An 18-year-old Romanian woman named Alina Percea has decided to auction off her virginity to the highest bidder to pay for college. She follows in the footsteps of other young women who have also put themselves up for sale, including England's Rosie Reid in 2004 and Carys Copesake in 2007. Meanwhile, here in America, Natalie Dylan, 22, is offering her virginity through Dennis Hof's Las Vegas Bunny Ranch.
Percea is looking for $73,000, enough to finance her education. Dylan hopes she can net $1 million.
I think we're going to see more and more of this.
What's going on, psychologically? I believe that young women (and young men) increasingly see themselves - even what most of us would consider their most intimate selves - as commodities, for sale to the highest bidder. Their lives are no longer their own, you see. They are spliced and diced into Facebook profiles, YouTube postings and a bleeding of their individual identities into an onslaught of celebrity culture. They have been coaxed to turn complex questions about who they really are and what they really feel into simpler ones about which entertainer they most want to emulate. Their thoughts turn into text messages that float away into cyberspace, along with an unhealthy dose of nude photos of themselves called "sexting." Seen this way, Alina Percea and Natalie Dylan aren't really selling any part of themselves, because they may be so detached from their inner selves - their souls - that they aren't really showing up to hand anything over to the highest bidder. They are actresses playing themselves, in this case the role of prostitute.
It isn't just the media and the Internet that fuels this loss of genuine self. We haven't looked at the psychosocial implications of sperm and egg donation, for example - the abandoning of any emotional connection to many millions of our offspring. Is it so surprising to see young women selling their virginity when the majority of Americans would think little of them selling their ova? Do we worry over men selling their sperm?
Might there be a connection between Natalie Dylan auctioning off her virginity and Nadia Suleman (Octomom) turning herself and eight innocent newborns into media celebrities via in vitro fertilization?
The trouble is that Percea and Dylan are the outlandish, media-worthy examples of the phenomenon. Much more commonly, we will see young people turning up to "play" employee and "play" student and then "play" mother and "play" father. They'll be acting, too - looking the part, but untouchable. Try to reach them, for real, and you could find yourself getting one-liners back that sound like they were harvested from the latest sitcom or feature film. And they will have been.
The separation of real self from the face one presents to the world is the growing place for depression, anxiety, drug abuse and violence. As the distance between fantasy and reality shrinks, the pain of being cut off from ourselves and from others will be increasingly felt. It always is. We can expect an epidemic of psychological disorders. Why? Because, like it or not, we remain vulnerable, fragile, truthful souls at core. We remain human.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's website at
Keith Ablow, MD is a psychiatrist, and was host of the nationally-syndicated "Dr. Keith Ablow Show." He is a former member of the Fox News Medical A Team.