The XX Factor

How Much Is Virginity Worth?

Last week, a 19-year-old New Zealand student, known only as Unigirl, sold her virginity to a stranger for $32,000. Her online ad was viewed by 30,000 people and received over 1,200 offers. Thanks to the Internet, women like Unigirl are putting their sexual initiation up for sale in the very public marketplace. Though these auctions have a new global reach, the pricing of virginity is an ancient human practice-according to the book of Deuteronomy, a girl’s virginity is worth 50 shekels, paid to her father. In today’s economy, how much is a woman’s virginity worth?

At least $10,000 if the woman is reasonably attractive and under 25. The exact price ultimately depends on the “quality” of the virginity: how young and hot the virgin is. Models can fetch over $1 million. In 2005, Peruvian model Graciela Yataco was the first to break this threshold, although she eventually declined her top bid of $1.3 million. In January 2009, 20-year-old Italian model Raffaella Fico received an offer of nearly $1.5 million, but also allegedly retracted the auction. She is now dating a professional soccer player.

Branding is also crucial. According to Gawker , current co-eds have the priciest hymens, as “college girls are simultaneously Girls Gone Wild and nubile pillow-fighting naifs.” To maximize gains, a woman should also disclose her identity, preferably with revealing pictures and a detailed sexual history. The most successful for-sale virgins package themselves as pure and virtuous virgin/whores. Yataco was a devout Catholic who needed money to care for her sick mother. Fico was also religious and planned to use the profits from her sexual foray for acting classes once she bought a house in Rome.

Selling your virginity to pay school fees is also a good way to seduce buyers. The narrative of self-sacrifice is ready-made for the media, and this good publicity inflates demand. In 2007, 18-year-old Carys Copestake from Manchester managed to make $23,000 to finance her physics degree, even though the only physical information she provided was, “brunette, 34C, green eyes, all in proportion and good looking.”

Natalie Dylan is the ultimate virginity-marketing mogul. A 22-year-old women’s studies graduate from Sacramento State, Dylan needed the money to pay for her master’s degree in family and marriage therapy. She announced the auction on Howard Stern’s radio show in September 2008 and justified her decision in the Daily Beast and on The Tyra Banks Show . After her media blitz, Dylan received over 10,000 bids, half of which were for over $1 million.

Dylan approached her virginity like a good capitalist. “The value of my chastity is one level on which men cannot compete with me,” she said to Tyra. “I decided to flip the equation, and turn my virginity into something that allows me to gain power and opportunity from men.”