Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Virgin Auctions

What would Sandel say? A 20 year old Brazilian woman auctions her virginity for a princely sum of US$780,000.

Moderately NSFW pictures in the link suggest she should have no trouble finding adequate suitors. Similarly, the Japanese gentleman who is willing to cough up more than a quarter million bucks for the experience is probably wealthy enough that his BATNA is not especially unattractive.

If there is exploitation here, who is exploiting whom?

The story suggests that the payment will be converted into a charitable payment. Is this dirty money? Is it akin to Planned Parenthood turning down a donation from infamous Internet bad boy Tucker Max or the Susan G. Komen Foundation distancing itself from support from online pornographers? Do the transactions that generate charitable donations contaminate the cash transfer? If so, how distant do the transactions have to be to become morally acceptable again?

Is there a villain here? More than one? Which is greatest? Is this auction non-euvoluntary? If so, why?


  1. The argument against in Smithian terms:

    There is no exploitation, but the sale of your body for sex is an unbecoming use of your resources: it is an act of distributive injustice. Though there are certainly gains to be made from trade here, coercive authority is authorized by rules of propriety to prevent the coupling.

    That's how the argument would run, anyway.

  2. An argument on aesthetic grounds? That sounds about right, and it's consistent with Haidt's work on morality.


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?