This past weekend, I saw Miranda Huba's one-woman play Candy Tastes Nice in which she plays a young woman who decides to auction off her virginity to pay her crushing student loans. While the play begins fairly grounded in the ripped-from-the-headlines story of Natalie Dylan, it soon spins off into fantastical directions that involve the United Nations, a trio of sex-worker handmaidens and a shady guy in a van who gives out virginity certificates. I've been thinking about the virginity construct from a documentary perspective for a long time, so it was fun to see a totally different expression of it. I talked to Miranda, a fellow Canadian, after the show:
Can you give a quick description about the show and what you're responding to culturally?
Candy Tastes Nice is the story of a young woman who decides to auction off her virginity to pay off her student loans. It is a response not only to cultural and historical obsessions with virginity, but to the hyper-sexualization of the female body in media and popular culture.
Do you have a working definition of virginity? And does that inform how she finally 'loses' it in the play?
Well, for me a virgin is someone who hasn't had sex, and for me sex can be either oral or intercourse. In the play, however, I am working with a more acknowledged/traditional definition of sex ie. penetration. Also, culturally the concept of a virgin (as it pertains to women) means more than just sex, it’s about being a ‘good girl,’ maintaining youthfulness, and all those other things women are ‘supposed’ to be or do. In the play the woman must provide some sort of ‘proof’ that she is a virgin (blood on the sheets etc.). Of course, men never have to prove their virginity, only women. The play examines the many myths and rituals to do with virginity, and just how ridiculous it all is when we really look at it.
One of the themes running through the show is that because she remains a virgin, her body ages more quickly. That's a different take from the 'perpetual girlhood' fetish of virginity. Can you talk a bit about that?
The idea in the play is that she is being kept a virgin because people are making a lot of money off of her remaining a virgin. This oppression manifests itself in the aging of the body. The concept being that the extreme effort in takes to stay pure and untainted actually has an adverse effect on the body. The pressure of having to fit into someone’s idea of the pure takes a toll physically and emotionally.
Because I grew up in Canada, I sometimes feel like I can look at the US from a bit of an outsider perspective. Do you feel that way, and if so, how does that play out for you?
I do feel that way sometimes. I used to think the US and Canada were very similar, but after living here for a while you realize the extreme cultural, social and political differences. I think it’s fantastic for my writing. I see things through a slightly different lens, which gives a unique perspective.
There have been no Canadian virginity auctioneers–that I know of. Is that because university education is subsidized by the government?
Not only education, but healthcare as well. In my experience growing up as a teenager in a rural community in British Columbia the sex education at the only public high school for miles was actually very good. There was even a condom machine in the bathroom (although they should have been giving them away). Also since it’s part of the culture that health care is a right I feel like young people are more likely to seek medical advice regarding sexual health. In America there is definitely a more vocal culture that supports a preoccupation with virginity. There is abstinence only education in many states, purity balls, pageant culture and a much bigger reality TV market. These events/policies create a fetishization with virginity rather than healthy ideas about sexuality.
Do you have a personal virginity story you want to share?
I lost my virginity when I was 19. It was pretty uneventful. He was my college boyfriend. I remember being kind of annoyed because he didn't stay over. He has to get his family's car back home. A totally sweet guy though!
Show Info: Candy Tastes Nice runs in New York to March 23rd, 2013 on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8pm in the upstairs lounge at Madame X on 94 Houston Street. Tickets available at http://candytastesnicenyc.brownpapertickets.com