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Virgin Territory: When Fiction Becomes Fact

Fact: Katherine Stone, 21, intends to auction off her virginity at the Kit Kat Ranch, a brothel in Nevada, to secure funds to help her struggling family. Stone recently shared her story via Inside Edition and in an episode of CNN’s This Is Life with Lisa Ling.

Fiction: Clarissa, 18, a character of my creation, takes steps to auction off her virginity at Kitty Cup Ranch, a brothel in Nevada, to raise money as her mother faces a terminal illness. Michigan Quarterly Review published this story, titled “The Virginity Auction,” in its Spring 2016 issue.

Fact: Stone claims she has received bids for her virginity topping $400,000. According to CNN, Dennis Hof, the owner of Kit Kat Ranch and other Nevada brothels, will take 50% of the winning bid.

Fiction: In “The Virginity Auction,” Clarissa’s highest viable bid reaches $506,000. She negotiates with the ranch to reach a 60/40 split in her favor.

virgin-untouched-historyFact: In this video, as Stone recalls her journey to Nevada, she muses, “The whole time, all I could think about was that it’s time for change, and hopefully this could be a good thing.”

Fiction: Clarissa also reflects on how the auction will affect her future: “Even as she lay on the comforter in her peach-colored room in her childhood home, she was doing it. She was changing her life.”

Fact: While Stone is far from the first young woman to attempt to auction off her virginity, most purported modern-day virginity auctions have either failed or were revealed to be hoaxes.

Fiction: I was inspired to write “The Virginity Auction” after reading about Rosie Reed, a U.K. woman who reportedly auctioned off her virginity for £8,400 in 2004. In Virgin: The Untouched History, Hanne Blank points out that bidders and the media did not question whether Reed, as a sexually active lesbian, should be considered a virgin in the first place. Blank concludes:

What Reid sold, and the ultimate winner of the auction purchased, was nothing more or less tangible confirmation of the ideology that a woman is not sexually ‘real’ in her own right, and that it takes a man with a penis to make her so.

Fact: Neither the article nor The Washington Post blog attempt to define Stone’s virginity or examine what it means for men to bid on it. Meanwhile, in Virgin, Blank writes:

Virginity is as distinctively human a notion as philanthropy. We invented it. We developed it. We disseminated the idea throughout cultures, religions, legal systems, bodies of art, and works of scientific knowledge. We have fixed it as an integral part of how we experience our own bodies and selves. And we have done all this without actually being able to define it consistently, identify it accurately, or explain how or why it works.

Fiction: My narrator, however, is aware of the contradictions and uncertainties surrounding virginity: “The men bidding in Clarissa’s auction were bidding not on a piece of skin, but on the concept of a virgin: the pure, the unattainable, the undiscovered.”

Fact: The media coverage also fails to consider how Stone’s virginity might be confirmed, or even whether such confirmation is possible. Nor does either source attempt to dismantle the myth that an intact hymen proves virginity.

Fiction: In my story, Clarissa has done her hymen research:

Hymens were mysterious and unpredictable bits of anatomy. Not all were created equal, not by a long shot, and some girls didn’t have them in the first place. A few other species had functional hymens. Whale hymens worked to keep out water and debris. Guinea pig hymens remained entirely sealed to prevent intercourse when the animal was not in heat; the hymen dissolved during fertile periods but then grew back again. But human hymens served no practical function, shared no consistencies, and made no promises.

Fact: Stone justifies her decision to auction off her virginity to The Washington Post: “We’re in a bad economy. I’m just capitalizing on what most women don’t … I’ve read people saying that I’m going to regret it later in life, but I honestly don’t believe that.”

Fiction: Clarissa is similarly shrewd when it comes to using her own body for financial gain:

She could use it to escape decades of college loans. She could use it to make mortgage payments. She could feel brave and reckless and wild and could, in whatever small way possible, ease the horror unfolding all around her every minute.

Fact: And yet Stone is not always confident. She told The Washington Post that when she moved into the brothel, “I had no clue what to expect . . . I’ve been nervous since I even came up with the idea to do this.”

Fiction: Clarissa, too, betrays her youth and her reluctance. She’s shy about exposing her body; she disassociates; she becomes still and passive. She questions and doubts and worries even as she resolves to carry on:

She wondered if it would hurt. How long could it possibly last? Long enough to endure.