Book Review

The Virgin Project by K.D. Boze and Stasia Kato

A

Title: The Virgin Project
Author: K.D., Stasia Boze, Kato
Publication Info: Fanny Press 2009
ISBN: 1603814000
Genre: Comic

Book CoverThis is a bit outside the boundaries of the genre, but in some ways, it’s not. I first mentioned The Virginity Project here, and when the publisher of the book offered a review copy for me to review, I was so curious to see the collection, I couldn’t say no. Since so much of romance focuses on virginity in one form or another, both literal and figurative, examining sexuality through illustration of the (dare I say) seminal moment for some men and women’s sexual history seemed relative to romance’s interests.

This collection is so moving, I couldn’t stop reading it. It doesn’t take long to read, but there are some that are so wrenching, so joyous, so funny that you go back and re-read them. Each could be a novel, though some are so horrifying they’re not even on the same planet as romantic. There are tales of rape and assault, stories of coming out and finally figuring out how to come, and stories of planned and spontaneous sexual experiences that reveal how much we’re NOT talking about when we discuss sexuality, virginity, and sexual agency.

The bad ones are easier to remember, but the joyful ones are equally important to savor. So few people have first sexual experiences that are memorable for good reasons – either they’re not dramatic at all, or much better off forgotten entirely. What I find amazing is the talent and kindness of the artists. The project emerged as part of Seattle’s Bumbershoot arts festival in 2004, and the finished comics were displayed at the Seattle Erotic Art Festival in 2008. Through individual interviews, K.D. Boze and Stasia Kato created comic panels that tell a person’s virginity story. But even though the hallmarks of the artists’ styles are evident, no two are alike, and the artists’ pain or amusement or commiseration and always constant empathy are all tangible. Most of all, I found it respectful – which is a powerful trait considering that they’re revealing some incredibly intimate moments.

From theVirgin Project website:

All of the stories in this book are true. The names have been changed to protect privacy, and identifying factors have been altered occasionally. These stories were collected at various times and locations, including during the Seattle Erotic Art Festival and the Victoria Erotic Art and Film Festival. Artistic license has been used, but sparingly to ensure that these real-life stories ring true.

You can see samples at the publisher’s page about the book. If you’re wary of reading some that are painful,  Gail and Arlen‘s stories are funny – but heads up, these are about sex. Ergo: not safe for work viewing!

Reading the book made me feel both tearful pain and giggly happiness, depending on the page. It is not an easy experience to read this book, and is not one to be entered lightly, especially if you yourself have a painful sexual history. The ones that left the biggest impression on me were the man who couldn’t talk about his because it was so traumatic, the woman who realized what “took care of it” really meant, and the woman whose extended circle of family and friends conspired to make the night she lost her virginity a story so beautiful, I grinned for hours. It’s funny and touching and wise and, above all, it’s serious business, the Virginity Project.

Since romance as a genre, not only the books but the individuals creating that genre, from the editors to the authors to the publicists to the readers, is indelibly linked to sexuality and virginity, like it or not, the topic is frankly important. I think this book reveals as much about the experience of sexual initiation through comics and illustration than any academic text about why women have sex and how many reasons there are. If you see it in a bookshop, take a look. It’ll be hard to put down. (Huh huh. I said “hard.”) The Virgin Project is powerful in its simplicity, and grows more complex as you think about each panel individually, and the book as a collective assembly of personal, and communal, history.


The Virgin Project may be hard to find. It is available at Amazon,  and at many comic stores and local shops listed on the author’s website.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    AgTigress says:

    The Fanny Press, eh?  Presumably the BE meaning of ‘fanny’.
    :-)

    An excellent review, in all senses of the word. 

    Do you think everyone actually remembers their ‘first time’?  I can’t say that I do—I do know who and when, but I cannot remember a single detail about the experience.  Of course, it was about 50 years ago, but I remember lots of things from longer ago than that very clearly indeed.

  2. 2
    Strategerie says:

    We live in the Seattle area. I seriously considered signing up to be interviewed about my experience for this book when it was still being written. Mostly, I think the book’s a great idea. After all, it’s one of the major rites of passage of our lives, we’re told losing our virginity makes us adults, but we don’t discuss it.

    I’ll definitely be visiting the University Book Store to buy a copy of my own. Thanks for reviewing it!

    -S

  3. 3
    StephS says:

    Very nice review.  I’m glad to see that they included some stories from men as well.  Sometimes I think people forget that men are virgins too!

  4. 4
    HelenM says:

    ZOMG and hot damn, I need to own this book. *sets off to find a someone selling it who’ll ship to the UK*

  5. 5
    K.D. Boze says:

    Thank you all so much for such a kind review.  As one of the authors, I appreciated reading it.

    If you still want to share your own stories, you can do that online.
    Please visit thevirginproject.com

    As for Miss Helen M, who is looking for someone who will ship to the UK, I’d be happy to do that.  Please visit the website, order a copy, and I will mail it off to you.  I’m shipping a copy off to Vienna as I write this.  Stasia and I have sent copies off to every English-speaking country in the world.

    Again, thank you for reading “The Virgin Project”.  We will be publishing the second volume of stories very soon.

    Yours,

    —K.D. Boze
    The Virgin Project

  6. 6

    Your review was excellent and I thank you for it!  After checking out the publisher’s page (your link) I’m sending info on the book to many friends and family members.

  7. 7
    Janet W says:

    http://www.jillsorenson.com/books/index.php … Jill Sorenson’s book about the surfer who may or may not be a murder (sorry, brain freeze on title) also has a subplot concerning his teenage daughter, a virgin. And as the mum of a slightly older girl, I thought it was handled realistically. Just wanted to add it to the list.

  8. 8
    Lizzie (greeneyed fem) says:

    I’d be interested to hear how non-straight people talk about their virginity in this, or how it’s addressed. A lot of queer folk (myself included) have come around to thinking the whole idea of “virginity” is pretty problematic, given its emphasis on penis-in-vagina sex as the only “real” sex, and the uneven weight placed on women’s virginity (intact hymen) in patriarchal culture.

  9. 9
    K.D. Boze says:

    Lizzie, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    My book covers a lot of ground from both gay and lesbian people, and it does include the ever-present debate, “At what point does a non-straight person lose virginity?”

    While Stasia and I are compiling stories for Volume 2, I have discovered an abundance of straight hetero stories.  If you are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, you are particularly invited to get on my website and share your own stories.

    Please visit http://www.thevirginproject.com and share.

    Cheers,
    K.D. Boze
    The Virgin Project

  10. 10
    jude says:

    I read that article you quoted on why women have sex.
    http://www.newsweek.com/id/216341

    Bizarre!

    It says that why women have sex is the ‘great unanswered question’!!!

    To me, the great unanswered question would be ‘why do you have to ask?’

    The fact that the authors feel the need to flounder around anazysing the reasons we have sex, while referring to us as ‘they’ and not immediately mentioning the two biggies (1. we get horny. 2. orgasms.  – DUH!) only highlights the reasons we sometimes don’t want to have sex, which are 1. we live in a patriarchy, which is a huge turn off (why are procedural romances seen as less worthy than procedural man-trash like crime and army novels??? Why is a teacher paid less than an engineer???) and 2. there is a large rape rate (something like 70% of women have been raped in Western society, although nobody knows the figures, and something like 3% of rapists are prosecuted), which is also a huge turn off.

    Reading that article was like having bad hetero sex with a clueless idiot.

    Thank god for great websites like yours that are funny and smart and life affirming. I think I just wrote the longest, most tangled up sentence ever back there. Sorry for that!

Comments are closed.

↑ Back to Top