McGill is an interesting place. Despite tens of thousands of students here studying a wide range of subjects, we all share a sense of togetherness. We experience everything together: the brutal Montreal winters, the fascination with campus squirrels, and the grueling nights at the library. Instances like these spawn a unique sense of humour among students, which results in a multitude of meme pages across university campuses. Students revel in poking fun at the intricacies of studying at their respective schools. As such, I believe that campus meme pages are a great thing. Not only do they inspire creativity from those running the pages, but they ignite a feeling of relatability among their followers, who regularly engage with clever content created by fellow students.
Like many other students, I was surprised and delighted to come across a new Instagram account that elevates campus humour to an entirely new level. The McGill University Virginity Club is a meticulously constructed page designed to come across as more informative than funny. The colour-coordinated infographic posts are full of educational text regarding how to preserve virginity on campus. For example, one of the club’s first posts contains a list of tips and tricks for staying abstinent. They offer advice, including, “Recite bible verses whenever you feel sexual urges” or, “Put photos of yourself holding a fish in your dating app profiles to avoid getting swiped right on!” in an informative and formal manner, as if it were a respected committee or club.
Although it took me a while to fully understand what I was looking at, I quickly realized that The McGill Virginity Club was something special. The account bolsters humour by satirizing traditional Catholic norms of abstinence. Their tongue-in-cheek embracement of celibacy comes off as deeply entertaining to mostly secular university students, who understand the overwhelming presence of hookup culture on campus. I reached out to the mind(s) behind @mcgillvirginity over Instagram, and I was lucky enough to receive an enthusiastic response.
“Your body, your choice,” said their social media representative. “People shouldn’t feel pressured to engage with hookup culture and should be comfortable being open about their virginity.”
One aspect that instantly captivated me was the way the page presents their humour. Their use of educative formatting adds a brilliant layer of satirical entertainment. Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic forcing us indoors, it has become much more difficult for young activists to properly express themselves through protests and demonstrations. Thus, social media is often clouded by informative posts, diagrams, and infographics that attempt to highlight the significance of world issues in a simple manner. While these educational posts are undoubtedly a positive thing, it has birthed what many call “slacktivist” culture.
This phenomenon refers to a custom in which countless social media users repost and share images related to pressing world events, without making any other effort or commitment towards the cause. So, where does the McGill Virginity Club fit into this? I find that its unique format is heavily inspired by slacktivist culture. I see it as a response to the innumerable, informative posts the youth have seen on social media over the past several months. The posts are framed as educational, but they reward the viewer with humour if they actually choose to read through it.
“The page’s appearance was curated to use an infographic style and get the message across clearly and concisely,” McGill Virginity Club explains. “Obviously aesthetics are important on Instagram, so we are trying to make the page nice to look at and draw in more fellow virgins.”
The concept of a campus virginity club is not solely McGillian, as Instagram accounts in the same vein have already popped up representing schools across North America. It is no surprise to me that such an approach to humour would be popular on campuses all around the continent. Not only does McGill Virginity Club’s page use impressive graphic design for their posts, but they sell an array of virgin-positive merchandise for students.
Additionally, they directly engage with their followers by allowing them to nominate a Virgin of the Week (VOTW), whom they celebrate on the page. At the time of writing this article, @mcgillvirginity boasts over 4 200 followers, making it one of the continent’s most popular campus virginity clubs. The only page with more followers I could find was the Brigham Young Virginity Club (@byuvirgin) in Utah with a whopping 8 800 followers. Nevertheless, McGill’s page still retains a larger following than schools such as Concordia University (250 followers), University of Florida (2 100), and Queen’s University (1 000 followers).
“We want fellow students to see how many virgins are on campus and counteract stigma and anti-virgin sentiment, ” said the club over Instagram.
Despite the layers of humour surrounding the McGill Virginity Club, their mission statement remains wholesome and optimistic. Even if one chooses to absorb their humour with a grain of salt, they can still appreciate the efforts to bring humour into the lives of students during the difficult times of remote learning. McGill Virginity Club unanimously succeeds in this endeavour, and it is personally responsible for making me laugh out loud a handful of times during an unprecedented, strenuous semester.
The recent influx of campus Instagram pages promoting virginity should be viewed as a positive thing. By embracing humour and irony surrounding the “sanctity” of abstinence, they are attempting to prove that there should be no stigma surrounding the concept of virginity. Although these accounts poke fun at the term endlessly, their comedy is fueled by the temperament of “nobody cares,” rather than trying to offend one particular group. Regardless of sexual orientation or experience, taunting the absurdity of virginity is an enjoyable trend that university students should pursue to the utmost extent.