Australian director Justin Sisely is surely familiar with the cardinal rule of sensational filmmaking: Sex sells. Now, all he has to do is avoid giving the impression that he’s selling sex.
Two years ago, Sisely came up with the idea for “a documentary made for the 21st century” — in which a man and woman offer their virginity online to the highest bidder, while a camera follows them through the entire project. PerthNow reported that Sisely, facing criticism from the Australian government — one politician called the project “absurd, ridiculous and disgusting” — and from countless parents, recruited virgins willing to sell their first sexual experience to the highest bidder, offering each individual $20,000 and 90 percent of his or her final sale price.
“The hardest part is telling the parents,” Sisely, who represents the film company Thomas Will Productions, told PerthNow in 2010. “They hate me.”
The government went so far as to warn Sisely about potential legal repercussions from the auction — selling sex would appear to put Sisely and his actors in violation of prostitution laws — which caused him to move the sale to the United States, PerthNow reported.
Despite the controversy, Sisely continued to work on his documentary, titled “Virgins Wanted,” narrowing his list of featured virgins to two: 20-year-old Catarina Migliorini from Brazil and 23-year-old Alex Stepanov from Russia. The two flew to Indonesia for filming, and now, Sisely’s magnum opus is finally nearing its climax. Bidding to deflower the virgins began on Sept. 17 and ended on Oct. 24, with Migliorini’s top bidder — a man from Japan known as Natsu — offering $780,000. Stepanov’s virginity will go to a Brazilian woman known as Nene B, who bid $3,000. As stated in the terms of the auction, Stepanov and Migliorini will meet their prospective suitors in less than 10 days. The waiting period allows enough time for the winning bidders to submit to a medical examination and a police check, virgins to provide evidence of their purity (a gynecologist’s examination in Migliorini’s case and statements from relatives in Stepanov’s case) and filming to be completed.
But Sisely has changed his mind about how much his masterpiece will reveal. Neither sexual encounter (which will occur on a plane flying between Australia and the United States, in a bid to evade prostitution laws) will be filmed. Instead, on-camera interviews will occur before and after, the New York Daily News reported.
Migliorini, a student who wants to study medicine in Argentina, told Brazilian newspaper Folha that she considers Sisely’s project as an opportunity to better the world. She said she plans to start a NGO and help impoverished families by investing in a public housing project in Santa Catarina, where she was born.
“For me, it’s not prostitution,” Migliorini told Folha. “When someone does something once in his or her life, this is not considered a profession. If you take a picture and it comes out good, you are not a photographer because of it.” She added that she wouldn’t want her sexual encounter — during which Natsu must be sober, wear a condom and refrain from kissing — to be filmed, saying she would “die of shame.”
Critics have raised doubts about Migliorini’s benevolence. Cleon Daskalakis, a former professional hockey player who runs Netraffle.org, a company that raises funds online for charities, told the Huffington Post that even if the Brazilian woman wants to donate some of her winnings, the charity may refuse the money.
“This type of transaction is setting a dangerous precedent, not to mention a call for global prostitution on a one-time basis,” he said.
Even Sisely has voiced his concerns about his subject’s claims, telling HuffPo he had believed at first that Migliorini’s motives were profit and self-promotion. Regarding her intention to give some of the money to charity, Sisely said, “I was surprised she said that because in all my dealings with her, she made it clear that it was a business decision for her. Now, given how big this story is in Brazil, she’s trapped. If she doesn’t give any money to charity, she’s going to look bad.”