Opinion: Michael Cera and the quest for losing your virginity
Michael Cera's virginity loss cliche is an example of how our conception of masculinity affects what a male must accomplish in order to achieve manhood, and this viewpoint is detrimental to men for a variety of reasons. As the patron saint of all awkward teenage boys, Michael Cera has always fascinated me since I'm the girl who falls for a sidekick. For this reason, Michael Cera captured my heart in 2007's "Juno," also starring the delightful Ellen Page, where Cera managed to impregnate said female lead. Thusly, as I watched every other film starring him over the years, I came to the conclusion that the quest for Cera's character in every film was to get the girl and lose his virginity to her.
But really. Now that I've pointed this out to you, you're thinking about it, and know that's pretty close to accurate. It's not a perfect theory, as Cera does not go all the way with the love interests of "Arrested Development," "Superbad" and "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist." However, at least in the latter two, it is implied that such an act will eventually be accomplished. We'll have to wait until May to see if George Michael eventually wins not-cousin, Maeby. Still, winning the girl is the entire point of his films, so much that I'm beginning to be concerned he's a male Katherine Heigl or Kristen Stewart.
Now, this is all well and good. Like I'm super-proud of you for all of your successful sexual encounters. Yet, it says a lot about the ideals that we hold of masculinity. Virginity loss for Michael Cera and characters like him is an accomplishment. Yes, that's great; I'm certainly not here to write an article on not having sex. Still, there's also the suggestion that Cera can't be a fully realized male adult figure, until his v-card is expired.
Think about it. How do we characterize men who choose not to be sexually adventurous or even wait until marriage? Let's call them the "purity ring" men. For example, the Jonas Brothers made headlines back in the day when they were wearing their purity rings, but were often ridiculed for it. It recalls Alec Baldwin's sketch on SNL with the famous trio, where he, the "fourth Jonas," implies his activities with the ring were a little too lewd. It's especially bad when you compare them to virgin queens Taylor Swift and Demi Lovato, who receive praise for their wholesome family-friendly images.
What it comes down to is that gender is, in many ways, a social construct. The word limit on this article prevents me from adequately defending this point on all angles, but we'll use it here to say that it is socially created ideal that men need to lose their virginity in order to attain their manhood. There's nothing biological to say that this accomplishment makes you more or less worthy of your masculinity. You're just able to reproduce; kudos. In fact any compulsion one has to increase their masculinity and everything about masculinity is completely created by the society we live in. If it wasn't socially constructed, then how have women been able to change their own socially constructed image where for thousands of years they were too delicate to do much of anything?
How does masculinity hurt men is ultimately the question you should ask yourself. Some studies have shown that men with higher "femininity" scores have better heart health. I believe masculinity is the reason statistics say women are 70 percent more likely to have depression according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Women are just more likely to admit they need the help. (This fact is much better outlined in Terrence Real's "I Don't Want to Talk About It," if you would like more information.) The fact of the matter is even if women are so much more likely to have depression, men are 3.75 times more likely to commit suicide according to official U.S. suicide data.
So where does this leave us? It leaves us to question the ideas we see in media, something I know I frequently ask of you. I don't want a patriarchal society that forces men to live to a standard of masculinity they or we may not agree with. It is humorous to see Michael Cera piddle along, trying to lose his virginity so haphazardly. Yet, we still must consider what this says about masculinity and how that affects the men in our society. Otherwise, the consequences may not be as entertaining.
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