On the eve of the Twilight: Breaking Dawn premiere, people all over the country are lining up to watch Bella (finally) lose her virginity with sparkly vampire and true love Edward Cullen. This being Twilight, there will be a proper white wedding before the deflowering, and not a moment too soon, seeing as Bella has spent three movies (and books) begging Edward to have sex with her already. Although there have been a billion words written and spoken about the meaning and importance of Bella's virginity (be it about romantic love or Mormon abstinence propaganda) almost nothing has been said about Edward Cullen and his 107-year-old virgin status.
In fact, I had no idea that Edward never had sex until I came across a paper by fellow virginity geek Jonathan Allan, a grad student in Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. The paper examines the idea of male virginity in romance novels, and although he says there is no official announcement of Edward's sexual status, he cites various examples alluding to it. Here's one scene from the book Breaking Dawn which occurs after the engagement but before the wedding:
"He started to pull away - that was his automatic response whenever he decided things had gone too far, his reflex reaction whenever he most wanted to keep going. Edward spent most of his life rejecting any kind of physical gratification. I knew it was terrifying him to change those habits now."
I continued my research in a less academic frame of mind, and typed 'Is Edward Cullen a virgin?' into Google. I got unequivocally affirmative responses:
"In the first book in the series it states Bella is a virgin, but Edward said he has never found a vampire or human he's been with before Bella."
"After Edward asks Bella about her romantic relationships (or lack thereof)...and she says, like him, she has had almost NO experience...he says 'that's another thing we have in common, then'...meaning that they are both virgins."
"In Breaking Dawn he tells Bella and he had to ask Emmet and Jasper for advice on what to expect before his and Bella's honeymoon."
I'm so used to the usual double-standard scenario of a young woman needing to remain pure with no such expectations placed on a man, this revelation is sort of nice. But the question remains: Why do we spend so much time fascinated with Bella's virginity and almost none with Edward's? Here are some more excerpts from Jonathan's paper:
"The answer for this is likely not an easy one, indeed, the question could be extended further: Why has so much of the discussion of virginity focussed on women and not men? Edward Cullen represents an important part of the discussion of virginity in Twilight because, in a sense, it destabilises the discourse about virginity.
There is a remarkable reluctance to speak about male virginity [...] After all, who would want to end up a Steve Carrell character [in The 40-Year-Old Virgin]? The narrative that unfolds shows the strangeness of male virginity mostly because it would seem to contradict the stereotypes of male sexuality. From the perspective of the critic, this is an interesting inversion of the generic norms. Here it is Edward who must maintain his virginity and it is Bella who longs to lose her virginity, which in romance would generally render her the deviant. Instead, in the Twilight Saga, male virginity becomes something of a deviation from the norm.
Ultimately, it is Edward’s virginity that makes him deviate from the accepted norms, thus rendering him monstrous, rather than his vampirism, which oddly enough renders him rather human."
Aside from Jonathan's work, the silence on this subject is deafening. Female virginity has always been given a disproportionate amount of attention, but at the same time, hasn't an entire film genre has been built around guys losing it?
Do we just have an easier time talking about male virginity when it's a comic spectacle, and are we at a loss for words when it's simply a matter-of-fact part of a guy's life?