Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:00 p.m. EDT, 21 November 2012
Prostitution is the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment. For centuries, women and men have primarily engaged in prostitution either as a means of last resort or because they were forced into it, as in the case of victims of sex trafficking.
Women living in progressive societies are acutely aware of the hard won gains that have propelled them from the bedroom to the boardroom, but they exist with the knowledge that for every advance made, there are those who would like to turn back the clock. Although afforded the legal expectation of equal treatment and pay in comparison to men, sexism remains a constant fact that is complicated by the media's dominant portrayal of women in general.
The power of the media further erodes the gains made because the entertainment industry seems predicated upon the idea of pushing the envelope when it comes to sexuality and nudity, particularly with regard to women who are often scantily clad next to appropriately clothed men. This is the mildest and subtlest form of sexual objectification, but because of the pervasiveness it barely registers as unacceptable despite its' obvious intent.
Western media routinely utilizes sexualized images of women to promote their products, though this is seen as less egregious or damaging than the objectification that exists in societies in which girls and women (and in some instances boys such as the Bacha Bazi), are treated as chattel and are routinely sold, bartered, or killed depending upon their perceived sexual value.
It is under this rubric that the idea of a contest to auction off the virginity of young women not only found serious consideration, but also purchase. Thomas Williams Productions, an Australian film company scripted a documentary titled, ‘Virgins Wanted.’ The director, Justin Sisely, sent out a casting call and finally settled on Catarina Migliorini, a 20-year old Brazilian college student to be the subject of the movie.
The premise of the documentary was fairly straight-forward, anonymous men would bid for the right to be the first person to ‘deflower’ Migliorini. According to the New York Daily News, Migliorini agreed to participate in this project to raise money to build homes for poverty-stricken families in her hometown.
When all was said and done, her virginity was valued at $790,000. According to the same article, a Japanese man named Natsu outbid on eBay, other contenders, including American bidders Jack Miller and Jack Right as well as a high-roller from India, Rudra Chatterjee for the right to have sex with Migliorini. Natsu was tested for any sexually transmitted diseases and required to use a condom. Migliorini was given $20,000 and 90% of the final auction price.
That her virginity would fetch such a noteworthy price is a stark reminder of how much work remains to secure women's rights, even in progressive societies. It is also an indictment of our values which implicitly accepts that if one pays enough money, and if it is for a good cause, then it isn't prostitution.
However, to paraphrase Shakespeare, a rose by any other name is still a rose, and prostitution is still the act or practice of providing sexual services to another person in return for payment.Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias