foils

Slut Shaming & The Virgin Heroine

9:00 AM

Tell me if you've read this one...

The naive (but secretly fierce) female meets the powerful (and possibly overbearing) hero. At first, the hero is entranced by the woman's innocence, her quiet strength, her hidden curves. He is instantly protective of her, because she needs protection! And though she seems clueless and scared, he is always surprised (happily so) to discover she's a virgin.

She's almost 30, but she's a virgin. And through the miracle of avoiding high school gym class, tampons, and masturbation, her hymen remains intact.

Seriously people, what the fuck?

Despite being unrealistic, this is such an antiquated value that it makes me want to gouge bitches' eyes out with my hooker heels. This trope is so common, so pervasive, that it's available in all your romance subgenres: historical, paranormal, contemporary, etc. And while I realize we're selling a fantasy (and as a reader, I want to buy into that fantasy), it's ridiculous for a genre written by/for mostly women to reinforce the outdated notion that a woman's value is based on the sanctity of her vagina.

Slut vs. Heroine
Slut-shaming is ingrained into our culture so deeply that we can't let it go in daily life. We slut-shame each other.

Chick wears a shirt showing 4-inch deep cleavage? Skank...

Chick's booty is peeping out a teeny-tiny-mini skirt? That ho...

In romance novels, we see this woman vs woman hate in the slut-foil. While our heroine is usually conservative in dress and behavior, she often has a sister or female friend who dresses provocatively or has many lovers (past or present). This slut is a foil for our heroine so we can see how nice and proper our heroine is by comparison. Our heroine does not approve of the slut-foil's behavior, but "loves" her anyway. The slut-foil will often "get what's coming to her" by the end of the novel, in the form of unwanted attention or simple bad luck. She is generally rescued by the hero/heroine and learns to be more like our proper, virgin heroine.

Ladies, when we do things like this, when we reinforce these fucked up beliefs, we become our own worst enemies.

One of the reasons I chose to write romance is because I wanted to see women like me as the heroines of the stories. Women who like their bodies, who like to fuck, who swear and drink and fall in love with a man who likes all those things about her. I wanted to write the things I wanted to read and couldn't readily find (though there are some out there!) in the bookstore. My hope is that there are other readers like me out there, and that they'll enjoy my sluttiness as much as I do.

For more on this topic, check out this Dear Author article.

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