The last few days have had a couple of firsts for me–my first real contacts and my first wireless printer (successfully installed and set up by moi, by the way. Yes, you may marvel. I sure as hell did.) As I adjusted to the first and swore repeatedly over the second, I alternatively felt moments of accomplishment in these mundane tasks. No matter how common among other people, when a thing or an experience is new, figuring it out feels damn satisfying, whether it’s successfully inserting and removing contacts or the whorls and spools of that first page off the printer. Damn skippy.
Funnily enough, I read three stories this weekend with first times: a contemporary with a virgin heroine, another contemporary heroine (by the same author) who’d never had an orgasm during sex (until many were provided by the hero, natch), and a historical novella with a virgin heroine and hero (bit of a unicorn there, especially in historicals) who experience their first time together.
Virgin heroines are increasingly unusual in contemporary romances. The sexier the story, the more experience the heroine is likely to have. Old skool romance novels practically traded on the heroine’s inexperience, a trope that allowed the rake or scoundrel of a hero to come to heel as he initiated his virgin in the rapturous ways of his mighty wang. These days, as heroines in all genres are more and more infused with feminist principles–aka the self-rescuing heroine et al–virginity is less and less prized between the pages. Mostly because it’s less and less valued in our society and books, like TV and movies and magazines and any other reflector of society’s morals or lack thereof, are the ways by which these changes are tracked and explored and, often, exposed.
Sexual experience from as early as young adulthood is such an expected, common thing that the idea of anyone “holding out” is quite startling. We’re saturated with sexual images; “sex sells” everything ergo we all must be having sex. People (and characters) tend to hide their virgin status carefully to avoid ridicule. And let’s face it, it’s still usually women who maintain virgin status into adulthood as the slurs of “slut” and “whore” for any girl or woman with sexual experience are the more common response while boys or men are crowned as “studs”.
Yet for both sexes, there’s something precious in preserving that last barrier to adulthood, waiting not for a spouse or in order to stay “pure,” but to find a partner worthy of breaching that threshold. Charging not into the sexual morass to get rid of a pesky barrier, but valuing oneself enough to make sure the experience isn’t wasted on an easy lay or a drunken frat boy (for example). Preserving one’s virginity can be a valued choice (and not only one due to lack of opportunity) not as a reflector of a “good” character within, but rather an insistence on making a damn good first choice. Perhaps even hold out for a hero…
I don’t know that I’ll ever write a contemporary virgin heroine, but I do know that valuing and honoring that status is important in fiction and real life. We treasure all kinds of first times. The first time on an airplane. The first time at the Grand Canyon (Boy. Howdy.). The first taste of snow every winter. The first dip in an ocean. The first plunge of a knife into a new jar of peanut butter (though that may just be me). Treasure this one too.
What was your favorite first time, sexual or otherwise?
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