Virgins are presented as more cherished or desirable than unvirgins.
There's just something about virgins that seems to exude desirability, like a natural aphrodisiac that works regardless of gender. Heck, even characters who are no longer virgins can get this benefit from sincerely trying to be Chaste or Celibate because Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere (faking it is far more hit and miss).
This was a big thing in older stories, what with a "woman's virtue" and desirability being directly proportional, and part of the nobility behind a Knight In Shining Armour. The sheer number of suitors a fair and virginal princess would draw to her just from hearing her described would be staggering, bordering on So Beautiful, It's a Curse. There is even a supernatural element involved. Unicorns were thought of as wild creatures that would calm only in the presence of a virgin, due to her innocence and purity.
The reasons behind this vary depending on the period of the story and the characters themselves. In early stories it's because Sex Is Evil, and virginity is a sign of purity, and thus desirability — and also giving the man some hope of averting Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe, since it's evidence that she doesn't just sleep around. Modern stories often follow the Madonna/Whore Complex: men marry the Madonna, but sleep with the Whore. There's also the bragging rights behind bedding a virgin, which would be a BIG notch in any Casanova's or rare male Vamp's belt. The assumptions here are that men are not allowed to be virgins, and the virginal are idiots, and non-virginal women are whores. It bears repeating that this can be a gender neutral trope; when a man is a virgin, that signals to women that this guy is likely waiting for love and not just wanting a one-night stand.
Sometimes this trope comes in a more disturbing form, where the thought of defiling a virgin is a turn on in and of itself. However, it could also be thought of as a turn-on to be the first one to show someone how great sex can be. There is also the foolish idea held by some insecure people that a virgin won't know if the sex was bad, having no comparison. But of course, anyone can tell if they enjoyed themselves or if they were in pain. And it's much easier to satisfy an experienced woman and keep her from being in pain than it is to do the same for a virgin (same applies to a gay man on the bottom, naturally.)
More Tropes that often go hand-in-hand with this:
- Always Lawful Good
- Barrier Maiden
- But I Would Really Enjoy It
- Can't Have Sex, Ever
- Catholic School Girls Rule
- Celibate Hero
- Chaste Hero
- Chastity Couple
- Children Are Innocent
- Contractual Purity
- Death by Sex
- Defiled Forever
- The Dulcinea Effect
- Entitled to Have You
- Hot Librarian
- Innocent Fanservice Girl
- The Ingenue
- I Will Wait for You
- Knight In Shining Armour
- MadonnaWhore Complex
- Men Act, Women Are
- My Girl Is Not a Slut
- No Guy Wants to Be Chased
- Not Like Other Girls (if the character's virginity or modesty or "innocence" is what sets her apart)
- No Sex Allowed
- Proper Lady
- Purity Sue
- Sailor Fuku
- Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains
- Sex Is Evil
- Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny
- Sugar-and-Ice Personality
- Taking the Veil (especially in works written by and for Catholics)
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth
- Unicorns Prefer Virgins
- Virgin in a White Dress
- Virginity Flag
- Virgin Power
- Virgin Sacrifice
- Virgin Tension
- Yamato Nadeshiko (unless the YN in question is married)
- Consummation Counterfeit
- Eternal Sexual Freedom
- Ethical Slut
- Free-Love Future
- Good Bad Girl
- Good People Have Good Sex
- Heroic Seductress
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold
- Miss Kitty
- My Girl Is a Slut
- Naughty Nuns
- Nun Too Holy
- Seemingly-Wholesome '50s Girl
- Sex as Rite-of-Passage
- Sex Is Good
- Technical Virgin
- The Three Faces of Eve
- Virginity Makes You Stupid
Do not confuse this trope with Nature Abhors a Virgin.
- Club 9: Even though Haruo's generous figure and klutzy, pure-hearted charm are enough to melt the brains of her admirers, any time the men get a hint of her being a virgin...
- Phantom Quest Corp.: Briefly discussed, when Bosco explains to Ayaka that it'd become harder for vampires to find virgins in the modern age, due to how liberal society had become. The fact that Makiko was not only a virgin, but didn't drink, didn't smoke, or do drugs, made her blood especially pure. Which causes her to stick out like a walking neon "drink me" sign and is the reason she was being relentlessly pursued by Dracula.
- In Fushigi Yuugi, only a virgin can be the Priestess.
- Averted in Sin City. Marv is the only known virgin in the series and he tends to get into a lot of trouble. In fact, the universe itself was apparently against him getting laid for a long time. He said it himself:
"Before, I wasn't even able to buy a woman, on account of the way I look."
- Still worth noting that the one time he does get laid leads directly to his death.
- In Little Annie the Goose Girl, the prince marries Annie rather than any of three princesses because she is "a maid pure and bright", where all the princesses have given birth before.
- Pick a horror film, any horror film. In fact, in lists of horror movie rules (where they present common tropes in rule form, such as "don't go into dark, empty rooms"), "Virgins live, sluts die" is one of them.
- While none of the films in the franchise may qualify as horror movies by today's standards (even if filmgoers ran from the auditoriums in terror when the first one premiered in 1933), King Kong not only adores his virgins, but he seems to prefer blondes (see also Virgin Sacrifice).
- Some horror films use an inversion of this trope, such as Cherry Falls, where virgins are specifically being killed and paradoxically the only way to stay alive is to do the naughty which leads to the awkward scenario of parents encouraging their kids to go have sex.
- Josh Hartnett trying to be a Chaste Hero in 40 Days and 40 Nights makes him the target of both lust and sabotage attempts on the part of women presumably because, should he succeed, it would prove men can be sexually independent of women. That he went so far as to stop masturbating and looked like a drug addict going through withdrawal towards the end does not help matters.
- In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this goes both ways when Chaste Hero Sir Galahad finds the convent with the false grail.
- Dangerous Liaisons with Madame de Tourvel (And Cecile, though she's much easier due to Virginity Makes You Stupid). (And, consequently Cruel Intentions, which is Dangerous Liaisons IN HIGH SCHOOL!
- Though actually Cecile is an inversion, Valmont didn't want to sleep with her as it would damage his reputation to pick such a very easy target. He was only spurred on to seduce and ruin Cecile as revenge when her mother got in the way of his primary seduction (Madame de Tourvel).
- Forbidden Planet explicitly relates to Altaira and a docile tiger to the legendary virgin and unicorn. Sure enough, the tiger turns on Altaira after she loses her virginity, but this turns out to be justified: the apparently misplaced Terran animals on Altair-4 are completely unnatural creatures. She doesn't lose her virginity, just her innocence. But that seems to be enough.
- In Taken, the heroes daughter is pointed out early in the story to be a virgin. Being female and the daughter of the hero, she has Chastity Armor and because of this the female slavery villains who kidnap her check, find out she is a virgin (although in Real Life it isn't always so easy, even for a doctor), and hold off on raping her until after they set up a special sale for luxury virgins, which naturally gives the hero time to save her before it's too late.
- Meanwhile, the daughter's semi-slutty friend is found dead fairly early into the movie.
- Played straighter than an arrow for laughs in the play and film Reefer Madness: The Musical, well, the one that wasn't made in the thirties. Mary, the token adorable little miss diabetes-inducing sweetness, is the high school sweetheart the protagonist falls for. Sally, the only woman with a libido, is the 'reefer den slut' who boasts about being in 'more laps than a napkin.' Sally can seduce the protagonist, but only Mary can redeem him of the vile weed. Of course, one puff of the whacky tabbacy and Mary turns into a reefer slut as well. Hilarity and Death by Sex follow.
- In Kids, 15-year old Casanova Telly pursues only virgin girls. Which makes it all the more horrifying when it is discovered that he is an unknowing HIV carrier.
- In the 1987 Affectionate Parody movie version of Dragnet, Joe Friday falls for the Virgin Connie Swail (as she's almost always called) after rejecting a topless model and a stripper. Connie may also be using this trope, since she chooses Joe over his partner who is seen with several different women; it's implied Joe is a virgin himself.
Pep Streebeck: Oh Joe, you never had these feelings before, have you?
Joe Friday: Almost. I had a kitten once.
Pep Streebeck: Yeah, it's going to be a little different. Connie is not going to be sleeping in a box, or meowing all night, or clawing up your drapes. Or maybe she will. I mean, you're both kind of starting from scratch with this.
- In Mustang virginity is important for the family of the girls. After they played in the sea with boys, the three older girls must have a virginity test. During the wedding night of Selma and Osman, as there is no blood on the bedsheets, Osman and her family brings Selma to the hospital in the middle of the night for another virginity test.
- The Pornographers: Ogata the pornographer has a side business pimping. A gross old Japanese businessman asks Ogata to find him a virgin to deflower. The old man has never been the first for anybody, not even his wife, and wants to have sex with a virgin. Ogata gets a prostitute to pretend to be a virgin and even gets a fake doctor's certificate to attest to her virginal status.
- In the novel Outlander (Cross Stitch in the UK, for some reason) the main love interest, Jamie, is a virgin until his wedding night— seemingly a pleasant state of affairs for the older, previously-married heroine. This might have been an intentional gender-flip of the romance novel staple of the rakehell romantic hero and the virginal, innocent heroine, as neither of them are precisely innocent despite it. (There's also an incredibly squicky possibility that this same perceived innocence is the same reason the main villain wanted to have sex with him when he was sixteen, and was willing to set Claire free in exchange for torture and rape later on. Nngh. Whimper.)
- Older Than Dirt: In The Epic of Gilgamesh, animals had no fear of the Wild Man Enkidu until he slept with a woman (after which they avoided him).
- In The Dresden Files Book 9, White Night, Lara Raith (a sex vampire/succubus) is instantly driven to feed on young wizard Carlos Ramirez when she realizes that he is a virgin. He deflects her advances and his own supernaturally-fanned lust with some quick thinking, and Lara warns Harry (he and Ramirez being her protected guests) that virgins are extremely attractive to her kind and Ramirez should stay away from her kin, as they may not be able to control themselves around him. This revelation is particularly humiliating for Ramirez, who had made it a point to brag long and hard about his sexual conquests and prowess, and particularly amusing for Harry.
- Averted in Proven Guilty. One of the reasons Harry doesn't sleep with Molly is because she's never had sex before and doesn't understand the emotional ramifications of it.
- The nature of royal marriages in The Kingdom of Little Wounds. Isabel insists that she came to Christian a virgin. Sophia was also a virgin on her wedding night. With non-noble characters, Jacob didn't penetrate Ava because while he wanted to be intimate before their wedding, he still wanted to marry a virgin.
- There's an episode of Sex and the City that has Samantha lust after a Sexy Priest precisely because of this.
- A similar thing happened in Coupling with Jane falling for her Celibate Hero co-worker (who admittedly isn't a virgin but has renounced premarital sex for religious reasons).
- In the Dharma & Greg episode "The Second Coming of Leonard," Dharma's old boyfriend, Leonard, returns from India where he has lived his life completely celibate since the last night he and Dharma spent together. Leonard's celibacy, contrasted by his intimate knowledge of Tantric Sex, is the subject of the majority of the humor in the episode. The entire cast of the show (including Greg at the end) seems to be attracted to Leonard, who receives several sexual advances from Jane.
- Averted in at least one episode of Law & Order: SVU. A high-school Casanova, who is accused of raping a girl, claims outright that he doesn't have sex with virgins, saying that since losing their virginity is such a big deal for most teenagers, he doesn't want the emotional baggage that comes along with it.
- And played very darkly in another episode where the Villain of the Week specifically targets virgins to rape. He "justifies" it by saying that his wife wasn't a virgin when they got married—as if that's any kind of justification. And he was already a sexual predator before they met, further showing his excuse to be a load of bull.
- Really awfully played with in I, Claudius, where Sejanus and his family have been ordered executed, but the soldiers tell their commander they object to killing his young virgin daughter, as virgins are held in high regard and the murder of one would bring bad luck. The commander responds by telling them to make sure she's not a virgin before they kill her.
- Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins by John Lennon and and Yoko Ono alludes to this. At the time both of them weren't virgins any more, but they were so in love after meeting each other that they felt like virgins again. Thus the title.
- Like a Virgin by Madonna caused a stir back in 1985, precisely because of this trope. Yet, when one carefully reads the lyrics one finds out that it's actually about a woman who isn't a virgin no more and just likes her new partner, because he makes her feel a virgin again.
- Adam Ant's "S.E.X." from the album Prince Charming, despite being about sex, informs us that "virginity is no crime".
- In 2002, Chris Nowinski took a liking to Molly Holly after finding out she was a virgin.
- In William Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus Tamora's sons Chiron and Demetrius are attracted to Lavinia precisely because she's a virgin. Originally, they wanted to seduce her and were fighting each other to see which brother would do it, and with some revenging getting in the middle of things they end up raping her over her newlywed husband's corpse, cutting out her tongue, cutting off her hands (so she could neither speak nor write her attackers' names), and framing her brothers for the deed, resulting in their execution.
- Inverted in A Little Night Music, where Fredrik leaves his still-virginal wife for Desiree.
- Or doubly played straight depending on how to see it: said virginal wife, for her part, leaves Fredrik for his stepson, who is not only a virgin himself, but was planning to become a missionary before Anne got to him.
- In The Music Man, Harold Hill expresses his preference for "The Sadder But Wiser Girl", but in the end it's the nice girl he falls in love with.
- Although, for most of the plotline, Harold Hill thought that Marion 'was' a "Sadder but Wiser Girl".
- Kingdom of Loathing downplays this: "While unicorns will lay their heads in the laps of virgins, uniclopses will settle for a girl who doesn't go past second base on the first date."
- While the Grand Theft Auto series is definitely not one to pay any attention to this trope normally, Niko's final and most plot-important love interest in 4 is a virgin, which is explicitly brought up. She's also the only one of his girlfriends who won't ever sleep with him, however successfully he romances her.