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Opinion: Reality TV frames virginity as a burden

July 15, 2014

seamon.17@osu.edu
Mikaela is one of the virgins followed in MTV's 'Virgin Territory,' set to premiere July 16. Credit: Courtesy of MTV

Mikaela is one of the virgins followed in MTV’s ‘Virgin Territory,’ which is set to premiere at 11 p.m. July 16.
Credit: Courtesy of MTV

The summer before I began my freshman year at Ohio State, I decided to take my chances on this guy.

During our “first date,” we parked ourselves on a picnic table at a local park in West Chester, Ohio. I was nervous, as it had been a while since a guy was romantically interested in me, so while talking, I fidgeted with a ring that had been fixated on my right middle finger since freshman year of high school.

It was a simple, sterling silver band.

“What is that? A purity ring?” this charming bachelor asked in a mocking, sarcastic tone.

“Oh, no! It’s just a ring,” I said while slipping it off and dropping it into the depths of my purse.

“Good, because that would be really weird.”

Truthfully — he was correct. It was a purity ring, and I bought it for myself when I was 14 as a reminder that true love waits.  Sure, that sounds like the title of Corny McSappy’s newest album, but it kept me grounded and held me accountable throughout my four years at Lakota West High School.

At that moment, though, I became hyper aware of my virginity. Perhaps, I thought, I made a mistake keeping my virginity through high school, and maybe I was super behind by entering college and having not yet “done the deed.”

At 18, my virginity suddenly became a burden.

It was a simpler time back then, though. In 2011, if I were to return home from that “date” and flip on MTV, I would have likely been able to take solace in some music videos (an antiquated statement) and not have seen an advertisement for the network’s new series “Virgin Territory,” which follows 15 individuals under the age of 25 who have managed to keep their beds sacred to sleeping.

What a wonderfully wholesome concept, MTV.

However, I had to Google search that description for the show. Based upon the commercial I saw yesterday, “Virgin Territory,” set to premiere Wednesday on MTV, seems to follow chaste, naïve, unlovable, sheltered young adults as they blindly peruse life having never had sex.

You know — everything for which an 18-year-old wouldn’t want to be perceived.

Of course, this isn’t the first network to break ground in celibate adult reality television. In 2011, TLC seemed baffled with the notion that people can survive quite a number of years in complete chastity and premiered “Virgin Diaries.” What aired was a freakshow of paranoid and awkward adults who seemed somewhat hesitant to have sex — which is like picking out the green potato chips and saying the sample is representative of the entire Frito-Lay company.

So, perhaps I give a golf clap to MTV for not sensationalizing abstinence to that degree.

Where I take issue, though, is the network’s execution to show an “unexpected look at modern-day virgins,” another little nugget from the show’s description.

Based upon clips and trailers for the show, the 15 subjects seem to be caricatures under one of three categories: he or she is self-described as “uptight” in regard to his or her body; he or she clings to his or her virginity because of religious beliefs; or he or she is still a virgin, but he or she is actively seeking ways to get rid of it.

These are all valid realities for some chaste young adults. However, MTV packages these three extremes as the only possible categories for which any Mother Mary off the street abstains from sex. This appeases our kindergarten minds by making everything straight and clear-cut, but it is miles away from the truth of a person’s status — which is personalized and intimate for everyone.

Additionally, in typical reality TV fashion, the lives of the 15 individuals are aggressively focused on their sex life — or lack thereof. It is edited to make these virginal young adults intensely self-conscious, dedicating every moment of their day to figuring out exactly to whom, what, when, where and why he or she is going to drop their V-card.

In fact, according to reviews of the show, once these virgins are no more, the cameras are turned off on his or her life. This, in ways, assumes “resolution” to a “problem” rather than an ongoing matter of one’s sex life.

Of course, we do live in a society where sex is aiming to be more conversational, and, arguably, “Virgin Territory” is abiding to this goal. While this show might be a venue for abstinent teens to rally and be comforted by similar stories, it might also be pushing them to get rid of it — despite personal readiness, maturity or comfort — for the sake of conformity.

After all, although a 2013 study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute reported that less than half of American high school students have had sex, “Virgin Territories” and similar shows frame virgins as the exception, not the majority.

And no one likes to be the exception.

My right middle finger has remained absent of my purity ring since that “date” out of embarrassment, but my current sexual status is of no one’s business but my own.

As for my pre-collegiate summer stud — although I tried to comply to his standards and impress him, he told me I was boring.


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Comments (3)

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  1. Ricky says:

    We are really looking for things to complain about, aren’t we? Guess what- being a virgin isn’t so bad.

  2. John says:

    So Danielle writes an article about how shes a virgin, and now shes a “closet virgin” by hiding her purity ring (never heard of such a thing) and in the end says, “my current sexual status is of no one’s business but my own.” Ok then, if its not anyones business, why write about it? This article was a waste of time. I already found out about the show on other news sources.

    Being a virgin isnt a bad thing, if thats your thing. I was happy to give it up and havent looked back.

  3. Guest says:

    @John, I thought the same thing. She wrote dissertation on a pointless reality show meant to get eyeballs not praise women who respect their bodies, then how being a virgin was a burden then to end it with none of our business made the whole article POINTLESS!!! I would have hoped my daughter (who was featured in Seventeen mag TWICE) would have said “I’m still a PROUD virgin and will not let an immature male decide MY BODY!!”

    Right now a former buckeye student athlete is the laughing stock of the country for sending a nude pic to her dad. The saddest part is this child would rather rant on social media then use this moment to apologize to dad (since you humiliated him NATIONALLY) and change her behavior but then why when you have friends who say “Oh she’s just being her (wow these chicks weren’t booted from a buckeye team???????)!!” Raising daughters with raging hormones (and keep football team from sleeping with your whole team hahaha) is VERY difficult (Coach Karen Dennis just screamed AMEN and I bet glad she BOOTED this child) but I wasn’t even naive enough to expect them to stay virgins until married!!!!

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