06-07-2010 12:03 PM - last edited on 06-08-2010 11:09 AM by Melanie_Murray
06-07-2010 03:52 PM
Thank you for your "Presumed Innocent" article, Eloisa.
Mind if I voice a different opinion? I wish there were less focus on virginity in romance fiction. You argue that virginity imparts a fresh outlook on life, an unsullied point of view that hasn't had the chance to become jaded, skeptical, or cynical. But in my experience, this simply isn't so. I don't see any correlation between virginity and attitude.
If someone, real or fictional, is a virgin, all that means is that this person has not yet had a sexual experience. It says nothing about whether that person is healthy-minded or twisted, open to new experiences or closed to them, optimistic or pessimistic, sociable or withdrawn, bright or dull, sophisticated or simple. That person might have a terrific attitude or a terrible one. Indeed, it might be that a terrible attitude is what's preventing that person from having a first sexual experience.
Here in the real world the only segments of our society that make a big to-do over virginity are conservative if not reactionary religious groups. Intentionally or not, they predicate the intrinsic value of a woman's life on whether or not she's chaste.
I don't mean to imply that you personally subscribe to such views. Or that you promote them in your writings. But a professional such as you knows better than anyone else how a reader puts his or her own spin on an author's works.
Therefore, if a writer romanticizes and glorifies virginity, if she celebrates it for any reason, some readers will inevitably make this tie-in: Virginity makes a woman worthy of attention and respect. It makes her valuable. It makes it possible for her to be the center of her own fictional story, so it should accord her a corresponding role in real life. Lack of virginity means she deserves none of this.
Personally I'm happier with fiction writers who never mention a female character's sexual experience or lack thereof. If it's relevant to the plot, of course it would have to be mentioned. But does it really need to be dwelt upon? And to me at least, the most interesting stories---including romances---are those in which virginity is not relevant at all.
What if a story takes place in a setting in which people do or did make a big issue over virginity? I say, okay, give it a line or two, then move on to more interesting themes. And I can think of very few that are duller.
Well, I've gone on long enough. Thanks for starting this discussion. Keep up the good work!
06-08-2010 01:04 AM
Hi Mary Anne!
I answered your comment under the blog first...
I would add, though, that virginity (like sex in general) is boring to some readers, and not to others. I get letters from people asking why I bother describing clothing as those parts of a novel as so tedious -- and novels from other people saying that they read my novels just for those parts.
06-08-2010 11:42 AM
Eloisa, Great article as always.
As you know, or maybe not, yours are the few exceptions I make to reading historical romance for the exact reason you mention in your article. Now it's not about innocence or virginity that I oppose, it's reading about a love story involving a 30 something Duke and a 16 yr old virgin. Me being of a, ahem, certain age young love doesn't interest me. I love to read about a 50yr old getting it on or even a late 30s or 40s, but teeny bopper romance just doesn't float my boat.
I however loved your Duchess series, one because not all of them were still wearing nappies but I just couldn't put them down.
I guess my favorite kind of innocent romance is the Old West where the schoolmarm of late 20s or 30ish finally finds love of the bad boy tuned good variety. Linda Lael Miller or Catherine Anderson, then there are the time travel romances of Lynn Kurland who's 21st century women travel back in time to tame the men of the middle ages.