If you’ve ever been a teenager, or spoken to one, or listened to any of the music aimed at them, then you know that virginity is crazy important. And it’s not just important to you; everyone wants to know the state of your v-card. Is it pristine and still in its standard issue wallet? Is it a little creased and worn? Or have you gone all the way and had it, er, punched?
Yeah, I guess I’m talking about your hymen here. Because really, when it comes to virginity, from the creepy abstinence movement to the most whip-smart teen comedy, it’s all about what you do (or don’t do) with your vagina, ladies.
Speaking of teen movies, they always make virginity look kind of cool, don’t they? Ooh, that teen movie virgin is so pretty and so blonde and so desirable! Boys love virgins because they can totally be the first to plough the field, and she won’t even know how unskilled he is with heavy farm machinery (and his own peen).
Joey Potter, straight after cashing in her V Card
Yeah, the teen movie virgin is almost uniformly a hot piece of ass, and all the boys would give their left nut to get in her white cotton panties. But what if you’re not Cher from Clueless or Annette from Cruel Intentions? What if your virginity is simply the result of being kind of unfortunate-looking, not really knowing anyone you’d want to do it with and most importantly, being totally terrified of sex? Not so glamorous.
Ladies, gentlemen, this was me in school. When all about me seemed to be losing theirs, my hymen did not waver. When people would ask me about my unexplored pants region, it was never like “oh hey wow your totally untouched poon is really very arousing to me.” It was more like “why are you a virgin? That is really super lame. What are you, some kind of loser? Wow, just do it, with literally anyone, or you’re weird.”
Teen movies! Dawson’s Creek! Britney Spears! You lied to me! Or did they?
OK, here’s a thought: I was recently re-watching Dawson’s Creek (I have a lot of academic research to procrastinate...) and I realised that Joey Potter was kind of my virginity role model. People badger her to do it, especially Dawson, all like “my face hasn’t grown into my head yet, and also I LOVE YOU, BE FIRST SEX PARTNER” and she brushes that dirt off her shoulder, and loses her virginity to Pacey when SHE’S ready.
And that’s awesome, right? She set that agenda, and she stuck to it, and she didn’t care that she occasionally got stick for not getting dick. And they were soul mates, but less of that because though I eat and talk like one, I’m not actually a fifteen year old. In fact, I'm in the middle of writing a postgraduate dissertation on virginity in teen movies. Maybe that's why I spend so much time thinking about the hymens of fictional characters, huh?
So, when I finally (at eighteen, so not quite late bloomer territory, but late enough) found someone I actually wanted to invite into my Chamber of Secrets, I was all like “YES! Joey Potter! My choice!” and it was awesome.
Here I am, looking dorky and prefering books to boys...
Despite the fact that I know he later cheated on me, and still says the word “banter” and likes Maroon 5, I am totally cool to have done the no pants dance with him for the first time. Plus, it was kind of nice to lose it before University, where I could totally go sexploring, and find out what good sex actually felt like. ZING, in your FACE, d-bag.
Anyway, with the whole Joey Potter thing in mind (and because I no longer need to heed the Never Trust Katie Holmes clause in my sanity contract that I made with myself when she married Tom Cruise) I started thinking about other Virginity Role Models and how, when you think about it, we are pretty much surrounded by fictional characters whose main function is to trumpet their untouched fun tunnel.
The Eternal Virgin - Joey Potter, Dawson’s CreekShe’s a rough-round-the-edges tomboy (TomKat, RIP) who wears ‘imaginative’ knitwear and doesn’t appear to own a hairbrush! She frets over her lack of sexy mystique, and unwittingly acts as a beard for her gay boyfriend(!) before discovering her sexuality and going with it. She taught me that actually, virginity isn’t a big deal, and it’s nobody’s business but your own (and Pacey Witter’s, obviously) [My virginity was definitely Pacey Witter’s business. IN MY HEAD --Rebecca].
The Picky Chooser - Cher Horowitz, CluelessPlayed to perfection by Alicia Silverstone (who never managed to top the role), Cher is vocal about her virginity, and her disavowal of high school boys. What did I learn from Cher? Well, that when you’re fifteen going on sixteen, getting jiggy with your university-aged stepbrother ain’t no thing. If you can’t rise above a little bit of mild incest and inappropriate age-gapping, MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T BE HAVING SEX AT ALL. Seriously, though, Cher’s philosophy, “you see how picky I am about my shoes, and they only go on my feet” is an adage we should all live by, virgin or no.
The Late Bloomer - Shoshanna Shapiro, GirlsWhile I didn’t wait quite as long as Shosh, I know someone who did, and to say that Girls completely nailed it with this character, is a huge understatement. Shoshanna and her ilk don’t exactly choose to wait, but they don’t choose to boink either. What you’re left with there, is a friend who calls you at 4am on her 23rd birthday to drunkenly sob “I’m a FREAK-GIN! A freaky virgin! HELP!” and you’re just like “I had no idea that while I was out doing the do, you, well, weren’t.” And by then she’s a grown up who can make good decisions, which is why Shoshanna gets to do it with Ray, who is secretly the BEST guy in Girls.
The Fraudster - Olive Pendergast, Easy AOlive actually keeps her v-card sealed up in a special safe, but when she says she got horizontal, everyone believes her, and she’s labelled the school slut. Her virginity isn’t a matter of hymen; it’s a matter of words. Olive is the classic example of how fast word travels in school, especially about sex, and she exposes the essential truth about virginity: it kind of doesn’t really exist either way, so maybe stop stressing about it.
The Prodigal Daughter - Britney Spears OK, so Britney’s virginity hasn’t been up for discussion since the very early-2000s, but her mix of sugar and spice, latex and pigtails, exploded the myth of the sexy virgin, before imploding in on itself spectacularly. Given that her squeaky clean image was a product of America’s upsetting and voyeuristic virginity movement, the delicious irony of Britney’s fall from grace exposes the artifice of that whole purity rings and chastity belts thing, and makes her the ultimate modern virginity role model in many ways.
When I talk about a virginity role model, I don’t mean the weird, insidious, Chastity Ball kind. I mean the character that pops up again and again, often devoid of religious or political messages, to make the point that when it comes to your virginity, no matter how interested everyone else it, it’s your business. Thanks, Joey Potter.
Becca can be found on Twitter, talking about virgins. And also fashion and courgettes @becca_dp