March 2004

Veronica Bond

21st Century Fox

Purposeful Promiscuity

For Stacy Temple, the word of God can be found in Cosmo, one's clothes dictate the nature of one's character, and the online ramblings of hot-headed sex columnist can be enough to steer the course of one's life. As the protagonist of Valerie Frankel's The Accidental Virgin, Stacy's mission is to have sex as soon as possible, with whomever possible, in order to prevent her so-called revirginization. The fact that the idea of a "born-again virgin" isn't even a concept in which Stacy believes bears no relevance to her trials. Stacy needs sex, and she needs it fast, and that's all her little brain can comprehend.

The idea that virginity is based on the length of time since the last sexual encounter, or how many sexual partners a woman has had isn't funny or clever -- it's just dumb. Furthermore, the idea that women ought to base their sexual statuses on insipid columns, such as the one from which Stacy culls her information, is insulting to our intelligence as an entire gender. Are we to believe that women as so impressionable as to forego their own desires in order to please someone completely unknown? For Stacy, who hasn't even read the column but has merely received second-hand information from her best friend, Charlie, it seems to be true, as the novel follows her continuing blunders from man to man as she tries desperately to drag one away to bed. Or, at least, to a vacant supply closet.

The plot of this novel needs no further description than that, but the premise does raise interesting questions as to the importance of a woman's sexual prowess. How much of women's concepts of their own sexuality is still directed by media personalities with whom we have no actual contact? I'd venture to say a great deal, given the constant popularity of magazines advertising "10 Ways to Satisfy your Man" and "Positions to Drive Him Wild" on their covers. Though the focus has shifted away from promoting chastity as the utmost feminine virtue, the promotion of promiscuity is no better a solution to defining an appropriate amount of female sexuality. The catch, if course, is that there is no right answer here: It all comes down to choice. Whether a woman chooses to have few sexual partners or many is her own decision to make, and one which Stacy doesn't seem to find herself capable of making. "By having sex with women I don't love," says Charlie, during a lunch in which the two analyze Stacy's, thus far, failed sexual attempts, "I'm avoiding an emotionally risky situation myself. But men can have sex for sex's sake without guilt. Women can't have casual sex without the after-glow of self-loathing. That's why your revirgination project is failing. You think you're in hot pursuit of casual sex but, by choosing the wrong partners, you're making sure you won't actually get it. Because if you did you'd hate yourself."

Ironically, the hard-hearted online columnist who initially proposed the idea of revirginization retracts all of her previous pro-promiscuity declarations when, in her final column, announces that she has broken up with her boyfriend and that her entire persona is a farce without his inspiration. This makes Stacy's numerous attempted trysts -- including Charlie, her ex-boyfriend who she tries to steal away from his current fiance, her female co-worker, her boss's son, a male escort, a high-powered executive wishing to merge his online company with hers, her mysterious next-door neighbor, and an Israeli deliveryman, all within the course of one week -- seem all the more ridiculous and debasing. That, in the end, Stacy chooses not to jump all over her potential new boyfriend and, instead, get to know him before sleeping with him, is hardly comforting, given how easily she is influenced by those she has never even met.

Though Frankel's book is meant to provide the reader with a quick laugh at a woman's desperate attempts to get laid, it's difficult to find anything funny about the lengths women go to in order to prevent receiving a label, no matter how absurd and detached from themselves that label may be. With bad puns - one used eating sushi as a metaphor for oral sex - and trite story line, The Accidental Virgin serves as just another piece of bad chick lit, masquerading as a feel-good story for women who haven't gotten laid in ages. The actual moral here is, whether few sexual partners or many, and whether recent or in years past, don't believe what a bunch of hacks tell you what you should do. The Accidental Virgin by Valerie Frankel
Avon Books
ISBN: 0060938412
277 pages