Prostitution is, they say, the oldest profession. But like every other profession out there, this changed with the advent of the digital age. Recently, in an odd but perhaps not unexpected turn of events, some enterprising people - generally women - have taken to selling their sexual debut to the highest bidder online. The ethics around the recent phenomenon of selling one's first time online are at best confusing. As a one-off transaction, which has been seen to reap enormous financial dividends, these incidents have attracted enormous media attention - but the thorny issues surrounding the business of prostituion still apply to these cases, despite their unique nature.
As a society we tend to believe that sexuality is such a personal and private aspect of human life that it shouldn't be commoditized, and as such many governments have established the act as illegal or at least heavily regulated. In Europe, prostitution is largely legalised, but with heavy restrictions on the circumstances around the transaction. In the U.S., it's illegal in every state save for the noteable exception of Nevada. As is demonstrated in the very varied and complicated laws that exist around the act, the whole thing is far from being established as unambiguously right or wrong. Indeed, as well-loved American comedian George Carlin once famously asked, 'why should it be illegal to sell something that's perfectly legal to give away?' The many possible answers to that question are deeply complex and undeniably personal. Whether or not we agree with the act of selling sexuality, though, the fact is that it happens - it always has, and probably always will. And now, with the internet serving to remove taboos as well as logistical and spatial restrictions, it happens in more creative, diverse and sometimes disturbing ways than ever before.
If you haven't heard, an American medical student just sold her virginity in a highly publicised and controversial online auction for $801,000. Believe it or not, that immense figure falls pretty short of the record for this sort of bid. Yes, not only have others sold their first time before - some have even been far more successful in doing so.
What sort of people decide to do this, and what are the circumstances around this decision? To shed some light on this unusual phenomenon, here's a rundown 5 of the most expensive virginities ever sold
Update: Elizabeth Raine has since reneged on her agreement with the auction winner, who paid over $800,000, as he declined to submit to the vetting process.
5 Alina Percea: $14,900
“I was attracted to him, so I enjoyed it.” The then-18 year old Romanian teen sold her virginity to pay for her computing degree via a two-week web auction in 2009. The winning 45-year-old Italian businessman reportedly flew her to Venice and showed her the sights before sealing the deal at a five-star hotel. “He told me he had a good job, but he didn’t say if he was married or had a family, and I didn’t ask him,” she told the Daily Mail. “I hope to see the man again. And next time I won’t make him pay!”
4 Shatuniha: $27,950
“I have no bad habits, and I am nice looking,” wrote Shatuniha in her ad. The self-described “new, not used” Siberian teen peddled her virginity for a winning bid of 900,000 roubles, or $27,950, late last year. With her stated “urgent need of money”, willingness to sell “the most precious thing I possess”, and a sale supposedly consummated by an anonymous bidder in a mystery hotel room, the whole thing feels just a little bit gloomy.
3 “Elizabeth Raine”: $801,000
Mystery medical student “Liz Raine” turned virginity selling into a science. Her masterfully-designed auction website, complete with a link to the PR company who managed her bid, contains an entire page devoted to Terms and Conditions of the arrangement; legal clauses like “Sexual Intercourse means insertion of a penis into a vagina”; and a promise to donate 35% of the sale to a charity that provides education to women in developing countries.
“Love is not a part of this arrangement. It is only of a sexual and financial nature.”
Beginning anonymous, the site “gallery” featured an array of polished photographs showcasing the medical student’s body, face blacked out. But several days ago, she posted new pictures showcasing her visage, which prompted the anonymous $801,000 winning bid within days.
2 Raffaella Fico: $1.3916 million
The 26-year-old Italian model claims she received one million euros for her virginity in a 2008 interview. “If someone was willing to pay a million euros for me, of course I’d be embarrassed. But with that money I could realize my dreams,” she told an Italian magazine. Former reality TV star Fico has since built up her fair share of notoriety; in 2011 for being an alleged regular attendee of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s “bunga bunga” sex parties, and more recently for having an extra-marital baby by soccer rockstar Mario Balotelli.
1 Catarina Migliorini: Pending — $1.5 million, or a reality TV show?
This 21-year-old Brazilian Model is going where no celibacy seller has gone before. Her 2012 auction debut fetched $780,000, but fell through when the winning Japanese bidder pulled out. Cue round two: in December, she reportedly found herself holding out on a $440,000 offer to consider a $1.5 million marriage proposal from a mystery Arab millionaire. The well-to-do Arab (whose identity and country of residence is currently undisclosed) supposedly speaks 11 languages and lives in a stylish mansion.
But now, it seems Catarina’s scrapped the auction completely for a reality TV show in the works: There’s Something About Catarina. It’s basically the Bachelorette without all the euphemisms for sex, and the lucky guy actually wins $1 million, plus Catarina's first time.
Catarina’s original auction promised to donate 90% of the proceeds to development projects in her home state. She hasn't revived the claim since.