Wednesday, November 14, 2012

on the topic of virgins

Currently on the table: the third e-novella in the Blud series.

Dreaming up a new story is one of my very favorite things to do. For a novella, I get to cram all the swoon, spark, smut, adventure, and excitement into 30,000+ words as possible. It's a challenge-- and a joy.

The first task is to settle on a heroine and hero who are uniquely suited for each other. I've known the hero in this one for a while, and I'm excited to bring Marco Tarasque to the page. But the heroine is just beginning to solidify. When I'm cogitating, I consider a wide range of characters, switching them out of that empty spot like paper dolls, seeing who fits best with the character that first leaped into my mind. And while considering likely partners for Marco and considering the world of Sang, I noticed something interesting about my Blud heroines: out of all 6 stories, only one lead character is a virgin-- and that one is far from a swooning flower.

In the romance biz, virgins are common currency. There's a certain delicious push and pull to a powerful, older alpha male and a wide-eyed girl waiting to be awakened to her power, beautiful and ripe for the picking. And of course there's a precedent for the lure of purity in nature and in history, where males instinctually know that a virgin will bear their young exclusively. Even if a virgin is plucky or rebellious when clothed, she's still going to be pliable and innocent in the bedroom, which is considered desirable. As the stand-in for the romance reader, a virgin provides an opportunity to hearken back to that first thrill of sexual knowledge, but always after submitting completely to a hero who has complete mastery of her pleasure.

But you know what?

I think virgins in romance books are overrated.

While there's something to be said for purity, for waiting, for making sure that it's the right time and the right guy and the right circumstances, I'll tell you a secret: I lost my virginity early, and I'm damn glad I did. My first was a thoughtful, gentle boy who cared deeply for my feelings and comfort, and even if I knew at the time that he wasn't "the one", I knew that it was a safe place, a safe time for me to give up that vulnerability and gain the confidence and knowledge of a woman. I wasn't waiting for perfection, and I wasn't expecting halos of light and angels singing and little birds with flowery garlands. I didn't expect to feel different afterwards, to be fundamentally changed. But I was, and I learned it the next year when I was stalked, cornered, and raped.

If I had waited longer, as society tells me to, then my first experience would have been one of pain, fear, and cruelty. I might have been damaged beyond repair. As it was, I survived, and I healed, and I was grateful that my first time was gentle and slow and well within my power, my choosing, that there was a precedent for love and tenderness.

And while romances featuring virgins almost always have a hero who is gentle and kind with his lady love, I like to write a female lead with a little life under her belt. I find women with power, with a past, far more interesting. And the kind of heroes I write would rather tempt and woo an experienced woman into opening up than court and overpower a sweet young thing who is easily controlled or characterized by her naivete. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with virgins, because obviously we've all been there. And I'm not saying that virgins can't be fierce, powerful, and passionate. And I'm not saying I'll never write a virgin heroine, because I have and surely will again.

I've simply realized that I would rather focus on passion and mutual joy than awkwardness and pain when writing that first, thrilling meeting of bodies. My heroines don't need a dominating father figure to open their eyes to sexuality; they need an equal partner who gives them a reason to let someone in.

And so, as I prepare to write about Marco and Ginger in the caravan, I look forward to crafting a heroine with a past, with a spine of steel, with a sense of adventure and a control of her own sexuality. She won't choose to fall in love because he's an ideal man, a rich vampire, an earl, or some other unattainably perfect deflowering machine that she's unable, in her naivete, to resist. She's going to fall because something in him speaks to something in her, creature to creature. She's going to fall because she wants an adventure. In short, she's going to fall because she damn well wants to.

Some women don't need to be awakened; they need an equal to dream alongside them.

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NOTE!
If you disagree or would like to contest a point, PLEASE DO. Just because I admitted vulnerability doesn't mean you have to say something nice or hold your tongue. This is my opinion only, and I understand that much of it comes from my experience. Polite, thoughtful dialog is *always* welcome.

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10 comments:

Loralie Hall said...

Thank you for sharing something so personal. I love this post, and I think you've stated things very well. And I agree, so that helps :)

Sheila Hudnall said...

*hugs* You are an amazing woman! Thank you for sharing something so very personal. I wholeheartedly agree with you. I think if I had also waited, I would place unrealistic expectations on the act itself, rather than the feelings I had for my partner.

charissimo said...

Great post - something that creeps me out about the vampire genre (in a bad way) is that 100 year old vampires (who look like hot teenaged boys) always seem to go after teenaged girls. Now, if the 100 year old vampires looked like 100 year old MEN, we would call that dirty and inappropriate, but as long as they look like Robert Pattinson ... well, you get my drift. Which is all to say, I appreciate your approach!

Darcy Drake said...

A-fucking-men!

Mona Karel said...

Too much has been made of that bit of tissue, mostly to the detriment of females, throughout history. Certainly young men are not castigated for not coming to their wedding pure and inexperienced. Seems like it's one more way to keep women pushed down. But I'm in crabby mode lately...great post thanks for sharing

Tina said...

Thank you! Both for sharing personal experiences as well as talking about WHY making a heroine "pure" is problematic. For me, a romance heroine's purity (specifically) feeds into white male fantasy more than it does female fantasy. Complicating that character by making her "knowledgeable" frankly makes her more accessible to the reader.

Justina! said...

Some women don't need to be awakened; they need an equal to dream alongside them.

BOOM!!!

This times a hundred.

Lexi H said...

I love your last line, love it.
I like when an author has a virgin heroine/hero if written well. Sometimes they are just too ignorant and naieve it makes you want to quit reading. I also like when an author has expierenced hero/heroines. As long as the scenes work with the feel of the story and what is going on.

Nice post Delilah!

Laura said...

Thank you!!! I have never been a romance reader at all. I love supernatural and paranormal stuff mostly (which now includes paranormal romance, though I only discovered that genre in the past 7 years or so). I read Karen Marie Moning's Fever series (LOVE), which made me decide to read her Highlander series (less love). This was only a couple of years ago...and every single heroine was a 20-something year old virgin. I had NO idea this was a common thing in romance novels until I got online and googled it. I find 20-something virgins pretty unrelatable, as I never was one. And this idea that women are only worthy of true love if they're pure is repulsive to me. I'm fine with virginity as part of a storyline when it makes sense (think Twilight - 17 year old high school virgin is believable), but not just replaceable virgin heroine after replaceable virgin heroine because a girl must be pure to find love.

Maria Companion said...

Thanks so much for writing this! I can't tell you how many times I pick up a book and read that the heroine is a virgin - and I'm just a bit disappointed.
That's just not the norm in every day society. How many "twenty somethings" do you know that are still holding out? Not many.

I find myself saddened that these types of heroines seem to give women the wrong idea about their value/worth based upon sexual experience. That's just antiquated. I don't think anyone should be made to feel the gift of their sexuality is "less" for having a bit of experience.