Like A Virgin: Donna Martin and the 90s Quest for Some Vestige of Chastity

By the time the repressed vibe of the Reagan and Bush eras had concluded in the United States, the 90s saw a resurgence in sexual rebellion. Granted, the decade seemed more focused on an apathetic, asexual revolt more than anything else, however there were certain signs of the times in the form of Madonna’s Sex book, Kate Moss and Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” video. The sexual vibe on Beverly Hills, 90210, thus, had to be reined in. Enter Tori Spelling’s character, Donna Martin.

Innocence.
Innocence.

Donna’s virginal nature throughout the early seasons of the series is in contrast to the more seductive images of fellow main characters Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) and Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty). Her high school boyfriend, David Silver (Brian Austin Green), is initially respectful of her desire for abstinence, until, of course, he cheats on her. What this says about the benefits of being chaste is somewhat nebulous.

Sexual frustration.
Sexual frustration.
Her aversion to premarital sex is again punished when she starts dating Ray Pruit, a physically abusive boyfriend who she ultimately had to find the self-esteem to get rid of. Her romantic life didn’t improve much with Joe Bradley, a quarterback at her college who tried to rape her. Perhaps after all of this pomp and circumstance, Donna finally decided that losing her V-card to David would be the best option. At this point, she was a senior in college.
First love.
First love.
Darren Star (who would later create the masterpiece that is Sex and the City), Aaron Spelling (how Tori got the job as Donna) and E. Duke Vincent (who would work again and again with Spelling on shows like Charmed) didn’t really seem to have a concrete message with Donna’s purity. Were they trying to say that you should keep your virginity no matter how many times you get slapped around? Or was the statement more about there being no place for virgins in the modern world? It’s at your discretion, I suppose.
Original cast.
Original cast.

Tellingly, the show aired for the exact span of the 90s’ ten years. While Donna becoming a sexual being was part of what tainted Beverly Hills, 90210, it was perhaps Christina Aguilera’s cameo that signaled the ultimate demise.