A quick rundown by yours truly of the oldest characters in storydom comes up with the following:
- The Hero
- The Villain/Villainess
- The Virgin
You've got those three, you've got a story. Oh, sure there are variations out the wazoo, and there are always extra characters: The Hero can always use a Sidekick (from Dr. Watson to Mary Lou) or a Wise Counselor (Gandalf to Jimminy Crickets), and Villains generally have to helpers (from Orcs to gang members). Virgins - well, somebody has to give birth to them, but that's all. In fairy tales the mothers usually die off pretty quick. Snow White, Cinderella, almost every Gothic Romance heroine - they're all orphans. And even if Daddy survived, he gets hitched up to the Evil Witch, and there you go, Cindy might as well be an orphan.
So you really, really, really need a virgin. And a virgin is always female.
“[N]o language has ever had a word for a virgin man.”
― Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage
by Domenichino, c. 1604–05 (Palazzo Farnese, Rome)
(2b) The older hero has to have someone to rescue, with whom it's no struggle to stay paternal and platonic. Think Rooster Cogburn and Mattie Ross; Ripley and Newt (Aliens); also almost every Shirley Temple movie ever made.
(3a) The villain has to have someone to threaten, someone pure and (when in serious trouble) damn near naked (again, it's okay because she's pure). (King Kong and Fay Wray, and every single horror movie made until today, and beyond, which leads to:
(3b) The Horror Movie - only the virgin survives. Read the excellent Death by Sex article on how the best way for a girl to get killed in a horror movie is to have sex.) So when you hear weird things in the night, make sure you're a virgin, and everything (might) be okay.
NOTE: I remember the only fairy tale where the hero didn't choose little Miss Goldilocks was The Twelve Dancing Princesses: instead, when they asked him which princess he wanted to marry he said, "I am no longer young; give me the eldest."(5) The hero has to have someone to moon over - and with that, we get to noir.
“I used to be Snow White, but I drifted.”
― Mae West
There's the noir hero, who's always getting punched, kicked, shot, tortured, and generally mutilated in the course the novel/film. But he gets back up, and after some cold water and whiskey (the noir all-purpose medication and disinfectant), he's back for the next brutality in his search for truth, justice, and his client.
|All that's missing is the virgin...|
"Every Harlot was a Virgin once."
-- WILLIAM BLAKE, For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise
Virgins are for marriage - or used to be. Perseus and Andromeda had seven sons and two daughters, thereby founding the royal house of Mycenae, and (eventually) Persia. Nick and Nora Charles. Inspector and Mrs. Maigret. Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Roderick Alleyn and Agatha Troy. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane (who might as well have been a virgin - by all accounts her one lover was lousy at it.) Fruitful, happy marriages that didn't interfere in any way with the investigation of crime.
This goes back a long way: how many times did one of the Cartwrights on Bonanza get married, and she died almost immediately? Pa Cartwright alone went through at least 3 wives, because there's the boys, and not a mother among them. Getting engaged on that show - and many others - was the absolute kiss of death.
“Good girls go to heaven and bad girls go everywhere”
― Helen Gurley Brown