Maybe we should all blame Judd Apatow, but I find the way Hollywood handles older virgins kind of fascinating, something that came up again earlier today in the panel for Are You There, Chelsea?, the new NBC comedy for alcoholics with a lot of rage at their families*. A lot of the time it’s just the amazement that people have made it past whatever arbitrary age — 18, 25, 40 — without having sex. And sure, there are not a ton of older virgins, but they’re hardly mythical creatures. Sometimes, it just doesn’t happen for people.
But more to the point, there’s the idea that if someone is a virgin at an advanced age, they need to be fixed, as if virginity is inherently a flaw or the result of someone being damaged. Sometimes, as The 40 Year Old Virgin put it, sex jus doesn’t happen for people. That movie was probably the most positive way to spin that particular kind of plot arc — Andy wants to have sex, but after some bad experiences, has essentially stopped trying. That it hasn’t happened isn’t really his fault, and he’s not an inherently damaged person. The advice he’s given turns out to be mostly BS, too: there is no secret code for getting with women or having satisfying sex. He just has to find someone he feels comfortable with.
That hasn’t exactly been the case with television recently, though. Glee’s played out Emma as an incredibly damaged person who does bad things to other people by virtue of refusing to fix herself. I don’t know what will happen in the upcoming arc where Will proposes to her. But the show has not exactly handled her with delicacy and empathy. Now, Are You There, Chelsea? is going to have its bitter, alcoholic party girl rooming with another late-twenties virgin, Dee Dee, who I am informed by the network no longer has her eyes pop all the time. Lauren Lapkus, who plays Dee Dee explains: “She has really strong morals, religious morals. But she’s able to go with the flow. And then kind of help her open herself up in different ways. And over the course of the season she has experiences she wouldn’t necessarily have with different guys.” Which, you know, okay. I like the idea of a sympathetic religious character on network television. But I really hope they treat her as if she has something to bring to the table, rather than having her deliver moralistic sermons on subjects that Chelsea’s already made her mind up on. And as for her getting opened up to new experiences? I’m not sure Chelsea Handler, fictional or otherwise, is someone who should guide someone in a sensitive way towards their deflowering.
*Chelsea Handler’s explanation for why she’s playing a character based on her own sister? “I have a sister. Period. Her name isn’t Sloane. And we had to change her name for legal reasons, so my own family can’t sue me…Everything I’ve been accusing her of my whole life I can now reenact before her eyes.”