Review: The Virgin Project

Artist(s): K.D. Boze, Stasia Kato.

This new book is, coincidentally, an interesting counterpart to the previous one I’ve reviewed, How To Love. Both are about an activity shared by all human beings (well, most), both are very gay-inclusive, and both are stylistically varied. But The Virgin Project differs from How To Love by focusing on the physical side of love, and more precisely, on the first time people partake in it, hence the title. Authors K.D. Boze and Stasia Kato have interviewed hundreds of people about how they lost their virginity, to give us an account of that usually important time in one’s life.
With about 90 stories (20% of these are non-straight), the uncle and niece team (that’s rather original!) manage to cover a lot of ground, from the hot and fun to the violent and tragic, from the totally straight to the extremely gay, from young teens to people in their thirties, from a contemporary setting to life in the 50s, all told in short stories which all pack a lot of punch. What’s most impressed me here is the way that the variety of experiences recounted is matched with the variety of storytelling styles and ideas. These are good comics, quite apart from the validity of the themes.

The stories are pervaded by a humor that manages to be cute and sexy without being clichéd or gratuitously vulgar. We even get a “Oh my God I’ve had sex with a man dressed as a woman” story, but the punchline is heartwarming and definitely not anti-transgender. Some of the stories are little more than jokes, but they’ve all really happened, and after all, humor is a big part of sex.

From one of the gay stories

I’ve wondered whether there was any specificity to the non-straight stories. A lot of them do include some questioning from the people involved–Am I really gay? Am I supposed to enjoy this? That’s rather understandable, and most of us have gone through that stage, in one form or another. Interestingly, most of the stories were the people feel guilt or religious pressure are straight ones. Whether or not that’s a bias of the authors of the book, who have selected the stories they wanted to tell, is not terribly important. It is just fun to note that we get a lot of stories with two young men or women enjoying themselves without any seeming damage to their mental state. Another thing is the number of lesbians who talk about what “losing one’s virginity” means. Kissing? Masturbation? Oral sex? Penetration? The straight people seem less puzzled about that, but that’s a very valid question.
There are also a few bi stories (if we need to use a classification), which don’t seem to me to be often seen in modern stories (or maybe I don’t read the right kind of stories, in books or comics), maybe since they don’t fit the straight/gay dichotomy that has done as much good as bad in our times. It has to be said that the mundane aspect of most stories is what gives this book its real value.

From one of the bi stories

The artwork might not seem slick, but I think it’s suitably engaging. In places, it reminded me of Donna Barr’s style. As I said above, the storytelling is varied, and the authors know how to present a light-hearted story as well as really tragic one–we do get a few of these, and some are almost unbearable to read, with their pared-down style reflecting the starkness of the event, while the more joyous stories present a more open and energetic style. Most of the art is in a cartoony style, which I enjoy a lot (in fact, I was a bit less convinced by the few strips done in a more realistic style), among other things because they help not making the reader feel like a voyeur, but rather like someone taking part in that unique kind of intimate chat that happens late at night among people enjoying each other’s company.
So, here’s to the possibility of more volumes on this theme. After all, there are a few billion stories to tell.

This large-sized, 140-page book is available from the publisher or from Amazon.

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