Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.
TV URBAN LEGEND: Lisa Kudrow was a virgin until marriage.
When it comes to sexuality in popular culture, people seem particularly fascinated when actors and actresses take a pious approach to sex, since it is so different from the prevailing depiction of sex in TV and film. So when Elvis Presley’s first film screen kiss becomes a nun or Kirk Cameron refuses to kiss a woman other than his wife, even in a movie, it stands out to us. That’s why it was so memorable to people when it was revealed that actress Lisa Kudrow was a virgin until she was married at the age of 31 (a year into her stint as one of the leads on the hit sitcom, Friends).
Over the years, she has appeared on countless online lists of celebrities who waited until marriage (there are tons of these lists because, again, people are fascinated with this stuff). The key quote cited when discussing this surprising fact was a quote from when she was promoting her film, The Opposite of Sex, in 1999:
I decided pretty early on that I should stay a virgin until I got married. My virginity was something I had decided was very precious, something that I owned, to give away. It was an honor I was bestowing on a young man, and he had to be worthy of it.
So the belief was that she gave this “honor” to her husband of 19 years, Michael Stern.
But is that actually true?
No, it is not. Despite this “fact” being cited constantly throughout the internet, it is not true. Kudrow went on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2011 to dispel the story. Here is their exchange:
Lisa Kudrow: It’s the most frequently asked question of me: “So you were a virgin when you got married? It’s not true.”
Jay Leno: Only in America is that like an insult — “Oh she was a virgin when she got married!”
Kudrow: No I don’t take it as an insult!
Leno: It’s not an insult.
Kudrow: No, no. What I was trying to say is that when I was young I had always had hoped and wanted to be a virgin when I got married, which I think is worthwhile.
When you see the whole profile in W Magazine in 1999, you can see how the context changes the quotes immensely (and obviously, the whole thing was in the context of her then new film, The Opposite of Sex, hence the discussion of sex). The article is about how Kudrow went away to college one way and graduated college a whole other way. Here’s the full paragraph that the quote is from:
Kudrow has no shortage of painful memories to draw upon, many of them dating back to adolescence. She was the type of kid who enrolled in summer school full-time so she wouldn’t have to go to the beach. Even her parents tried to get her to lighten up, but it was a lost cause. “I was very uptight, and really nervous about my sexuality,” she remembers. “I decided pretty early on that I should stay a virgin until I got married. My virginity was something I had decided was very precious, something that I owned, to give away. It was an honor I was bestowing on a young man, and he had to be worthy of it.” As a teenager, she also had secret thoughts about pursuing a career in acting, but she denied herself that indulgence as well. “It was one of those crazy, rigid things that I decided for the sake of my future children,” she says. “I didn’t want their mother to be an actor.”
As you well know, she obviously DID become an actor, so the whole thing in the article was about the rigid view that she had when she was younger that is different from the way her life turned out. When she was young, she thought that she would be a virgin until marriage, but that’s not how things turned out.
Years later, Kudrow actually recalled it being Jay Leno’s “fault” that the story became so entrenched in the minds of the public, as she noted to the New York Daily News in 2011 (soon before she then went on the show to talk about it with him):
“I think in People magazine [actually W magazine – BC] I said that I had once hoped I would be a virgin when I got married,” Kudrow said of the rumors swirling that she was a virgin when she married at age 31. “And then Jay Leno made a joke in his monologue about me being a virgin, and the story got started.”
And of course, nearly five years later, the “fact” is still going strong! But the legend is…
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