So I have consoled myself, in the wait for Karen Marie Moning's Shadowfever, with reading a few books in her Highlander series. These books are straight paranormal romance. They're fun and frothy, but the characters, plot, and writing are definitely more interesting and complex in the Fever series. There is some crossover between the two series, but not enough that I'm dying for Shadowfever...at least, not any more than I already was.
But the reading brought up an issue I've had with romance novels for a long time: what's up with virgins?
I mean, seriously, why does it seem like the majority of heroines I encounter in romance novels are virgins, or nearly so. (Maybe they've only been with one guy, but it was really, really bad.) If your heroine is 16, fine, no problem, make her a virgin. But if she's 26, I have a harder time buying it. That's not to say there aren't 20-something virgin females out there; there are, and I've met some. But I suspect, in this day and age at least, there are a lot more women who lost their virginity in high school or college.
Is this the madonna-and-whore thing again? And if so, why is this destructive archetype popping up in novels aimed primarily at women? It's much more rare to see the opposite: male virgin with experienced female. (Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is the only exception I can think of offhand.)
First of all, sex scenes in romance novels should be sexy. And losing her virginity is often the least sexy sexual experience a woman will have. It's awkward, it can be painful, and you might bleed. Bleeding during sex = not sexy.
Second, what do these books say to all the women who have had active and healthy sex lives? Are we unworthy of love because the guys to whom we "sacrificed our maidenhood" didn't turn out to be the one?
Women have a hard enough time maintaining confidence and self-assurance in a world where they're bombarded with images of stick-thin supermodels and airbrushed actresses, where their worth is inversely proportional to their age, where they're all but stickered with a "sell-by" date. So do we have to tell them that being sexually experienced makes them lesser, as well? As if we don't get enough of that already.