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Virgins: "I hate sluts!"?

 
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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
Posts: 1410

PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:29 pm    Post subject: Virgins: "I hate sluts!"? Reply with quote

Smart Bitches, a romance site, interviews a woman who's getting her Ph.D with a thesis on virginity in romance novels.
(http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/virgins-in-romance-an-interview-with-jodi-mcalister). Astounded, I read McAlister saying, "virgin heroines who are all like, 'I am a virgin because casual sex is disgusting, you filthy sluts' are incredibly annoying. " This attitude was repeated a couple of times in the interview, implying that type of character is common in romances. It's bad enough that people hold romances in contempt who have never read them, but when they are misrepresented by their defenders, it's infuriating.

I personally cannot remember even ONE virgin in romances who felt that she was superior--and said so--to non-virgins. In fact, any author who wrote such a character would alienate her readers pretty quickly. Because I have not read all the romances available (yet), I wondered if even ONE of you had come across this "common" (according the the Ph.D. candidate) attitude among virginal heroines.
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Susan/DC



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 1653

PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps her meaning was not a literal quote and not necessarily from the heroine, but there are a lot of evil ex-wives/girlfriends/mistresses in romance novels who are categorized as more-or-less sluts.
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Sterling_95



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read through the article and one of the problems may be that the PhD candidate was relying on romances that are 20-30 years old. The only 'recent' romance cited in there was The Duke and I.

However, that point aside, I disagree with her ideas that virgin heroines are judgmental and disapprove of casual sex. If anything, the virgin heroines I've read glorify in casual sex - once they meet the hero, the panties come flying off in a matter of weeks. In 50 Shades of Grey, a contemporary romance that makes a big deal about its virginal and unworldly heroine, she's in bed with the hero within a month of meeting and she's just fine with him performing acts that she couldn't even spell. The last romance I've read where the heroine held onto her virginity until she received some sort of commitment was Teresa Medeiros' Breath of Magic and even there, the heroine ended up willing to compromise her principles after hearing the hero's sad, sad backstory (concerning his evil, selfish mother, natch).

Not to mention, the older bodice rippers may have celebrated the virginal heroines, but there was always a trade off of brain and spine for hymen. The wide eyed young things were more often than not dumb as bricks and helpless and passive at worst and reactive at best. In contrast, the evil slutty Other Women were actually proactive and worldly and came up with some pretty impressive schemes to keep the plot going.
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chris booklover



Joined: 12 Apr 2010
Posts: 310
Location: Florida

PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't recall reading about any heroines who expressed such attitudes.

The interviewee seems to have approached the subject with some very definite preconceptions. Her comments illustrate an ongoing issue with much of the commentary (academic or otherwise) on the romance genre - namely, that little or no evidence is provided in support of certain claims. Time and again you will see critiques of certain "tropes", "stereotypes" or "cliches," when in fact few examples of these trends can be identified. On several occasions I have questioned such claims and asked for examples. Few, if any, have been forthcoming.
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erika



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 447

PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After reading the link I think Mcalister is being really snarky and doesn't much respect romances. I take her insincerity not seriously.
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MrsFairfax



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 1069

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, but who awards a Ph.D. for a thesis on virginity in romance novels?

"I'm looking at virginity loss scenes and comparing to them to autobiographical stories about virginity loss and seeing how they matched up, as well as trying to tie them back to a historical framework."


This is earnest academic work? I know we all love romances, but I find it hard to take them this seriously, much less when it involves comparing and contrasting actual virginity loss stories with Kathleen Woodiwiss. You can make a good case for romance trends being reflective of the changing culture, but deconstructing at this level ... I can't see how this got approved.
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Yulie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think Laura Vivanco from Teach Me Tonight has done a better job of highlighting the main focus of Ms. McAlister's research than some of the posters in this thread. This is it in a nutshell:

Quote:
What I really want to do is work out how virginity functions as a narrative trope in romance, and how this is changed over time. You know those people that pull apart cars for fun to see how they work? I'm like that, but for stories. I guess I'm a narrative mechanic: I love pulling stories to bits to understand how/why/whether they work. I want to work out what function virginity serves as a literary device - how it drives plot, how it drives character, and why it pops up so often in romance in particular. To do this, I'm tracing the history of the virgin heroine in the romance plot - I take a bit of a tour through medieval romance, then through the rise of the novel and its shadowy twin the pornographic novel - before coming back to the modern romance.

I am at a loss as to why anyone would think this is not a worthy topic for a dissertation. Is the romance genre, its conventions and tropes, not worthy of literary analysis and only of interest from a socio-cultural perspective? I really, really disagree with that assertion. I also disagree with the interpretation that Ms. McAlister is anti-romance; I don't think she would take on a project of this magnitude if she wasn't passionate about the genre in a positive way. That's not to say she thinks everything in it is perfect and should be celebrated as such. Also, her point is not that the genre is full of slut-shaming virgins, and I really don't understand how anyone can come away with that as the main point of the interview.

That said, since the research she's working on is currently unpublished and is in fact a work in progress, with all that implies, I certainly can't comment on the merit of her work. I would suggest we all withhold judgment until we read the actual research.
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MMcA



Joined: 26 Mar 2007
Posts: 660

PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for linking to that, I thought it was an interesting interview.

Though I was totally distracted by her assertion that "Virginity" is the only word in the English language for something which is actually a not-thing: "virgin" is an identity based on NOT doing something, on not having an experience. "
What about prepubescent? There must be others... (Googling now: if slang counts 'pollywog' is someone who hasn't crossed the equator.)

As to the quote you mentioned, I thought from context that she was very much talking about older romances. And while I agree with you that heroines as individuals didn't have those attitudes, I think there's some truth to the idea that the genre as a whole did have odd attitudes around virginity and promiscuity (at least the ones I read when I was young did.)
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Lynda X



Joined: 05 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Having read a ton of early (70's and 80's) romances with their endless parade of innocents raped by the heroes, I still can't remember even ONE heroine with this attitude. To make such an unfounded generality, even about outdated romances, frankly, makes me doubt the rest of her research.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lynda X wrote:
Having read a ton of early (70's and 80's) romances with their endless parade of innocents raped by the heroes, I still can't remember even ONE heroine with this attitude. To make such an unfounded generality, even about outdated romances, frankly, makes me doubt the rest of her research.


I agree. If anything the virgins in romance novels always seem to have this feeling of shame and embarrassment that they are virgins, often afraid to tell the hero or her friends.

Linda
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem I had with the interview was the lack of focus in the interviewee's responses. Those respones were all over the place, jumping from point to point with not much transition between. At some point, she commented, as I recall, that she loved to talk about the thesis, and I have to agree with that. There wasn't much coherence in it.
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MrsFairfax wrote:
Sorry, but who awards a Ph.D. for a thesis on virginity in romance novels?

"I'm looking at virginity loss scenes and comparing to them to autobiographical stories about virginity loss and seeing how they matched up, as well as trying to tie them back to a historical framework."


This is earnest academic work? I know we all love romances, but I find it hard to take them this seriously, much less when it involves comparing and contrasting actual virginity loss stories with Kathleen Woodiwiss. You can make a good case for romance trends being reflective of the changing culture, but deconstructing at this level ... I can't see how this got approved.


And why shouldn't pop culture research be considered a serious academic work? Not all Ph.Ds are awarded for a thesis on Shakespeare or Jane Austen or any other studied to death author and that's a good thing IMO, because it keeps the field vibrant.

Besides, echoing what Yulie said, I don't think that this doctoral student is anti-romance at all. You don't spend years studying something you flat out hate. The bit about the judgmental virgins that several posters here jumped upon is actually a very minor observation and only refers to a string of not very good category romances, Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern going by the sample titles she gives, that she read a few years ago. And I think we can all agree that Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern often thrives on the contrast between the high status experienced alpha hero and the innocent and lower status virgin heroine. There's usually an "other woman" character as well, often the hero's mistress or ex, who's portrayed extremely negatively for the sole sin of having had sex. So it's not difficult to see how someone could get such a picture from reading too many bad Presents in a row. Of course, without knowing the exact titles of the books she's referring to it's difficult to ascertain whether those books or their characters truly are judgmental about non-virgins.

I agree with Dick that the interview is rambling, but then Ph.D students or scholars in general tend to ramble or just plain geek out, when asked about their research. It would have helped, if the interview had been cleaned up a little, though her enthusiasm is certainly infectious. Her project sounds interesting and I hope that we get to read/see it someday.
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willaful



Joined: 02 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linda in sw va wrote:
Lynda X wrote:
Having read a ton of early (70's and 80's) romances with their endless parade of innocents raped by the heroes, I still can't remember even ONE heroine with this attitude. To make such an unfounded generality, even about outdated romances, frankly, makes me doubt the rest of her research.


I agree. If anything the virgins in romance novels always seem to have this feeling of shame and embarrassment that they are virgins, often afraid to tell the hero or her friends.


I see the embarrassment in more recent Harlequins. (And it's more like humbragging than anything else, if you ask me.) In the older ones, I do see the attitude she writes about. It may not be as blatant as she's phrasing it, but the Other Woman is slutty and therefore debased and evil.

And I get the impression she's quoting mostly older romances because that's where the history begins, not that she's basing her entire thesis on them. She sounds like she's doing quite a lot of reading and research.
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jaime



Joined: 23 Sep 2011
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Smile In my romance reading experience a virgin is just a future "slut" who hasn't met the right man aka the hero yet.

To be serious for a moment - I do not like the word "slut" used so freely in romances for sexually experienced and active women. I hate slut shaming in romances. Sexual experience is not a vice and virginity is not a virtue.
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