And So To Bed

12.01.15 6:00 AM ET

Why We Love Tim Tebow’s Virginity Freak Show

Whether Olivia Culpo dumped Tim Tebow for not ‘boning’ her is perhaps less interesting than the various sexist and sex-shaming responses to the story itself.

Just as our Thanksgiving turkey was drying out, the New York Daily News was ready to fill a different hunger with a deliciously juicy report of sex, religious convictions, heartbreak, and an exceptionally attractive semi-famous couple.

The famously religious, ex-NFL quarterback Tim Tebow had been allegedly dumped by former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo because, as New York’s The Cut simply put it, “he won’t bone.”

While the formerly married Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson has declared himself a “born-again” virgin, by all accounts, there’s nothing “born again” about Tebow’s virginity.

The Heisman Trophy winner had always been open about his commitment to Christianity. He confirmed in 2009 during his last season of playing for the University of Florida that this commitment included abstaining from sex until marriage.

An insider told the Daily News that Culpo “had to break up with him because she just couldn’t handle it.”

The tale of a handsome, 28-year-old, virgin male and a sexually frustrated beauty queen could not escape the Web’s attention.

In the accounts that followed Culpo was often cast as a temptress, with the Daily News and other outlets quickly pointing out that she allegedly got Nick Jonas to shed his promise ring (nod, nod, wink, wink).

With Tebow, he fell into one of two roles: 1) the wimpy, virginal chump 2) the righteous, self-controlled Samson who actually successfully resisted Delilah.

Sports Illustrated gleefully posted on its website the headline “Tim Tebow’s Virginity Costs Him Again.”

Of the details in the initial Daily News report that Tebow sent Culpo romantic letters, Rachel Vorona Cote at Jezebel snarkily countered “most women don’t orgasm because of cute notes.”

That’s true, though many of us don’t through sexual intercourse either (the numbers vary, but the Society of Obstetricians and Gynacologists of Canada say only about a third of women regularly orgasm from intercourse).

On the other hand, Us Weekly gushed in admiration that while a source told the publication “last month that the athlete thought Culpo was ‘a goddess,’” ultimately, “no goddess could make him change his sacred promise.”

Barstool Sports applauded Tebow for his commitment to virginity—though at the cost of painting Culpo as more than a temptress.

She was a sex-crazed beast, hungry for “the dick sandwich” (a supremely unsexy euphemism for heterosexual relations). The author, under the pseudonym El Presidente, wrote:

You almost have to respect it. He literally has most beautiful woman in the universe begging him to stuff her and he still wouldn’t do it…. Olivia Culpo makes a living getting whatever dick she wants. I’m sure that’s been the case her entire life. She knew the rumors, but probably loved the challenge… The chase is half the fun. But 2 months later and she still can’t break him. Sometimes you just got to tip your cap to the wild virgin and let him roam free.  

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Apparently, being an attractive woman who wants to have sex sometimes equates to “mak[ing] a living getting whatever dick she wants” and being a successful athlete (at least on the collegiate level) equates to being a “wild virgin” who is almost deserving of respect.

It is far from clear that lack of sex was a cause for the Tebow-Culpo split.

Neither has commented directly on it, and E! Online reported today that an insider source claimed the breakup “had ‘nothing to do’ with Tebow's decision to remain abstinent.”

But the truth doesn’t matter. We’ve missed the days of both salivating and speculating over Britney Spears’s and later Selena Gomez’s virginity.

Virginity—which is both stigmatized and idolized—still sends our tongues wagging like few other sexual predilections. Perhaps it’s because it seems oddly titillating in our over-sexualized culture, especially if the practitioner is a sexy male athlete, who could “bone,” one assumes, whichever partner of his choosing.

“The reason the story probably got so much attention is the virginity. That’s what makes it so interesting. Even though Tebow is out and proud about being a virgin, being a virgin is a stigmatized category today,” Rachel Hills, the author ofThe Sex Myth, a book debunking the belief that everyone is having loads of sex, told The Daily Beast. “It’s the freak show aspect that probably interested people.”

That “freak show” attention may also be result of the fact that Tebow is the virgin in the former couple, which is an “inversion of the typical gender roles,” Hills noted. We usually expect women to be the ones refusing sex and maintaining their virginity.

But because men are, perhaps, less expected to be virgins in heterosexual relationships, Hills said women in general face more scrutiny for their sexual behavior—just as we see in the way Culpo is being portrayed.

“There was an interesting study that showed men are generally given more latitude with sexual choices—more latitude to have as much sex as they like and also more latitude to abstain without it being considered a stigmatizing thing,” she explained. “Whereas with women, it is so easy for us to fall into being perceived as either having too much sex or too little sex.”

In general, though, for both men and women, being a virgin “is something that is considered weird and probably makes you undesirable,” Hills said.

In a time where mainstream society has not only accepted sex before marriage, but a wide range of far more “exotic” predilections, virgin status can be fodder for titillation and mockery.

For those who haven’t won Heisman trophies and national fame, it can be harder than the ribbing Tebow faces without any of the praise he also, at least sometimes, enjoys.

As a handsome, athletic celebrity, Tebow may also be something of an exception in terms of earning a level of accolades for his virginity.

“I’m not sure how much it applies outside of celebrity,” said Hills. “I think idolizing virginity extends less into your twenties. In high school and college, it may be seen as a moral choice, but there’s less celebration once you get above a certain age.”