By G Sampath
Last month, two virgins came to a virginity auction. A man named Alex Stepanov, and a girl named Catarina Migliorini. The man’s virginity was sold for US$ 3,000. The girl’s virginity fetched $780,000 —260 times the selling price of the man’s.
I don’t know about other male chauvinists but I felt insulted and humiliated by this disparity in the market valuation of virgins. In an era where men are slowly surrendering to equality with women in every aspect of life, how can we tolerate this yawning gap in the market price of male and female virgins? Even Richard Branson, who ought to know a thing or two about virginity, would agree that men who value their virginity enough to retain possession of it well into their adult life deserve better than 1/260th the price of a female virgin.
But the problem, as Arvind Kejriwal pointed out recently, is with the system. The system, as any feminist would tell you, is called patriarchy. And feminists, for all their cleverness in language and theory and jouissance, have never trained their guns on this glaringly obvious flaw of patriarchy— its utter devaluation of male virginity.
Not only does patriarchy deem male virginity worthless; it considers it a joke. Even in this day and age, when everything from water to clean air to dirty MPs has a market price, male virginity is perhaps the only scarce and limited commodity that continues to be distributed free.
Take my own case. Unlike Stepanov, I never got an opportunity to auction my virginity although, as a talented virgin, I had ample time and energy to do so. One of my life’s abiding tragedies is that I will die without the satisfaction of ever knowing what my virginity was worth in the open market.
I did try to find out, once. I asked my wife, “If, hypothetically speaking, I’d been a virgin when you first saw me, and if, hypothetically speaking, I’d tried to sell you the opportunity to deflower me, what would you have paid me?”
She thought about it for five seconds, and said, “72 slaps?”
As you can see, her answer only underlines my basic point: none of the stakeholders in male virginity, not even women, take it seriously.
In fact, as a biological male and a former virgin, I am ashamed to say that I actually felt jealous and envious and retrospectively resentful that a random sub-Putinous Russian male is getting paid $ 3,000 for his fornicatory debut while my own virginity didn’t fetch me even 3,000 paise.
But I know I am not alone in such deprivation. I believe I can safely claim to speak for all mankind (unlike other great male writers and philosophers like Aristotle and Suhel Seth, by ‘mankind’ I mean exactly one half of the human race) when I say that our parents never taught us to value our virginity.
My own mother and father, who fed me Complan every morning and Chyawanprash every evening and enrolled me in Brilliant Tutorials at the age of seven, never so much as dropped a hint that male virginity might be an asset worth preserving.
Au contraire, thanks to outdated parenting compounded by patriarchy’s regressive notions of manhood, rather than enjoy my God-given gift, I spent all my virgin years mistakenly believing it to be a burden. And I wanted to unburden myself of it at the first opportunity.
The first opportunity, in my case, was a girl named Sim (no, her parents were not service providers; Sim was an affectionate circumcision of her full name, like Sam was for Sampath. Long before Saifeena, back when Saif was still Saifrita, we were known as SimSam).
Sim and I had been going steady for 47 days when I first broached the subject of her playing an active role in separating me from my virginity. While she was sympathetic to my cause, there was a complication: she could not help me without endangering her own virginity in the process. Unlike me, she was a girl, see? And a girl’s virginity is a big deal in emerging markets like India. While I wanted to bury my virginity alive, she wanted to grow hers into a chaste and sublime lushness.
She told me (and these were her exact words), “I want my virginity to be a gift for my first husband.”
It was finally Manmohan Singh who got rid of my virginity – oh no, please put that dirty thought out of your mind – RIGHT NOW! I’m referring to Singh’s policy of liberalisation in 1991. As we all know, it unleashed all the nation’s repressed libidino-entrepreneurial energy, some of which, I am glad to report, were female and eager to gobble up a male virgin or two.
Having said that, it is still galling that the extreme gender inequality in compensation highlighted by the Australian director Justin Sisely’s virginity auction has provoked not a squeak of protest, nor a tweet of condemnation from feminists or male chauvinists (me being the only honorable exception).
Well! That is the power of ideology; the ideology of patriarchy, which bombards every man and every woman every day of their waking lives with the lie that male virginity has no value – socially or economically or emotionally or psychologically or philosophically or gynaecologically.
The biggest stage where this lie is played out is the Indian matrimonial market, where the hymen is still one of the most valued parts of the bride-to-be, if not the jewels in her anatomical crown. As Rakhi Sawant once told me, dowry is the cash component of the marital transaction and hymen is the ‘kind’ component. On the other hand, a groom who has never once taken a tour of female genitalia commands no premium over another who has.
So how do we resolve this gross undervaluation of male virginity? There is only one way: apply the law of supply and demand. Reduce the supply of male virgins, and demand will go up. Once the demand rises, the price will shoot up.
But how do we dry up demand? Well, male virgins should start taking pride in their virginity, and stop throwing it away at the first opportunity. Is that even possible? Well, the answer to that lies in the hands of every man. You could call it the power of one-handed clapping.