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.