Toronto-set web series Virgins! celebrates the joys of being sexless

Creator Aden Abebe chronicles the lives of four East African millennial women as they navigate adulthood without a certain rite of passage

Whether it’s Issa Rae’s pursuit of sexual partners on Insecure or Michaela Coel’s quest to lose her virginity on Chewing Gum, Black women on TV are increasingly affirming and expressing their desire for sex. But one Toronto-based web series is celebrating the overlooked joys of being sexless.

Virgins! follows four young women from the city’s East African diaspora as they navigate adulthood without a certain rite of passage. There’s Sara, “the Family Honour Virgin,” Delina “the Bride of Christ Virgin,” Amina “the Apprehensive Queer Virgin” and Aby “the Analytical Intellectual Virgin.”

When we catch up with them in the pilot, Aby has just been given a new account at her advertising firm – branding a sex toy – and she fears her lack of experience makes her unfit for the task.

Funny and insightful, Virgins! launches with a special screening on July 7 at the Toronto Media Arts Centre (32 Lisgar), which also features a panel discussion with show creator Aden Abebe and the series’ writers as well as a table-read of new work by the show’s stars. 

It’s the first production from creator, producer and head writer Abebe, who talks to NOW about creating a show about the lives of the most sexless generation since the Great Depression.

Why a show about four sexless millennials?

I wanted to create a story that showcases four women who were sexy, empowered and had agency over their lives… they just weren’t having sex. [Virginity] is one of those things I found to be such a secret. We’d acknowledge it within our [East African] community, but it was kept secret from our non-East African friends and that comes from being in two cultures that have very different relationships with virginity.

What are those differences and how do the characters attempt to navigate them?

One of my favourite examples is wearing a dress that shows a little bit of cleavage and trying to walk out of your parent’s house and they’re like: “Why are you showing so much of your body?” You leave the house regardless, meet up with your friends and they’re like: “Why do you wear such loose fitting clothes?” They’re both looking at the same outfit but in one space you’re too provocative and in another space you’re too modest.

I wanted to showcase examples of existing in those two spaces. The four girls are virgins for different reasons. They have different understandings and relationships with their culture and their faith and the audience will get to see the variation in the choices they make.

Virginity has often been depicted in film and television as an embarrassing adolescent phase that one should exit from as soon as possible. But Virgins! counters that view.

When you disclose that you’re a virgin and you’re past your teens, you get characterized into a box. You’re viewed as undesirable or pathetic or you’re seen as repressed in some way, maybe your spirituality is repressing you or you have self-esteem issues. It’s always seen as coming from a deficit, which I think is bull.

There’s so many reasons that people make this decision and I wanted to help change the narrative for people who judge virgins for being virgins. I also want to empower people who have made this decision – to see positive representations of what virginity is, what virgins could look like and how cool they are.

Virgins! is streaming on YouTube. Watch the first episode below: | @missrattan

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