Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On The Selling of Innocence

Recently, a 27-year old American medical student at the University of Washington named Hanna Kern (operating under the pseudonym Elizabeth Raine) caught media attention when she created a website to award her virginity to the highest bidder. The innocence auction kicked off on April 1st and closed nearly a month later with a high bid of $801,000. There were some stipulations (such as the carnal act taking place in Australia, 35% of the proceeds going to charity and Miss Raine having right of refusal concerning the high bidder) but it otherwise appeared to be a straightforward exchange of virginity for currency. 

Hanna Kern (aka Elizabeth Raine)

Some viewed this scenario as yet another manifestation of this country’s moral erosion while others appeared to be disconcertingly supportive of the idea. So you can imagine the stir it caused in the media (not to mention the commodities market) when Miss Raine released the following statement at the auction’s conclusion:

The bidding closed yesterday as planned (high bid was $801,000), but I am here to tell you that the terms of the auction will not be fulfilled. With the blessings of my management and the high bidders, I have decided to put a stop to this kerfuffle (to describe it nicely) and return my focus to my medical training. I still do possess some spitefully strong beliefs about virginity, prostitution, and a woman’s right to do as she damned pleases, but school is my first priority (as it has been for my entire life). At this point, I no longer care about the auction, at least not nearly enough. This was a very easy decision.

In the days following the auction, there has been speculation that the high bidder was unable to verify their ability to pay or that Miss Raine felt that the closing price was too low. Regardless, I enjoyed the fact that she referred to her “management” in the press release. How does one even go about selecting the proper firm to oversee such a transaction? Do these organizations operate on a “we don’t get paid until you get paid” basis or is there a non-refundable hymen deposit? I can only hope their television ads run after 10 PM. 

The phone call between her management and the soon-to-be disappointed high bidder must have been one for the time capsule. There are only so many people in danger of getting this voicemail:

              We are calling in reference to the virginity of one Elizabeth Raine. The good news is that you were selected as the high bidder; the bad news is that this particular item has been discontinued. We apologize for any inconvenience and will contact you in the event that Miss Raine’s purity becomes available again. In the meantime, we are offering the virginity of two computer science majors and one Renaissance fair coordinator at a substantial discount.

I have always enjoyed people who voluntarily engineer complex and time-consuming scenarios for themselves only to spend hours opining on how the aforementioned pursuits have compromised their true passions. If you are a consenting adult and wish to subcontract your deflowering to PayPal so be it. But don’t spend hours taking photos, writing essays and generating publicity only to cite it’s (presumably unforeseen) detrimental effect on your actual goals as the reason you abandon it at the 11th hour.

I suspect that this was nothing more than an intentionally-polarizing social experiment designed to catalyze a discussion on female sexuality that got out of hand. The auction’s protagonist has undoubtedly gathered copious amounts of anecdotal evidence to be used in support of her espoused views on the subject. With a little luck, she might be able to parlay her notoriety into a book-deal or reality show and generate the same amount of revenue without subjected herself to the type of men willing to purchase her virtue it rather than earn it the old fashioned way.

The weeks and months to come will undoubtedly bring us footage of reporters chasing Miss Kern across campus as they breathlessly inquire about her future plans. She will then, somewhat ironically, request that the public respect her privacy during this difficult time. She will spend the next year fending off lucrative offers to headline an adult film before accepting a position as a regular columnist at Cosmo.

As far as the inherent morality of an adult selling one’s virginity, it is easy to dismiss such a person as an ethically-bankrupt pervert, but I am sure there are several people out there throwing stones whose own innocence was cashed in for a few kind words interpreted through the rudderless haze of Mike’s Hard Lemonade and a Third Eye Blind album. We should also be cognizant of how potent our vitriol is for the seller, while we remain largely silent on the culpability of a society that produced multiple buyers. 

Perhaps the takeaway from this entire ordeal is that the fate of one's virginity should never be entrusted to the Internet. Call me old fashioned, but every person's first sexual experience deserves more dignity than a "buy it now" button can provide. 

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