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An interview with Elizabeth Raine, America's latest virginity auctioner

Raine
Raine

I just did an interview for Nerve.com with 27-year-old American medical student Elizabeth Raine, who is putting her "virginity" up for auction on April 1st. Readers of this blog know I've been following this phenomenon for years, and like every other woman doing this kind of thing, she's getting a lot of sleazy, breathless tabloid coverage. I was glad to learn a bit more about her, and to talk to her about how virginity auctions affect how we value women for their sexual status, and how they perpetuate virginity myths and stereotypes.

As I say in the intro, I talked to Liz about the kind of guy who’d pay good money to be the “first penis in,” why you can’t prove a woman isn't a virgin, and how to negotiate boundaries when your first sexual experience is with a total stranger. Here's a short excerpt where we get into some of the issues, but please read the whole thing at Nerve.

Which brings me to the question of what “virginity” means to you. What are you auctioning? I think losing virginity is having heterosexual intercourse for the first time. If you are referring to another type of intercourse it needs to be clarified, for instance “I lost my oral virginity.”

So what do you think the appeal or fascination is for a guy? What do you think they think they’re buying? For some reason or another it is a sexual fantasy [to have a virgin]. In some cases, I think they want to take on the role of sexual teacher. In others, they just want to try something new. And then there are some men who are just attracted to the idea of an untouched woman.

I always assumed it was the desire for “first penis in” like planting your flag on uncharted territory or something.  Men are very competitive and territorial creatures.

I sometimes think that if men are stupid enough to pay for a social construct, let them. I can't disagree with that.

I really hate the mythology virginity auctions perpetuate. As long as there hasn't been a penis inside a woman, she and her body have value. But once that happens, she has none. No one auctions off the second time they have intercourse.  Well that's not necessarily true, women with all levels of sexual experience are selling sex somewhere. I'm not saying that makes it right, but I do think it is more of a continuum than you think. Men preferring less 'promiscuous' women is not a phenomenon limited to virgins.

They are, but adding the #virginity seems to increase the value exponentially. I'm not sure Natalie would have gotten much interest if she had already had intercourse and was offering the second time to a lucky bidder. Do you? I agree the value is inflated. Here is one more idea: The first time is a mystery. So, being in the position of the virgin, if you are going to lose it under these circumstances, it should pay well.

On Anti-Rape Wear and Chastity Belts

Chastity belt locked AR Wear is a collection of undergarments that the creators say will give women and girls "more power to control the outcome of a sexual assault" "when something goes wrong" using specially designed webbing and straps the make the garments impossible to remove. They're crowd-funding the project and about halfway to their goal, and their site is full of positive comments, including making a disco shorts version. The creators have their hearts in the right place, but they've understandably come under a fair deal of criticism.

Things like the insinuation that it's the potential victim's job to keep from getting herself raped, to the fact that most rapes are committed by people victims know and trust, to the risk of violence from an otherwise frustrated rapist, to the fact that $50K could go a long way to programs that teach young people about consent and rape culture. And then there's my personal observation that the models in the photos are super slim and this product requires an actual waist that's smaller than your hips to keep them on (bringing up those heinous comments about how fat girls should feel lucky to be raped. Ugh.)

Aside from all those issues, the undies keep getting compared to Chastity Belts, including in Amanda Hess's scathing take-down, which is worth a read. Seeing as our blog is about all things virgin, let's have a little teaching moment about that comparison and the devices themselves. The purpose of chastity belts was to assure exclusive access by the holder of the key, usually the wearer's husband/owner. You could compare this to an even worse owner-operated chastity system: a hideous brand of FGM, where a young woman's labia is sewn shut and then opened by the husband on their wedding night. In the case of AR Wear, it's a totally different story: The wearer has the 'key' and they're in control of access.

One of the few existing belts can be found, rightly so, in the Museum of Torture in Italy. However, many historians think chastity belts were largely a myth. There's very little record of chastity belt use, and since we have tons of other historical record on sexual practices, the lack of anything on chastity belts indicates they must have been very rare. When I interviewed the curator of the Museum of Sex in NYC, she said that she only knew of the one in Italy. On the other hand, there are loads of metal anti-masturbatory devices like this one at the Museum of Sex that they used to put on boys to keep them from touching themselves, and they're plentiful in museums and as awful as you can imagine. There are modern-day BDSM versions as well, but that's a whole other NSFW story.

Which brings me to a suggestion I've heard from several people: That it would be better to make constraining underwear for would-be rapists, except that we know you can rape someone without using a penis and without access to a vagina.

V-Card Diaries: Rachel "I wasn't paying too much attention when something very different than a finger slid right into me."

**Trigger warning** Today we're highlighting Rachel in Israel, who who didn't want to lose her virginity, but certainly enjoyed what she was doing. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.

Editor's note: We're grateful that Rachel shared her story, and that we can publish it on the same day as How To Lose Your Virignity's Israeli Television premiere. More info here.

Tell us about yourself:

I'm 23-year-old recently married girl from Israel.

How do you define virginity?

Long gone.

Tell us your story

I was 16 years old and at that time I used to go out and party a lot. Drinking and dancing mostly, no drugs or anything like that. I would hook up with some boys on occasion. I was usually in control and knew that I didn't want to lose my virginity quite yet but I certainly enjoyed what i was doing.

Anyway, one night I ended up hanging up with a guy and we both got pretty drunk. We went off to very obviously make out and I told him up from that I am virgin and want to stay that way just to manage his expectations.

It was out doors and we climbed this wall to find a more private location (neither of us had where to go). We made out and I gave him head during which he grabbed my head and wouldn't let me breath. And he eventually was fingering me and I wasn't paying too much attention when something very different than a finger slid right into me. I pushed him off of me and started screaming at him that I told him I didn't want that.

He just left and left me all alone to climb this wall out while I'm half-naked and drunk. I fell. The next day I started freaking out about being pregnant or having an STD and I had no access to pharmacies and all in all a very unpleasant experience. Until this day I won't let my husband touch my head while I give him oral sex.

V-Card Diaries: Selina "I'm adept at solo sex but society doesn't count that as real sex"

Today we're highlighting Selina, a 24-year-old woman from London who feels like an outcast because she is still a virgin. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:

I'm a 24-year-old woman from London.

How do you define virginity?

When you've not had any kind of sexual contact, be it with another person or yourself.

Tell us your story:

I'm Jewish, and a recently-discovered bisexual (preferring women to men mainly). It took me several years to figure that out and I'm only comfortable in considering so now, but still reluctant to talk about it.

I'm still a virgin and as most people don't know, it takes a bit of wriggling out of the conversation so they will forget about the topic. The ones who do know mainly treat me like a freak, especially because I have never had a relationship, been on a date or ever been kissed, especially at my age when most people have had a few years experience. I am patronized easily by them, even if they are my friends, and I find myself being left out of conversations because of it. I'm not waiting for marriage, just for the right person.

I'm finally ready to start but with little choice and not much support, I find it difficult to express myself. I'm adept at solo sex and have been for some time but I understand that society doesn't seem to count that as real sex. Being literally untouched, I will still have to consider myself a virgin compared to most other people.

V-Card Diaries: Pure Ant "I'm inexperienced and scared to death of being in bed with a woman"

Today we're highlighting Pure Ant, a 51-year-old man from Australia who questions his manhood because he has never lost his virginity. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:

I'm a quiet guy, 51 years old, from NSW, Australia.

How do you define virginity?

Never having the opportunity to experience sexual intercourse with a lady.

Tell us your story:

I'm 51 and a virgin. I have had many thoughts run through my head about this as the years kept rolling by. What is wrong with me? Then, I actually started thinking that maybe I'm special in a way; a shy virgin. Over the years I've been on some dates with women, but when it came to sexual intercourse, I was a complete nervous wreck and failure. Now, at 51, I'm still nervous and shy around women and if for some reason I was put into this position, I think it would be even more difficult now at my age to tell a woman I'm a virgin and that I would need her guidance and experience to teach me. I'm no movie star or model and women don't turn their heads to look at me, but when a woman would go to bed with me the nerves and shakes and total lack of experience would leave me failing again.

I don't know if it sounds weird, but at my age now, living without sex, I kind of have a yearning that if I could lose my virginity even with a prostitute I would love to be taken by a strong lady. Someone that would take control  and assure me that she will look after me.

Am I special, or am I a freak? I'm inexperienced and scared to death of being in a bed with a woman. I could never perform to satisfy a woman of experience, and would start trembling again if the opportunity ever arose. I wondered in my dreams sometimes what it would be like to meet a lady that will take hold of me, knowing I'm a virgin, and comfort me holding me in her arms before taking me.

V-Card Diaries: David "I got to know other females, but they put me straight into the Friend Zone"

Today we're highlighting David, a 57-year-old man from Australia, who wonders how couples have managed to create relationships. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:

I'm male, 57-years-old, from South Melbourne, Australia.

How do you define virginity?

A person who has never had sex.

Tell us your story:

Just turned 57, and like all of you, I’m still a virgin and  I’ve never had a real girlfriend either. I’ve found that as I've aged, I’ve tended to lose a fair bit of my inhibition, and have to be careful of (at times) what I say.  I recently came to the conclusion that if an average 14-year-old male came to me and told me he’d had a vision that he would remain a virgin until he was 50, I’d say to him “Have you thought of jumping in front of a fast-moving car?” For someone like myself, I just don’t think it’s worth going through the hell of sexual frustration: I’ve been there too long.  After ending 10 years of chronic anxiety, my libido increased about 8 months ago, and I had to go through it again.

When I was about 16, I fell in love with a fellow (female) student at school.  It was a typical country romance – I’d known her for about 5 years, and we’d grown up together. But even though she knew I loved her, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her; I was too shy, and under a heavy dose of testosterone. She approached me three times, but was never proactive about it and after this, she gave up.  There was no one else, just her.  I never went to dances–don’t like them, and never drank alcohol, so I couldn’t rely on this to lower my inhibitions and increase my confidence.  I just didn’t know what to say to her.  I got to know two other females in the next 7 years or so who I took an interest in and told, but they put me straight into the “friend zone.” End of story.

In 1986, I moved from country Australia to the main state city due to a life crisis that would last for more than 20 years. I’d been told by a number of supposedly “wise” people that this would be the best thing to do, and that I’d be “forced” to make new friendships etc. As I’d intuitively felt, it never worked that way.  I consequently became socially isolated, and never really made any friends; picking up females in bars was out of the question.  In 1985, I saw a psychiatrist to obtain advice prior to moving down to the city.  When I asked her advice on trying to get a girlfriend, she made a face and changed the subject immediately.

In 1990, in the city, I sought counseling from a very nice lady who worked for the local council to try to help with my adjustment problems in the city.  When I asked her the same question, she said “You don’t need to to have a sexual relationship.” I told her I just wanted a girlfriend, and all she could suggest was that it was easy to meet people by walking dogs in the park.

Feminism has apparently taught females to “have sex like a man,” but many don’t seem to realize what they’re missing out on by approaching quiet males and building up their confidence.  I suggest reading JM Kearn’s 2008 classic “Why Mr Right Can’t Find You.” I think it explains a great deal.

Until the internet came online, there was, it seems, very little worthwhile information on relationship development.  I still see couples of all ages, and keep thinking “How did they do that?” (form a relationship).

V-Card Diaries: Claire "I never intended to stay a virgin for so long, so I'm hiring an escort for the night."

Today we're highlighting Claire, a 30-year-old woman from Sydney, Australia, who's ready to take some extreme actions to shed her virginity. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:  

My name is Claire. I'm 30 (about to be 31), female, and I live in Sydney, Australia.

How do you define virginity? 

When I learned about sex, I was taught it was between a man and a woman and centered around vaginal penetration.  I was 16 before I realized that there was an option other than heterosexual–talk about sheltered. Even though there must be other definitions, I can't stop thinking of a virgin as someone who has never had a penis in their vagina (or of course put their penis in someone’s vagina).

Tell us your story:

I never intended to stay a virgin for so long.  There was no decision, no religious grounds, no anything else; in some ways it would be easier if there was/had been. I've been 'large' for most of my life and it's taken me a long time to feel OK with that.  I never understood why someone would find me attractive, so when asked on a date I would assume they were desperate, dared or insane, none of which appealed to me so I would always say no. In a way, I stayed a virgin only because I never let anyone close enough to form a relationship where I'd want to have sex with them.

I didn't really think about my virginity one way another until about 24 when almost overnight I developed this feeling that I had 'missed the boat.'  Suddenly it went from something I didn't even think about to a source of shame.  I always thought 'how do you explain to someone that you want to wait longer because it's your first time?' Most of my friends thought nothing of casual sex, and I felt so different to them. In the end I decided that I didn't care; I wasn't going to let being a virgin define who I am or how I live my life.  But at 30 (almost 31) everyone around me is getting married and/or having children and I've still never had sex.  In a lot of ways I just want it done, I wish I'd just had a one night stand years ago.

So I decided I needed a plan, I'm NOT making it to 31!  I've been trying everything from dating sites to 'adult-dating' sites. It hasn't been working so I'm hiring an escort for a night.  I haven't chosen one yet, still trawling through the hundreds of them out there, my cut off for deciding is the end of September.

Some will criticize, but I'm comfortable with this choice. My first time will be with someone who knows what they're doing, and who's probably heard it all before.

V-Card Diaries: Lana "I lied when I was 16 that when I'd gone away for summer, I'd lost my virginity"

Today we're highlighting Lana from New Zealand, a woman who wanted to regain control of her life before losing her virginity. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:

I'm a 22 year old female and I'm from New Zealand. I am not a virgin.

How do you define virginity?

Virginity to me has always been in the physical sense. Losing one's virginity consists of having penetrative sexual intercourse or the equivalent thereof if you aren't heterosexual. I'm not religious, nor was I brought up that way, so I tend to see things like that in more of a scientific, straight forward light.

Tell us your story:

I was quite a troublesome kid when I was younger. I ran with a bad crowd and I did a lot of dumb things such as developing a drug dependency when I was 15. My parents were very busy when I was younger; my mum worked nights as well so I could get away with a lot of stuff without them ever knowing what was going on. I lost pretty much all control of my life at that point, apart from my virginity. I wanted to hold on to that one piece of me that I felt was the only thing I had going to keep me somewhat happy with myself.

Most of the people I hung out with were older and sexually active (had been for a while) and used that to their advantage. I always tended to be the younger one in the group, so eventually to stop from getting teased or disowned by my "friends", I lied when I was 16 that when I'd gone away for summer, I'd lost my virginity. I had a whole story, got the guy (who was one of my only decent friends) to agree to go along with it if they ever asked or caught up with him about it. I managed to keep that story up with most people to this day. Because I live in a relatively small city compared to other countries, my friends now are people I've known almost my whole life. So most of my friends now assume that I did lose my virginity when I was younger like they did, and I've never had the courage to correct them.

Once I ended up getting my shit together and got off the drugs, I was about 18. I met a guy and all of our friends became a group who hung out a lot. One night, there were a few of us around at his house and they decided to go looking for some food. Us two decided to stay back. I don't even know why, I was never really attracted to him in that sense until that night when he kissed me. It didn't go much further, and we just slept in the same bed. My reputation, unfortunately, proceeded me and after hanging out for about 6 months with no luck (obviously), he finally asked me if I was a virgin after all. I owned up, said yes, and he said he'd wait for me. And he did, for at least a year and a half after that conversation.

Looking back, he was amazing about it and I wish more guys would be able to do that for girls. When I had just turned 20, I felt ready in myself and the fact that I had control over my life again made it easier for me to give that part of me up for good. I never would have done it had I felt I wasn't healthy and prepared to remain healthy, which I have so far. I'm 4 years and 3 months sober, and I am still friends with the guy I lost my virginity with. It was uncomfortable, but I don't regret it one bit and I'm so proud of that fact.

V-Card Diaries: Alexa "I basically told him that it was my vagina and he could go screw himself"

Today we're highlighting Alexa, a 23 year old woman from Australia, who believes that choosing a partner carefully is just as important as losing your virginity. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here.Tell us about yourself:  

I'm a 23 year old University student from Australia.

How do you define virginity?  

I think virginity in terms of a girl's hymen is just a thing–I probably lost mine at 8 or 9 when I started to horse ride. I think virginity in terms of sex is the moment you have sex with someone and you realise that you feel really comfortable with them and you're not being self-conscious about how you look, how much noise you're making, what he's thinking, etc. It's the divide between not knowing yourself and knowing yourself, if that makes sense.

Tell us your story:

I had been talking to my sister and realised that I didn't want to still be a virgin when I was 25, so when I finally got my first boyfriend at 21 I decided that sex was on the cards. About three months into our relationship he looked at me like I was an alien when I told him I was still a virgin.

Then, when we finally did get around to having sex, it was extremely painful for me and I asked him to stop. The relationship from then revolved around him asking for sex and me being extremely reluctant because sex with him was unpleasant and I always felt pressured to have sex with him even when I didn't necessarily want it. Eventually we had a massive argument because he thought I should just 'get over it' and, to steal a phrase from another one of your 'First Person' stories, I basically told him that it was my vagina and he could go screw himself.

So on the whole I probably should have waited a little longer and chosen my partner more carefully. I didn't think my partner would be an issue–after all, all boys have penises, right, and there's only so many things you can do with it–but I realise now that my virginity wasn't necessarily about having sexual intercourse for the first time but about having some sort of meaningful intimacy with a partner, regardless of what sort of relationship you have with them outside of that moment.

Having had a .... disappointing first sexual encounter isn't a barrier though. I am, and have always been, extremely happy to talk about sex with my friends. I am not shy with my viewpoints and I have a very active solo sex life that has definitely given me the time to find out what I want, what I like and what I don't. I haven't been hanging out for a new man waiting to sweep me up and make sweet, passionate love to me because frankly that's unrealistic (unlike other female members of my extended family who are extremely religious and are always telling me to "grab" a man because I'm not going to be young and pretty forever, you know).

I also don't necessarily believe that being in a committed relationship is the only way to have sex. I recently had the best sex of my life with someone I'd only known for a week. It's not going to develop into anything further but that doesn't lessen the fact that I had a very meaningful sexual relationship with him. And all of this is stuff I wouldn't necessarily have concluded if I hadn't had my experiences with my first boyfriend.

Not Your Average V-Card Diaries: "I don't want anyone to know because I'm such a disgrace"

*Trigger Warning* These are not your average V-Card Diaries narratives. Nyasha and Summer-Rose are from very different countries, but neither consented to sex and both share similar feelings of extreme shame and guilt about losing their virginity. Nyasha,an 18-year-old-woman from Zimbabwe, feels that losing her virginity equals being a disgrace to her community. Summer-Rose, a 19-year-old woman from Australia, had difficulty telling a man she didn't want sex when she was 12. If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. We'd love to run it in this blog. 

Nyasha, 18-year-old woman, Zimbabwe:

I began my University education in March. I define virginity as the condition before one's vagina has been penetrated by a penis. I recently lost my virginity to someone I'm not sure I even love. I lost my cool and became scared when he brought his penis to my opening, but I couldn't say no. The penetration was painful, so I pushed him away. I'm not even sure if he got to the hymen. I don't want anyone to know because I'm such a disgrace, but I can't keep it to myself either.

Summer-Rose, 19-year-old-woman, NSW, Australia:

I dunno how I define virginity. I was 12 and I went to a big massive party of my older brother's, who was sixteen at the time,  party and he had a really nice friend and his brother was so hot. He took me to the park, then we walked to his house. We went  into his room and he pulled out a condom and said "care to use it?" I didn't want sex, I wanted a relationship first, but he took my speechlessness as a yes, and before I knew he was pounding my vagina. After that, I didn't have a period for about 3 months. He wanted me to suck his penis and I did, but somehow the condom came off. He blew inside my mouth. It was horrifying and he started moaning and groaning. I didn't know what happened, so I climbed out the window, got dressed behind a bush, and ran home. I told nobody.

 

V-Card Diaries: Lena "After a few weeks stewing over Catholic guilt, I saw him again. We now meet up most weeks."

Today we're highlighting Lena, am 18 year old woman from London, England, who got over her Catholic guilt to maintain a casual, sexual relationship . If you want to tell your story, go to our submission form. You can find all our V-Card Diaries here. Tell us about yourself:  

I'm an 18-year-old university student from London, England.

How do you define virginity?

The first act of vaginal intercourse involving a penis. For some reason, I don't consider oral sex to be sex (although I actually didn't partake until after I'd lost my virginity anyway).

Tell us your story:

In my second week of university, I went clubbing with some friends, but I'd accidentally left my ID at home. I farewelled them and went to a bar with some other friends, who were more willing to just go to places I could actually get into. Anyway, we were in this dark, sleazy bar and I was buying a mojito, and all of a sudden I couldn't see my friends. Then a guy sidled up to me - his name was Alex. I made out with him for most of the night after that, and then he offered to take me back to his place, but I refused. I got his number though.

A couple of days later, he texted me. I was sick of being a virgin, so I agreed to go to his house. I knew what "fooling around" entailed, and he seemed exceptionally keen. So was I. It hurt a bit, but it lasted for a long time and he had endless fun teaching me all sorts of positions. Despite the initial pain and slight ache (I later described intercourse as "having your insides assaulted with a blunt instrument"), I enjoyed it. It wasn't special, but it was enjoyable, and I think that was what counted.

After a few weeks stewing over my Catholic guilt, I saw him again. We now meet up most weeks. While occasionally I grapple with the realities of such a casual relationship, I don't mind, and for the most part it is enjoyable experimentation.

He didn't tell me his age until afterwards though. He'll be 26 in July. That did make me feel slightly dirty.