Throughout the first episode of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law — which explores the backstory of how Jennifer Walters got her Hulk powers — Jen has one big, pressing question for her cousin Bruce: Did Captain America die a virgin?!
[Ed. note: This post contains some spoilers for that above question, lmao.]
At first, Bruce refuses to outright answer this, and for good reason, since it is an intimate question about his deceased (as far as Jen knows) friend and colleague’s sex life. But the episode’s post-credits scene reveals a drunken Jen rambling about how sad it is that Steve Rogers died without getting some. It’s then, out of pity or perhaps because Jen seems too drunk to remember, that Bruce reveals Jen’s assumption is wrong.
“Steve Rogers is not a virgin,” says Bruce. “He lost his virginity to a girl in 1943 on the USO Tour.”
“YES,” shouts a suddenly sober Jen. “I knew it!”
So, there we have it: Marvel Cinematic Universe Steve Rogers has banged at least once in his life. Hurrah!
But this confirmation feels… lacking. For one thing, the MCU is largely devoid of sex and romance (not that those two things have to go hand in hand, but typically in Hollywood, they do). With very few exceptions, the heroes in the MCU don’t even kiss, let alone get busy in the bedroom. Yes, there are winks and nods to the Casanova characters’ dalliances, but that’s just another way the MCU relies on telling instead of showing. We get to hear about Peter Quill and Tony Stark’s conquests, but God forbid we get anything beyond the incredibly awkward sex scene in Eternals.
Because so much is left to the imagination, some facets of the audience like to imagine what could be between the characters. And unlike Jen Walters, fans tend to be a little more generous to Steve regarding his sex life, especially since he’s saving the world with a bunch of certified hotties. (I’ll forgive her, since he’s technically a real-life person in her world.) In fact, the two most popular MCU relationships on fanfiction hub Archive of Our Own center around Steve — with best friend and tortured mercenary Bucky Barnes and billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark, in case you were wondering.
You see, MCU fans do want to know Captain America fucked! But not some random woman who doesn’t even get a name. What they actually want is an emotional connection between characters, a history built up between them, tension and feelings and sparks, be it devoted childhood friends, bickering rivals, or long-lost loves. But the MCU continues to undermine most genuine relationships with snarky jokes and punctuate moments of emotional resonance with silly quips. So instead of heartfelt, genuine-feeling relationships, we get other characters telling the audience what’s up with those same sarcastic zingers.
Steve Rogers isn’t a virgin, and that whole joke feels like it’s making fun of fans who are invested in his romantic relationships (not to mention making fun of being a virgin, which just feels like a cheap early-2000s bro comedy dig). And it has nothing to do with the fact that the most popular Captain America ships are male pairings (hey, people love to see him with Peggy Carter, too!). It’s the fact that this girl gets no name or backstory or emotional connection. It’s the fact that Jen’s thirst is filtered through some weird value system about sex. It’s the fact that Jen’s curiosity about this question exists just to get built up to a punchline, because haha, isn’t it funny that Captain America fucked? Isn’t it funny in this world of gorgeous people who fight more than they enjoy each other’s company that one of them could’ve possibly had time for sex? Isn’t it funny that people even think about this?
But people do think about this. Not just sex (though that too, yes), but romance and emotional camaraderie and a connection beyond tense co-workers who are obligated to get along to defeat a bad guy. The comics these heroes come from have never lacked for romance, but somehow when packaging it up for the multimillion-dollar family-friendly experience that is the MCU, even the most innocent hallmarks of romance — the kissing and stolen glances and fade-to-black heated moments — get lost along the way. And if you’re wondering where they all went, apparently you’re the butt of the joke.