Let's Talk About Sex
First off, no, this is not the post in which I reveal that I'm taking the plunge into erotica authorship. That's not going to happen until I am in need of an organ transplant and at that time, I'll be smart enough to use a pen name, thank you very much. This is going to be something of a feminist rant, so you have been warned.
Let's talk about the title of this post. Aside from perfectly fitting my quirk for using song lyrics to title my blog posts, the song in this title is relevant for another reason. Back in the late eighties-early nineties, the AIDS epidemic was spreading and suddenly people were becoming aware that this was not simply a 'gay' disease. Safe sex was a brand new concept. Groups like Salt n' Peppa and TLC were breaking new ground by bringing to the forefront the fact that women have sex and not just with their husbands for the purpose of making babies. They introduced to a wide audience the idea that discussing sex as a mature and rational adult is not just okay, but the safe and responsible thing to do. Thirty years later, erotica is commonplace enough that people bring their copies of Fifty Shades into the workplace, but women having sex for pleasure is still a taboo subject. What I want to know is why?
Unless you are an author or a hardcore fan of romance, you may not be aware of the fact that there are some "rules" to writing in the genre. I use quotes because I personally think the idea of rules for any genre is stupid, limiting, and archaic, but that's another rant for another day. One of the main rules, that there needs to be a happily ever after or a happy for now ending, is typically not contested. It's romance, after all. Spoiler alert: the people smashing their bits together are going to keep doing that because it feels good. Shocking, right?
However, there is a disturbing trend that is older than the rules even and I have to wonder why, especially in this day and age, this particular bit of patriarchal nonsense still persists. In nearly every romantic story, the woman is a virgin or has only had one or two previous sexual experiences, usually with an abusive ex who turns out to be the villain of the story. The hero? The guy who gets the trophy virgin? That guy has had all the sex with all the women ever.
I'm not making this up. This is practically the formula for all Regency romances, but that's something to be expected, right? The Victorian era wasn't progressive. Doesn't mean I have to like it, so I avoid historical romance like the plague. But how about contemporary romance? Paranormal? Fantasy? The same damned rules apply. The guy is a sex machine (who managed to magically avoid STDs) and the girl is as pure as the driven snow.
This is the reason that I gave Lucy a sexual history when I decided that the Eyes series would have a strong romantic sub plot. I wanted to show that she was a normal human female and like normal human females, she has a libido and doesn't always make the best decisions about sex, but at the same time, I wanted the fact that she'd had sex, presumably with many former partners, to be no big deal. In fact, though I never discuss it, Lucy has actually had more partners than Andre. She's had drunken one night stands in college and let's be honest, if he hadn't died trying to rip her throat out, she probably would have gone home with Tim despite not knowing his last name. I freely admit that this is my way of saying eff you to the unspoken rule that women must be chaste in romance.
Understand, I am not talking about the YA trope where both leads are virgins. Not even the trope where the dude is a 500 year old vampire virgin who was waiting for his perfect snowflake to be born. As weird as that is, it ain't got nothing on the twenty something woman who managed to avoid sex with anyone, including herself (another rant), for her whole life, but suddenly can't resist the raw sexual prowess of this studly man who knows just what she wants because he's practiced with a dozen other women this week alone.
Is this some sort of wish fulfillment? I'm generally curious. Why is romance stuck in this old fashioned rut? Why is it that the only genre where it's okay for a woman to have had multiple sexual partners is chick lit and even then, there's a fine line between 'quirky lead looking for love in all the wrong places' and 'slut shamed best bud'?
I'm about to start writing the next book in my Rise of the Discordant series. This one is called Friends without Benefits and is about Donna's curse. In it, we learn that she has no luck with men and has only had sex once, which was to ensure that she could not become the virgin host for Rosemary's Baby. Of course, she's met the perfect guy, but he's too busy having sex with everyone who isn't Donna to pay her any mind. Why yes, in case you missed my brick-to-the-head subtlety, I'm taking pot shots at romance this time around.
Do I think it will matter? No, probably not. Just like it won't matter that I made Lucy a realistic woman, nor will it matter when I do the same for my other characters. It won't matter until all romance writers quit downplaying women's sexuality and accept that women who have premarital and casual sex are no more sluts than the men who do the same.