Friday, May 27, 2005

A ramble - Why is it?

Why the hell is it we are so hard on our own kind. What prompts this is a post on a message board concerning the character of Sookie Stackhouse and how, because she has sex with more than one guy, she is a skeet (new word for me that’s for sure). I haven’t read the series so I can’t comment on the particular character, although judging from the responses, the original poster is way too harsh. But even if it were true – SO WHAT? Why in general are some readers so harsh and judgemental on heroines with some experience under their belt so to speak?
I’ve seen posters on message boards indignantly refuse to read a book if they know the heroine was a prostitute in the past. Bad Moon Rising by Katherine Sutcliffe for example had a heroine, who through no real choice of her own, was a mistress to a villainous type
When this book came out, there were some who refused to read it based on this reason. What a shame since it was quite a good book. I can’t specifically remember other books or characters but I know this happens quite frequently. Why???? So what if a heroine isn’t “saving” herself for the hero. Does that make her any less of a good character? Often the reverse is true; she seems to be more interesting.
And why aren’t these same readers making the same judgements on the hero? It seems the hero can slut around without the same vigorous outcry. The double standard seems to be alive and well in some romance readers world.
I recently blogged about a discussion about a book not out yet. Some readers were upset with the heroine because she took back the hero. Other were upset she didn’t screw around herself. A few were indignant with the hero but the overwhelming anger seemed directed to the heroine. I have seen this happen time and time again.
Even think of the names that are used for women of experience
Slut
Skank
Ho
whore
Tramp
Now as if we don’t already have enough, skeet
And what about the male of the species? I tried thinking of words we use for them
Dog
Player
Male slut
Which list is nastier?
The same ironically can be said for the opposite. “Virgin” heroines seem to be reviled just as much these days with some readers. I’ve seen readers get just as indignant when they realize the heroine doesn’t have experience. Again I have to ask SO WHAT?Why is a woman’s wealth of sexual experience or lack of sexual experience such a big deal? Mrs Giggles anyone? Now I love reading her reviews. She has a wicked and biting sense of humour that, while I don’t have, I can certainly enjoy. But she seems to hold such vitriol for the virgin heroine. For her and others with this opinion, why base such intense dislike on a heroine because she is a virgin. Base it on the fact that she is just TSTL or a badly written character; not because she does or doesn’t have sex. I can enjoy a book if the heroine is a virgin – yes, even in a contemporary, just as much as I can enjoy a book when the heroine has a past – yes, in a historical.

I just don't get this hostility concerning sex and the heroine.

13 comments:

Giselle said...

Skeet? Heh. That makes two of us cuz I've never heard that expression used either. Anyhoo, I find it really curious and a little sad that women tend to be harder on other women about sexual history whether it be in books or in real life. I mean I've never heard a guy using a word like skank but I must have heard it a million times from other women, including myself. But I believe in equality so I use it to refer to men too. Yeah dudes can be skanky. Witness Britney Spears husband. A male skank if there ever was one :)

Giselle (feeling very chatty cathy today)

Avid Reader said...

I agree with you 100%. I find the vehemence very baffling for women of experience and those without any. What really gets my gall is the idea that when men don't want to have children, it's the women who should get themselves "fixed".
Sorry, Kristie. As I continue to talk, my blood pressure continues to rise so I think I'll stop here.

Keishon

Tara Marie said...

Can you hear me clapping from upstate New York??

Well put. "Skeet" is a new one for me too.

Why can't the sexual experience fit the character and the story line and go from there?

sybil said...

Well I think if you don't like a plot element, the choice to read it or not is up to you and that is all fine and dandy.

Will a person miss a great book? Maybe. But what makes a great book for me might not make a great book for them so I can't make that call.

Is sookie turning into a whore or a anitawannabe? Maybe. I haven't read DAAD yet. But I do have it.

Will it upset me if she starts screwing everything in sight? Yes, because her series is already too close to anita blake so why take her down that same path. As a reader that pisses me off because I expect more from Harris and more from sookie. That being said - I like LKH and enjoy her books. And god knows anita screws just about anything that doesn't have a pulse or gets furry ;).

I like virgin romance novels. But don't believe in waiting in rl. Go figure. Maybe it is the fantasy of it all. Would I read a book if the chicka was a ho/shank/whore/skeet? it would depend on the book. The sex lives of the characters don't generally decide if I am going to read a book or not.

Although I am still out on The Marriage Bed... I might get it new or I might buy it used. But I will read it at some point just because it pissed so many people off before it was even out.

Of course I think people need to understand if a person dislikes a plot or a book it doesn't mean they hate the author or people that do love/like the book. They are different animals - sez I. Oh I just wrote a book in your blog. Sorry....

McVane said...

Amen, Kristie! I truly detest those horrid labels ['Skanky ho' is my least favourite]. It's fine if it's said with humour, but as a casual/contempous reference? No thanks.

I think the reason why some dislike virgin heroines is there are so many virgin heroines [a friend once found that 49 out of 58 books in her TBR pile have virgin heroines]. In some cases that's all to them. As in making virginity a - sometimes her only - character trait.

The way I see it - if authors decide to make the heroine's virginity an issue, then how could readers not make an issue out of the heroine's virginity as well? It works both ways, really.

Actually, that applies to "loose" heroines as well. Some authors DO make an issue out of heroines' sexual experience [or lack of]. So it's no wonder why readers take stand on this issue. If it's not that important, authors wouldn't make it part of a storyline, would they?

Misty G said...

Kristie! Great work! I've often found this subject to be a great irony in romance.

CW said...

Heh. Women compete with each other for men, so any chance to shred each other counts, I guess is the short and nerdy answer. :P

Seriously though...great rant. And the last time I heard "skeet" other than a clay shooting reference was in the song GET LOW about how sweat was running down the singer's balls.

Here are the urban dictionary definitions. *goggles*

Kristie (J) said...

I'm not saying we shouldn't have our favourite type of character, we would prefer to have a heroine with/without sexual experience but it's the intensity some readers display for the type they don't like that baffles me. I had a good friend once who would sleep with anything in pants where I was the exact opposite. I didn't/wouldn't want her lifestyle but still she was my friend (long since moved away and we lost touch). To myself I sometimes thought her choices were wrong, but she was a good person and I didn't judge her for it - well not enough to affect our friendship anyway.
Of course we have our opinions, what would we be without them. If a reader doesn't want to read a book with a certain type of heroine fine, but why get all prissy and condeming about it? And why is it mostly concentrated on the heroine?

sybil said...

CW! Hee I had forgotten about that urban dictionary. And sadly lil john is who I thought of when I saw the word skeet.

heeeee someone should go post that.

KJ:
I hope you didn't think I was being ugly. It is a vaild rant, and even if it wasn't it is your blog ;). I can understand why people are getting pissy about sookie but really the misuse of skeet is unforgivable *g*

The challenge to everyone is to use skeet in a sentence this week ;).

Candy said...

I don't usually have an issue with virgin heroines in historical romances, unless they're widows. Contemporary heroines who are virgins are much harder for me to buy into, especially if the heroine is older than 22. And it's just that they're virgins--they're usually extra-virginal. They've never masturbated, never fooled around, never even kissed somebody. It irritates me because it reinforces the sexual double-standard. Not only that, it commodifies the heroine's purity and oftentimes makes it seem as if that makes her morally superior somehow--this is especially irritating when there's a villainess in the book and she's unapologetic about her sexuality.

That, for what it's worth, is why I can get very, very irritated with certain varieties of virgin heroine (mind you, not all, just some kinds), and why I find myself agreeing with Mrs. Giggles more often than not on the issue of virgins in romance novels. Plus Maili is right--there are SO DAMN MANY of them, even in contemporaries.

Not saying I can't ever buy into a virgin widow or whatever, but the author had better make the reason really compelling and different.

Now, blasting a heroine for having a past and calling her a whore or a skeet or whatever simply because she DARE have an orgasm without the hero present--THAT bugs me a lot, because romance novel heroes are some of the sluttiest men in fiction, and the whole sexual double-standard thing is a big, big pet peeve of mine.

Jill said...

Loved this post! So well said!

Karen Scott said...

I think that the way we view heroines in books are reflective of how we view other women in real society.

How many of us judge other women negatively if we know that they've slept around? I'm as guilty as anyone for thinking that women that sleep around are a little slutty, but to be honest, men that sleep around get me mad as hell too, but more often than not, men's promiscuity is rarely portrayed negatively.

As a rule, we seem to judge our own sex a lot more harshly. Talk about double standards.

Sisterhood? What sisterhood?

sybil said...

oh see I am completely different as far as rl goes. I could careless how many people a person as slept with. And honestly don't think it is wise to marry anyone you haven't had sex with, forever is a long time.

But historical romance novels... different story. Although I still have to say I wouldn't write a book off for having a sexual heroine nor do I need VIRGINITY to be a character in the novel.