughter sell her body..what does that tell you? Also “dude” how is it any of our business? Once they take those transactions out of the privacy of their own homes and post them online…(hello public domain much?) it becomes our business. To agree, to disagree and yes to scrutinize. i re replied just so youd get the notification. :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511706332 Bernadette Chan Roy

        I don’t really agree with your statement. Your comment is assuming that sexuality is tied to morality, but honestly I have no idea why people think that. Sex is just a physical act. It really is. It can be done when you’re in a loving relationship, it can be done with a stranger who you know nothing about. As long as there is consent, where is the morality? Are virgins inherently moral? Is a person more moral because she only has sex in relationships, rather than casual sex? No one can answer, because there truly is more to a person than their sex life.

        The women who are doing this I assume are not coerced- prostitution under coercion, like the author said is an entirely different subject. It is purely their decision; they control the transaction, they have the final say. Neither party is confused- the woman is getting a large sum of money, the man is getting a beautiful virgin. It’s transparent. Clearly these women believe the monetary compensation is worthwhile- who are we to say it’s not? Why would having sex with a stranger be bad for them, when people engage in casual sex (a purely physical act, based on appearance) everyday? Furthermore, as the article states there are many countries that legalise prostitution. That says nothing about the morality of the situation.

        I understand the point that this article is trying to make- it is sad that women in this age are still being reduced to their bodies, and making decisions based purely on their physical appearance. But I don’t agree with the judgement behind it. The opening sentence is derisive; the implication is disapproval that women are not saving themselves for their first loves, and your closing statement that ‘dignity is priceless’- are these women undignified for taking this opportunity? Why does their decision have to be desperate? They are adults, making a legal decision in a business transaction. They clearly do not place as much emotional value on their virginity as the monetary compensation.

        I do think it’s sad when women believe their appearance=their worth. It shouldn’t be that way. Women should be able to live without this pressure. In an ideal society, women should not have to worry about how attractive they are. But heterosexual men will always desire women, so there will always be a market for that. Just to be clear, I don’t think women should HAVE to conform to this market at all. Women should not feel any pressure to pander to men’s desire. But the women who do make the choice to use their sexuality in exchange for what they believe is worthy compensation should be able to do so without feeling like that are not feminists, losing their dignity etc. In my mind, these women are making a clear legal business transaction without being coerced; a transaction that is solely in their power and one that they believe is worthwhile. They have the choice and it is absolutely obvious to both sides what they are getting- he gets a young, beautiful virgin, she gets money. I think the subversive marketing that tells young women that beauty brings happiness, love, success etc is a lot less clearcut and a lot more damaging.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511706332 Bernadette Chan Roy

          Just to make it clear in my statement, I’m not saying this market is only for women. Men for women, women for women, men for men. What I’m trying to say is people in general should not be judged by their appearances. They should be judged for their personalities; their brains. But those who want to exchange their physical beauty, their sexuality for something else (whatever it is) shouldn’t be judged either as long as it is their decision and the transaction is clear. Both the parties involved and society as a whole should recognise that it does not reflect on their self-worth or their morality as a person.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1510154078 Cali Lindsay

        “Im sorry but feminism shouldnt be about women being able to do whatever they want and forget the consequences.” A). Who are you to say what feminism should and shouldn’t be? B) But, in this case (once again, assuming they use protection), there aren’t consequences. Literally none. On the .1 chance that she became pregnant or received a non-life threatening STD…she knew the chances of that happening. We can’t insult this women by saying she didn’t weigh they good vs. the bad. She’s an adult woman, and knew what could happen. Who are we to stand in her way?

        Furthermore, I agree with the other woman who replied to you (sorry, I don’t know your name!), but also you, a little bit. Sex IS personal! So personal that it’s meaning can only be figured out by the person having it. If it’s not you, it’s none of your business. There is nothing inherently wrong or immoral about sex.

        Even if there were, we have all agreed that women are more than just their vagina. Women are more than their sex lives. So how are you basing the entire characters of these women based off exactly that?

        Also, apologies to the author, I didn’t mean to insult you in any way, and I’m sorry for assuming you were a feminist! Most girl websites I read have feminist themes to them (rookie, bust, thehairpin, etc.) and I get confused sometimes. I mostly meant that I think this is generally a ridiculous story, and I think the fact that society (not just you) paying attention to it at all is weird, for the aforementioned reasons.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000522090328 Marites Gobuyan Mabilangan

      what can i say.we are entitled to our own opinion..its her personal decision anyway..who are we to judge her!..come to think of it..i’d rather do the same..if it is for my family…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697155662 Dani Rae Garcia

    ^^^^^”dude” if you think that the psychological repercussions that these women will face later after the ridicule they will face and shame they will probably feel isnt going to hurt them…then you my friend are not a feminist but a feminazi. Im sorry but feminism shouldnt be about women being able to do whatever they want and forget the consequences. It should be about women having equal rights, equal protection and equal respect. But instead, so called feminists are far too busy worrying about what they cant do instead of worrying about what they can do and the safety and well being of our fellow woman. I dont understand you people that basically say sex should be a commodity. Obviously what she did wasnt legal or they wouldnt have had to set the act up on a plane. Also since when did legality trump morality? Is it right for this woman to sell sex? Is it good for her? The second womans own mother didnt think so. Shed rather stay sick and in a poor state of housing than to have her daughter sell her body..what does that tell you? Also “dude” how is it any of our business? Once they take those transactions out of the privacy of their own homes and post them online…(hello public domain much?) it becomes our business. To agree, to disagree and yes to scrutinize.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=621970392 Katie Isabella Wildig

    I’m with Cali, and seeing a woman resort to bashing feminism to win a debate is pretty depressing. Ick.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000056563682 Beth Connel

    It is no more shameful for a woman to sell sex than for a man. Would you be concerned with a grown man letting women or men bid for sex with him? Would you worry so much about the shame you are so certain these women must (or eventually will) feel? Someone could claim virtually anything is a shameful act, but if the person committing the act is alright with it, and they are harming no one, then insisting they must feel shame and are being mistreated by big bad men only furthers the stereotype that women are weak, naive, and inferior, that sex is bad, and it may even create shame that the person didn’t previously feel. As a previous gestational surrogate, I have experience with this tactic being thrown at me by people who mean well, but have trouble understanding that women still deserve the choice even when their choice goes against every choice you would make in their shoes.

    If they were minors, forced or manipulated into doing these things, that would be different. However, women not feeling oppressed by their sexuality, not seeing the first instance of having sex as being different from the 10th or 20th, or whatever their motivation, it isn’t some inherently bad, shameful thing. Just a difference of opinion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697155662 Dani Rae Garcia

      yes Beth i would worry about a man prostituting himself as well. would you not? i dont see things in sexes. whats wrong for one is wrong for the other. Simple as that. Also to the girl above? im not bashing feminism in the slightest. im commenting on the fact that what most see to be feminism isnt what its truly about. Feminism isnt about men are bad, we can do whatever the fuck we want and fuck everyone else. Feminism should and used to be about furthering womens rights. Some women took it a step further and turned it into this twisted thing that really does nothing more than detract from the respect women have gained over the years. Your type of feminism doesnt celebrate the victories only laments the fact that people of both genders should have guidelines and limitations. Also to the girl with the long winded rant above? Morality should be linked with sex. Sex has become nothing but a commodity when it used to mean something more. The fact that you see it as something to take lightly only serves to shed light on the fact that something is very very wrong with humanity today. Sex should be a link with the other person. Its deeply personal. Deeply intimate. That people can see it as something else…well it really just confounds me. But thats another topic altogether. As for the debate of legality and morality? technically its illegal for me to be gay. Because to be straight means the rights to children, marriage etc. I dont have those rights. So in turn is it wrong for me to be gay or to get married simply because the law says i shouldnt? In turn is it right for these women to sell themselves/sex because the law says they should or can? no. We all know what is right and wrong. If sex for money was a shameless thing it wouldnt have that aura of shame around it. Show me a prostitute who is proud of what she does. Truly proud. Then perhaps you can talk to me about morality and feminism.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=212701339 Emily Jane Laak

        But what gives you the right to define what sex means, or should mean, to anyone? Longstanding history shows sex is most often about power- alliances from other countries, kingdoms, empires, tribes based on who marries who- it really is based on who sleeps with who to pop out those heirs and heiresses. Sex may have a deep personal link to you, but you have no right to define it as such for anyone else. That kind of attitude DOES turn it into an argument over morality. It’s a difference of opinion and that is how it should be defined. As a gay woman, you should know PLENTY about double standards, and yet you are dishing out your own.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=212701339 Emily Jane Laak

        >>If sex for money was a shameless thing it wouldnt have that aura of shame around it. Show me a prostitute who is proud of what she does. Truly proud.

        Also, last time I checked according to many homosexuality is not only just shameful, it’s a sin. Masturbation is often considered shameful, as is pre-marital sex (even with someone you love)… Again with those double standards. These are all things that are often associated with shame but should not be. Sex work, in my book, is the same thing. (again, not including co-erced sex trafficking)… And to answer your question. I can guarantee several people who are proud of their work in the sex industry (prostitution included)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697155662 Dani Rae Garcia

    And just to clarify im not saying that men are bad or that women are weak or naive. As a woman who identifies as a lesbian i am saying just the opposite. I have many straight male friends whom i love and respect as well as many strong female friends who prove to me that women can be as amazing as any man. Its not about oppressing women. Its about showing them they arent their bodies. Sex is a gift. And yes a woman should be able to choose who and how she gives that gift…but to tell me that when that woman is nearing fifty or sixty and is reflecting back on her life…to tell me that she wont feel the bitter tinge of regret..i cant help but say you are wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1343877365 Fernanda Gadelha

    Prostitution is ILEGAL in Brazil.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001832730307 Carmem Gomes

    prostitution is not legal in brazil, please!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697155662 Dani Rae Garcia

    Something to keep in mind ladies. You can be against sex work and still support the sex worker. You can be critical of sex work but still care for the sex worker.I think many of you forget this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1343877365 Fernanda Gadelha

    Sorry. I’m from Brazil and I was not aware of the fact that, indeed, prostitution is legal in my country. That certainly is a sad thing and something I am definitely not proud of. However prostitution (including the virtual prostitution) is an issue all over the world. Not only brazillian women experience that, but many women from poor and rich countries go through the same thing. This reality needs to be over and before we do anything to stop this, we need to be aware about the dimension of the problem, which is global, not regional.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000460248082 Drew Harms

    I’d just like to say that this is all, as the author loves to say, sad. These girls have lives nobody on here would be able to spend a week living, including you Abby. I grew up on welfare and have a very ill mother and if I could get three quarters of a million dollars to help us out I would do anything. These are women, especially the second, who are doing anything they can think of just to keep living in conditions worse than most in this country have ever seen. So judge all you want, but you look like an ignorant spoiled brat.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1008753657 Anastasia Alaniz

      I think it’s hilariously presumptuous of you to assume that they have worse lives than the people commenting and the person that wrote this post. Hilarious, really. I’m not saying you’re right or wrong but I think it’s funny that you are assuming that you are correct in your statement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=541012405 Abby Marshall Diaz

    Wow. I appreciate all these thoughtful and passionate comments. They are more evidence of what a complicated issue this is.

    I just want to respond to the comments that I’m “mocking” the two girls and/or “bashing feminism to win a debate”.

    I said in the post itself the following: “I don’t mean to sound glib about any of this. If I seem to be, it’s probably because I can’t believe any of this is true. The fact that all of it is true actually makes me very, very sad.” I stand by that.

    As for the “feminist-bashing” comment – I did not title my position a feminist one; it is merely a personal one, just like all of yours are. Mine is but one voice in the dialogue you are all contributing to. I’m not sure I’m a feminist; I’m just a woman with a reaction to the idea of two girls selling themselves to a stranger. I am respectful of the many dimensions of the issue and consciously chose to limit my piece to an expression of my opinion. I think the closest I come to making any sort of judgment regarding right or wrong is my closing sentence about dignity being priceless. I do not think it is demonic – and certainly not a slap in the face of women – to say that I see a greater expression of self-worth in refusing to allow yourself to become a product for strange men to wager on than I do in deciding to commoditize yourself for market consumption.

    Again, though, I remind you that I never presented myself as the arbiter of whether prostitution is right or wrong. I specifically stated that I was not qualified to address such a big question in this forum. Despite some of your decisions to recast my approach, my intent all along was to be as sensitive as possible in addressing this topic, while maintaining some authenticity in my writing “voice.” I happen to be someone who reacts with sarcasm to life, but no one should think that sarcasm has strangled my emotional radar or my ability for compassionate understanding and tolerance for diverging opinions and value propositions.

    Best,
    Abby

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=697155662 Dani Rae Garcia

      Abby i think she was saying i was bashing feminism. you did a great job in wording the article. I can just be a bit crass when it comes to topics i am passionate about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=556534676 Caroline Cruz

    The brasilian are shy and we disagree about all this stuff. All the people and news dont agree about what Catarina is doing: 1) She is 19 and discovery how to make money easily and her mother is supporting her (nobody expects this from a old woman) 2) Prostotiotion is ILEGAL here 3) Catarinais the exception of the rule: brasilian women are sympatic and happy but we arent like her at all!!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1051552603 Daniele Benedito

    Unfortunately, here in Brazil we see women being encouraged to behave certain ways that degrade our image. We see, everyday, half naked women on tv just to incite men’s imagination, sell magazines and sell a body image to other women. They are willing participants on having teir body exposed and only talking about that one subject in exchange for fame. The same thing is happenning with these two girls, this was their shortcut to fame because they know how easy is to sell sex in this country. They will get a lot of money from the sale, the magazines and then they will cling to their fame till the last minute and after that people will just remind them as a whore or a lut. I’m not saying that’s who they are, I think it’s their body and they are entitled to do whatever with it but they are doing for reasons that only degrade women more and more, they are doing it for fame and by becoming famous for doing this they are hurting the respect we crave for.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1343877365 Fernanda Gadelha

    What happens in Brazil is that there is no law that says adult prostitution is not allowed. Anyway, lecturing about rather it’s legal or illegal to sell your body for sex in my country is not my point. I’ve read your article and I agree with almost everything you said, but, first: I believe these two girls had a choice. They are not desperate women, they’re just showing off. Besides, Brazil is not the only country where – illegal or not – prostitution drags teenagers down. The United States, for example, also have to deal with this problem. It’s not ponctual, as I’ve said earlier. It’s an worldwide issue. What I’m trying to say is that you would have done better if you hadn’t pictured Brazil as the prostitutionland of the world. Again: I’ve read your article and there’s pretty much in it I agree with.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000011994154 Juliana Demasi

    “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
    (Jesus about Mary Magdalene)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1038048329 Danielle Janes

    Providing the ladies did this of their own free-will, then I personally see no problem with this. I think that stating sex with a stranger can cause psychological repercussions is rather bold – It depends completely on the individual. Some people are unable to have sex without having emotional ties, whereas some see sex as just a physical act – neither approach is wrong.
    There may be aid available to these girls, however they chose to in-fact use their BRAIN by raising more money for this one act then they would earn in decades. Does this make them objects to be pitied or admired? – neither, it just proves they have set a goal and found a way that is right for them to achieve it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1008753657 Anastasia Alaniz

      I think you’re probably the only person in this that I agree with.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000011994154 Juliana Demasi

    By the way, the documentary “Virgins Wanted” is not just about a girl. There’s a Russian boy auctioning his virginity too and the offer he received was waaaaaay lower than hers – and apparently the publicity too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1343487249 Luciana Horlle

    I live in Brazil and it makes me sad that articles like this expose my country to the ridiculous or as a place where everything is allowed. As far as I know prostitution is not legal here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=581276834 Kirsty Diamond

    I’d heard stories like this before, the first time I heard about it, was a couple of years ago and it was an american girl who did it in the US for her uni fees. It has happened in other places before this article just seems to be about the ones featured in the documentary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1580400072 Tony Buhr

    What is the difference between deciding to have sex for $780,000 and having casual sex with a stranger? In American society today, it is normal for women to have at least one sexual encounter that is rather risky and irrational. All that these women are doing is choosing to have one sexual experience that will make a small fortune. I suspect this author has probably engaged in some rather risky behavior at one point in time as well. If this is true I have to assume the author of this pieces comments stems not from a moral objection, but from jealousy that her potential one-night stand ended with only memories of momentary pleasure instead of $780,000.

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