Column: $6,000 a pop

By David Solana

Nothing brings out the morality parade like a young girl declaring her desire to better her life – especially if said desire is to be achieved via sexual intercourse. Last month, 18-year-old Peruvian Graciela Yataco advertised the sale of her virginity in newspaper ads and on the Internet – to be sold for 20,000 soles, according to El Mundo. That’s about $6,140. The BBC reported she was selling to the highest bidder.

Yataco is the sole breadwinner for a family of three – her 12-year-old brother and her 43-year-old, incapacitated mother. She has been the sole breadwinner since she was eight years old. She earns her wages, $60 a month, by modeling or acting. She said she was prompted to sell her virginity to pay for her mother’s medical bills.

This of course raises several morality questions. What right does this girl have to go around offending the “moral” community’s well-being by engaging in prostitution? What right does she have to sell herself when her family’s honor is at stake? And why is virginity such a valuable commodity?

Well, the answers, of course, are obvious. She has no right to use her body for personal gain. She has no right to infringe upon her family’s honor to help their financial situation – what good is living if one’s honor is tarnished? And virginity is apparently valuable because enough guys with money will pay plenty to take it.

Yataco said the highest bidder, a Canadian who was willing to shell out $1.5 million, preferred she not sell herself. Because she was insistent, however, at least he was going to treat her well. That’s so kind of him. Obviously, offering to help her financially wouldn’t have been enough.

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There is a global trade in women, and it’s hard not to feel bad for them. Some accept offers to go abroad with the full knowledge they will be prostitutes. Others are promised good jobs only to find out they owe thousands of dollars to the men who brought them to a new country. Their only chance to pay off the debt is the sex work these men provide them. Their problems are frequently compounded by high fees to rent their work space or whatever other costs these international pimps can make up.

Yet Yataco is a different case altogether – she was willingly offering herself up. She was ridiculed by the Peruvian societal elite who have no such problems. They do, however, suffer greatly knowing a young girl is going out on a limb to get a big break with the only commodity for which people with money would pay her. Luckily for her, they didn’t bother her during her whole life when she was just a poor girl who had to care for her whole family.

In the end, she didn’t sell her virginity to that Canadian or anyone else. She apparently didn’t get any money, either. Accused of having pulled a publicity stunt, one has to wonder why so many people care that she tried. She opened eyes across the world to her plight and that of so many people in a similar situation. But no one sent her money to help her out – and her situation hasn’t improved.

She is an actress, so accusations that her sale was a stunt are not so wild. Yet the accusers seem content to merely accuse instead of offering aid.

It doesn’t matter whether she intended to go through with the sale. She showed the world that poor people are suffering, she showed us at least one Canadian man thinks he can express his compassion by buying a girl’s virginity, and she let us know poverty is far preferred to sexual openness.

As long as the impoverished aren’t throwing their virginity around in the newspapers and on the Internet in a manner that thrusts their suffering into our faces, we’re OK with them. Let the poor be poor: as long as they don’t offend our morals, we can ignore them and pretend they’re as happy as we are.