Tag Archives: sex

Deflowered Is Not Devalued

It is a standard character fixture in every historical romance novel – the hero is a rake, cad, and bounder, and the heroine is a virgin. At her most scandalous, she may have kissed a guy or two. Harking back to the era and the context, this is an entirely natural characteristic of females, as to have sex before marriage would have left them ruined, compromised, possibly even disowned and in a convent. Therefore the stereotype of women being pure while men gallivant around town spreading their seed is entirely justified in historical romance.

However, contemporary romance novels, set in a time with supposed gender equality and women’s liberation, also follow the virgin/man whore plot line to and alarming extent. And what I want to know is, why? It is 2013, and most girls of college student age are sexually active. I’m not saying they’re sluts, I’m not saying they sleep around, but as a society we apparently accept that physical intimacy in a relationship is one of the most important aspects of any healthy relationship. There are obviously the girl-talk discussions over when it’s OK to go to bed with the guy you’re dating, and the best answer is usually when it feels right. I’m not saying women should bulldoze forward and prove their sexual equality by pouncing on every guy who looks interested, what I’m saying is that there is no shame, or character flaw, for not being a virgin in your late teens or early twenties.

And yet, so many books seem keen to push the point. Their amazing, beautiful, funny, passionate heroines, make it to adulthood without ever being remotely interested in anyone, then only have sex with the guy they are completely in love with, who, in the epilogue, they are usually married to.

Fifty Shades of Grey showed a twenty one year old Ana Steele, who is described as beautiful, lovely, and is quite clearly kinky as hell, but had never done more than ‘make out’ with a guy before. The same in Beautiful Disaster – girls swoon over Travis Maddox, who ‘bags’ anything with long legs and boobs on his couch, but he falls for virginal Abby Abernathy. In Fate Interrupted, twenty eight year old Evy had only ever been with her fiance. And then there are the girls who go the other way – the heroines in Bared to You and the Blackstone affair used sex when they were younger to try to deal with what they were going through, and now have very different attitudes.

It seems to me that the gender roles in some of the most celebrated contemporary romance novels are far outdated. A woman can be classy, choosy, and completely in control of her sex life without being a virgin. The same as a man can be sexy, rich and powerful, without living on a diet of one night stands. I had hoped that in this modern day era, while it is a fact that men can get away with more than women, there was in fact some sexual equality, and that women could have healthy sex lives without being looked down upon. It appears I was wrong.

Obviously losing your virginity is a big deal, and shouldn’t be given to just anyone. But it is also true that a girl doesn’t have to be a virgin to be innocent and guileless. Come on guys, we all know that women no longer “lie back and think of England” – it is not scandalous for a girl to enjoy sex, and have more than one sexual partner before she meets Mr Right.

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Less is More….Or Do Some Like It Hot???

marilynSex is everywhere, and I don’t even mean explicit, society ruining raunchy porn. Casual references, innuendos, even the M&S lingerie adverts are pretty hot stuff, and appear on TV and the sides of buses without so much as raising an eyebrow. Serious novels contain sex, though often not as a large part of the plot, so surely any romance readers would be expecting to become more than slightly hot under the colour. Let’s be honest, a lot of best selling contemporary romances are based on sex – from Fifty Shades, to Bared to You, to almost every Danielle Steele ever written – without the sex, there would be very little going on, and even less connecting to characters. Good old fashioned bodice rippers generally pivot around sex, the ‘ruination’ of a girl, or the scandal of lust being common plot features. I’m not one of those ‘nowadays the world is terrible’ people – look at Baudelaire‘s Fleurs du Mal, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, even Tess of the d’Urbervilles has that barnyard scene where she licks cream off the fingers of Angel Clare. Saucy and suggestive, oioi.

So, I do believe it can be forgiven to expect a little sex from a modern romance. Obviously, some are better than others, some are cringey, and some are almost non existent. I recently read two of the books from the Brides of Bath series, where there was little plot, and very little sex to go with it. There was literally no saving grace to the novels. I mean, yes I’m sick of contemporary romances involving rich men, young girls, and  damaged pasts. I’m sick of contemporary romances that rely on tired old tactics of ‘being caught in a compromising position’ and ‘accidentally falling in love with one’s own husband.’ But, with a little spice, these books can sometimes be at least a little enjoyable. I’m not some sex crazed loon – if a book has a great plot, I absolutely would not recommend adding sex just for the sake of it. But, when seeking escapism, a flighty bippity bop romance, there’s a requirement to get the blood pounding just a bit. If I want less, I’d read Austen, or my all time favourite, Elizabeth Gaskell. Less is great in a novel that has an awesome plot, contextual restraints, and sparring characters actually conversing. But in the whirl of romantic novels that have plots that are little more than fluff…..it’s necessary up turn up the heat!

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“You will get pregnant – AND DIE” Death and pregnancy in teen novels

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Most teenagers have seen the classic high school movie ‘Mean Girls‘. Lindsay Lohan was in her prime, Rachel McAdams was up and coming, and the memorable quotes just go on and on and on. While I’m still trying to make ‘Fetch’ work, one memorable quote comes from Coach Carr whose Sex Ed lesson included the pearl of wisdom ‘Don’t have sex. You will get pregnant. And die.’ Although this was a flip comment, it is alarming how many novels aimed at teenagers that do include sex also include pregnancy and death.

First, my least favourite, but without doubt the most famous: Twilight: Breaking Dawn, by Stephanie Meyer. It may take one thousand pages to get there, but after their one sex scene, during which they’re actually married, so it’s hardly just horny high-schoolers, Bella gets pregnant. And, whilst giving birth, she dies. Technically, she becomes undead, as her vampire-husband turns her, but still. She does technically die.

Second, and my favourite, is Noughts and Crosses, by Malorie Blackman. Callum and Sephy only get to do it once, and though it is during her abduction, theirs was a baby made in love. However, as a result of this, Callum is arrested for rape, and dies. She gets pregnant. He dies. My heart breaks.

There is the slightly disturbing Koizora, the japanese tale of Mika and Hiro. She gets pregnant, but after being raped and abused she loses her baby. The second time, she is pregnant and Hiro dies from cancer.

Go Ask Alice, edited by Beatrice Sparks is primarily an anti drugs text, though at the point where Alice thinks she may be pregnant, her grandfather suffers a heart attack.

I understand that we shouldn’t be encouraging teenagers to have sex – but surely modern novels aimed at teenagers would be more useful if they mentioned a condom from time to time? Especially as a lot of the teenagers mentioned were over sixteen (guys I’m British – age of consent is lower than the states) and were completely legal in their actions. It actually really surprises me how often teenagers having sex is followed up with pregnancy and death in so many young adult novels.

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