Sex – probably one of the most if not the most taboo topics of human history. Like many children of immigrant parents, however, sex was far from taboo for me – it was literally never mentioned. If you want to see a desi family open up and talk, try sitting them in a room with a slightly sexy Bollywood scene and watch them all avert their gaze and start complaining about their days. It’s like a weird sort of magic spell.
But when I moved out of my family home for my second year of university I began living with friends from my course. (Hi if you’re reading guys, love you!❤️). A different group sat with me each day watching TV, and instead of averted gazes, we engaged with the sex scenes we saw. We discussed and debated, often bringing our own romantic and sexual experiences to the table as well. Suddenly, I didn’t feel the need to hide my sexual activity.
This is what Jane the Virgin gave me – a voice, as a brown woman, to discuss and think about sex openly and liberally.
But how? It’s in the title, Jane the VIRGIN. The first half of the show at least is centred around Jane’s repression of her sexuality by ‘protecting’ her virginity. Her abuela teaches her that losing her virginity is akin to crumpling a perfect white flower and attempting to put it back together; afterwards, she can ‘never go back’. And yet, in the scene immediately after that in the first episode, we see the camera pan across to reveal Jane making out with her boyfriend Michael, with the white flower in a frame above her bed. Wow – a curvy brown lady in an interracial relationship with constant sexual repression hanging over her head all the time? Sign me right up!
We’ve heard time and time before that representation of POC in television and the media is important for ‘minority’ groups. But, I feel the concept of ‘representation’ has never really been fully explained except through the lens of media outlets trying to tick a box for ‘diversity quotas’, chucking in the occasional POC with the white protagonist or couple at the centre, so let me take a crack at it for you:
As a queer, short and curvy, British-Indian woman in an interracial relationship, my sense of identity is so complex and hardly ever represented, that for such a long time I felt deterred from fully engaging in romantic and sexual relationships with my partners. As a young adult, sexual relationships were mysterious enough as is. When I attempted to visualise them, I used the images I had internalised around me from pornography of ‘sexy’ white bodies, specifically, white, blonde and thin women. To have sex you had to be sexy, and since I ticked none of those boxes, I felt I was not sexy and could not have sex. On top of that, many of my partners happened to fit that description, therefore they were sexy and I was not, causing me to often put myself down when I tried to think of myself as such. This mental block was so frustrating – how could I expect someone to love me if I didn’t love myself? Would I ever be able to love myself? Would I ever be able to think of myself as sexy?
And, queue Jane the Virgin.
It was unbelievable and quite the paradox – a show based on the genre of telenovelas, also known as ‘Latin-American soap operas’, was able to show me the most realistic depiction of a mature, sexual and (most importantly) interracial relationship. The struggles of Jane tying her cultural upbringing to the repression of her sexuality and having to explain that mental block to her partner felt oh-so close to home. But, the reward, when she finally was able to engage in sexual activity is what made me feel sexy.
After that first night of watching Jane the Virgin with my housemates, I re-watched that opening scene with Michael and Jane making out and examined Gina Rodrigeuz’s body in detail: stretch marks, cellulite, bigger than average arms, a round face, a bit of a stomach, thick thighs. It was so similar to mine. If the discussions between Jane and Michael made me feel mentally sexy, this is what made me feel physically sexy. My body, like Gina Rodrigeuz’s, could be thought of in a sexual context and like her white, male, partner, found sexy by other people.
And to that I say, thank you Jane the Virgin, for making me feel sexy.