Andy Warhol is a virgin? | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh

Andy Warhol is a virgin?

About a week ago I attended the event “Andy Warhol is a ‘V’: Bachelorhood and the Celibate Factory” by Benjy Kahan, hosted by the Humanities Center. Now if you do not already know, I am an Andy Warhol fan. No, fan doesn’t cover it, I love anything Warhol. If you are not aware of who Andy Warhol is (and shame on you if you don’t…) here is the link to his wiki page and the museum here in Pittsburgh (You should attend if you haven’t already!). So when given the chance to attend an event for this class that’s subject was Mr. Warhol, I jumped.

So how exactly does this relate to what we are learning in class? I mean Andy Warhol was a man, for crying out loud! Why should we care about him? Well, contrary to what the name may imply, women ’s studies is not always just about women, women’s history, and women’s issues. Part of women’s studies is the study of gender, gender’s role in society, and sexuality. However, you all know this since you are taking Introduction to Women’s Studies.

One thing many people may not be aware of is the fact that Andy Warhol was celibate. Even though he was known to be homosexual, to have had partners, and even did many works with erotic male figures, he still practiced celibacy.


Warhol confirms this in his diary, stating:

“Yesterday, I was watching a game show, Blockbusters with Bill Cullen, and it was two black guys, a warden and his cousin, against a white girl and the category was “Letters” and the question was: “Andy Warhol is a ‘V.’” And (laughs) she got the answer right, she said “Virgin.””

Now what struck me the most about this is talk was that Kahan looked at Warhol’s celibacy as a form of sexuality. Instead of the binary forms of sexuality (hetero and homo) that we generally see in society, Kahan assigns Warhol the queer sexuality of celibate or asexual. And even more striking to me was Kahan’s discussion of Warhol’s power in the use of his sexuality in his interactions.

Kahan asserts that Warhol used his celibacy as a way to set himself (emotionally and physically) apart from the Factory and society at large. This lends a kind of power and control to what Warhol does. He is free in his bachelorhood. He is not constrained or weighed down by outside influences. Warhol can participate in a philosophical bachelorhood, meaning that his mind is not married to any one idea. He is liberated in his constraints (what a concept!?)

Andy Warhol: The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)

I was reminded of Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, who was able to rule so effectively in part because she never married. She was able to interact with multiple governments because her allegiance to was not (quite literally) married to one country or kingdom. Warhol is able to do exactly this.

As well as allowing Warhol to exercise power over his choices, his celibate lifestyle allows him to participate in the hetero-normative society. He cannot be ostracized if he is not participating in what is deemed taboo. He, in essence, beats the system...

I have never looked at celibacy in this way. Before this talk, I had mostly related celibacy to a religious practice. In previous women’s studies courses I have taken, we have discussed sex as a power mechanism, a way to take control (of one’s body or as a social movement), and the role of sex and gender in society as women, but never the absence of sex in these topics.

So my questions to you are: What is the role of celibacy today? Can we utilize celibacy like Warhol did? How does celibacy or asexuality change for a woman? Or phrased in another way, what if Warhol had been a woman, would this be different? How is celibacy for men and women seen in the media today? What power does it hold in the media?

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