Like a virgin: why Rosie sold herself
By Becky Sheaves
July 17, 2004

THEY must have made an incongruous trio as they drank together in the Conservatory wine bar in London's West End - Rosie, a plain, 19-year-old virgin in sloppy student clothes, Jess, her 27-year-old, crop-haired lesbian lover, and Tom, the besuited, middle-aged businessman keen to pay more than 8000 ($20,000) to fulfil his lifetime ambition of sleeping with a virgin.

Nonetheless, at the end of the hour's meeting, Tom handed over a banker's draft for 8400 ($21,500) to Rosie - the amount he had bid for her virginity on the internet - and all three went back to his hotel in Central London.

On the fifth floor, they parted ways, Rosie going with Tom to his room and Jess to another down the corridor.

As the sordid deed was done, Jess lay alone in her room, weeping. The next morning, when Rosie was reunited with her girlfriend, she seemed equally distraught. "We just lay together, side by side, on her bed and Jess was sobbing. It had been a very tiring, emotional experience for both of us."

Four months on, however, and Rosie Reid now claims she has "absolutely no regrets". As far as she's concerned, this unsavoury encounter was a financial transaction, pure and simple. Since pocketing the cash, she has been able to give up her "boring" part-time waitressing job. Her annual university fees of &3163;1125 ($2880) have been paid, her overdraft has been cleared. She's spent &3163;400 ($1025) on clothes and still has enough left to see her through the next two years of study.

"I really don't have a problem with what I did," she says. "It was consensual sex."

In fact, the Bristol University social policy student seems to think she has learned valuable lessons which will stand her in good stead for her career choice. "Ultimately, I'd like to be a social worker. But first I'm going to join the police force and work as a liaison officer," she explains. "I want to help young people and show them the right way to live their lives."

Ironic words indeed from a teenager who grabbed the headlines by auctioning her virginity on the internet to fund her studies.

But scratch the surface and Rosie's situation is deeply worrying. When we met, I found her to be a muddled but strong-minded young woman who sounds deeply confused about her sexuality.

She admits that part of her motivation was a curiosity to experience heterosexual sex. "Because I'm in a committed relationship with Jess, it isn't really possible for me to have a boyfriend. I suppose I wanted to see what all the fuss is about."

Rosie's story begins last January when she was entertaining two fellow students and Jess, who works in a warehouse. The students were drinking and complaining about being broke when Rosie jokingly suggested she sell her virginity. She posted a notice on eBay later that night.

After seeing the response to her bid, she started to take the idea more seriously. "eBay said I was bringing them into disrepute and cancelled my post. So Jess and I built a website and carried on the auction ourselves. Jess spoke to the two final bidders on the telephone. We picked Tom because he seemed more normal and was keen to use a condom."

And so in March, Rosie and Jess travelled up to London to meet the 44-year-old divorcee who works in the telecommunications industry. The only safety precaution for Rosie (apart from the condom use) was that Jess was nearby at all times.

"I asked Jess if she minded what I was doing. She said she would support me if I wanted to go through with it," Rosie says.

"And so I got changed and Tom and I went out for dinner. He was in a smart, pinstripe suit and I wore a low-cut top and jeans. It was a bit weird because he's about the same age as my dad and he was kind of uncle-y," Rosie says with a sense of detachment.

"It wasn't a flirtatious meal. We talked about India because he'd just been there and about vintage motorbikes," she says.

Three hours later, they returned to the hotel for sex. "We went to his room and I must admit, I felt really awkward. I just didn't know how to go about actually having sex with him," Rosie says.

"Luckily, he took control and suggested I had a shower and then offered to give me a massage. It helped me get to the stage of being in bed with him, naked."

Rosie then proceeded to have sex with Tom twice. "The first time I felt really awful, as though I was a piece of meat. It wasn't painful but I felt powerless and overwhelmed," she admits now.

Remarkably, Rosie insisted an hour later that he should try again. "I didn't want to have bad memories of the encounter, so I was determined to give it another try. This time I felt more in control. I enjoyed it much more."

The couple then slept the night in the same bed. In the morning they hugged, shook hands and parted. Tom has not been heard from since.

"I got the impression Tom was very satisfied with our night together. He had always wanted to sleep with a virgin and the fact that I was so young and a lesbian was a real fetish of his," Rosie says.

She is convinced there will be no long-term fallout from her soulless encounter. "I'm fine in my head about it. Everyone will have forgotten about it by the time I look for a job as a police officer." One doubts it - particularly as prostitution is not only immoral but illegal. Rosie likes to claim that her parents are indifferent to what happened.

Her father Alasdair, 49, an ear, nose and throat specialist, and her mother Jen, 48, a nurse, who live in London, knew about the auction and did nothing to stop it.

"My parents are pretty cool about it," she says. Rosie has a younger brother, 13, and sister, 15, both of whom, she claims, just see her exploits as "funny".

But Jess is far more candid. "Her mum and dad were actually very hurt," she confides. "So am I, really. I just wish I could have given Rosie the 8000 myself. At the time it seemed like a quick fix to her financial situation. Now I'm not so sure.

"Rosie is much more confident and sure of herself now but I don't know how she will feel in the long run."

At school Rosie was a self-described geek. This shy, clever, somewhat plain girl did not make friends easily. Instead, she turned to her father's sister Ali, 44, for company and advice.

Ali leads what can only be described as an alternative lifestyle. She has three sons conceived while she was in a 10-year relationship with a woman, which has now broken up.

She runs an alternative health clinic and has, says Rosie, a "fantastic, really interesting group of friends".

"I came home from one visit and thought to myself: 'Wouldn't it be great if I was gay like Ali and her friends?"' Rosie says. "Then I thought: 'Hey, I am a lesbian'."

When she came out to her parents shortly afterwards, her father was, understandably, upset.

"I lifted the phone upstairs and heard him yelling at my aunt for influencing me."

At just 15, Rosie had a sexual relationship with a woman of 19. She then joined a gay and lesbian youth group and had two more relationships before meeting Jess at 16 and starting a relationship with her a year ago.

"Jess wants to get a mortgage and have babies. I'm only 19 and I'm not sure if I'm ready for it," Rosie admits. And what of her parents? Rosie sent a text message to her father the day before she had sex with Tom.

He replied: "I admire your courage but deplore your judgment."

And then, astonishingly, he seems to have left her to get on with it.

"They're very liberal parents. They pretty much have the same morals and outlook that I do," Rosie says.

"I'm having a great time now. I used to have to work three nights a week as a waitress. It was boring and exhausting. Now I can just enjoy myself and get on with my degree. By the time I've graduated everyone will have forgotten all about how I afforded it. Including me."

One can only hope, for Rosie's sake, that this is indeed the case. But sadly, one doubts it.

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