Virginity Still a big deal

Going, going, gone! That was how 22-year-old Natalie Dylan in the United States publicly auctioned her virginity to pay for her college education.

And, her going rate touched a whopping $3.7 million! This sparked off a heated debate over the morality of such an auction, but Natalie said she had no moral dilemma with her decision and found it "empowering".

So, how relevant is virginity in the present context and what is youngsters' attitude towards it - is it fashionable to remain a virgin till marriage or lose it at the first opportunity?

Not an issue
Says T Anandan, a college professor and student counsellor, "With the level of sexual awareness among the youth of today and the way society has changed, youngsters have numerous opportunities to have their first sexual encounters very early. I would say that a majority of city students are initiated into sex by their late teens. Although it is still taboo, it's fashionable for guys to boast about flings," he says. "But, women usually prefer to remain silent on the subject."

Andrologist and WHO sexual medicine expert Sudhakar Krishnamurthy's opinion differs. "Today, virginity is not much of an issue. The more conservative a society, the more hypocritical it is. Hence, there is a need to cover the truth. A cosmopolitan girl will openly admit to being or not being a virgin. I don't think any woman at a ripe young age would enjoy announcing that she's a first timer," he says.

Morality questioned?
Savitha Raj, a post-graduate student says, "If my virginity is questioned before marriage, I would ask the guy if he is looking for a person of virtue or a regular human being, who has fallen in love with him but has a past."

An unapologetic Natalie, on a television show, had said, "We live in a capitalist society. Why shouldn't I be allowed to capitalise on my virginity?" Would that justify her morality?

Savitha, like many young girls in the city, calls it prostitution packaged differently. "She is being paid for her sexual service. She has come into the spotlight only because of the huge amount that was quoted. That said, Indian girls are more sensible and society here will not allow such a thing."

Advertising executive P Selvaraj disagrees. "An early sexual encounter is not always a reflection of morality. It is the middle class morality that believes that all sexual relationships occur because of lust and sin. One can be deeply in love with a person and things can go wrong," he says.

15-minutes of fame
Sudhakar agrees and says, "Passing a judgment based on a small tissue is nonsense. I'm not advocating sexual profligacy, morality lies in your sense of values and in your head."

With several teenage celebrities like Miley Cyrus encouraging youngsters to delay their initiation into the world of sex, would similar advice from stars change the scenario here? Says Sudhakar, "Celebrities will do anything for publicity. The question is, are they practising what they preach?"

This opinion is echoed by a blogger and university student, Mike, who says on his blog, "What disgusts me is the fact that Natalie is promoting it so heavily. It seems less about having some guy pay for her virginity and more about trying to get her 15 minutes of fame and a reality show."

After effect
But, what happens after Miss Money Honey has enjoyed Sugar Daddy? Relationship experts warn that casual sexual encounter like Natalie's have far-reaching psychological repercussions. "Remember, all first experiences are not enjoyable. Many have disastrous and traumatic first experiences. This can affect a person psychologically and change their attitude towards sex," says Sudhakar.

The key, he says, is sex edutainment. "When Anbumani Ramadoss wanted to recognise alternate sexuality, there was opposition from every quarter. People should understand that children are not going to be trained to become porn stars," he says.

"It's time the giggles from back benchers stopped and youngsters and parents understand the importance of understanding sexuality," Anandan concludes.

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