Actress Mischa Barton says she felt like a “fraud” for being a virgin while playing the fictional character Marissa Cooper, “who was fast and loose,” in FOX’s television series The O.C., and felt like she needed to lose her virginity to resolve that cognitive dissonance.
In a recent interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Barton said that “being a virgin at the time in that context made me feel like a fraud.” Born in January 1986, she was 17 years old when the pilot for The O.C. aired in August 2003.
“I had cultivated the persona of a New York-based, young and streetwise woman who was well beyond her years,” the actress explained. “Here, I was playing a confident character who was fast and loose and yet I was still a virgin.”
“The kids in the show were quintessential rich, privileged American teenagers drinking, taking drugs, and of course having sex,” Barton added. “I knew it was important to get this thing — my virginity — that was looming over me, the elephant in the room if you will, out of the way.”
The actress went on to say that she worried she wouldn’t be able to play the character properly if she didn’t “hurry up and mature a little,” adding that she “felt so much pressure to have sex,” not just from men, “but society in general.”
“I started to really worry that I couldn’t play this character if I didn’t hurry up and mature a little,” Barton said. “Did I ever feel pressured to have sex with someone? Well, after being pursued by older men in their thirties, I eventually did the deed.”
“I feel a little guilty because I let it happen,” she added. “I felt so much pressure to have sex, not just from him, but society in general.”
“This was early on in those critical days and when I finally met someone new and wanted to remove myself from the situation, it created a toxic and manipulative environment,” Barton said. “I felt controlled within an inch of my life.”