It’s natural for fans of fictional properties to want to delve deeper into the lives of the characters they love. Imagining the love lives and off-visible-canon adventures of our favorite Marvel heroes and villains can be a beautiful thing. So it makes sense for fans to wonder whether or not Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America, ever had sex in his long, tumultuous life. And, it even makes sense for the the MCU to delve into the topic, if it wants to. But She-Hulk‘s handling of the topics hits a bit of a sour note. So is Captain America “a virgin”? Well, the She-Hulk post-credits scene answers that burning question for MCU canon.
Throughout She-Hulk‘s premiere episode, Jen Walters has one question she desperately needs answered; “Is Captain America a virgin?” In the show’s opening, Jen speculates to her cousin Bruce Banner about the timeline of whether Steve Rogers could have had sex. This conversation gets interrupted but resumes in the post-credits scene of She-Hulk‘s first episode. There we learn that Captain America did not, in fact, die a virgin, but that “he lost his virginity to a girl in 1943 on the USO Tour” and that “Captain America F—-”
And you know what, I want Captain America to F— as much as the next person. But this whole conversation thread hits a sour note in an otherwise witty and well-put-together premiere. It’s great that She-Hulk is aiming for a sex-positive tone. But the concept of virginity is completely antiquated, as are the narrow frames the conversation about it are allowed to take in this She-Hulk post-credits scene.
At the end of the day, virginity is a social construct, and it’s a fairly misogynistic one. Often the notion of virginity denotes the idea that the person who is “no longer a virgin” is somehow “less pure” than they were before when it comes to women. Meanwhile, for men, society views losing their virginity as a badge of honor. Neither of these are good things.
In its post-credits scene, She-Hulk seeks to laud the “loss of virginity.” And while it doesn’t shame the concept, it instead falls into the latter category of celebrating a man for his sexual pursuits. In this conversation, She-Hulk taps directly into the unhealthy relationship our society has with sex. Why is it important that we know Steve Rogers had sex? This knowledge won’t really figure into a storyline or serve his character in any way. Is it just so that we can metaphorically slap him on the back and say congratulations? So that we can feel like he was somehow “more of a man” because he slept with a “girl” who doesn’t even get a name?
She-Hulk’s deep, albeit drunk, initial sadness at the idea that Steve Rogers never got to experience sex and didn’t “deserve to die a virgin” also feels misplaced. It’s not a tragedy not to have sex. For some people, it’s a feature, not a bug. And there’s an underlying layer of deeply conventional thinking that seems to feel this joke is universal in She-Hulk‘s post-credits scene. Virginity jokes honestly belong right next to gay jokes on the shelf of things that aren’t really funny.
This brings me to my last issue with the “Is Captain America a virgin” situation, the utter heteronormativity of it. Just like She-Hulk assumes Steve Rogers and every single person watching greatly desire sex, it also assumes Steve Rogers and every single person watching are totally straight. She-Hulk notes, “Steve Rogers did not have a girlfriend before he went into the service… So he becomes Captain America. And from that moment on, a symbol of America, he is rushed to the frontlines and he becomes a war hero. Then he is frozen in ice. After he gets unfrozen, he goes from world-threatening disaster to world-threatening disaster. That’s when he’s not a fugitive from the law, right? So it seems like he was pretty busy. Obviously, Captain America was a virgin.”
It’s fascinating that the assumption simply is that Steve Rogers is straight. There’s not even an ounce of musing about any other alternative. It’s simply because he didn’t have a girlfriend before the war, though he shared his life with his best friend, he must not have had sex. That because he was then on the front lines, though surrounded largely by men he deeply cared for, he couldn’t have had sex. That even though he fought in world-ending disasters and was on the run from the law, though he became a fugitive for Bucky, he could not have had sex. There’s not even a tiny bit of space for the idea of MCU queerness throughout all of this outlandish speculation. No, Marvel clearly says, any conversation about sex will be about heteronormative sex and nothing else. We do not love to see it.
Ultimately, the She-Hulk post-credits scene and its other discussions of Captain America’s virginity leave a bad taste behind. It feels like Marvel just wanted to say “Captain America F—-” and the rest was immaterial. But, sincerely, the whole thing begs us to ask what the punchline of the joke is exactly. And it kind of feels like it’s something about fans who want Steve Rogers to have a meaningful sex life. Sorry, I’m not laughing.