Virginity to The Highest BidderAbby Diaz

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 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

  • Luisa Rotenberg

    I believe the essential point this article dismissed is choice.Instead of joining the ” pack of wolves” and condemning this girl for trading her virginity for money , the author should have focused her article to discuss the importance of our choices as women and human beings, and how , no matter of our opinions and moral inclinations ,we must respect ones way of leading her/ his life. I do agree , that once exposed in the internet such topics are subjected to judgements , but what does our finger pointing intend to actually purposely do ? We are only feeding the big fish of conceived opinions.
    We must also understand that this goes beyond feminism issues to a broader aspect of circumstances and culture influence. This article portrays wrongly Brazil as a vulgar country, in which its female population is deemed to prostituition .I hope that next time this author decides to write an article on a delicate subject which involves a wider spectrum , to do a more detailed search with what she is dealing.This is a respectable site for women of all ages and it breaks my heart that such an important issue that needs more debate and discussion on was so empty delivered.

  • Steven Wileman

    Sorry ladies but maybe as a guy i should not add comment to this subject. Being paid for for sex is no different than a woman or a man sleeping with someone after being taken out to dinner or being given a gift, you still received something that ended with sex which means that the sexual act was paid for in a different way but it was still paid for, and to say these woman will have regrets later in life is just an assumption that they will regret it, everyone will have some kind of regrets over things they did when they were younger so why should their regrets be greater than anyone else’s over a choice they made in their life? Everyone has the “I wish i wouldnt have or maybe if i did this intsead” times in their lives so what makes these womens any different, assuming they will have moments like those. No Disrespect to anyone that commented on this subject because everyone has different beliefs on whats right, moral or a sin but that is what makes us unique and individuals. Personally, if i knew that putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger would make my kids or parents lives better then i wouldnt hesitate a second to pull the trigger because i believe that it would be selfish of me not to do everything i could to better their lives even if it meant that mine was gone but 99.9% of humans wouldn’t agree with my feelings…the point is that what some find as immoral or a sin doesn’t mean that is in the other person’s mind…. No one can judge these women on the choices that they made or assume that they will will have regrets over it and i seriously do not think that them being Brazilian women should have been mentioned, it does not matter where they are from and it should have only been written as Two women auctioned off their virginity, it will put a stereotype on all brazilian women and truth be known it was american women that first auctioned of their virginity so why wasnt the article about them or at the very least it being mention that some american women auctioned off their virginity and maybe started a world wide trend of doing it. I have a feeling that a lot of people that find their actions as wrong or sinful are the same ones that believe gambling is a sin but yet go to the local church for bingo night and buy their bingo tickets in hopes of winning a prize but dont believe it is gambling when they do when the truth is if you spend money with the chance of winning something then it is classified as gambling. I mentioned stuff other than what the two women did in thinking that it proves that what one finds immoral,sin or just wrong doesnt mean that the world or the person doing it has the same feelings on the subject…………But i am just a guy so what does my thoughts count ….LoL. What someone did in their past does not define who the person will be in the future and i over look it unless it was a violent or forced sexual act against a female or child.

  • Nick Welch

    I very humbly submit this thought. Isn’t this decision that these girls (and maybe many more on a more black market level) have made just the natural extension of many facets of the feminist ethos? If someone believes that each woman has individual rights over her own body & that the morality of others shouldn’t interfere with hers why is this bothersome? In fact, according to that mindset, shouldn’t this be praised? She is after all trying to help her family & herself out of their current unfortunate circumstances. Or is the general shock at this act a sign that we really do believe that young girls/young ladies have intrinsic value that should not be quantified by their sexual value. It seems to me that to support these girls decisions is actually to devalue women & their worth. Just this male’s humble, respectful opinion.

  • Arla Barrera

    This article starts out posing as a pseudo-feminist critique about society’s objectification of women’s virginity and quickly turns into a morally self-righteous, judgemental sermon about how “these girls thought a price tag could be put on a sexual act, but never realized their dignity was priceless.” Overall, I find it unresearched, misleading, preachy, biased, and highly judgemental. DISLIKE.

  • Karla Ohata

    So, these girls have exposed themselves to ridicule and mockery. Am I supposed to think they naively chose to do that without thinking of the consequences? Given that such decision probably wouldn’t be easily supported by family, friends, or whoever else they care about and they were not forced into doing it, I am inclined to suppose they have thoughtfully chosen to do that.
    Indeed, actions we take or choices we make have consequences that may affect us psychologically. Perhaps those girls might not have foreseen the entire outcome of it, perhaps they’ll have lower esteem about themselves or regret their present actions later in life. That’s something anyone can go through. It seems to me they had enough strength of mind to stand up to what they wanted to do, possibly going against those they cherish the most. I have the hopes they’ll find strength to deal with the repercussion too.
    And what’s with this dignity thing? Does it mean they necessarily will not have meaningful lives from this point onward, or that they no longer have self-respect? Maybe it is within a similar line of thought that, say, people in a small village somewhere in a country where virginity is a “virtue” to be kept until marriage might consider a single woman who is no longer a virgin (because she chose to or due to rape which obviously was entirely her fault) to be “bringing shame to her family”, “not marriage material”, or even better “having her future ruined”.

  • Natalie Montoya Reed

    This made me very emotional and cry and I agree with you whole heartedly. Thank you so much for sharing your view.

  • Lisa Marie

    To assume that these women will suffer no repercussions from their actions is incredibly ethnocentric. We’re all basing the possible out come of her experience on our own understanding of how a society and culture works. Brazil is NOT the US, and its citizens are not under the same social constraints that we are. Brazil is an extremely religious country, and also much smaller than the US. Everyone knows everyone with far fewer degrees of separation than you would find here. The social persecution, based on an entirely different moral code, may in fact be far from tolerable for them. Also, to speak to those who would put a dollar amount on pleasure, sex is an amazing thing. It’s pleasurable, natural, and I don’t believe that there is any way to put a negative spin on it. Not in this day and age anyway, when a woman can feel free to enjoy herself without fearing a good, old-fashioned burning at the stake. However, when we put a dollar amount on our pleasure, we objectify it and thereby, cheapen it. I don’t think this is an issue for women so much as it is an issue for humanity. Losing your virginity should be a beautiful experience. One that imprints you with a positive, healthy sexual outlook for the rest of your life. Not everyone gets to experience that, due to circumstances beyond their control, but to willingly give that up speaks volumes for the level of desperation these young women must feel. I can’t imagine allowing someone to look at me and judge my value based on my vagina. These women have created a situation that allows them to be completely objectified and detracts from their other core values and strengths. They may, in fact, be very intelligent and loving and resilient human beings, but from this point on, the world will only know them as women who sold their virginity. In an ideal world, that wouldn’t be such a big deal, but the world we live in is far from ideal, and so we must make do and adapt.

    • Emily Jane Laak

      I wrote this in an earlier reply, but since you brought up ethnocentricity I found it pretty hypocritical to then imprint your own opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards sex and losing one’s virginity as a universal. Losing your virginity SHOULD be whatever you make of it and someone else losing their virginity SHOULD be whatever they make of it. Many people, psychologically healthy don’t see the same importance of their virginity and that is perfectly fine, considering the common attitude of virginity is ALSO a culturally bound attitude. To assume otherwise is to also be ethnocentric.

      I agree that to go to the opposite extreme and automatically assume there will be no psychological repercussions without actually taking the time to really get to know both of these women and their situation (and not just raising all sorts of speculation based on some news articles and blogs) is to be just as counterproductive, and I can understand the idea of a monetary value cheapening a human behavior, and while I agree with that to an extent, I still don’t think I’d have a right to assume everyone in the world would agree with that. However, I’d also like to play the devil’s advocate and give the analogy of cooking, or writing, or singing, or other multiple human behaviors that can often (however, obviously much less often than sex) be considered a deeply intimate behavior/act to someone. It is not unheard of for a given person to find sex (casual sex for example) to be the intimate equivalent of a handshake to them but at the same time cherish and protect something else of theirs (name any talent, artistic practice, or what have you that you like), the same way you might cherish and protect your virginity, and saving THAT for only someone (or someones) special. It’s a strange example, and I’m sure it’s hard for most anyone to wrap their heads around, myself included, but it is still a legitimate reality for some. The point is your ideas about sex and virginity are just as culturally bound, and by calling women you don’t even know desperate and declaring what losing one’s virginity SHOULD be about is blatantly ethnocentric..

  • Fernanda Franco

    I feel ashamed for my country being brought to the spotlight because of stuff like this. I don’t feel sorry for them, for I believe that they are fully aware of the impacts of their decisions. We have some critical social issues in Brazil, but no one here really needs to sell their bodies for living or helping their sick parents. It’s a matter of choice, so I can only respect what they choose to do about their sexuality.

  • Jay Mark Gubaton

    Cat fight! lol

  • Lizzie McGuire

    these women are able to do whatever they like with their bodies. if this is their decision, that’s fine. not everyone has an emotional connection to their virginity or their sexuality. and while that may make you “sad,” it doesn’t mean it’s WRONG. that’s just your own personal opinion about sexuality.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • Anastasia Alaniz

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

  • 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)

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!!!!!!

  • 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.


    • 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.

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