Latinas, Sex, and Reproductive Autonomy: In Praise of My Favorite Virgin

Spoiler Alert: This post discusses the current season and most recent episode of Jane the Virgin.
janethevirignAfter two full seasons of a love triangle, an accidental pregnancy, lots of temptation, and a marriage, Jane, the heroine of the CW’s Jane the Virgin, finally lost her V card. She mourns this loss, but her mother wisely reminds her that her virginity, although a big part of her life, was never her identity. This moment was striking because it exposed how problematic the virgin/whore dichotomy is to the identity of Latinas. Pop culture tends to frame Latinas in one of two ways: either as pure and virtuous churchgoers or as hypersexualized, promiscuous women. But Jane the Virgin has done a great job of deconstructing these narratives while playing off of those stereotypes.
Jane the Virgin is more than entertainment for a lot of us. It has been pivotal in showcasing how cultural socialization, such as tradition, family structure, and religion overlaps with the progressive realities that mold so many of our lives today. This funny, heartfelt show, both a parody and homage to telenovelas, centers on a millennial Latina juggling traditional values, while ALSO being in a long-term relationship, while ALSO trying to finish her college degree, while ALSO dealing with the fact that she has been artificially inseminated during a routine pap smear. And it’s pure gold. Why? Because it touches on the most taboo subject in many Latina households: S-E-X.
As a Latina, I can testify that the simple thought of bringing up the birds and the bees with any of my elders is mortifying. Many of us can’t fathom having open (and necessary) discussions about sexuality, safe practices, and in general, healthy relationships. That is why Jane is SO important. I know that the show doesn’t speak for all Latinas, but I can say that it has done an amazing job of talking about personal decision making and shedding a positive light on single motherhood.
In fact, each of the central women on the show deserves kudos, which I’m thrilled to lay out:
Abuela: We get it. You’re just trying to preserve Jane’s purity. You were shamed when people found out you weren’t a virgin on your wedding day, so you’re hoping Jane can walk down the aisle wearing white.

But then again, you understand that it’s her decision to make.

Xiomara: Thank you for unapologetically embracing your sexual freedom,

and for showing us, through your abortion, that the outcome of an unplanned pregnancy should solely be decided by the woman who will be affected by it.
Jane: You abstained from sex until marriage because you are a traditional gal, but you made it clear that it was your decision, and no one else’s. You wanted it all: a college degree, career, marriage, white picket fence, and a family — in that order — but life had different plans for you. Your ability to adapt to change while accomplishing your goals empowers us all and further helps destigmatize single motherhood. You go, girl.

So thank you, Jane the Virgin, for encouraging Latinas to have important conversations, that are too often set aside, and for truly defining and demonstrating what it means for women to have autonomy and control over their own lives.