touched for the very first time

TV Is Obsessed With Virgins Right Now

Photo: Helen Sloan/HBO, Matthias Clamer/MTV, Dewey Nicks/FOX, Frank Ockenfels/AMC

There’s something in the air. Or the water. Or the ether. Or wherever something would have to be to somehow influence the TV landscape for a hot minute. One theme/plot point is popping up all over television right now, and that theme is virginity. Virgins! They’re everywhere.

Sunday night brought us two divergent tales of virginity: The devastatingly sexy and apparently sexually gifted Jon Snow on Game of Thrones broke his vow of celibacy with beautiful snow lady Ygritte, while dweeby and anxious Ginsberg on Mad Men openly confessed to his date that he’d never had sex. (And given his demeanor, it didn’t seem like that was about to change any time soon.) Yesterday afternoon, Yahoo announced it was launching a web series called “Losing Your Virginity with John Stamos,” wherein celebrities will tell the stories of their first times. Last night’s New Girl traced how each of the characters lost his or her virginity, from Cece’s wild night with Mick Jagger to Winston’s magical night with a woman who turned out to be a prostitute. And last night’s Awkward had Jake and Tamara losing their virginities to one another. In a few weeks, virginity is a minor plot point on an episode of The Big C, too. So much deflowering!

And so much, well, good deflowering, for lack of a better term. For some people — characters and real people alike! — virginity is a huge, huge deal, and they want their first time to be with someone they love love love who loves them back. For others, it’s just not as significant: a rite of passage, sure, but not the be-all and end-all. For some it’s more of a nuisance, and for some it’s an incredibly fraught proposition, one that’s more anxiety-inducing than anything else in their lives up to that point. And we’re actually seeing that range of experience on TV right now, which defies pretty much everything I know about TV’s sexual politics, which tends to punish women for demonstrating sexual agency and ridicule men who demonstrate anything other than total sexual prowess.

Perhaps there are Jon Snows who walk among us who somehow just intrinsically possess a thorough knowledge of sexual delights. My guess is more people fall closer to the Jake-and-Tamara end of the spectrum: Well, that was weird and not exactly what I expected, but … want to try again? My other guess is that a lot of people relate to Jess’s story on New Girl: She was in her twenties, not because she was saving herself but because it just hadn’t happened yet. There are Schmidts out there, too, with stories of ineptitude and catastrophe — though, as it was for Schmidt, those stories tend to be the prologue of a relationship saga, not the final chapter.

So, what does this all mean? Probably nothing; it’s just a weird springtime coincidence, and virginity stories are an easy way to have Something Important happen without having to kill anyone. But it’s nice every once in a while to be reminded that TV is not just for dragon battles and mod period clothing and will-they-won’t-they romances. There really are supposed to be moments where you watch and think, Oh, that is like actual life. My actual life. Even if that brings up weird memories of lube fiascos or romantic steam caves or pimped-out minivans or surprise prostitutes.

TV Is Obsessed With Virgins Right Now