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There’s been the most terrifically funny thread over at the AAR group list.

We’ve been talking about virgins in books, and why a lot of romance readers seem to hate them. My thing is, I don’t mind virgins, as long as the hymen isn’t a replacement for their brains, and they’ve at least dated.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never had sex, unless you’re living in outer Mongolia, you will know that the vagina isn’t just for bleeding out of. Or at least you should.

I’ve read lots of Linda Howard books that featured older virgins in them, but they never bothered me at all, but then again, she’s a good writer.

This question from one of the AAR posters, caught my eye:

This was part of Lynne Connolly’s answer to the above question:

That woman seriously cracks me up.

I’ll tell you how I’d feel, I wouldn’t effing read it, no matter who it was written by. I hate too much virginity-based drama in a book, and if a contemporary woman had gotten to the age of 32 without so much as a sniff of a man (without the benefit of being a nun) then you could safely assume that she would have some deep issues to resolve first. apparently there are 30 year old virgins who have never dates, who are fully adjusted, but I simply don’t want to read about them in a romance I’m not interested in reading a romance book with that amount of emotional baggage. Does that make me shallow? Possibly.

I found this comment quite amusing:

Come on guys, some of you must have examples that you can cite. Our Mills and Boon, Tender and Modern romances are just full of those kind of heroines. Which is why I stopped reading them years ago. Although every now and then, I do get sucked in by Emma Darcy, who’s books I generally hate, but for some reason still read. I’m sure there’s a name for this affliction.

This comment incensed a couple of people:

This poster wasn’t overjoyed by that comment, she responded:

I’m sorry, but was it bad that I laughed at this point? Tee hee.

Anyway, the conversation then moved onto Pseudo Virgins, you all know the type right?

This was my contribution:

God, I can’t tell you how much ‘virgin’ widows/divorcees annoy me.

Anyway, the conversation went slowly downhill from there. One of the AAR regulars commented that she was offended by the fact that people would dare call contemp virgin stories stupid, just because she liked them. She insisted on taking every comment personally, like a few AAR readers are wont to do, every now and then.

This is what she had to say after I posted that I personally hate virgin stories with heroines who had never even so much as dated:

Talk about oversensitive. I’ve been hating vampire stories for a while now, and don’t mind saying so, I certainly couldn’t give a flying fuck if anybody decided they totally disagreed with me.

I love best-friend-to-lovers romance books, but it wouldn’t occur to me to take offence if somebody else thought they sucked hairy balls. Does that make me a freak?

It still amazes me that people get so het up about these things, when there are so many other things to take umbrage with. Like racism in publishing for instance… *g*

Anyway, for anybody who’s unsure about my stance on this, let me clarify: I hate contemporary storylines with thirty year old virgins who have never dated, and don’t know what their vagina is for.

Dontcha just love the romance community?

30 Comments »


  • Barbara B.
    February 10
    1:20 pm

    As much as some people despise the secret baby stories, that’s how much I HATE contemporary virgin heroines. Both arestortlines are contrived but right off the bat an unequal relationship is created with an inexperienced heroine and an experienced hero. I want to read about characters who are equals-in sexuality and personal power. It makes the story more interesting to me.

    On the other hand, I love stories about male virgins. Highly improbable but not as dusty and cliched as the virgin heroine. Basically anything that I’m tired of seeing in heroines, except for TSTL, I like to see turned around and applied to the hero if possible. It makes for a change that adds a little spice for my jaded romance palate.

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  • sallahdog
    February 10
    1:24 pm

    I wouldnt like that book either Karen…

    Personally I don’t care if the herione is a virgin or not, even an older one… I do hate when the story line revolves around their hoo ha, for whatever the reason…

    I think lately, I am on sex overload though… I am burnt out on books that have a lot of sex in them, at the expense of having an actual plot… I want me some plot these days…

    I read two books this week where the sex didnt overwhelm the action of the story, SEPs Natural Born Charmer, and Patricia Briggs, Blood Bound…. Let me tell you, it was a refreshing change and and enjoyable 2 days…

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  • Kat O+
    February 10
    1:33 pm

    I always have a chuckle when reading about these things because I used to just LURVE secret babies, amnesiacs and virgin brides. *g* Once in a while, I go through my M&B/Silhouette/Harlequin keepers and give away a whole stack of books, wondering how on earth I could possibly have managed to get through them. But I do think there’s a place for secret babies, amnesiacs and older virgins (or at least, less experienced older heroines) but my expectation in terms of the writing, the plotting and the character development is a lot higher now.

    BTW, I do know women around the 30-year old mark who haven’t really dated much, but they’re mostly in that situation due to cultural/religious reasons. And they usually have a whole bunch of girlfriends through which they live vicariously. In other words, they know which bits go where and would have been given a vibrator as a birthday present at some point in their twenties. 😀

    I’ll tell you how I’d feel, I wouldn’t effing read it, no matter who it was written by.
    Oooh, Karen issues a challenge! *g*

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  • Barbara B.
    February 10
    1:37 pm

    Sorry. Typo arestortlines should be storylines in second sentence.

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  • Fickle Fiona
    February 10
    3:27 pm

    When I was younger I wanted all of my heroines to be virgins. I didn’t care if a sexual past was done well or even gave the story forward motion, I wanted innocent virgins.

    Of course, I still read a lot of historicals for this reason, but a 30 year old virgin in a contemp who doesn’t have a clue? Um, nope, doesn’t work for me. I become obsessed with why she hasn’t had sex and can’t enjoy the story.

    …Fiona…

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  • Sandra Schwab
    February 10
    4:26 pm

    Okay, I admit it: I love Mills&Boon novels. Give me secret babies, give me amnesia (okay, not me personally) (on the other hand, amnesia would be a wonderful excuse not to read and correct all these horrid research papers by people who’ve got no clue whatsoever how to discuss a work of literature) (or perhaps I speak Chinese in my course) (probably), anyway, yes! Give me amnesia, sulking Greek tycoons out for revenge – and I’m in reader’s heaven. And then I’m not even bothered by the clueless virgin heroines.

    What does bother me, though, is that many authors seem to have absolutely no clue where the stupid hymen is actually situated…

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  • Desiree Erotique
    February 10
    4:34 pm

    I don’t care if the heroine of a story is a virgin (I’ve written one or two of these myself), as long as there’s not an Abstinence-until-Wedlock agenda underlying the story.

    And just out of curiosity, did anyone talk about virgin heroes in this discussion? Just wondering as that’s one scenario that really doesn’t appeal to me one iota. I like a fictional hero who knows how to use his “tool” 🙂

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  • bam
    February 10
    8:02 pm

    I don’t mind if the heroine is a virgin if there’s a good reason for it… like she suffers from vagina dentata or something fucked up like that. Or she was raised in a convent or an Amish community.

    And you guys will probably scratch my eyes out for this, but… I’m a sucker for secret-baby-romances.

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  • Devon
    February 10
    9:33 pm

    I just read a book with a 31 y.o. virgin. She seemed completely shocked that sex would hurt the first time, and thought to herself that she had thought that men penis’ would not be wider than a tampon. Granted, the character had brain damage, but the author emphasized that her intelligence was not affected. After that scene, I was not as sure.

    I don’t have a problem with older virgins, I just have a problem with an older, contemporary virgin with no clue about sex. Even if they had not engaged in any below the belt activity of any kind, don’t they have chatty girlfriends?

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  • Ann Wesley Hardin
    February 10
    11:16 pm

    And you guys will probably scratch my eyes out for this, but… I’m a sucker for secret-baby-romances.

    We all have our faults, Bam. My guilty pleasure is Harlequin Presents and marriages of convenience. I luurve it when the heroine takes ten pages to brush her teeth because she’s angsting about the hero. This ain’t no joke, either.

    As for virgins? Meh. I don’t feel one way or the other as long as she’s not an ignorant fool. One device that makes me crazy (and I’ve seen this) is a farm girl virgin who can’t figure out what a penis is for. HELLO! Farms are yesterday’s Internet porn sites.

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  • Jaye
    February 11
    1:11 am

    Oh, Karen. I lurk on that group (or at least get the digest in my inbox daily) anywho, I was >thisclose< to emailing you off the loop when that one gal got severely bent out of shape and posted that she was a 36 year old virgin who'd never dated--by choice--and she didn't need a man,yaddahyaddahyaddah. erm, yeah. sure. :-P

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  • Jaye
    February 11
    1:15 am

    Btw, virgins in romances don’t bother me, even the clueless ones. 😛 Then again, I haven’t read a lot of contemporary romances with virgin heriones. Just a handful, and those were in Presents (of which I read about one of per year). ::shrug::

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  • Karen Scott
    February 11
    2:12 am

    I was this close to emailing you off the loop when that one gal got severely bent out of shape and posted that she was a 36 year old virgin who’d never dated–by choice–and she didn’t need a man,yaddahyaddahyaddah. erm, yeah. sure. 😛

    Jaye, I had to sit on my hands, I was that close to posting something very naughty when I read her post.

    I don’t care what anybody says, unless it’s a religious thing, nobody gets to their late thirties without having dated at least one person. If she has friends, then surely her friends would have tried to set her up with men (or women if she swings that way). I’m not sure I believed her. She said that she wasn’t exactly ugly either, but that’s got nothing with dating. Lots of ugly people go on dates, because as we know, beauty’s in the eye, etc etc.

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  • Sharon Cullars
    February 11
    5:40 am

    Karen, the over-30 virginal demographic seems to be a growing one. Check this salon.com article:

    http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2006/09/06/virgins/

    BTW, Ann, thank you for the blogpost; just came across it.

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  • Karen Scott
    February 11
    12:53 pm

    Sharon, I read that Salon article, and I found it very interesting.

    Donnelly and Burgess’ study found that a big part of sexual development comes from dating as a teenager and that involuntary virginity is a combination of shyness, body-image issues and getting a late start.

    This is mostly why I tend to stay awayfrom books featuring virgins in their thirties, if the reason for them still being a virgin isn’t religious, then the implication is that, they have self esteem issues, which I just don’t want to read about. Stories with virgins who have dated, but just haven’t found the right guy I can swallow, but stories where the girl is clueless about what happens between men and women just drive me insane. Even ultra-introverted people know what sex is.

    This excerpt from a reader letter was very interesting to me:

    Due to social anxiety, I never dated in either high school or college, though I did manage to lose my virginity at age 19 to an older (married) woman I’m sure my dad put up to deflowering me. I was 26 the next time I had sex, and it’s still a rare event for me now in my 40s. Yep, I’m an introverted freak who couldn’t get laid to save my life.

    Like I said, I don’t mind reading about virgins in their thirties, just don’t make the clueless and don’t load them with self esteem issues.

    This reader starts out poo-pooing the idea about older virgins being maladjusted:

    am a 24-year-old virgin; intelligent, articulate, allegedly witty and never wanting in social invitations. I am not remotely obese (size 4-6) and, while no Jessica Alba, get a lot of male attention and “you’re so hot”s. I wasn’t sexually abused and I don’t have a purity complex. Sure, I’ve only had one serious boyfriend

    Then goes on to confirm my theory about older virgins and self esteem issues by writing this:

    At university, I met plenty, but my self-esteem was so shattered by my 18-year-old best friend that I was terrified to get involved with anyone for years and didn’t really understand how escalate the physical flirting that kickstarts most relationships, and became convinced I was unloveable and unattractive.

    Talk about contradictory.

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  • Jaye
    February 11
    1:06 pm

    I had to sit on my hands, I was that close to posting something very naughty when I read her post.

    LOL. I couldn’t wait to see what you and/or Lynne would make in reply to that statement. Alas, you both behaved yourselves…. 😉

    I personally don’t know (or am not aware of) any virgins over thirty in my immediate group of friends, but I have known several people over the years who’ve choosen to be celibate, long term and short (including myself).

    So, in addition to the religious thing, various diseases (thanks for those pics, Karen!) and other hang ups/issues peeps might have, the idea of an older modern day virgin (in real life and books) doesn’t phaze me.

    It’s the *never had a date by choice by the grand old age of 36* (not even meeting up for drinks or a coffee? movie? a drive? school dance? study date? I mean there’s a whole range of dating from the very casual to ones that prelude more serious involvement) that made me raise my eyebrows.

    btw, I do see a new digest in my inbox and a post by you seems to be the very one, so I’m off to see what feathers, if any, have been ruffle. *gg*

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  • Karen Scott
    February 11
    1:58 pm

    LOL. I couldn’t wait to see what you and/or Lynne would make in reply to that statement. Alas, you both behaved yourselves…. 😉

    Jaye, you don’t even know how close I was to responding to that post, lol!

    As for ruffling feathers over at AAR, I’m sure I don’t know what you mean. *g*

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  • Anonymous
    February 11
    2:49 pm

    As someone who cames from a traditional culture, I can understand the virginity. I am someone who was virgin until the age 25 when I married, so I feel it is o.k. to be a virgin. It does not mean you are less of a woman or you are not a liberated woman, it is just a personal choice.
    What I have though are the stories of women who were married but still a virgin.

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  • Karen Scott
    February 11
    3:22 pm

    As someone who cames from a traditional culture, I can understand the virginity. I am someone who was virgin until the age 25 when I married

    Anon, this I totally understand, because there are cultures who put great value on virginity, these stories I wouldn’t mind reading, but its the stories of women who are clueless about sex in their thirties. Incidentally, this doesn’t just apply to virgins.

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  • Barbara B.
    February 11
    3:30 pm

    I don’t mind the virginity as much as I do the big deal that’s made about it. It annoys me when the story revolves around the virginity. Especially when the virgin has a crush on one man but asks her bad-boy male acquaintance to deflower her and teach her to be sexy for the man she really wants. This is my most hated romance scenario of MANY slightly less hated ones. Anyway, since when does a person with a fully functional vagina need any help getting attention from the man of her choice?

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  • Shiloh Walker
    February 11
    3:31 pm

    Even ultra-introverted people know what sex is.


    heroine : what… what is it?

    hero: it’s a penis, my love. It goes here.

    heroine (terrified) : why would it go there?

    It’s hard to believe there are contemp books out there that still pull the ‘don’t know what sex is’ bit.

    I’ve written acouple of stories with virgins as the heroines. The one that sticks the most, heroine met the hero when she was her early twenties, and fell in love with him. He just saw her a friend. THe heroine, because she did have such strong feelings for the guy, couldn’t work up the interest in dating anybody else so she was a virgin the first time she was with him.

    I think if they are written right, they can work. I’d rather read a story about a virgin than one about some woman who slept with every guy she ever dated and then some, but what matters most is the story and whether or not her actions, whatever they may be, play into the story

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  • Jaye
    February 11
    6:20 pm

    You didn’t just ruffle feathers, you plucked them clean off! lmao. You really should look into trademarking “sucks big hairy balls”. lol. btw, that one chick is a lost cause she’s going to take *everything* personally. 😛

    Back on topic… . I’ve read every single ‘annoying’ example/set up cited here with nary a twinge irritation. But I can understand how it could get on ones nerves it you came across it enough times.

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  • Anne
    February 11
    11:10 pm

    I’m with Bam… I like secret baby stories, and *ducking* I like virgin stories as well… but only if the virgin is in her 20’s which is still believable… 30’s is just unrealistic to me.

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  • Jenny
    February 12
    9:10 am

    I don’t mind virgin heroines as long as the heroine is not stupid and shows some healthy sense of curiosity and desire towards the opposite sex, provided she’s not a sexually confused lesbian or anything of course.

    But I HATE HATE HATE stories when the hymen is used as an evidence of the heroine’s innocence in some kind of misdeed/crime/misunderstanding. Talk about cop out, hmmmph.

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  • Mrs G
    February 12
    10:10 am

    Yikes, the above is me, by the way. Accidentally used my blogger ID that I never really gotten around to making a blog with.

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  • Eva Gale
    February 12
    8:12 pm

    I have a friend who was a virgin up until 34 when she got married. She was religious but let me tell you, she sure knew what do do with the equiptment, and she prayed for it all the time. THAT I will buy. Write me THAT and I swallow, hook, line and sinker. But ignorant over 15 (and that’s a stretch) and I’m throwing it in the garbage.

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  • Eva Gale
    February 12
    8:23 pm

    Even historicals with ignorant heroines flip me. I’m looking for the quote-by Lady montague I believe-my quote book is packed-anyway (1600’s) she says that mothers believe to keep their children from sexual adventures it is enough to not speak of such, but that the children find out for themselves. So, I completely and totally believe that children have been playing Dr forever. I don’t buy it.

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  • Dawn
    February 13
    11:42 am

    Hmm… Actually, I don’t mind virgin stories (if the heroine is not a total duh brain) – I can say this because I’m still a sucker for M&B’s Amnesiac Billionaire Tycoon’s Secret Baby Revenge (I can’t help myself – like you say Karen, there must be a name for this sad affliction). LOL!!

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  • SpecRom Joyce
    February 20
    1:36 am

    Jesus, I can’t believe someone didn’t turn me on to this post earlier.

    Did you know that the Speculative Romance Online newsletter is issued from the Desk of the Deflower the Virgins Literary Action Group?

    I have very little time for virgin heroines, even if they come from a culture (real or speculative) that cherishes innocent women, because such cultures are generally unfun for and unfair to women. I gotta live in one of those, I sure as hell don’t want to read about one.

    Then someone pointed out that my short romantic sci fi story, Burned and Burning, up at Quantum Kiss, features…a virgin heroine.

    I am still not over the shock and the shame.

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  • Lynne Connolly
    March 2
    6:43 pm

    Yes, I know, late as usual!
    But I began to think I was a bit odd, or it was a British thing or something like that. But really, virginity isn’t that much of a big deal over here, and hasn’t been since my mother’s day.
    I couldn’t wait to get rid of mine and most of my girlfriends were the same. And I went to a posh school!
    Sex is fun, cheap and – well, I can’t think of a third thing, but fun and cheap works for me!
    The “sex and violence” tag irritates me. Why on earth are they bracketed together?
    And on a more serious note, a virgin who knows nothing is in dangerous country. These days, with sexual sleazes ready to take advantage, a woman, virgin or not, owes it to herself to find out everything she needs to know – whether she intends to go out and lose her cherry or not.

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