Sexism affects people of all genders, but it affects us all differently. Women, whether virgins or sexually active, tend to be demonized and ridiculed. But for men, virginity is the ultimate crime. Whether the guy just hasn’t had the opportunity for sex or has chosen to wait, it doesn’t matter. According to our society, men who have not had sex, particularly with a woman, are somehow lacking. So when a prominent male figure is revealed or even implied to be a virgin (for whatever reason), there tends to be something of an uproar. In our media, there is almost never a virgin male character, and when there is, they are either portrayed as having something wrong with them or almost their entire plotline is dedicated to them losing their virginity. For our pop culture to have a character who doesn’t follow these rules is rare and frankly revolutionary. That’s why I am so happy that Steve Rogers, Captain America himself, is a virgin.
It’s not necessarily a proven fact that Steve Rogers, at least in the movies, is a virgin, but based on the context and conversations in the Captain America movies, it is more than likely. And that is just awesome! What isn’t so great, though, are articles like this speculating about Steve’s virginity. Hypable recently posted an article discussing Captain America’s virginity only a few days before the new Avengers movie came out. The article implies several harmful things when it comes to male virginity.
That’s when the topic of Captain America’s virginity came up. Evans was not directly asked but decided to answer it anyway. “A love interest?” EW asked. “It’s funny when you think about it — he’s probably a virgin,” Evans said with a laugh. “He’s probably a virgin! I don’t know when it would’ve happened.”
As Evans rightly points out, Captain America’s Scrawny Steven Rogers days weren’t the most pleasant in terms of the character’s physical appeal. It’s possible his less-than-great looks, coupled with his frame of mind in the 1920s, blocked him from getting some action.
Now though? As a perfect human? He could definitely get it. From who? Any one of our readers, for starters. It’s just that he’s too busy fighting people like Ultron.
I have a couple problems with this. Obviously the article is meant to be lighthearted and funny, but that doesn’t mean that any problematic material should be dismissed. First, there is the assertion that Steve Rogers was a virgin before he became Captain America, because he wasn’t attractive. So just because someone isn’t just covered in rippling muscle, it means they could never get laid. Pre-serum Steve was not ugly and on top of that he was absolutely kind, just, and loving. The serum didn’t give Steve his great attributes. There was probably more than one person who was in love with Steve before the serum.
Then there is the assumption that his 1920’s frame of mind would prevent Steve from having sex. You mean the Roaring Twenties?! The era of booze and jazz, when skirts were dangerously above the knee? Yeah, despite what your grandparents may say, there really was never a time when people weren’t having premarital sex. They were just more secretive about it. But what really annoys me about the above paragraph is that it completely ignores the idea that this was Steve’s personal choice. Steve tells Peggy in the first Captain America movie that he was never very good with women, but he then explains that his awkwardness was not the biggest issue. Rather it’s that he was waiting for the right person. Whether that means Steve was waiting until marriage or just to fall in love is irrelevant; the point is, he made the conscious decision to wait to have sex.
The amazing this about this is that Steve is never ridiculed or made fun of for this in the movies. If anything it’s portrayed as something of a non-issue, and quite honestly that is a pretty revolutionary for a character of any gender. While I am a fan of discussing sex and sexuality, I do have to admit that our society as a whole is obsessed with other people’s sex lives. Maybe Steve had sex before he became Captain America; maybe he didn’t. Who cares? The answer is, sadly, a lot of people—because if Captain America, who is in many ways considered by society to be a fine example of manhood, hasn’t had sex, then he has really broken society’s expectations of what a male hero looks like. Captain America being a virgin means that you don’t have to sleep with every woman you meet in some Bond-esque manner to be a hero. Captain America in a lot of ways redefines expectations of what it means to be a “real man”.
But, of course, our society can’t have that, so articles like the one from Hypable pop up proclaiming how unfortunate it is that Steve is a virgin. They even ask the reader to actively participate in stating how unfortunate it is that Cap is a virgin. This also objectifies Steve Rogers because the only reason his virginity is “unfortunate” is because our society has judged him to be “fuckable”.
Fortunately I wasn’t the only one to have a problem with this, and I am so glad readers were critical enough to pick up on the problem here. Men are shamed constantly for being virgins and here we finally get a character who may be a virgin and it’s not a big deal. To him or to others. That’s amazing.
The other issue here is how weirdly heteronormative this concept around virginity is. How do we know that we know that Steve didn’t have sex with Bucky ages ago? It’s not exactly something he would have discussed with people at the time. What if Steve was asexual and simply wasn’t into sex at all? But that is never discussed or even hinted at. It’s very clear that Captain America’s virginity is in a lot of ways based on the assumption that he is heterosexual and heteroromantic.
While I like that Steve’s virginity is a nonissue in the movies, I have to admit I would like some acknowledgement that Steve is actually a virgin. There is not enough positive representation of male virginity in our pop culture, and having a character who is confident in themselves and unconcerned about losing their virginity would be great. Having a prominent male hero be a virgin would really go a long way to help portray male virginity as normal and okay, and that is certainly something we need more of.