I found this today and found it fascinating. Mostly because it partially explains why I enjoy historical and fantasy romance more than contemporary. This is from the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog. Emphasis (and the small note inside) is mine.
What I think is really interesting – and something I was quite surprised by – is how much more often the really transactional [Amy K.: virginity as something to be traded, taken, etc. as opposed to a loving expression] narratives turn up in contemporaries. Virginity, I find, tends to be far less of a plot point in historicals: because of the setting, it’s assumed, and I think in a lot of cases, that takes the emphasis off it. In contemporaries, though, if there is a virgin heroine, she usually has a reason why she’s a virgin: it’s something she has to justify, and this often turns into this idea of virginity-as-a-gift. I need to read a ton more single-title contemporaries with virgin heroines to see if this really does play out, but that’s where my thinking is sitting at the moment.
From what I’ve read so far (and I’ll admit I haven’t read as extensively as I should), virginity doesn’t really play that big a part in fantasy romances. Even paranormal, for all its steaminess, doesn’t get into the whole virginity thing most of the time. Again, from what I’ve seen so far, the stories in these genres focus on the heroine’s acceptance of herself and/or her powers. I can only think of one fantasy romance (The River’s Gift by Mercedes Lackey) where the woman didn’t need to worry about accepting anything. The relationship naturally grew, she gets kidnapped, and her true love saves her. It’s actually a very sweet story, and sex doesn’t even play a part in it beyond the assumption that at some future point the relationship will be consummated.
I really like stories like that.
On the other hand, I rarely read contemporary romance anymore. I’ve tried, and I just can’t do it. The same stories I inhaled when I was younger don’t do it for me anymore, and I’m wondering if the quote above explains why.
I mean, the last contemporary romance that I really enjoyed was Secrets by Jude Devereaux. (Note: it could be argued it’s a suspense romance, but it was so light-hearted that it’s difficult for me to classify it that way.) It was fun, but I didn’t like how the heroine’s virginity had to be explained away through her crush on a man she could never have.
I think the best reason given for a virginal heroine was in the movie Clueless.
Tai: Cher, you’re a virgin?!
Cher: God! You say it like it’s a bad thing.
Dionne: Besides, the PC term is “hymenally challenged.”
Cher: I am just not interested in doing it until I find the right person. You see how picky I am about my shoes and they only go on my feet.
Women shouldn’t have to justify waiting. Not to men. Not to other women. Not to anyone. It should always be their choice.
Better stop before I begin to rant. As always, feel free to comment.