Conservativism and Virginity in Teen Films

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Other than teen films, in general, there are many Indonesian films used the term “virgin” in the title of the film, from Perawan di Sektor Selatan (The Virgin in South Sector) in 1971 to Perawan Seberang (The Virgin from the Overseas) in 2013. In their development, there were also Virgin, Virgin 2 and Virgin 3 which showed the effect of globalization in Indonesia. In Indonesian teen films, virginity appears as the indicator of “well-mannered girls”. As audio visual media, films display appearing images of virgins in many versions.

In medical term, visual appearance of virgins or no longer virgins can be seen in plain view. According to Dr Andri Wanananda MS, a sexolog from Universitas Tarumanegara, as stated in his interview with on Wednesday September 19 2012, there are no physical changes happened to a girl who lost her virginity. Virginity which was marked by intact hymen can only be known through thorough medical check-up to see whether the hymen was penetrated by a penis or not.

“Intact hymen should be check by a nursing specialist or an expert nurse of maternal clinic through intra vaginal checking prosedure. Laymen can not perform the checking. So external physical features of it was only a mith.”

In Not for Sale, a virgin was visualized by a character called May, a student from the lower class of society. Even though she was not portrayed of having financial problems, being the poor or wearing ragged clothes, her simplicity was in contrast with her glamour and modern friends.

May character was played by a girl which has malay faced character with long straight black hair and well-tied at all time with a backpack, emphasizing an image of good high school girl.

Long black hair and malay-faced has been considered as indicator of Indonesian classical beauty in the media. A virgin version of May, was pictured as a quiet and simple girl. His simplicity shown verbally when she offered a drink to Dessy after dancing in a club. May offered her a glass of mineral water and Dessy rejected by saying “Gua nggak minum gituan!(I don’t drink that kind of drink!)” and then she took a glass of alcoholic drink and said “Lo dari mana sih? Majalengka ya? Kamse deh .(Where are you from? Majalengka isn’t it? What a hick.”

Kamse in teenagers’ term is a short form of kampungan sekali (literally hick or country dweller). The mentioned Majalengka, located in the rural outskirt of West Java, was meant as an outdated place. May’s habit of drinking water instead of drinking alcohol was considered out-of–date and a form of backwardness. The question was answered “Gue dari Jakarta kok (I am from Jakarta)”. It emphasized that Jakarta was in contrast with Majalengka, and it was the center of modern life.

On the other hand, in Virgin 2, virginity was represented in the character of Tina, a senior high school student kicked out of the house because she was accused of flirting with her mother’s boyfriend. Nayato portrayed the character of Tina almost in a similar way with the character of May. There is only a difference visually as May had straight hair, while Tina had curly hair always tied at the back. They both quiet and with soft voices, but the character of Tina represented girls (virgins) from more tragic point of view. From the beginning, the character of Tina was portrayed weak, powerless and as sexually passive object. From the charateristics, May was more feminine and wise but Tina was childish.

Representation of virginity as an outdated cultural identity in Indonesia was clear in both character as they both portrayed “disconnected” from their community with a few friends. Their simplicity was pictured clearly through color choice as at the beginning of both films, May and Tina was wearing green, identical with nature and fertility. Visually, May and Tina were representations of virginity which from conservatism’s perspective was woman ‘natural’ essential which is identical with reproductive function and fertility.

Tina even only had a close friend in the beginning of the story, Kenny the mute, in their rendesvouz point, a cemetery (which Kenny offered on a note “Kita ke tempat biasa, yuk?”(Shall we go to the usual place?).Their silence was in contrast with the hustle and bustle of the urban modern life symbolized as free sex and night clubs. In the film, the contrast of these two worlds was presented in its audio, with the loud noise of electronic music with shots of night club and the quiet scene when Kenny and Tina leaned against the gravestone or sit on the tree. The news of Kenny’s death, after he walked into a running car, was known by Tina at the climax of the story, while she was looking for help because Nadya had a bleeding and at the same time was found by Yama. Layered disasters was Nayato’s special characteristic in his films, with awful ending to the main characters. The death of Kenny was a symbol of Tina’s official entry to the other world, the world of free sex and she could not go back to his quiet world with Kenny.

Discursive emphasis on virginity as “inheritage” of past culture was explained by Nayato in the character of Shasi in Not for Sale. As a senior high school student known as a pimp of her own friends, Shasi became the anomaly of a virgin imagery from Nayato’s ideals. Played by a well-known artist with German heritage (differ from May and Tina which were played by Indonesian newcomers), Shasi appeared more provocative by showing cleavage and smoking constantly. Different from May and Tina which were introduced as simple virgins, Shasi was introduced as a virgin at the end of the story, after May sold her virginity to save her friend. The emphasis was revealed verbally, “Kesucian gue hanya gue berikan kepada orang yang bener-bener gue cinta, bukan untuk dijual(My virginity is only for someone I really love, not for sale). Shasi’s expression on her virginity was supported with a proud smile in the middle of the stody, when Shasi was in the bathroom and slipped a mirror’s shard. The scene was quite puzzling, but finally it could be understood after Shasi stated her virginity. It was very contradictive with her job as a pimp, even though she said that she was only helping her friends who needed money.

Discursive virginity as Indonesian women highly-appraised identity was shown by the high “price” which middle aged men willing to pay. In a scene, Shasi’s client said“kalau lo bisa dapetin perawan buat gue, gue bayar mahal. 30 juta!(If you could get me a virgin, I’ll pay more, 30 millions). A myth on virginity represents “pure” woman, give more value of woman. In contrast with the purity, a scene when May sold her virginity for 30 millions to save Andhara. First words coming out of her “gue ngerasa kotor banget sekarang(I feel so unclean now)”.

The virgin’s simplicity showed by May and Tina was also defined as women who do not know how to socialize with men. It was verbally stated when May was getting ready on a date with Rangga. Dessy was looking at May doing her make up then asked “Nanti kalau Rangga minta cium, gimana?(What happens if Rangga ask for a kiss?” The question showed conservativism on virginity include unawareness of physical and sexual contact to another gender – men. In Virgin 2, Tina was portrayed so trusting when Steffi introduced her to Yama and said “Kayaknya Yama tertarik sama lo,(I think Yama is interested in you,)” Tina blushed and so trusting and drank the alcoholic drink and lost consciousness – and lost her virginity. In line with this, Webster (2010:229) also stated that teen films, discursive and narrative conservativism ambiguously displayed as things which is being negotiable, outmoded and no longer of relevance for particular urban youth. (*)

p.s: This article is a part of the author thesis.

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Dyestari Dyanutami

Dyestari Dyanutami

Penulis tesis Representasi Femininitas Dan Seksualitas Remaja Dalam Film Indonesia.