The “virgin” trope is the worst trope in the Romance book genre. (In my humble and correct opinion.) The first season of Netflix’s BRIDGERTON (and the associated book) embody this in all its horrid glory.
This trope has its origins in the Romance genre (mainly the Historical subgenre, but I have seen others use it) and it needs to die a quick but hopefully painful death.
STOP FETISHIZING VIRGINS, DAMN IT.
This trope is where the story focuses on a woman’s “innocence” and the plot follows her learning about sex from a typically much more experienced and significantly older man (a la FIFTY SHADES OF GREY). It revolves around the idea that the heroine is more desirable to her love interest for her lack of conquests (while usually showing the opposite for her male counterpart).
To be clear, there is no problem authors writing virgin heroines just as there is no problem with being a virgin. One’s sexual experience or lack thereof should not decide a person’s identity.
The problem is when a person’s sexual experience or the lack thereof becomes their primary character trait and the way they are defined for the whole dang story.
It is misogyny at its peak.
Romance writers (like the writers and producers of BRIDGERTON) are primarily female, so we can’t even blame this trope on the men. But we don’t need to. Women have been quite well trained to enforce our own oppression.
I grew up in a very conservative religious environment and I heard from older women all the time about how having sex before marriage would “destroy” me. (I’m not even exaggerating. One woman used those exact words.)
We were on the heels of the Purity Movement and if you don’t know what that is, consider yourself spared. It started out as a noble endeavor, but got out of hand and ending up hurting many, many people.
Well into my twenties, older women were concerned with whether I’d had sex, was currently having it, or was planning to have it outside marriage. While this was kind of creepy and definitely none of their business, it does get worse.
I hate how older women have been obsessed with my sex life, but I just as much hate the shame and guilt I have seen other women in the church experience. So many of these women feel they are worthless because they think what made them desirable is gone.
Some of these women made choices in their younger years they regret. Some are divorcees and see themselves as used goods. Many have even been sexually abused as children.
(And don’t get me started on the women who still are virgins thinking they’re better than those who aren’t. Yes, it IS a thing, and yes, it IS dumb.)
In these situations, I see the ideas and mindset behind the virgin trope played out in all their harmful culmination. A woman is not a condom. She doesn’t become trash after intercourse.
You can argue that the trope is not directly correlated to this idea, but I have seen firsthand how it feeds into that incredibly damaging mindset.
That’s why I won’t let the virgin trope slide as harmless entertainment. It hurts women and I’m not going to forgive this one.
Writers can have virgin heroines all they want, but they need to stop fetishizing virginity and stop making it a plot device.
Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.
If you have any thoughts to add, to agree or even disagree, feel free to leave a comment and let’s talk!