The Mystery of Stocking’s Virginity (or Lack Thereof)

The idea that otaku over-value virginity is prevalent. This sexism is not limited to otaku or even just Japan of course, and there are equivalents around the world in different forms, but whether it’s people getting mad over their favorite anime characters having had past relationships, or scandals over Japanese idols secretly dating, it’s become a valid point of criticism for otaku subculture. At the same time, I wonder if that mindset isn’t so cut and dry. Just as girls do not fall under a simple virgin/slut dichotomy, I think it may be faulty to view otaku as liking only one or the other.

The main title that has me looking over the otaku preference thing is actually Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt. It’s well-established, based on sales of merchandise both official and unofficial, that the sweets-loving goth Stocking is much more popular among Japanese fans than the sex-crazed Panty. This seems to fall in line with the general rhetoric that otaku hate non-virgins, as Panty as a character is defined by the sheer amount of sex she has. She has extremely shallow standards for men, possibly spends more time having sex than not, and will even have important conversations in the middle of sex with people other than the guy(s) she’s with. The image of otaku’s preferences would work out perfectly, if not for the fact that the show states that Stocking is also sexually active.

Stocking mentions during the series that she also has a love life. It’s not even that she’s only had long-term relationships, or is merely a non-virgin still hesitant about sex even after having it. Though she’s more selective than Panty in terms of men, she establishes that she’s been with multiple guys, and will candidly discuss with Panty that some were great in bed and others weren’t. In light of this, why do the fans prefer Stocking to the point that her figures will go out of stock while Panty’s will get discounted heavily due to lack of sales?

One possibility I’m considering is pretty much a matter of relativity. Within the context of individual shows, it becomes easy to categorize characters in comparison to each other. In a show where everyone is small and cute, the character with any sort of bust becomes the “big-breasted” one, whereas in a show where all the character designs are leggy supermodels there may be a different standard among fans. Because Panty’s head is filled with sex (as the opening shows us), and Stocking is not so preoccupied with the same subject, it becomes a matter of Stocking being preferable by contrast even though she probably has more sex than your typical female anime character?

Another possibility is that it just comes down to character design, that Stocking’s gothic lolita look and Panty’s blonde hair and cocktail dress are the main ways in which they’re judged regardless of what happens in the show. Or maybe it’s that, at a cursory glance, Panty’s sexual activeness is extremely visible (the first thing we see of her in Episode 1 is her crawling out of bed with a guy), whereas Stocking’s love life is not so prominent? Only by watching the show do you learn that Stocking is no stranger to the opposite sex either, but it’s possible to understand this about Panty from the anciliary material.

If you have any thoughts or opinions on this, feel free to leave a comment, as I don’t feel like I quite have the answers. I’m not really sure myself, but I get the impression that Stocking’s relative popularity shows that things aren’t as simple as otaku liking either only the “pure” or the “promiscuous.” There are other examples as well, like how Akihabara idol Momoi Halko married and had a child but is still beloved. I have to wonder then if there’s another factor at work, like an inside/outside-group dynamic (and I don’t mean strictly in the Japanese culture sense) which dictates that allows some girls, fictional or otherwise, to be okay no matter what while others are judged more harshly.

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14 thoughts on “The Mystery of Stocking’s Virginity (or Lack Thereof)

  1. Um, just a thought, but maybe otakus’ preferences on this particular matter don’t heavily depend on how sexually active the characters are? It doesn’t seem that far of a stretch to me to just assume otakus simply like Stocking’s level-headed, intelligent personality more than Panty’s loud and reckless one. Then again, maybe I’m giving otaku too much credit…

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  2. Well, it’s not like Panty is stranger to cakes either. Eating just doesn’t dominate her entire personality, just like sex doesn’t dominate Stocking’s personality.

    Both characters are so defined by their respectful deadly sins that it’s easy to forget that they seem to be pretty normal people in all other aspects.

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  3. If Momoi is married, she’s certainly never mentioned it.

    You might be thinking of Kikuko Inoue. Not sure she’s an Akiba idol anymore, but her seiyuu career’s never stopped.

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  4. I think the character design is really important in selling merch. Stocking’s multicolored cloak of hair makes her really cool and I think her style (and how it fits more into an aesthetic box unlike Panty who is just out on the town) appeals to more people as just a nice looking picture/figure. Girls will consume this too. And Panty figures sometimes have a dopey lightning bolt painted on the hair. I think the unstylized anime forms and their angel outfits suit Panty more and would give her the advantage. Might be useful to see if the sales ratio changes between normal Panty:Stocking and unstylized Panty:Stocking.

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  5. It’s all about the NTR. In the purest otaku mind, panty and stocking are not girlfriends material characters so the otaku don’t have the illusion of betrayal when panty and stocking had sex. Romance is also not the point of Panty and Stocking so they are watching it for the joke, not for the virtual girlfriend dream and that’s why they can separate the romance aspect in their mental without feeling the ntr effect. So they are watching the character as someone they like because they are fun, not as someone they want a romantic relationship with.

    On the other hand, Kannagi and Kurokawa Yuki from Good Ending are pure girlfriend materials for wish fulfillment series and the male main character from the respective series is the stand in for these otaku. This is why when these female characters have previous relationship, otaku felt threaten like how their actual girlfriend really cheated on them.

    Japanese romance cartoons are mainly aimed at teenagers so they always promote the idea of pure love. Otaku became who they are thru the exposure of teenage cartoons when they are the most impressionable. Without actual real relationship with a girl, otaku can only imagine what it is like from things they watched and these romanticized pure love cartoons are what they are constantly exposed to. It’s also such a noble and romantic idea in their otaku mind that they could not accept any other form of romance that’s not “pure” because it does not make sense to them.

    So even if they don’t think that main character is a stand in for them, they expected pure love from characters because that’s the only thing they can understand. Their standard of pure love is also pretty weird because the main character can be indecisive with his choice but the bottom line is no sexual act because that’s the end game.

    Culminating all that with living in eastern asia where we were told from young, stories after stories of saving yourself after marriage and how being a slut in romance story is despicable(case in point, Pan Jinlian, the despicable slut character who betrayed her ugly husband from Water Margin, a classic chinese novel that influenced the Suikoden game.), it really fuck up our views on romance to something extremely unrealistic..

    In conclusion, otaku believe in pure love for romance series, Panty and Stocking and other examples are not a romance series and the series makes it obvious by not position themselves well enough for romancing potential of the characters with the viewers. That’s why otaku are more willing to accept characters like Panty.

    Source:Actual personal thoughts and experience because I was once a stupid 15 years old who experienced these feelings. By the way, my url link is a 48 hrs guest-pass for crunchyroll because I have no friend to gift it to.

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    • Not SDS, but thanks a lot for the breakdown man, it was very helpful to my understanding of the otaku mindset. Sincerely hope you get your life back on track! Cheers

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  6. I always had the impression that Panty and Stocking was ultimately a failure (never got a big audience, didn’t sell, no second season)? Though I leaned toward Panty, but then I’ve always preferred blondes.

    This is definitely a thing, and definitely a GUY thing. Shoujo (and josei) series are not so shy about sex – in fact, the “ladykiller in love” is a trope. But then few of the protagonists are particularly experienced…

    Actually, that points to the core issue, which is sexually active men are more valuable than virginal ones (to women as well!) while with women this is reversed. Why this is I can’t tell you, but it certainly seems true in both Japan and the US.

    In romance stuff, there seems two types – one type where having sex is the culmination (focusing on the achievement of the relationship) and the other type where it’s the beginning (focusing on the development). Manga aimed at younger readers or even general audiences tends to be the first type to an extreme level – from Maison Ikkoku (Kyoko is experienced, but she ACTS like a virgin and her frigid personality is central to the plot) to Ahh! Megamisama. The second type is out there but most of the examples I can think of are yuri (my particular fandom) so probably not helpful (yuri being fringe in a lot of ways). Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu is a josei example, but she starts out a virgin (main plot point is that she’s a 30+ year old virgin) so???

    To come back to Panty and Stocking, one of the major themes of the story is the power of sex. Panty having sex with Brief at the end restores her powers. I think Fate has this as well with Saber, right? But outside of those two, dealing with sex is basically left to hentai or the borderline genres (ecchi stuff that doesn’t qualify as hentai, smut but not porn). It’s hard to thread the needle I think – to acknowledge sex is to threaten social norms and genre tropes.

    Really, the only place for sex-positivity is porn. Sad but true. What does this say about society? Well, considering it seems that nearly everyone watches porn now, I’m not sure. The intersection of love, sex, past and present relationships is difficult ground at best.

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  7. Nothing terribly shocking about it. Japanese fans tend to favor the quiet one of a pair while American fans trend the opposite (maybe 1 to 2 of 60/40).

    This goes back a LONG way, in fact it was noted about P&S’s obvious ancestor Dirty Pair (Japanese fans preferred Yuri, American fans Kei. It’s also true of Futari wa Pretty Cure (a.k.a. “Dirty Cure”), and ‘You’re Under Arrest’, and with a slight stretch Evangelion. Sex tends to be part it, but it’s more a case of do you want a someone who would bend to adjust to you, or someone you’d have to work/adjust to/for?

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    • Adding to this, I think FLCL didn’t do as well in Japan because Haruko represented a western girl. Whereas us westerners lapped it up.

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  8. Another thing that might be interesting to track would be in which anime girls are embarrassed of admitting their virginal status, and in which anime girls find hand-holding and indirect kisses LEWD ACTS. Are there ary trends?

    As for Panty and Stocking, I think it comes down to the physical character design. That Stocking’s extra mean-girl and promiscuous, (and a masochist, at that, so in some ways kinkier than Panty) despite her lolita appearance, gives her gap moe. The way she flips back and forth from scathing bitch to cake squee to topping bottom is interesting and attractive.

    Within idols, who are all supposedly pure, girls who are overtly cutesy, (and in color coded groups, usually the pink one) but have a dark side, are usually more popular than cool girls/tomboys who are unexpectedly girly. Or, at least, the former inspires more buying power devotion than the latter, so more merch sales.
    (And to contrast male wota and fangirls, if two idols are caught together, the girl idol will probably graduate, and the boy idol will eventually recover to full strength of his popularity. Although, Johnny apparently has an tight and iron fist over the ability of his boys to get married. Haven’t seen a boy idol shave his head yet.)

    Compare to popular 2003 Jdrama “Stand Up!!!”, which is basically like a Jdrama take on American Pie’s premise. Experience is the desired state for both genders there.
    Still, my perception of Japanese pop cultures is that it’s more likely to see stories where girls are hot for teacher than boys aiming to bag cougars. And, I feel like older woman-younger man pairings tend to be from the point of the view of the woman. Interesting.

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  9. Which self-respecting man would want to marry/have the semen toilet of several other man as girlfriend? What kind of cuckold bitchboy would you have to be to see a whore as anything but a whore?

    Of course, if you hardly have any real life experience, it’s quite easy to be unable to properly judge people. You might might even write long elaborate self-masturbatory rants about things that are actually quite simple in real life.

    Sluts will always be sluts, never wife or mother material. Even if you could get a slut as girlfriend, you’ll always be just another cock for her.

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  10. I’ll come in swinging a bit blindly on this.

    I think it comes down to an earnestness in their sexuality. Stocking shows from her Date episode that she can and will earnestly settle down, and seems to cause a lot fewer problems. Panty likely would not be constrained or settle down at all. If you had the chance to date either, only one would respond with exclusivity. Their behaviors indicate how they would be in the future.

    As to idols, Yuu Serizawa of iRis had a thing where she wore a ring to keep from getting hit on while going out and it upset fans. She apologized for it, and now has a key role in PriPara.

    There’s a big thing for saying what you mean, and acting on it. There’s a level of earnest to some characters. Like I said, Stocking would change herself for a relationship, she would want to make it work. Panty gives of the impression she’ll change for no one, not even for love. That is respectable in it’s own right, but isn’t very marketable.

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