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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Virgin Heroines Can--and DO--Kick Ass

Well, so much for getting through my galleys. I was making a little blog tour today before I started working and visited one that belongs to a friend of mine. The topic? Virgins Should Live Before They Kick Ass. Grrr. Jenn and I have argued this before, more than once, so she won't be surprised if she cruises by and sees this post, but I'm not going to be able to focus on my galleys until I vent a little.

Nothing makes me crazier than writers (and there are MANY) who think that a heroine can't be strong and kick ass until she's experienced the magical act of penetration by a man. Bullshit. Sex doesn't form a woman's strength of character. Sex doesn't give a woman a backbone. And sex most certainly does not teach a woman fighting techniques.

So why do so many women think a heroine has to be sexually experienced before she's strong? Sex is just one more life experience, not an act that gives a woman courage and honor. Do these people think that it's like a knighthood ceremony? The magical scepter is inserted and instantly the heroine becomes Wonder Woman?

I've said this before and I'll keep saying it until either the majority swings my way or I die, :-) but strength does not come from sex. Strength comes from life. From facing adversity and tough situations, and seeing them through. Learning from them. Growing. And then meeting the next challenge that life throws our heroine's way. Sex is fun, but it has next to nothing to do with the character of a person, with their internal strength and physical abilities.

Someone who replied to my friend's post cited Ravyn and Cai as examples of shy heroines who kick ass. Ravyn wasn't really shy or lacking in self-confidence, she only thought she was a coward because she felt fear while she was doing what she needed to do, but Cai was shy. It wasn't having sex with the hero that changed either one of them. It wasn't even really meeting the hero that changed either one of them. It was the circumstances they found themselves in that changed them.

Ravyn was thrown in situation after situation where she was forced to take action. She was scared, but that didn't stop her. She met each challenge tossed in front of her. That's how she finally understood she wasn't a coward. It wasn't the hero's, um, penis (I almost used a different word) entering her body that made Ravyn realize she was strong. She was already strong, she just had to figure it out for herself.

Cai was sorely lacking in self-confidence because she was tormented as a child by older kids who were jealous and angry at how smart she was and how she messed up the grade curve. It wasn't having sex with Jake that made her gain self-confidence. It wasn't even the fact that Jake was attracted to her. What gave Cai confidence was successfully handling events as they unfolded around her. Again, she was already strong and courageous, her life experiences had forced her to grow up in a lot of ways, but she stayed safe behind her computer. Cai became confident when she stepped out from behind her console, interacted with the world and realized she had value. Again, Jake's penis had nothing to do with this.

Intelligence, strength, character, courage, honor, skill in fighting--none of these things come from sex. So yes, virgin heroines can and do kick ass.

Edited to add: I think virgin heroines get a bad rap because so many writers have written ignorant virgin heroines. That makes me nuts too. I can see it in a historical, but not in a contemporary (or most futuristics). There is no way any woman can grow up in our society (or most futuristic ones) and remain unaware of what sex involves. I read one book that almost hit the wall because the heroine, despite hanging out in bars where there were prostitutes, was so ignorant of sex, she thought penetration was all it involved. I never finished this story and I did try. I prefer to see heroines who are virgins, but not stupid.

And I'd also prefer not to spell out my heroines' sexual experience or lack thereof. I did mention it in Ravyn's Flight because I felt I needed to, but originally I didn't in TPOT or in TACV, and both times I was asked to bring it up. In fact, I was asked TWICE for TACV because I wasn't explicit enough for my editor the first time.

Edited again to say: I find it demeaning to women to say that a heroine can't be kick ass if she's a virgin. Look at what this idea implies: That it takes a man entering a woman's body to empower her. It's saying that a woman is incapable of being strong until she's been penetrated. Where does this idea come from? We all know plenty of women who've had sex and aren't strong. In fact, there are a lot of women looking at men and sex as a way to fill some emotional void inside of them. My heroines are complete human beings without a man. Yes, the hero enhances their lives, but sex with him is a bonus, not the catalyst that makes them capable and strong. Grrr.

Okay, I need to go take a few deep breaths or mediate or something. I did warn y'all that this makes me crazy. :-(