Thursday, May 1, 2014

Res Ipsa Loquitur: The Virgin Auctions, Round Deux

A website (here) allows folks to place a bid on obtaining the virginity of a 27 year old medical student going by the pseudonym "Elizabeth Raine."

According to the site, the max bid as of press datetime is US$550k. I wonder if folks are running sealed-bid scripts against this value like you can do on Ebay. Hm. Whoever wrote the terms and conditions seems to be familiar with elementary auction theory (there's a $100 buy-in).

Anyway, is this euvoluntary? According to the site, she doesn't really need the money. She's a well-to-do white American girl who's lived abroad, and she's studying medicine. She's got a pretty good BATNA. I see no evidence of exploitation, at least in the direction you'd expect. If anything, she might be the one doing the exploiting.

How about unconscionablity? This isn't the first time someone's tried a trick like this. Repetition is what morphs the bizarre into the mundane. How many more high denomination virgin auctions need to happen before the price drops sharply and it's just a dreary routine?

If this story is legit (and I have some reservations), I'm curious if it's a leading indicator of... something. I'm not sure what. I agree with Maggie McNeill that the way prostitutes are treated in the US is egregious, but most of the worst is focused on the discount end of the market. Do high-cash-value transactions help alter public moral intuitions towards the sex workers who would most directly benefit from decriminalization?

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