Film Description & Synopses
What if all we had to lose were our virginity myths?
This funny, eye-opening, and thought-provoking documentary explores why female virginity is still so valued in our hyper-sexualized society. Traveling through the worlds of religion, history, pop culture and $30 internet hymens, the film reveals the myths and misogyny behind a rite of passage that everyone thinks about but few truly understand.
It has launched both purity balls and porn franchises, defines a young woman’s morality–but has no medical definition. Enter the magical world of virginity, where a white wedding dress can restore a woman’s innocence and replacement hymens can be purchased online.
Filmmaker Therese Shechter uses comedy and her own path out of virginity to explore why our sex-crazed society cherishes this so-called precious gift. Along the way, we meet sex educators, virginity auctioneers, abstinence advocates, and young men and women who bare their tales of doing it—or not doing it.
How to Lose Your Virginity uncovers the myths and misogyny surrounding a rite of passage that many obsesses about but few truly understand.
Female virginity has been ‘restored’ through surgery, fetishized by porn and glorified by popular culture. A woman’s ‘virginity’ recently fetched $780,000 at auction, and an ‘artificial hymen’ sells online for $30. Fifty years after the sexual revolution, this outmoded construct continues to define a young woman’s morality and self-worth.
Why does virginity hold such importance in our sex-crazed society? Unleashing her trademark inquisitive and hilarious voice, filmmaker Therese Shechter sets her sights on this rite of passage that almost everyone experiences, but few fully understand. Layering verite, interviews and vintage sex-ed films with candid reflection and wry narration, How To Lose Your Virginity is a personal journey and an eye-opening study of modern sexuality.
Using her own path out of ‘virginity’ to frame the narrative, Shechter creates a far-reaching dialogue with women across the sexuality spectrum: Lena, once shamed for writing about her sex life, is now organizing around it; Judy, a Julliard-trained violinist prays to keep mind and body pure while touring with provocateur Lady Gaga; Meghan, a transgender woman re-evaluates what sex and virginity mean to her changing body.
When Shechter gets engaged, she too gets caught up in the virgin industrial complex of the bridal salon as she tries on The Big White Dress and wonders if it makes her look virginal; and on the set of porn franchise “Barely Legal,” she find the ultimate contradiction in a pair of white cotton panties. Using sly humor and candid revelations, the documentary showcases a daring commitment to deeply personal storytelling.The film and interactive spin-offs take the narrative back from the distorted messages of media, religion and porn, to empower us to chart our own sexual paths.
Female virginity has been ‘restored’ through surgery, fetishized by porn and glorified by popular culture. A woman’s ‘virginity’ received a $780,000 bid at auction, and an ‘artificial hymen’ sells online for $30. Fifty years after the sexual revolution, this outmoded construct continues to define a young woman’s morality and self-worth. Ironically, in this culture, sex is “everywhere” and yet, barely any space exists for open, non-judgmental dialogue and exploration of sexuality.
Why does virginity still hold importance in our sex-crazed society? It’s into this world, camera in tow, that filmmaker Therese Shechter ventures. Unleashing the same inquisitive and irreverent voice that drove her first documentary, I Was A Teenage Feminist, she sets her sights on this milestone that almost everyone experiences, but few fully understand. Layering verite, interviews and vintage sex-ed films with candid reflection and wry narration, How To Lose Your Virginity is a personal journey and an eye-opening study of modern sexuality.
Everyone has a virginity story to tell, and Shechter uses her own path out of ‘virginity’ to frame the narrative. She creates a far-reaching, personal dialogue with women across the sexuality spectrum, bearing witness to candid and moving stories about the decision to have—or not have—sex. With equal parts humor and empathy, the film introduces us to real women talking candidly about the complexities of their sexual lives: Lena, once shamed for writing about her sex life, now organizing around it; Judy, a Julliard-trained violinist praying to keep mind and body pure while touring with provocateur Lady Gaga; Meghan, a transgender woman re-evaluating what sex and virginity mean to her in a changing body; Abiola, sex educator and multi-media curator who has chosen to be celibate herself; and in a crowded fluorescent-bulbed school hallway, a ‘Greek Chorus’ of teenagers who can’t agree on one definition for virginity.
Traveling through the revelatory terrain of US pop culture, religion and history, the film exposes a landscape of contradictions for young women. We meet sex educators, porn producers and abstinence ideologues, revealing how ‘hookup culture’ and ‘abstinence-until-marriage’ both exploit the age-old virgin/whore dichotomy. When Shechter gets engaged mid-film, she finds herself caught up in the same dichotomy. Standing in a plush bridal salon, a 40-something sex-savvy feminist trying on The Big White Dress, she’s drawn to its pouffy allure, yet furious at its chaste implications. And when she spends the day on the set with “Barely Legal” porn producer Erica McLean, we see the ultimate contradiction in a pair of white cotton panties worn by an adult video actress.
We meet experts caught up in fraught conversations about female sexuality: Former US Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders, fired for her outspoken views on sex education; COSMOGIRL! Editor Susan Schulz, deluged with complaints when an issue included a diagram of a vulva; and United Nations’ Dr. Henia Dakkak, who denounces virginity testing and its devastating consequences.
How To Lose Your Virginity is the first documentary to fully examine how the concept of virginity shapes the sexual lives of young women and men by journeying beyond the Abstinence-Until-Marriage movement to examine the intersecting forces of history, politics, religion and popular culture. It is also the first to do so by employing humor, a first-person style and personal revelation to encourage a direct dialogue on sexuality between the filmmakers and their young adult audience.
The project showcases Shechter’s distinctive and irreverent humor, and her commitment to personal revelation to disarm and engage her audience. The larger project includes an interactive online crowd-sourced storytelling project about ‘sexual debuts and deferrals,’ with a prototype mobile app in development; an ongoing giveaway of V-Cards, a subversive twist on coffee-shop punch cards; and the blog, founded in 2008 to address global and domestic issues around male and female virginity and sexuality in real time.
How To Lose Your Virginity , along with its social media spin-offs, reveals how arbitrary and absurd our obsession with virginity is. Whether young women choose to have sex or not, this film strips away the power of the V-Word to create a community for building healthy, authentic sexual lives.