MTV's 'Virgin Territory' Is Important Because of the Problematic Way Hollywood Handles Virginity
MTV's latest reality series is going to make a lot of people uncomfortable. The fact that it's called Virgin Territory should offer you a bit of a clue as to why exactly that is. Virgin Territory premieres Wednesday night and it's a reality series that follows the lives of four young people who are still — gasp — virgins. On the show, they will either work to lose or to keep their virginity and MTV hopes that by broadcasting it they can open up a discussion about sex and the infamous V-Card in a new and interesting way. What most people don't seem to get right away is that the existence of a television series like this, especially in today's hypersexualized society, is groundbreaking.
The fact of the matter is, when the subject of virginity comes up on television or in the media, then it's usually a source of shame and judgment. It's just Not Cool to be a virgin, you guys, and if you're talking about it then it had better be in the midst of a conversation on how you plan to lose it. While there's absolutely nothing wrong with being comfortable enough in your sexuality to express it however you want, there is something wrong with impressionable minds watching these movies and television shows and thinking that their virginity will make them a target of peer pressure and ridicule. It's even worse that, often times, they turn out to be right. After all, their peers watch those same shows, too.
We need a show like Virgin Territory to show people that there's more to virginity than just trying to get rid of it as quickly and quietly as possible, to be honest. In fact, it's because of media portrayals of virginity like the ones below that Virgin Territory is so necessary.
The Virgin: Olive Penderghast.
The Story: The funny thing about Easy A is that Olive doesn't actually lose her virginity at any point during the movie. She lies about having lost it and pretends to help several other virgins lose theirs and suddenly Olive is the school whore. The guys she helped all go on to be popular, in general and with other girls, while Olive has to work alone to turn her reputation around. Eventually, she makes the school see the error of their ways and stops caring what they think anyway.
The Problem: Olive's virginity only seems incidental to the plot, which is obviously about double standards and slut shaming. The problem with this portrayal of virginity is that it doesn't matter whether you're a virgin or not; your reputation is what actually matters and it will be RUINED FOREVER if you're a woman who loses or pretends to lose your virginity in high school.
The To Do List
The Virgin: Brandy Klark.
The Story: The overachieving but socially awkward Brandy may have graduated valedictorian of her high school, but she's not ready for college unless she gets some sexual experience under her belt. Over the course of the film, Brandy experiments with many boys and loses her friends in the process when they brand her a slut for messing around with their ex-boyfriends, but in the end she wins them back and manages to have sex that's actually good.
The Problem: Brandy treated her virginity as just another thing to be crossed off her college to-do list and the movie could have done more to show what a problematic attitude that is. In the end, it's just another teen movie about getting rid of your virginity as quickly and hilariously as possible (with a lesson thrown in there somewhere).
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
The Virgin: Andy Stitzer.
The Story: Andy is the titular 40 year old virgin who managed to reach his prime without having ever gotten intimate with a woman. When his friends find out, they make it their mission to help Andy get laid, even though sex (and, really, their own personalities) have caused them no end of problems. When Andy finally takes a liking to a woman, his reluctance to be honest with her about his virginity causes problems of its own, but eventually they communicate, get married, and get down with their bad selves.
The Problem: The 40-Year-Old Virgin equates virginity with immaturity, as if it's the fact that Andy has never been intimate with someone that makes him live alone in a room full of toys and have trouble talking to women. The movie does a lot to show that that's not entirely true, but the implication is still there.
The Virgin: Kevin Myers, Oz Ostreicher, Jim Levenstein and Paul Finch.
The Story: The movie begins with the four boys making a pact to lose their virginity before they graduate high school, which tells you all you need to know about how much they value it. A series of wacky hijinks that could only happen in a teen comedy leaves all three boys dateless for The Night — aka prom — until they head to a post-prom party at which all of them successfully fulfill the pact.
The Problem: Pretty much all of it, but American Pie has never pretended to be anything other than what it is: a teen comedy about losing your virginity (with a side of what not to do with a pie).
The Virgin: Annette Hargrove.
The Story: Annette wrote a published essay about saving herself until marriage in a film called Cruel Intentions, so she may as well have drawn a giant bullseye on her forehead. Step-siblings Sebastian and Kathryn make a wager over whether or not Sebastian can actually get her into bed and, technically, Sebastian wins. However, by that time, he's long since fallen in love with Annette. Let's just say this doesn't end well for anyone involved.
The Problem: Annette's basically your average pure and innocent ingenue who revolutionizes the bad boy with the power of her purity (and sharp tongue) and he basically argues his way into her pants. It seems like losing your virginity can't be anything but strictly dramatic or hilarious as far as Hollywood movies are concerned. Hopefully, MTV's Virgin Territory can provide a more realistic look at a truly complicated issue.