What These Movie Virginity Loss Scenes Are Really Saying

Find me a teen movie, any teen movie, and I'll show you at least one character obsessed with losing their virginity. The storyline is used in just about every YA book, teen TV show, and movie, perhaps because it's so eminently relatable. The manner in which a person has sex for the first time – how, when, and with whom — is typically a major decision, and ideally an exercise of personal agency.
In movies, virginity loss scenes often contain hidden messaging about what sex means, and what its repercussions for an individual are. For male characters, sex is viewed as a conquest, and the loss of virginity is accompanied by a metaphorical trophy that says: Welcome to Manhood. Entire movies, like American Pie, are centered around boys relentlessly pursuing sex. Typically, that's not how sex is portrayed for women characters (exception: Michaela Cole's Chewing Gum, a TV show centered around one sheltered woman's quest to lose her virginity). If a movie shows a woman losing her virginity, it's either some momentous and romantic occasion, or something that comes with major repercussions, for better or for worse.
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We've been imbibing these messages our whole lives. Let's take a look back on these first sex scenes, and read what they're really saying.
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Photos by Curtis Baker and Guy D'Alema. Courtesy of A24.
Hot Summer Nights (2018)

The virgin: McKayla (Maika Monroe) and Daniel (Timothée Chalamet)

The scene: Although not the most memorable film of 2018, Hot Summer Nights did contain a very sweet virginity scene between two of Cape Cod's most notorious teens. McKayla and Daniel find themselves in a small car during a summer rainstorm, and things start to steam up. Right in the heat of the moment, Daniel makes a comment about McKayla not being a virgin, when she is. Her reputation around town precedes her, he implies, and she shuts down. He immediately apologizes, admitting he was taking town gossip to heart. The two eventually forgive each other, and start to kiss again.

What's it saying? I'll let Monroe explain the importance of this moment between McKayla and Daniel herself: "I feel like people make up this idea of who she is and think 'Of course she’s had sex because she wears those clothes and talks to those people,' but in actuality, it isn't true. I liked that you viewed her a certain kind of way, and then as the story goes on you get to know her better and understand where she comes from and why she is the way that she is."

— M.B.
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Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982)

The virgin: Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh)

The scene: In pursuit of some sexual experience, 15-year-old Stacy meets an older man named Ron (D.W. Browne) at the mall. She lies about her age. Later that day, he takes her to the Point, a local hookup spot, for a very not-sexy sexual encounter.

What's it saying? So many teen movies from the '80s (and in general) focus on packs of boys trying to lose their virginity. It's seen as a huge victory. But for Stacy in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, losing your virginity comes with further risk and pain. It's not a lark. Ron ditches her, and she ends up having an affair with a man who gets her pregnant. This scene is more punitive than it is realistic. It reinforces the idea that sex is dangerous for women, and comes with negative repercussions.
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American Pie (1999)

The virgins: There are four! Jim (Jason Biggs), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Oz (Chris Klein), and Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas). Each high school senior vows to lose his virginity by the year's end.

The scenes: All four boys have sex at a prom after-party, of course.

What's it saying? First of all, American Pie says that having sex is practically a precondition for attending college. American Pie also insinuates that sex is a game for boys, and can be accompanied by all the romps and pranks that the friend group demands (including making a live recording of an encounter).
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Love & Basketball (2000)

The virgin: Monica (Sanaa Lathan)

The scene: After staring at each other silently, Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Q (Omar Epps) take their years-long relationship to the next level.

What's it saying? For a young couple, sex can be a near-sacred experience. The movie doesn't underplay just how important this encounter is for them. Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps look at each other with a realistic mixture of awe, reverence, and coltish fear. Epps’ Quincy even takes a break to reach for the condom, giving this scene more awkward realness than any of the others on this list. You can tell they’re crossing this big threshold together. In a word, it's sweet.
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The Forty Year Old Virgin (2005)

The virgin: Andy (Steve Carrell)

The scene: After 40 whole years, Andy finally loses his virginity to his new wife, played by Catherine Keener. Afterwards, she asks him, "How was that for you?" Naturally, Andy breaks out into "Aquarius" from Hair, and the scene transitions into a '60s-themed musical number.

What's it saying? Look, Andy has reason to celebrate. He's found a wonderful woman, and yes, he's had sex at last. His happiness is reflected in the glorious chorus of "Aquarius." Let the sun shine in, indeed.
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Frenesy Film Co/Sony/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
Call Me By Your Name (2017)

The virgins: Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and Marzia (Esther Garrel)

The scene: Each summer, Elio and Marzia met up in the Northern Italian town where their parents had summer homes. They watched each other grow up. The summer they're 17, they take turn their flirtation into romance — kind of. Though Elio is pining after Oliver (Armie Hammer), he distracts himself with Marzia. They lose their virginity to each other by the river.

What's it saying? Elio announces that he's lost his virginity to his father and Oliver the morning after it happens, as if he's being inducted into the man club. Having sex has little to no repercussions on Elio's mental state. He leaves Marzia behind for Oliver. Marzia, on the other hand, is more attached to Elio as a result. Having sex leads to a heightened sense of heartbreak for her. The movie doesn't "punish" her having sex; rather, the sex scene shows that she's in an unfortunate situation with a man who doesn't reciprocate her feelings.
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Juno (2007)

The virgin: Juno (Ellen Page) and Paulie (Michael Cera)

The scene: Paulie sits on the LA-Z-Boy, and awaits as Juno approaches him. "I've wanted to have this for a really long time," Paulie says.

What's it saying? The scene itself is sweet. But it has major repercussions for both Juno and Paulie, which are explored over the course of the movie. Juno gets pregnant the very first time she has sex and decides to give her child up for adoption, thus inciting the whole movie's action.
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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012)

The virgin: Bella (Kristen Stewart)

The scene: Throughout their relationship, Edward (Robert Pattinson) nobly resisted having sex with Bella (Kristen Stewart) out of fear that his vampire instincts would take over, and he’d destroy her. Casual. Despite waiting years, they decide to have sex on their honeymoon while Bella's still a human.

What's it saying? In the world of Twilight, sex is always equated with danger. Edward might not be able to control himself, but hey — it's not his fault, right? He's a vampire. You can decide whether or not this logic is problematic for teenage girls at your leisure. Still, Edward restrains himself during their first time having sex. Unfortunately for Bella, Edward don’t use his capabilities of super-speed, either, which is arguably the best part of sex with a vampire. Also, Bella gets pregnant with a vampire-human child that attempts to crawl its way out of her stomach, so this scene has major repercussions for her.
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Endless Love (2014)

The virgin: Jade (Gabriella Wilde)

The scene: The writers of Endless Love must have just read Judy Blume’s Forever before writing the movie, because the book's loss of virginity scene really resembles this one. Jade (Gabriella Wilde) loses her virginity to David (Alex Pettyfer) on the floor, near a blazing fireplace. In Blume’s seminal text on teenage sexuality and growing up, the protagonist loses her virginity to her boyfriend in much the same way.

What's it saying? This scene is the platonic ideal of a teen movie virginity loss. There’s romantic music, a blazing fireplace, and a white shag carpet that miraculously doesn’t get stained. Before they do the deed, Jade and Alex have a heart-to-heart. This scene lacks the trembling awkwardness seen in some of the other movies, and seems to say that sex should be had only if it's to the swelling of violins.
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The Spectacular Now (2014)

The virgin: Amy (Shailene Woodley)

The scene: Sutter (Miles Teller) and Amy (Shailene Woodley) sit on a bed, and laugh their way towards taking off each other’s clothes. They’re such excited and terrified teenagers. Amy whispers, “I like you so much.”

What's it saying? Sex is a rite of passage, and it can be a sweet one. You can imagine this scene taking place in essentially any suburban house, when parents are away. This love scene is reminiscent of the one featured in Love & Basketball, and also includes a short break to retrieve a condom from the bedside table.
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Lady Bird (2017)

The virgin: Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan)

The scene: Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) thinks she’s met her intellectual equal in Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), who sulks around his high school like he can’t wait to graduate and read philosophy full time. After dating a while, Lady Bird is ready to take the plunge into a post-virginity life. They have sex, and she’s disappointed to find out that not only was he not a virgin, he isn’t in love.

What's it saying? Losing your virginity isn't all it's cracked up to be. Like the rest of Lady Bird, this scene is eminently relatable. Sex and “the first time” symbolizes something different to everyone. Whereas Lady Bird was hoping for an emotional breakthrough achieved through bodily communion, sex isn't a big deal for Kyle. He remains blasé afterwards.
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