Som say no evil thing that walks by night In fog, or fire, by lake, or moorish fen, Blew meager Hag, or stubborn unlaid ghost, That breaks his magick chains at curfeu time, No goblin, or swart faery of the mine, Hath hurtfull power o're true virginity.
So you've got your hands on a spiffy, brand new bunch of Applied Phlebotinum. It will do anything. Launch psychic fireballs, generate matter out of nothing, lay waste to entire towns, fulfill your fondest desires, and let your cat out every evening before bedtime.
There's only one catch: the person using it has to be that rarest of all rarities in a normal, functioning, sex-obsessed adult society.
And by virgin, we almost always mean a female virgin. Because male virgins don't exist. Ever. Often, being with another woman "doesn't count."
And by female virgin, we generally mean a sweet, young (but adult), beautiful, innocent, wholesome virgin. The Action Girl is treated as something of a subversion, as is an actual prepubescent child, and the sour-tempered and ancient Old Maid is always played as if it were a subversion.
And just why would someone need to be a virgin to have access to a special power? Most likely because being a virgin is a generally recognized sign of moral purity. Greater moral purity = greater access to God = exclusive access to his power. This is why most Virgin Power tends to be Theurgy—magic which is tied to certain gods or goddesses. (See Functional Magic for more details.) Sometimes this ideal of purity can be subverted by having the virgin user of the Applied Phlebotinum be morally reprehensible in every other aspect of her life. (Which makes one wonder just how accurate virginity can be as a measuring stick for moral character.)
If the user of the Virgin Power is the hero's girlfriend, you can expect this situation to create a lot of dramatic tension between the lovers, as they fight the temptation to do the one thing which will render her powers useless. Also, you can expect the villains to try to "relieve" the user of her virginity via rape (even when just killing her from a distance would be the safer and faster option).
Eunuchs Are Evil can be a villainous version, if such a character has special powers that come with the position, although most eunuchs are not celibate by choice. Contrast Deus Sex Machina. Beware Virgin Sacrifice. Tends to cause Virgin Tension. And in some cases Nature Abhors a Virgin. A Sub-Trope of Conditional Powers. Virgin Vision is not related to this trope, regardless of how it sounds.
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Anime and Manga
Fushigi Yuugi had both Miaka and Yui's powers tied to their respective virginities. Of course, the series milked the romantic tension this generated for all that it was worth. Both girls also underwent rape-related subplots as well.
This leads to Yui's continuing What an Idiot moment throughout most of the series as she believes herself to be both a virgin and a rape victim simultaneously. She was never raped. She just lost consciousness before things turned really ugly and didn't know she was rescued before anything happened to her. Unfortunately her rescuer used her state of trauma to manipulate her for his own purposes. Also, she didn't know about the virginity part of the equation.
Yeon Yihwa's aunt and matriarch from Tower of God, Yeon Hana, made a deal with a Guardian that she shall not have sex or be in a relationship with a man after her first love went sour. In return she got quite a bit of power.
Please Save My Earth - the Kiches Sarjalian, who can talk and sing to plants, lose their powers upon losing their virginity. Lots of sexual tension. Subverted when Moku Ren keeps her powers even after she's raped by Shion, which causes a huge misunderstanding that's pretty much the reveal behind the entire plot.
Mokuren is a special case though, all other Kiches Sarjalians, including her parents, do lose their power once they aren't virgins. And yes, there are male virgins with special powers too (rare as they are)!
Devil Hunter Yohko features a heroine who must remain a virgin until she gains her powers. (Her mother was unable to fight temptation and thus, could not become a demon hunter.) Interestingly, once Yohko gained her powers, she no longer needed to remain chaste, as her grandchild-wanting mother hastily and happily informed her.
The second OVA retcons that—Yohko DOES need to remain a virgin.
Keep in mind that everything is word-of-mouth from the grandmother (no documentation, no neutral-party testimonials), and the importance of virginity is never proven, or for that matter even explained. All that's ever said about it is that a budding Devil Hunter must be "physically pure", and the grumbling about the "impurity" of the mother is obviously just a convenient way to blow her off without having to make Yoko parentless. (This is supported by the fact that the mother has roughly 10 seconds of screen time and is never mentioned again.) Oh, and that "retcon" is just granny blurting out "Protect your purity!"; she never says why this is important, and there's no reason to believe that this constitutes a nullification of a standing mandate. The most sensible explanation is that she has control issues and her moods change on a whim...both nothing unusual for authority figures. It was a good thing that she prevented Yoko's boyfriend from having at her, but that's because he was possessed at the time and probably would have ripped her head off before or during the act.
Mai-Otome, in that the Nanomachines that power the Otomes become worthless if they have sex through some convoluted biochemical reaction. While this is moot for some characters who choose their powers over relationships or some who do otherwise (Akane and Kazuya seem adamant about getting together, although they comically never succeed) it's a bit of Fridge Logic why they couldn't just use protection (if the condom breaks... Yikes!). Most fans don't think about it, aside from the cynical suspicion it's part of the Moe Moe fandom's obsession with virgins.
Interestingly, the requirement doesn't actually forbid sex, but heterosexual sex. Since the problem with the Nanomachines (and the reason for which men can't be Otomes) is that they can't cope with an Y chromosome (Not like they ever explain that, though). So in other words, lesbian sex would be totally alright. Talk about excuses for Situational Sexuality!
In Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, Maron's powers follow this trope right down to the rape assault by a major villain however it subverts it in the end by revealing that Maron can indeed use her powers after being deflowered, because her soul is still 'pure'.
This also comes up when Jeanne travels back in time and meets herself in a previous life Joan of Arc. She tries to help Joan escape from being burned at the stake but Joan cannot become Jeanne anymore because she'd already been raped.
Mentioned, but averted, in Slayers. At one point, Lina Inverse says that it's a common myth that if a sorceress loses her virginity during her menstrual period, when her powers are the weakest, she'll lose her powers forever. She then says that this is an untrue myth in the next sentence.
In both the manga and OVA versions of Hellsing, virgins drained by a vampire become vampires themselves, while non-virgins are turned into mindless zombie-like ghouls (though it becomes a plot-point when even children and other obvious virgins are found as ghouls instead of vampires). This is why, in the first chapter/episode, Alucard asks if Seras is a virgin before...
Also, some characters remark that virgin blood tastes better; at one point, the Big Bad asks that the first paratrooper to land in the final battle be given virgin blood as a reward.
In Kannazuki no Miko Himeko Kurusugawa and Chikane Himemiya are virgins until Chikane rapes Himeko. The point of which in the anime was as part her Strike Me Down plan to make Himeko kill her but in the mangas it was meant to remove her powers through the loss of her purity, thus making her worthless as a sacrifice to the Orochi, but it's subverted by the use of Himeko's hymen-blood to revive Ame No Murakumo, since that blood is technically pure.
Koe de Oshigoto! has a particularly ironic example, as virgins make the best eroge voice actors, because sex in real life is nothing like its portrayal in games. Fumika is not happy about her lack of hands-on experience, though.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex subverts this in 2nd GIG when it's revealed that Gohda created the Individual Eleven memetic virus, and made it only affect those who were virgins before being fully cyberized. Suddenly everything makes sense.
Inverted in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. The last sign that Panty lost her angelic powers was that her hymen grew back, regaining her virginity. She gets her powers back when she has sex with Brief, breaking her hymen.
The Darkness series has this to a certain extent. While Jackie was not a virgin before his 21st birthday, he later learned that having sex with a woman would kill him, because the Darkness (and his life by extension) would leave once his sperm fertilized an egg. It should be noted that this revelation caused him almost as much distress as the people who were trying to kill him when he found out.
There is, however, a loophole; the Darkness itself possesses him and rapes the comatose Sara Pezzini, bearer of half of the Witchblade. The NSFWart◊ implies that they or their...riders were both conscious of it on some level, but still. Please note that neither Jackie nor Sara has any memory of the conception.
The last arc of JSA before its reboot got a certain amount of use out of Courtney Whitmore (Stargirl) being a virgin — more specifically, it meant she was unaffectable by the ghost villains the team had to deal with that week. Oddly, this story wasn't written by Geoff Johns, the character's creator who based her on his little sister — it had more to do with her being the only teenage girl on a team consisting mostly of adult males.
For Alpha Flight member Snowbird, losing her virginity had mixed results. She lost her immortality and, for a time, the blessing of her family, but she gained the ability to leave Canada's borders without ill effect and could change into any animal rather than just those native to the North. She herself didn't think much of the benefits for a very long time, but her teammates did, as they previously had to do without her power whenever a mission took them away from Canada.
Subverted in Legends From Darkwood. The main character, Raynd, remains a virgin for the purpose of hunting unicorns and selling their delicious meat at a premium.
In the French comics series "Epic of Knights Dragons" (la geste des chevaliers dragons). In that world, dragons turn any creatures that get close to them into a crazy monster. The only people not affected by this evil power are virgin women. So, the knights' order specially set for killing dragons is only female, with virgins Action Girl.
Lampshaded in Top 10: The Forty-Niners, where an officer is grousing about how the whole thing is just a ploy by the heroines.
Variant in Empowered — the "Seiseiryoku-henkan-sentou no jutsu" transforms sexual frustration into fighting power.
In Le Collège Invisible, only "pure maidens" are immune to Dragons'/Great Destroyers' zombification aura. Well, pure maidens and Néga-mages, the latter also protecting nearby allies.
Both Wonder Woman and Supergirl are sometimes called "The Maiden of Might". Both of them would probably still have their powers if they ever stopped being a virgin — although Wonder Woman's association with the virgin goddess Diana might cast some doubt on this — but they'd clearly have to drop the "maiden" apellation.
In the Harry Potter fic The Problem with Purity any witch or wizard who was still a virgin at the age of seventeen became a "Pure Adult" and both they and their first sexual partner received a power boost immediately after copulation. Also, only a Pure Adult could have a magical animal as their Animagus form.
In the Discworld Tarot chapter The Ace of Swords, there is a different twist on this trope. Miss Alice Band is able to tame a rogue unicorn where others have failed, despite being sexually experienced. The reason Alice gets away with it is because her sexual experience is only with other women. She still technically qualifies as a maiden, unsullied by contact with men, and therefore fully meets the strict specification for unicorn-wrangling - because she has never had contact with men. It is possible that while the unicorn was trying to make its mind up as to whether she qualified, she got a silver-ornamented bridle over its head and settled the question definitively.
In Emancipation it's impossible for a virgin witch or wizard to be raped or molested. Virginity has to be given up willingly or not at all.
This is also true in real life, according to Catholic doctrine, which is probably more applicable than common usage if we are talking about virgins with mystical powers. A person who was /physically/ raped against their will is still a virgin, virginity cannot be /taken/, only given. It would be nice to see this belief filter down from the theologians to the cultural level. See Aquinas, Summa Theologica. (note this is doctrine, but not dogma AFAIK)
Conan the Destroyer had a princess whose virginity was apparently necessary for her to handle a sacred relic without harm. (Of course, the real reason she needed to remain pure was so that, at the end of the movie, she could become a Virgin Sacrifice to the god to whom the relic belonged.)
Subverted in the movie Kull The Conqueror. The hero's non-virgin love interest needs a god to grant her the power to destroy the Big Bad. She knows gods usually don't hand that kind of power to non-virgins, so she asks the god to give it to her anyway, since her intentions are pure at least. The god generously obliges.
It perhaps helped she lost her virginity as a price (yep, the old king was one dirty ol' bastard) for letting her brother free (he was to be executed for heresy), and not by just screwing around.
In the James Bond film Live and Let Die, Solitaire's fortune-telling ability is linked to her virginity. Bond relieves her of both, which caused some controversy among the audience (especially as he tricks her into it).
In Bond's defense, she may have suspected all along that the deck of cards he had was rigged. He confesses to her later that it was, and she is neither surpised nor upset about it. (Solitaire's loyalty to Mr. Big was questionable at best. She was at first a Mysterious Backer to Bond, sending him a cryptic clue to warn him that the first girl he met was working for him, and later, she made a genuine prediction that she interpreted as meaning she would submit to him - and lied to Mr. Big about it. More or less, she may not have been as eager to resist him as it appeared.)
Fridge Brilliance kicks in with the fact Bond didn't have to rig the deck, she'd already seen they'd be lovers in the cards.
Virginity seems to be a requirement for the sorcerers that serves the King in the movie The Scorpion King... but at the end of the movie the sorceress informs the title character that it was simply an effective way of getting their masters to keep their hands off.
Hocus Pocus. The candle that will bring the witches back to life can be lit only by a virgin. Once everything's been set right in the end, the ghost Thackery and his waiting sister Emily walk towards the afterlife casually conversing about what on earth took him so long. Thackery coyly replies that he had to wait three centuries for a virgin to come along and break the curse.
It's especially funny because the virgin who lit the candle WAS A DUDE. How many 8-year-olds didn't get that joke the first time around?
The joke is helped by his little sister's answer when he asks what's happening.
Inverted in Once Bitten, where the male lead needs to lose his virginity to protect himself from the vampiress. He just barely "makes it" in time. But he didn't have time to enjoy it, which is probably why they went right back to it at the end.
The Monster Squad has an amulet that, through the reading of a magic spell that works only if the reader is a virgin, blows a hole in Limbo to suck the monsters into it. Dracula wants the amulet because every hundred years, the amulet becomes vulnerable enough that it can be shattered. The titular bunch of kids first try it out with Patrick's sister, only to find out that she's not a virgin because of a one-night stand, so they have to have Sean's sister, five-year-old Phoebe, read through the spell with the help of Scary German Guy.
In Birth Rite, Rebecca, a virgin, has to have sex with a warlock in order to gain her "birth rite" as the grand dame, but can't have sex with anyone else, to avoid becoming impure. She does have sex with her adopted brother, and then kills him in order to rectify her sin.
Cast a Deadly Spell has "the last unicorn hunter" who is also intended as a virgin sacrifice to the Old Ones. There's a lot of drama around the obvious and anticlimactic solution.
Stardust subverts this. The reason Yvaine can ride a unicorn is less because she's a virgin than because she's a star. Admittedly, they usually go together. Although in the book, it's mentioned the unicorn doesn't want Lamia to come near it, and it's implied that that's because she's not a virgin. It could also have something to do with the fact that she's very, very evil.
Subverted in The Mistress of Spices. A woman from India with the power to use magical spices is forbidden to touch any of her customers (including making love to them). She violates the rule by falling in love with a man and is punished by the spices for doing so, so she atones by setting herself and her spices on fire. She survives, and learns that because she was willing give up everything for the spices, she no longer has to follow the rules.
Subverted in Jennifers Body. The ritual is supposed to be performed on a virgin, and Jennifer is, well, not.
Legend. Lily's "innocence" allows her to approach the unicorns. This is deliberately taken advantage of by Darkness and the goblins to harm them.
Every Action Girl in The Faerie Queene is also a virgin, who conveniently comes across a sorcerer or monster (representing various lusts) who can be defeated only by a virgin. Of course a poem written in honor of Elizabeth I, a.k.a. The Virgin Queen of England, would be populated with ass-kicking virgins!
Older Than Print: The 12th century epic poem Nibelungenlied has the character Brunhild, Queen of Iceland, whose virginity gives her superhuman strength (she can throw 22 metres a boulder that takes 12 men to lift).
Played with in On A Pale Horse when Luna, despite having been the victim of Mind Rape and soul tarnishing by a demon, is still technically a physical virgin, so she is acceptable food for a hungry dragoness.
Also played with in For Love Of Evil when Parry (a young sorcerer) is about to marry Jolie (a stunning, brilliant woman due to her ability and Parry's training). Someone drives a unicorn into the bridal party, but Jolie is able to call and touch the unicorn, proving she is still a virgin (and stunning her father and the entire town).
Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle, has the unicorn thing. Interestingly, the book centers around two male virgins (although a big deal isn't made about it).
In Alan Dean Foster's The Day Of The Dissonance, a young girl is hired by some bandits to lure out a unicorn stallion, who is entirely unaffected (beyond being friendly and protective towards her, at any rate) because he's gay.
In the same series, the protagonists rescue a Distressed Damsel from pirates, only to get captured by a tribe of morbidly-obese fairies. The fairies claim that bathing in a virgin's blood is a possible cure for their condition, but their plan is scuttled when the girl, upon hearing their intentions, collapses in a fit of uncontrollable, pants-wetting laughter.
In Caroline Stevermer's A Scholar Of Magics, the Agincourt Device, which can turn people into animals, doesn't work on virgins — one of whom, the viewpoint character and undoubted hero, is a very adult man.
In Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, which evoke older European folklore, wizards are expected to remain celibate, because they believe sex messes with their powers. There is the suggestion that performing powerful magic is just as fun as orgasm. The book Sourcery reveals the true reason — under certain circumstances, a wizard's child could be a "sourceror", with verybad results for the Discworld as a whole. Luckily, wizards are generally the kind of geeks who would have difficulty attracting women anyway. (As the Discworld Companion puts it, if magic cared whether or not you're a virgin, Nanny Ogg would be a washerwoman.)
Played with in the Dresden Files with Warden Ramirez. He constantly plays himself as a great ladies' man, to Harry's annoyance. However, when they work with Lara of the White Court (think vampire succubus who feeds on sex), she looks at Ramirez, smiles and says "Oh, you've brought me a treat", since she is clearly detecting his virginity. Virgins are apparently the tastiest sex food for them.
Subverted in Elizabeth Ann Scarborough's The Unicorn Creed, where a "household witch" (magical cleaning, cooking, etc.) has to lose her virginity when she's 18 or she will lose her powers. Also, unicorns associate with virgins because they're young, impressionable, and it lasts only a short while (unicorns are out to make the world a better place, one girl at a time). It is stated that they could have chosen pregnancy just as easily, except you can get pregnant more than once.
In Theodore Sturgeon's short story "The Silken-Swift", the unicorn subverts this trope itself. Given a choice between a gentle young woman who'd recently been raped, and the virginal witch who'd maliciously (though indirectly) caused the assault to happen, the unicorn chooses to lay his head in the lap of the true innocent (who promptly sets it free).
Phyllis Ann Karr's Frostflower and Thorn duology features a society of sorcerers who believe they can work magic only if they're virgins. This applies to women and men. (They tend to adopt a lot.) However, Frostflower the sorceress survives a rape without losing her powers, which suggests that this particular teaching is at least oversimplified.
The whole "virgins and unicorns" theme was played with a little in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. After Hagrid was too ashamed to show his face after being exposed as a half-giant, the substitute assigned to teach his class brought a unicorn to the class - warning the students that it would only let the girls touch it. (True, its likely that the male students were virgins too, given their age, but unicorns are even more picky than usual.)
In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, only virgin women can harness maximum psychic powers and become "Keepers." Since the world of Darkover exists in our future, as the real world with psychic powers that only appear to be magic, she explained this as that women who have had intercourse have used nerve endings not normally used and thus, using the higher psychic powers would then "activate" them in ways that would damage the women. Naturally, as time went by, people pointed out the rather obvious silliness of this (What happens when a woman masturbates? Or do only non-virgin women on Darkover masturbate?), so she tried to do some minor Retcon but generally just tries to avoid the subject.
It's far more complicated than that and somewhat simpler at the same time. Basically by not channelling their energy into sex, they have far more psychic power available. In the darker days some Keepers were psychologically and even physically castrated so they could not even engage in or even think about sex even if they wanted to. Psychological blocks against sexual activity are actually major plot points in at least 2 of the Darkover books. But that probably a different trope.
A lot of the problem was cultural; an almost religious importance was attached to the idea of the Keepers as sexless virgins, and more than one person died for saying that it didn't have to be that way.
A subversion in Harry Turtledove's short story Honeymouth: The foul-mouthed and very lecherous mercenary, ironically dubbed Honeymouth, is somehow able to ride a unicorn without any problem. When asked how he can do it, usually while the unicorn is parked outside a brothel, he sarcastically replies that he's a virgin. He is, technically. The nickname "Honeymouth" has nothing to do with scatological verbiage.
Elizabeth Bear's Matthew Szczgielniak is another male example, at least for most of the first two books in which he appears — the first of which, Blood & Iron, also features a particularly Grimmified take on the Unicorn Thing.
In Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East and Swords series, some wizards, both male and female, lose some or all of their power if they lose their virginity. Many do not, and, indeed, some are quite promiscuous with no ill effects, but there is no explanation of why some do and some don't.
More specifically, in The Second Book of Swords, Doon and Mitspieler are very intent on Ariane maintaining her virginity, because they plan on sacrificing her to a demon.
And in The Third Book of Swords, Kristin gives up her virginity to save Mark from his poisoned wound.
Confusingly used in Andre Norton's Witch World. Everyone believes that the witches lose their powers with their virginity, and it's proven to be true (one of the nastier enemies of the witches rapes the ones he catches for that very reason). However, most of the main female characters end up keeping their powers, even through several children. The books never address it explicitly, but all the cases where the woman keeps her powers has her having sex with a man who also has powers (unheard of in the land where the early books occur) and in at least some cases, their powers ended up somehow linked.
The sole exception being Elys. Jervon explicitly does not have any sort of magical power, which is what caused half the trouble in Songsmith. Gillan may also be an exception, considering the kind of power her husband has. Consensuality may have something to do with it, as may the expectation that you will lose your powers.
In Sharan Newman's novel Guinevere, a retelling of the Arthurian legends from the future queen's point of view, Guenevere has a telepathic link with one of the only remaining unicorns in Britain. At the end of the novel, she has married Arthur and has a final conversation with the unicorn, in which she discovers that — oops — she had to stay a virgin if she wanted the bond to continue.
Guinevere has healing powers in Mad Merlin, for which she must remain chaste. Three guesses as to how that turns out.
In some versions of the Arthurian Legend, Lancelot has this power. He is the best and strongest knight because he is a virgin. Once he sleeps with Guenivere, he loses his strength. This is why he cannot reach the Holy Grail, but his son, Galahad, can. Galahad remains a virgin. (This of course leads to a very funny scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)
In Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures book Another Fine Myth, Skeeve is the only one in the group that does not elicit a negative reaction from a stolen adopted war unicorn, which gets him some teasing. This point was brought back in Sweet Myth-tery Of Life, when Buttercup the unicorn acts unsociable towards Skeeve after he blacks out drunk on a date with a vampire.
In John Barnes's One for the Morning Glory, the goblin queen claims the goblins have raped a captive maiden. Gorlias says that would be impossible: trying to rape a pure maiden would have destroyed them.
In A Midsummer Tempest, Prince Rupert is forced to bring Jennifer with him to a battlefield because he is traveling by magic, and the presence of a virgin is the only thing allowing the spell to be strong enough to travel that way.
In Operation Chaos, Virginia had developed the magics that went with being a virgin. After her marriage, she had to retool her skills.
Played for laughs in Make Way For Dragons. The title character gets a fawning unicorn, who becomes more of a loyal dog than anything. Minor hilarity abounds as the other female characters have entirely distinct reactions to his being a virgin.
The Larry Niven story The Flight of the Horse (AKA Get a Horse). Time traveler Hanville Svetz is send to acquire a horse from the past, but can only find one with a horn, owned by a very young girl. Svetz doesn't even know what a horse is, let alone a unicorn. He buys the "horse" and takes it home where the only person who can handle it is "that frigid bitch Zera."
In Simon R. Green's Blue Moon Rising, the lead character is a male virgin with a loyal, if sarcastic, unicorn. However, this particular book is more or less a parody of fantasy in general and runs wild with subverting or playing many a trope hilariously straight.
Played very straight in Angus Wells's Books of the Kingdom trilogy. The second book in particular focuses mostly on Wynett and Kedryn and the fact that they cannot be together unless Wynett gives up her powers.
Played completely straight in Parker Blue's Try Me.
Gomez by Cyril Kornbluth: a young Puerto Rican maths/physics genius described as a 'second Ramanujan' is discovered in New York. He winds up in a super-secret research project that has been going nowhere, and comes up with a physical theory that implies the ability to create a super-weapon so deadly that he's horrified. The narrator, a sympathetic reporter, all but abducts the thoroughly stressed-out Gomez for a forced vacation; out of his sight, Gomez sneaks across a state line and marries his girlfriend. When he returns, his mathematical ability is (he claims) gone: he admits, with an glance at his (literally) blushing bride, that he now can't think about math at all.
In Stephen King's The Stand, Randall Flagg psychically forbids Nadine from having vaginal intercourse until she can join him and he can impregnate her. This doesn't stop her from fooling around with Harold every other way the pair can think of, so whether that's Virgin Power or just Flagg not wanting her to get pregnant by someone else first is unclear.
In James MacDonald and Debra Doyle's Land of Mist and Snow, Columbia Abrams can act as a Barrier Maiden because of her virginity. Being an abolitionist, she doesn't on the whole approve of the imprisonment. And at the climax, she tells the hero of the story that their only safety is freeing it. Whereupon he, having just become captain, declares them husband and wife, and they set up freeing it.
In David Feintuch's The Still, the king/queen has the power to commune with his ancestors, which he uses to good effect to help run the country. The catch? He has to be a virgin. Unfortunately, the protagonist is a typically horny teenager.
Apparently, however, having sex with his male best friend doesn't "count" when it comes to losing virginity.
K.A. Applegate's Everworld has a subversion of the idea that all girls are virgins. When they first see the Greek Goddess of virginity, Dionysus says to April "she'd like you." After a moment, he says the same thing to Jalil.
A short story alternate history featured a psychic girl who helped the Nazis win WWII. After she runs away, meets the hero and they both get captured and taken back to Berlin, she asks him to 'depower' her. Also subverted as it implied this will have no effect on her powers but the fact that the Nazis believe her powers have been neutralised is enough.
Subverted in Steven R. Boyett's fantasy novel Ariel. The protagonist is a wisecracking twenty-year-old virgin, which allows him to become the magical Familiar of the eponymous unicorn. Though the unicorn delivers an occasional ass-kicking to the bad guys, she is easily captured. Due to their codependent relationship magical bond, the protagonist goes into unicorn withdrawal and becomes a bit of a headcase for the obligatory rescue quest. The constant advances from random women don't help, either.
The Bible: A virgin brings the son of God into the world. It may or may not matter that she was a virgin; she was supposedly born without original sin.
In two male examples, her son, Jesus, and possibly (according to the apparitions at Fatima) her husband, Joseph.
This is the case with many of the Catholic saints. St. Margaret of Cortona was an interesting one, in that Christ promised her in a vision that he would still honor her as a virgin in heaven even though she had a son before her conversion.
Subverted in Black Dogs, where only virgins are susceptible to the illusions of unicorns. The unicorns in question are mangy, carnivorous horse-like things that prey on the those that fall to their illusions.
King Math in the fourth branch of the Mabinogion cannot live unless he's either at war or has his feet in the lap of a virgin.
An odd double subversion happens in Juanita Coulson's The Web of Wizardry: Spellcasters—of at least a certain tradition—are strongly encouraged (but not necessarily required) to be chaste. However, when the hero and his witch love interest start having sex, it doesn't appear to affect her powers. Lira does start slipping a bit towards the end of the book...but finally, she informs Danaer that this isn't because sex puts a strain on witches' magical ability; it's because pregnancy does. It's implied that she'll regain at least some of her power after the birth.
In the Lisa Shearin novel The Trouble With Demons, Raine learns that a certain magical knife can only be located by a virgin. There turns out to not be all that many in the area, seeing as she's on a college campus. Especially since everyone knows that there are demons loose, and they'd all heard the rumors that demons went after virgins, and removed the risk to themselves in the most direct manner possible (This turns out to be pointless from a demon protection perspective - the demonology professor flatly states that even those demons that do care about virginity will still eat non-virgins if nothing else is available, and most of them will just eat anybody).
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, one place where William Shakespeare diverged from fact is having Miranda married. She would have forfeited her virginity based powers.
In The Peshawar Lancers universe, seers can only see the future while virgins. The thing is, eventually they start seeing the future constantly, driving them mad. The seer traveling with the hero eventually ends up begging the hero to take her virginity so that the visions will stop.
Sort of inverted in Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea series where the main character is a wizard and a virgin, and notes only after spending and permanently losing his powers that he never felt so much as horny while being a wizard. Apparently the two are linked inversely in his case. Other characters however have no trouble being both wizards and married. Sorcerers can be married or otherwise not celibate, but wizards can't. The magical hierarchy in Earthsea goes Witches<Sorcerers<Wizards<Mages. The first two needn't be celibate, but it's a requirement for the second two. Ged, being a mage, is celibate and almost certainly a virgin that is, until the end of Tehanu, but at that point he's not a mage anymore. It's implied in Tehanu that wizards use spells to suppress their sex drive in order to keep it from being a problem.
In The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, Kellan asks the wild magic for an out to escape the Outlaw Hunt and ends up meeting Shalkan, a unicorn who requires him to remain chaste and celibate ("you do know the difference?") for a year and a day. If Kellan breaks his vow, Shalkan threatens to to remove Kellan's... parts... with his horn. Of course, Kellan doesn't think that keeping his sex drive under control will be a problem until he meets someone he's attracted to...
Hinted at in C. S. Lewis's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader — it is a children's book, after all, but we are assured that "my little girl she says the spell, for it's got to be a little girl or else the magician himself, if you see my meaning, for otherwise it won't work." Since Lucy qualifies, it doesn't mean a very young girl.
In Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun, only virgins can clearly see and hear messages from the gods. This serves as an in-universe justification for why priests and nuns are forbidden from carnal pleasures. Non-virgins can see and hear messed-up tidbits, though.
In Jack Chalker's Dancing Gods series, the female protagonist starts out learning a form of magic that demands virginity. Naturally, once she's passed her tests she's instead taught a form of power based on prostitution.
In William Morris' The Wood Beyond the World, theMaid explains to Walter that she will lose her powers when she loses her virginity, so they cannot have sex until after she has defeated the Lady. She does. They do.
A rare male example appears in John Brunner's "Imprint of Chaos", one of his The Traveller in Black stories. Eadwil, one of the diviners consulted by the Margrave of Ryovora, is a youth who's postponed "a major upheaval of his physiology", the better to preserve his prophetic abilities.
In The Education of Jennifer Parrish, a Satanic organization plans to switch the mind of one of their members with an innocent girl. The ritual requires that the victim not be a virgin, and one of their members is assigned to make sure of this but fails to do so. When the ceremony takes place, her virgin status foils the magic and saves her.
The YA novel Rampant by Diana Peterfreund features a society of virgins who hunt bloodthirsty, evil unicorns. Over the course of that novel and its sequel, it’s shown that losing one’s virginity causes one to lose one’s ability to hunt unicorns—whether willingly (one girl sleeps with her boyfriend specifically to ''avoid'’ getting roped into unicorn-hunting) or unwillingly (one girl is raped).
Losing one’s virginity likewise strips a girl of magical protection from the unicorns, who, albeit reluctantly, cannot attack a virgin. Also, males never (naturally) get either protection or powers, status of virginity notwithstanding.
In Percy Jackson, the Hunters of Artemis are semi-immortal so long as they are virgins.
Implied in one of the Xanth books; Mare Ann had the talent of summoning any kind of horse she wanted, and when she still had her "innocence", this included unicorns. She broke up with the Magician Humphrey because she wanted to keep that ability, but after her death she went to Hell, lost her innocence, and therefore is okay with being one of Humphrey's wives again.
In the novelization of Conan the Destroyer, the princess ends up having sex with Conan on the way back to the city and her intended sacrifice. Bombaata, distrustful of Conan, asks the wizard Akiro to use his powers on Conan and Jenna to make sure she is still a virgin. Akiro replies that she is still pure. He had earlier explained that "purity" is a matter of spirit, not of the flesh, and was being truthful, although not in the way Bombaata hoped.
In John Moore's The Unhandsome Prince, the one-use-only magic spell that Rumpelstiltskin has for turning straw into gold requires the loss of virginity—which is why Rumpel is still looking for the right girl.
The Good The Bad And The Mediochre goes with the famous example where unicorns are attracted to young female virgins. Apparently, the standard method for hunting unicorns is to get a young female virgin to stand in the middle of a forest clearing and hide nearby with a gun. The heroes try to foil this when they find it happening by getting Charlotte - a younger female virgin - to stand in a different clearing, thus attracting any unicorns away from the hunters. It becomes a non-issue anyway, since the whole thing was a trap.
The Unmasqued World of Kevin J. Anderson's "Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I." novels came about when a drop of virgin's blood fell upon the Necronomicon under a full moon and during a rare astrological conjunction. A homely fifty-eight-year-old witch's blood, shed via a paper cut, but a virgin's nonetheless.
In the Stephen King short story "The Mangler", blood from a virgin falling into a industrial laundry's speed ironer and folder, combined with some other things causes the machine to be possessed by a demon.
In L. Jagi Lamplighter's The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, the Vestal Virgins guard the powerful protection, the Eternal Flame. Violating their vows weakens it. [[spoiller:Rachel is shocked when one villain talks of how her grandmother's breaking her vows and how that strengthened those on the Dark Path.]]
Live Action TV
In Angel, Cordelia discovers that her demonic powers can be transferred sexually (at least to one other person). In a subversion, this requires not that she maintain her chastity indefinitely, but just until she acquires a supernatural prophylactic. It's very much indicated that the reason supernatural prophylactics exist is precisely because there are plenty of powers in the Angelverse that come under this trope and therefore the means to circumvent this trope was, quite naturally, invented as a response.
There are also demons who care about this, as became important when a man intended to sacrifice his virgin daughter to one. He hired Angel to guard her because he'd heard of his status as a Chaste Hero. As it turned out, Angel was missing and Wesley impersonated him, and...yeah. The inevitable occurred. Although this didn't even matter — he wasn't that good at isolating her previously.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a scene of Willow looking at some phlebotinum and saying "You know, a dash of this mixed with a virgin's saliva will...do something I know nothing about."
There's also an episode early in the first season that involves a Praying Mantis demon looking to mate with virgin males, in an interesting subversion of the trope. Of course, Xander, who has been professing his masculine sexual prowess for the entire episode, falls into the demon's trap, and consequently has to endure the barbs of his friends for being a virgin. It's made a little more tolerable for him by the discovery that the year group's stud who had been making Xander feel inadequate for his lack of sexual experience was also entrapped by the demon.... meaning he was a virgin, too. Xander may have been embarrassed, but the jock was downright humiliated.
On Supernatural, during a hostage situation, it's revealed that the problem could be solved by a virgin sacrifice, and there Just Happens To Be a very religious virgin girl in the police station. However, (a) the Winchester boys decline to kill her (even though she volunteers upon finding out the stakes), (b) during the course of the battle, she decides she'll rid herself of that virginity as soon as they're out of it, and (c) she ends up dying anyway.
Subverted with no small amount of glee on an episode of The Drew Carey Show, where the Devil — or someone who definitely thinks he is the Devil — insists he's going to get married to Kate and take her away with him. About to win a game of pool for double or nothing (her soul and Drew's), he boasts, "In the corner pocket... Devil's about to take a virgin bride!" At which point Drew and friends cackle. Upon finding out she has had sex, he insists "there's leeway," and whispers a question the audience doesn't hear. Looking almost embarrassed, she says, "Just once." He storms out, saying, "You people are sick!" and resulting in the immortal quote:
Lewis: If you're lookin' for a virgin, stay out of Cleveland, buddy!
Played depressingly straight in an episode of the short-lived 1997 series Conan The Adventurer. One of Conans many doomed love interests starts out a virgin warrior who can magically adorn herself with impenetrable armor and gain incredible strength and speed. She and Conan eventually fall in love and have sex. She later dies after being captured, because she couldn't do the armor thing anymore. At least he got laid that time?
When a vampire is delivered to the flat of The Young Ones, Vyvyan argues that vampires only attack virgins. All four lads are quick to deny their eligibility, but the vampire itself remarks "what a choice!", confirming that they're all lying.
In the I, Claudius miniseries, a Roman soldier hesitates to execute a condemned family's young daughter because she's a virgin, apparently fearing the gods may punish him for such an unprecedented act. He's ordered to subvert this trope in the worst way possible before he kills her.
In Classical Mythology, three of the goddesses — Athena/Minerva, Artemis/Diana, and Hestia/Vesta — were "virgin goddesses." Whether "virgin" meant never having had sex, or merely meant never having been married, is a subject of some scholarly debate. In any case, their special status would have been nullified if any of them ceased being a virgin. In the case of at least one of these goddesses, her temple priests were also expected to be virgin women, and their authority as priestesses would likewise vanish should any of them cease being a virgin. These priestesses were, of course, the Vestal virgins.
Medusa was originally a beautiful priestess of Athena. However when Athena caught Poseidon raping her, she transformed Medusa's beautiful hair into serpents and made her face so terrible to behold that the mere sight of it would turn onlookers to stone.
That was the later, darker - and more well-known - version stated by Ovid in The Metamorphoses. The older version says that their affair was consensual. In fact, it's very hard to tell even what Ovid meant, as the ancient Greeks (and a number of modern cultures) define rape as having sex with a woman against the wishes of her patron - either her husband, her father, or in this case, Athena - the consent of the woman being inconsequential.
As the goddess of chastity, the nymphs who followed Artemis also had to be virgins. Whenever one of them lost her virginity (usually thanks to Artemis' father), Artemis would cast them out.
In the Mabinogion, the main work of Welsh mythology, the god Math ap Mythonwy would die unless his feet rested in the lap of a virgin while he was not at war. When his original virgin was raped while he was off fighting, Gwydion suggests his sister Arianrhod as her successor. To prove her virginity, Arianrhod had to jump over Math's magic wand. She immediately gave birth to two sons. Needless to say she was out of the running and royally pissed. There's a reason one of her roles is the goddess of revenge and karma.
The Vow of Chastity Feat in the Book of Exalted Deeds suppliment for Dungeons & Dragons gives a character many benefits for maintaining virginity. This Feat is a requirement for two prestige classes offered in the book (one of which involves acquiring a unicorn as your companion, naturally).
Oddly enough, the Healer class in the Miniatures Handbook can get a unicorn companion without maintaining virginity (or being female, for that matter).
Zzaburi in Runequest, caste of magi of which one of the restrictions is chastity. (So much so that it is only the caste made up children originating in other castes.)
Mint from Tales of Phantasia is a borderline case; although most of her powers are usable whether or not she's a virgin, she can't meet with the Unicorn who augments her abilities if she's not a virgin — or even if a non-virgin girl is accompanying her, causing the flirtatious seventeen year-old Arche to leave during the portion of the quest where you seek it out. Then again, this is probably because unicorns have a long tradition in folklore of only appearing to virgins.
Raine's comment that she is an adult was likely an excuse, it is more likely she refused to go because she is afraid of water.
One of the sillier scenes in Ultima VII involves a unicorn NPC that doesn't really dislike non-virgins, but is capable of instantly telling the difference. Unless you've visited the in-game brothel before, your party members (one of which is a lecher, and another of which is married) are quite amused to learn that you are a virgin. Since the game had no way of telling whatever your protagonist has done in the previous nine games, the unicorn simply reveals that you "regain your virginity" whenever entering the realm of Britannia.
A Star of Destiny in SuikodenII, a unicorn, can only be hired if you have a female virgin in the party when he's encountered. The Stalker with a Crush schoolgirl Nina usually qualifies for this; the list of characters that make the cut is oddly telling.
Bring Sierra to him and he briefly approaches her... before freaking out a little and quickly making his apologies. She's vaguely insulted.
Toyed with in The Witcher. At one point, you need to obtain the tears of a virgin for a potion that would cure lycantropy. The obvious solution is to ask the nuns at the local hospital, but virgins can also be found among the townsfolk—though, curiously, only women, except for a single man: the upright and pious-to-a-fault knight Siegfried. Too bad the potion ultimately does not work.
Male example: Zander in Metanoia is Ridden, or a voluntary conduit for an angel. Virginity is part of keeping one's "aura clear" to allow the angel to work through; other requirements include vegetarianism and not swearing oaths.
A trade paperback-only strip for The Order of the Stick has the party encounter a unicorn in the woods. Haley tries to approach the unicorn... only for it to roll over on its back, laughing.
In the Superhero Arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space, a bank robber called The Unicorn, whose costume includes a horn, is powerless to fight Batman-counterpart the White Night ... aka Celibate Hero (at the time) Lancelot.
Oglaf: Only virgins can see the Enchanted City of Vanorva. Because of this, the entire population of the city is celibate, to avoid accidentally depopulating the city. If a supposed slut somehow enters the city, there is a widespread panic.
Except, blowjobs don't count. And apparently, neither does anal. Or flang.
If a malignant being demands a sacrificial victim have a particular quality, I will check to make sure said victim has this quality immediately before the sacrifice and not rely on earlier results. (Especially if the quality is virginity and the victim is the hero's girlfriend.)
One traditional way of locating a vampire's grave requires a young boy riding a male horse over every grave in the cemetery. When the horse refuses to walk over a grave, that's the one you're looking for. Both boy and stallion must be virgins. Unique in that it requires an animal virgin.
More commonly, the horse must have never stumbled—which is probably less common than equine virginity.
In Chaos Fighters: Chemical Warriors-PERAK, the brown sword operates at a lower power output when a person ejaculates and drops to minimum when said person had sex. So far, the brown sword wielders are all men.
In North-Rhine Westphalia and other parts of Germany, there is a tradition that any man who is over 30 and unmarried has to sweep rubbish from the steps of the town hall until he is released by the kiss of a virgin. This has resulted in work colleagues and/or friends trooping to sufficiently public steps when someone turns 30 and making the 30-year-old cross dress and sweep straw/bottle caps until kissed. In one particular case, at first a girlfriend was sufficient. This escalated into three random passersby. In other cases, the guy gets released by a kiss from a pre-pubescent girl. This is really not as squicky as it might sound, though, as the kiss in question is a quick peck on the cheek (which is a pretty normal greeting in Germany and a very normal greeting in most other European countries) and at least in the cases of the pre-pubescent girls, they're often relatives of the guy or one of his friends.
French author Honore de Balzac believed this trope was the source of his inspiration to write. He once claimed a friend's gift of a trip to a bordello cost him multiple novels.
Elizabeth I decidedly stayed unmarried to remain in power. Being unmarried was to remain a virgin in her times, and she happily used all contemporary tropes concerning virtues of virgins and the Madonna mythos to further her status. (It wasn't truly known if she did remain chaste, but it wasn't like any of her subjects in those times was going to be rude enough to ask her.)
Not necessarily. Human biology was still the same in her time, and she'd want to be considered a virgin...
This is where we get the name of the state of Virginia (also the common girl's name in most cases can be traced here as well) which is interesting considering Virginia now boasts itself as a place for LOVERS.
Also in Loving v Virgina, where the state was most decidedly NOT for lovers.
A popular meme from Futaba Channel has it that any man (some versions include women) who is still a virgin after age 30 will become a wizard (魔法使い). Conversely, "wizard" is sometimes used as a slang word for a virgin over 30. Some versions of the meme go on to claim that the individual's magical powers will be lost if and when his virginity is. Presumably A Wizard Didn'tDo It.
Referenced in Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai. When the main cast play a virtual-reality fantasy RPG, Kodaka chooses "wizard" as his class... and starts with no spells, a modern, geeky outfit, and a backpack full of anime posters.
Gardasil vaccine against cervical/vulvar cancer is most effective if done before first sexual intercourse.
This has nothing to do with virginity in itself, though, it's just that if you had intercourse you might already be infected. Being free of certain diseases could be a virgin power...
Though it didn't technically gave her powers, Joan of Arc used her Chaste Hero status as a proof of her purity and the fact she was serving God. (This is one of the reasons she was cannonized as a Saint, not because, as commonly believed, she was a martyr, which she technically wasn't.)
Some Straight Edge individuals take the subculture's anti-promiscuity ethos to this extreme.