On Monday night’s episode of Jane the Virgin, the show’s title character finally did what has been talked about, joked about, and deliberated on for three years: Jane Gloriana Villanueva Cordero (Gina Rodriguez) had sex.
And, like anything with that much buildup, it was a less-than-ideal experience: There was a fake orgasm, an accidental sex tape emailed to a grad school adviser, and a bit of an identity crisis.
When viewers first met Jane, she was a college student with aspirations of becoming a teacher, about to get engaged to Michael Cordero (Brett Dier), her boyfriend of two years. That’s also when, to quote the narrator on Jane the Virgin, “everything changed.” Jane was accidentally artificially inseminated with the sperm of her onetime crush Rafael Solano (Justin Baldoni), fell in love with him, broke up with Michael, became a writer instead of teaching, broke up with Rafael, and became a mom to her son, Mateo Gloriano Rogelio Solano Villanueva.
Yes, everything did change for Jane, but the one thing that remained was her virgin status. So when she finally had sex with Michael — whom she married at the end of Season 2 and who barely survived being shot in the same episode — there was a lot of buildup, not just for the character, but for the series' writers and showrunner, Jennie Snyder Urman, too.
"I wasn’t sure what her emotional journey was going to be until we started to really talk about it and talk about how much of Jane’s identity — even though she didn’t want to be a virgin — was tied up with being a virgin,” Snyder Urman told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview on Tuesday. “From that discussion about her emotional life, we came up with the fact that maybe it wasn’t so great, and that’s so much of what the show is about: the space between reality and fantasy. And Jane’s expectations would be so big, we knew that she was really setting herself up for a letdown.”
In flashbacks, viewers have seen young Jane promise to her abuela, Alba (Ivonne Coll), to wait until she's married to have sex for the first time. “You can never go back,” Alba tells Jane with a stern look, comparing losing one's virginity to a crumpled-up flower that Jane then hung above her bed. “Never forget that.”
Snyder Urman cites Alba as the major force behind Jane’s ideas and feelings about sex, but Alba is mostly absent from Jane’s virginity storyline in the episode. Instead, it's Jane's mom, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo), who helps her deal with her conflicted feelings about her first time.
“Xo’s sitting by while Alba gave that speech and kind of rolled her eyes back in the pilot, but to me it was never because she was just sort of surly and not into what her mom had to say,” Snyder Urman said. “Fundamentally, I think Xo believes that isn’t a great thing for somebody to feel.”
While Jane spent most of her life looking up to her grandmother and has adopted her belief system about sex and virginity, a conversation with her own mother at the end of the episode helps her come to terms with no longer being a virgin.
“I always wanted to give Xo a chance to sort of give her opinion on that initial metaphor,” Snyder Urman said. “Xo was saying, 'Now you have a whole life to live as a person who has sex and that’s going to open up so much more of your life; you haven’t lost something, you’ve gained something.' And I felt like that was important for her mom to tell her and for the show to say, and for younger girls to hear because we have a younger girl audience as well.”
When it came to deciding how to talk about having sex for the first time, Snyder Urman told BuzzFeed News that the Jane the Virgin writers discussed “the feeling more than the language.”
“I think the language of 'losing your virginity' in general is built into that; it’s the feeling that you’ve lost something,” she said. “We definitely talked about that and how that language in a cultural way contributes to this feeling that you’re less after [having sex] than you were before, and also specifically how Jane would feel that way because of all the language around her virginity that she’s been presented with and that the show has presented. ... We wanted her to deal with all those implications, and the show should deal with all those implications as well.”
The limitations of language around virginity generally fail to include definitions of sex beyond heteronormative ideas about penetration. In the Oct. 31 episode, Jane and Michael talk in coded language about having previously had oral sex, which surprised some viewers considering Jane's staunch "virgin" stance. "We’ve hinted before that she was not a prude and that she had done things, but they hadn’t actually completed the act of having penetrative sex," Snyder Urman said.
"We as the writers always thought that they had done plenty of things without actually consummating their relationship," she added, referring to Michael and Jane. "I think we hinted at that a bunch of times. … They’ve had sleepovers, she’s put her hand into the covers and then we’ve turned out the lights, so I feel like we were kind of implying that without ever being too specific."
Snyder Urman said that Jane's definition of "virginity" has “evolved as she had a baby, she got married, all those kinds of things.” “And that’s obviously not how everybody defines virginity or how everybody make those choices," she continued. "We didn’t want her to be totally inexperienced in her sexual vocabulary.”
As far as what this all means for the future of Jane the Virgin — which is based on a Venezuelan soap of the same name — Snyder Urman plans on switching up the show title each episode, depending on what’s going on in Jane’s life at the time.
“The title kind of came to me with the idea for the show, and I knew in the course of the series she would have sex,” she said. “But I also knew we were playing so much with text onscreen and all of the typing … so I always figured we could do something where we play with the title that would still be in the vocabulary of the show, but would show the way that the show and the character are evolving.”
So, in the coming weeks, fans can expect to tune in to “Jane the Person Who Doesn’t Like Her Mom’s Boyfriend” or “Jane the Person Who Wants to Get a New Job," according to the LA Times.
In trying to find the balance between sex, their relationship, and everything else going on in her life (see above), both Jane and Michael struggle to explore what harmony looks like for them. Throughout the episode, Jane goes back and forth on whether sex is about “the connection between two souls” or about raw, genuine attraction. But ultimately, the couple focuses on finding ways to make sex enjoyable for Jane.
“She knows that it is important and that her pleasure is just as important as his,” Snyder Urman said. “I think that’s also what was underneath this episode. It is important to her relationship as it is in life, and I think she’s sort of trying to talk herself out of how important it was. And through the journey of the episode, they achieved a rhythm and will continue to work in that direction.”