I have mixed feelings about the movie Hocus Pocus.
I watched it as a kid, before I really understood what the word “virgin” meant, and it was easy for the kind of kid I was (am) to fall in love with a movie about an immortal talking cat, but I also really liked it out of an appreciation for all things spooky and Halloween.
So in retrospect, it’s disappointing to realize how much of the script revolves around making fun of the protagonist for being a virgin.
And so when I found out that my university’s movie night had picked this as its feature film, I decided to pass on the chance to see it again.
The virginity thing is (technically) relevant to the plot because the witches can be raised from the dead if a certain candle is lit by a virgin on Halloween night — although that doesn’t explain why almost all the characters keep treating the protagonists’ sexual inexperience as a salient detail the way they do — but as for that being one of the requirements of the witches’ resurrection, the story seems to be mimicking a wider media tradition of the “virgin sacrifice” plotline, a concept that has always bothered me.
Whether or not the word ever had a different meaning than now, in modern parlance, the mandate that the sacrifice (or what have you) come from a “virgin”, specifically, necessarily implies that anyone who has had sex, even if just once, escapes all the associated risk. It’s a strange one as fantastical aesops go, but it also has a kind of resonance in my culture, where to be a virgin is to be unfinished and uninitiated.
Why virginity would even be magically relevant is another question — and considering how these kinds of sacrifices are usually women, ideas of “purity” and higher value assigned to virgins are likely to be involved, but the in-world logic of these clauses undercut the personal desirability of that value. That is to say, virgins are wanted by others, but it’s not safe or beneficial to be one. It’s rape culture from both sides.
Thinking about this has really made me wonder how this concept got popularized, because even if it has some “real” basis in the history of the occult, that wouldn’t necessarily make it a contender for mass proliferation. Hollywood has never much cared for accuracy, after all.
So what is it about the “being a virgin can literally put you in physical danger” idea that so appeals to folks?
Is it the “have sex to escape the threat of harm” corollary? Or the notion that “people who don’t have sex will (should) receive punishment for it”? Or is it the “get out of trouble by confessing your sexual history like it’s the credentials for your safety” jokes?
Or should I assume it’s nothing?