'It's business to me'

- March 31, 2009

Natalie Dylan was invited to speak to Prof. Marina Adshade's Economics of Sex and Love class.

On YouTube, Wikipedia and every other website-of-the-week, they’re talking about Natalie Dylan. But while she may be ambitious, academic and bright, no one’s interested in her brains, it’s her virginity and the fact that she’s auctioning it off that has tongues wagging.

On Friday, Ms. Dylan shared her story with the students in Professor Marina Adshade’s The Economics of Sex and Love (ECON 2214), a class which covers everything from polygamy to prostitution.

Beamed into the classroom from San Diego, California via Skype, Ms. Dylan told her version of a story usually rife with misinformation. As a way of raising money to further her education in psychology, the student who already has a degree in Women's Studies is collaborating with the Bunny Ranch, Dennis Hof’s Nevada brothel, to oversee the transaction. She’s not compelled to accept the highest bidder—offers have reached $3.8 million—and she isn’t interested in pursuing a relationship.

“It’s business to me,” she said matter of factly.

Once Ms. Dylan shared her side of the story, Prof. Adshade opened the floor to questions. Students descended to the front of the lecture hall and stood in front of her laptop, so that they could speak with her face-to-face. Generally, questions focused on Ms. Dylan’s personal experiences during the auction—for instance, what the experiment meant she “had to give up?”

“Nothing, really,” answered Ms. Dylan, thoughtfully. “My anonymity.”

Has she considered the effect the sale might have on her future relationships, even her marriage prospects?

“Honestly, that has been brought to my attention quite a few times,” she said with a laugh, “especially by my mother!”

She believes the bids skyrocketed, not because of her beauty or because virginity is valued so much anymore, but rather because the auction turned into a game of one-upmanship for the bidders.

“I know it’s not because of me… every time I do an interview, the bids go up,” she explained to the class. "It's like a contest they all want to win."

Ms. Dylan knows she is engaging in prostitution—and no qualms about it. “There’s so much covert prostitution going on all around,” she said, pointing out that sex in exchange for dinner and a movie is no less a trade of goods and services. “The message I’m sending is you need to take control of your own finances. Nothing is handed to you in life… I’m 22 years old, making my own decision. I’m a college graduate.”

More conventionally conservative reasons for retaining her virginity—for instance, the old “most-valuable-possession” refrain—exasperate Ms. Dylan. “The most valuable thing a girl has to give to her husband is a one-time sexual experience?”

She’s also got a book in the works and a couple million on the way, and mostly, she seemed bemused that her social experiment has become a hot topic worldwide. “I did not do this to get famous at all. I think it’s a very odd world.”

Certainly she’s had some very odd experiences. “This one guy, he works at a zoo, and he offered to break me out an animal in exchange for my virginity… Old women come up to me on the street, and they tell me how they lost their virginity.”

While she may never again have a guest lecturer so highly googled to speak to her class, Dr. Adshade says Ms. Dylan’s case elaborates on a topic explored in class, namely what is the value of virginity?

“I think that classes like this, where we have an opportunity to speak directly to individuals, help to remind us as students of economics that behind the theoretical models and behind the data lies the lives of real people,” said Dr. Adshade. “It sounds simple, but it is important.”


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