Brazilian girl auctions off her virginity

92876_story__rebecca bernardoFrom my column at the Washington Times Communities

As a second girl in Brazil is selling her virginity online to the highest bidder, should we be asking more questions about who is behind this?

WASHINGTON DC, January 4, 2013– Rebecca Bernardo is not the first Brazilian woman to auction off her virginity. Last October, another young Brazilian woman, Catarina Migliorini, age 20, reportedly sold her virginity to an online bidder known as “Natsu” for a final price of $780,000. Even though the transaction has reportedly not been completed, Migliorini has received an offer to pose for Brazilian Playboy and she is apparently inspiring other girls to follow suit.

Rebecca Bernardo lives in Sapeacu, Brazil, and at first glance looks like a regular teenager. The 18-year-old has stated that she is selling her virginity to pay medical bills and future healthcare costs related to her mother’s recent stroke. The stroke has left her mother unable to care for herself and Bernardo claims that her jobs as a waitress and cosmetics salesperson have simply not been enough to cover all of their bills.

Bernardo does not have a high school degree, her sister passed away a few years ago, and her father is not in the picture. She says that desperation drove her to try to imitate Catarina Migliorini and auction off her virginity online. So far, however, Bernardo’s auction has not turned out quite the same. Even though the YouTube video is getting more hits, close to 165,000 at last check, the highest bid has reportedly been $35,000.

Even though reaction in her small town was mostly negative at first, people seem to understand that Bernardo has nobody to turn to and that her situation is dire. It is also important to note that there are no laws against adults exchanging sex for money in Brazil (there are laws against operating brothels or employing prostitutes in any other way). Bernardo’s mother is against her daughter selling her virginity, saying she would rather she get a job than “prostitute herself.”

Rebecca, however, says that “If you only do it once in your life then you are not a prostitute, just like if you take one amazing photograph it does not automatically make you a photographer.”

Despite the altruism on the surface, the entire situation is sad, exploitative and reeks of hypocrisy.

Many people suffer from grinding poverty and lack of resources for medical bills but do not resort to prostituting themselves on the Internet. While both girls claim that their actions are not prostitution, it is hard to call selling sex for money anything else.

Both girls say their motives are altruistic. They claim they are not just selling their virginity for money; they are doing it to help others. When Miglori’s auction started to get worldwide attention, she claimed that she was doing it for charity. Migliorini stated that she would donate 90% of the auction price to build homes for the poor in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. This came as a shock to the organizers of her auction, who stated that they believed she was selling her virginity purely for financial gain.  So far, no buildings for the poor have materialized in the poor Brazilian state.

Bernardo’s motives seem to be similarly “fuzzy.” Soon after news of the auction surfaced, a Brazilian television network offered to pay her mother’s medical and care expenses if Catarina withdrew form the auction. However, the teen has rejected the offer and now not only wants enough money to care for her mother, but also wants enough to relocate to another town, according to CNN. She will not say exactly how much money she will need to do this.

Another troubling aspect of the virginity-for-auction play is the behind-the-scenes orchestrators who almost certainly are benefitting from selling the 18 and 20 year old Brazilians. Details of who is backing Bernardo’s auction are sketchy, but there is plenty of information on the person running the Migliorini auction.

Migliorini’s auction was organized by Justin Sisley, a little-known Australian documentary filmmaker. Migliorini was not Sisley’s first “subject” (or victim?). In 2011, Sisley recruited a young man and woman to auction off their virginity as a part of an Australian reality TV show. The “participants” would reportedly receive $20,000 plus 90% of the auction revenue. The project ran into trouble when Sisley was threatened with prosecution under Australia’s prostitution laws. Sisley then announced that he was moving his enterprise to Las Vegas, where he was not as welcome as he thought he would be.

Sisley again showed up on the international radar last year as he and an unknown production company organized the online auction for Migliorini’s virginity as part of the website “Virgins Wanted.” It is unknown what type of fee arrangement they have with the 20-year-old.

As noted above, the “exchange” between Migliorini and Natsu has not taken place. According to the Huffington Post,  the actual transaction will take place aboard an airplane flying between the U.S. and Australia, before which both participants will be examined for sexually transmitted diseases and Migliorini will be examined to ensure that she is in fact a virgin. Natsu will have to wear protection and Sisley will interview both on camera for his documentary before and after the encounter.

According to the VirginsWanted website’s terms and conditions, “the virgins themselves are the only ones who profit from the auctions.”  This statement from Sisley is extremely difficult to believe. If nothing else, Sisley has gone from an unknown documentary maker to often-searched Internet query thanks to all of the publicity he is generating. Additionally, rational-thinking people have to doubt that Sisley is matching virgins and buyers for any reason other than profit. What could possibly be the philanthropic rationale for pimping?

The Migliorini project has experienced a roadblock. Brazil’s attorney general, Joao Pedro de Saboia Bandeira de Mello Filho, has stated that the auction amounts to human trafficking. The Brazilian government is trying to block Catarina’s visa permits, preventing her from boarding that fateful airplane in Australia. She claims to still be a virgin and looking forward to posing for Playboy.

Bernardo is still awaiting a higher bid for her virginity.

And the rest of the world is waiting to see what the Internet will offer for sale, and at what cost, next.