Our Lips Are Sealed: TLC’s “Virgin Diaries”

TLC, hot from a string of controversial new reality shows, has done it again with their new series “Virgin Diaries.” Focusing on various people in their 20s and 30s, the show gives snapshots of their backstories and how they “cope” with their virginity.

I saw a very funny preview online in December. Directors focused on a young couple who had decided to wait until their wedding day to have their first kiss. It was by no means a picture perfect kiss like in the movies. After I caught my breath from laughter, I started to wonder what was actually so funny about it. Was it their naiveté, their prudishness, or their inexperience? I then felt uneasy that I was participating in one of my biggest pet peeves: judging other peoples’ lives.

TLC released a few more clips from the series, setting up the featured guests for nation-wide ridicule. One scene I was particularly bothered by was a group of three women who all claimed to be “virgins:” two had never had sex before and one woman claimed herself to be a “reclaimed virgin,” meaning she had had sex before, but wanted to ignore the experience and start again abstinent. After hearing the last woman’s statement, the other two virgins shifted their eyes uncomfortably and were noticeably perturbed. I couldn’t tell if their faces showed signs of jealousy or judgment. Already marginalized for their sexuality (or lack thereof), these two women also judged a woman who created standards for herself.

I guess the overall issue is TLC’s deliberate ignoring of privacy and respect for others’ sexual beliefs — though, granted, all interviewees give consent to tell their stories. By exploiting these self-proclaimed virgins, it pokes fun at the sexually inactive while still stigmatizing the sexually active as promiscuous. With the show “Virgin Diaries,” there is no safe zone for women’s sexuality and behavior. We can either be the promiscuous slut or the awkward virgin, leaving no room for a normalized perception of sex. With two erroneous views of sexual expectations, the hated virgin-whore dichotomy is perpetuated.

I don’t think I’ll have the time nor the mental strength to sit and watch a whole episode of “Virgin Diaries,” but I do predict a short air-time and critiques from multiple avenues.

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