Welcome to another day of The Battle of the Sexies! It is with much delight that I introduce today's wonderful guest, Andrea Cremer! She's a debut author and creature of the paranormal YA werewolf story Nightshade.
"Andrea Cremer spent her childhood daydreaming while roaming the forests and lakeshores of Northern Wisconsin. She now lives in Minnesota, but she thinks of her homeland as the “Canadian Shield” rather than the Midwest.
In the little spare time she can find, Andrea stares up at trees, rescues infant rabbits from predatory cats, and invents names for pug puppies with her husband. She has an unfortunate tendency to spill things – white carpets beware!
Her debut novel, NIGHTSHADE, the first of a YA fantasy series, will be published in fall 2010 by Penguin (Philomel)."
Courtesy of Andrea's website.
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Andrea Cremer: Seeing Double
She watches him, her virgin’s heart fluttering as he peels away a shirt already tested to the limits by his brawn. Her creamy bosom heaves as she wonders what the searing prickles stirring quite a bit lower than her belly might mean. Surely she’ll understand once her own true love finishes unbuckling his belt and reveals the source of the passion straining against his leather trousers. Then he’ll teach her everything he already knows and she’s aching to learn.
Sound familiar? It should.
Now I love a good bodice ripper, so don’t get me wrong, but this post is about sexual double standards, why I have a problem with them, and why I think you should too. So bear with me while I stand on my soap box. I won’t be burning my bra but I will speak my mind rather loudly.
The steamy scenes I write and read are among my favorites. It’s hard to appreciate a novel that doesn’t give you at least one good toe-curling moment. But too often these scenes are predicated on stereotyped characters: hero – sexually experienced to ensure his lady will always be satisfied, even during that trying first time; heroine – sexual novice, maybe she’s seen third base, but it’s likely she’s still hovering around first. Even if she’s a plucky fighter, she’s guarded her virtue, unwilling to give away her heart or her body until tall, dark, and sexually irresistible shows up to share his worldly ways with her.
It’s a good formula, right? Maybe. Maybe not.
The reason it works so well is that the titillation of inexperience, of discovery, of the forbidden is very appealing. But it also robs heroines of choice, power, and their own sexual journeys. If literary women are always swept away, it becomes a foregone conclusion that they lack the skills to do the sweeping. What’s even worse is that the standard presumes something would be wrong with them if they could do it.
But the dangers go further than that. Sexual awakening, discovery, and experience are encountered by both women and men in their life journeys. Yet for some reason, our society still splits that inexperience, rendering each side’s expectations neither unrecognizable to the other. While it’s considered run of the mill for boys to hide porn under their mattresses and get…um…familiar with their own anatomy on a nightly basis, girls are loaded down with the weight of responsibility, getting advice about pregnancy, STDs, and maintaining reputations with nary a vibrator in sight. They’re told how to entice boys without giving away too much and god forbid they should know anything about how to make sex an enjoyable experience on their end of things.
These expectations plague the heroes and heroines of many a book and the reactions to characters who step out of bounds reflects the problems these double standards create. One of my favorite series at the moment is Sarah Rees Brennan’s The Demon’s Lexicon and The Demon’s Covenant. Sarah has written some amazing posts about sexual double standards and she’s commented that her kick-ass protagonist Mae, who had the audacity to date and *gasp* even kiss more than one boy in the same book gets called a “skank” and “ho” while the boys doing the very same thing receive only praise.
Let me say it now: this is not okay. It is not okay for women to be robbed of sexual power when men get to flaunt it. Women should be able to be sexually aggressive and experienced without being called horrible names for it. The playing field should be equal on all fronts.
Here’s another example of what’s not okay. A romance novel I read quite a while ago, that will remain nameless, started out in this way: Man asks servant to find him a prostitute to sate his manly needs, man’s servant instead mistakenly brings in virginal lady. Man proceeds to rape virginal lady because he presumes she’s a “whore” who is just being “saucy” when he assaults her and she fights back. I kept expecting the “hero” to show up and stop this horrific scenario. But guess what? The rapist WAS the hero. The virgin only didn’t enjoy being raped because she fought him and also OOPS mister sexually experienced hero wouldn’t have been so rough with her if he’d known she was a lady and not a whore and also that she was a virgin to be sensitively deflowered. Yet somehow, this is the way she becomes enamored of him, eventually marries him, and lives happily ever after.
Excuse me? No. Just no.
Sexual double standards perpetuate the idea that sexual violence against women can somehow be justified. It. Cannot. Not. Ever. The fact that strong, sexy women are labeled “skank” and “ho” is a form of violence against them. Until the heroines of our stories can be sexy and sexual as the heroes without being villainized for it we’re dealing with a frightening patriarchal bias. Inequality on the page reflects inequalities in our world. Among my favorite authors writing now I’m starting to see those inequalities broken down and women’s sexuality being treated with respect. Because women should be able to roar, and purr, as they see fit.
One winner will receive an ARC of Nightshade.
Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she’ll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters’ laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything - including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?
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