Fri
Dec 14 2012 3:30pm

Experienced Heroines: Stopping Slut-Shaming One Book at a Time

Nightshifted by Cassie AlexanderThere is a classic romance trope of the virginal heroine meeting the experienced hero and learning all about sex with him. (And magically it’s perfect that first time!) While there can be appeal there, I’d much rather see realistic women in my romance novels.

Women can be harder on the sexually experienced heroine. We even see authors including bits of the character explaining an active past in an effort of justification. I don’t blame those authors as our culture has built a stigma around women who know what they want in the bedroom.

Luckily, the tide is turning. We’ve begun to see more books released with heroines who aren’t ashamed of their bodies or desires.

And it’s pretty excellent.

Cassie Alexander’s Nightshifted has an unapologetically sexually active heroine. Edie works the nightshift at a hospital taking care of sick supernaturals. Makes it hard to meet a nice guy and harder to maintain a relationship. In the novel, we see her blow off steam by getting dolled up, heading to a nightclub, and bringing home a very sexy man.

She’s fine with kicking him out in the morning. No shame. She got what she needed and it was time to move on her with her life. He was less pleased by the one-night action, and comes back until the two develop a relationship. He never judges her for bringing home the one-night guy, and readers shouldn’t either.

Edie isn’t the only one out to deal with mega stress by getting laid. Jessica McClain from Amanda Carlson’s Full Blooded is game to take advantage of the sexy werewolf at her place. You see, she’s just shifted for the first time and that breeds a hyped up sexuality. It’s normal in the werewolf culture (for this book) for wolves to hook up around a shift. It doesn’t mean anything more than good sex.

Her partner still checks, repeatedly, that she’s comfortable with it. Jessica gives the hell yeah and enjoys some smoking hot tension relief.

Later in the novel she meets the story’s love interest. There is no conflict about her past sexual encounters. She doesn’t consider her past and neither does he. They’re together now and it’s also super hot.

Blood of the Wicked by Karina CooperSometimes this anti-slut-shaming thread doesn’t go with showing us the past encounters of the heroine, but making it clear they see sex as fun. It can be better with an emotional connection, but heroines like Jessie from Karina Cooper’s Blood of the Wicked are down for a little no-strings fun. Jessie is the one convincing her bodyguard Silas to kill time with her while naked. The good time eventually builds into something meaningful, but neither character is ashamed by their uncommitted sexual history.

Regardless of the means—carefree sexual relationships, booty calls or ignoring sexual pasts—I’m pleased to see authors take the steps to make sexually aggressive women a good thing. There is no slut shaming in these novels, and that makes them all the more romantic.

Some other great books with heroines who own their sexuality: Unholy Ghosts and Unholy Magic by Stacia Kane, Desire Unchained by Larissa Ione, Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook and Kindling the Moon by Jenn Bennett.

What books would you add to the list?


 


While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. Her appreciation of Alexander Skarsgard is well documented. Bother her on Twitter — @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.

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9 comments
Heather Coulter
1. BBMoreB
Great Post! I loved Blood of the Wicked... It is the Free Book of the day on All Romance Today ONLY. Click Here

Heather
Akinna E
2. Akinna
Love this post, LOVE it! One of the things I loved about Nicole Peeler's Jane True series was that she lets Jane be horny and sexually aggressive without any shame. I also think Shelley Laurenston has a lot of fun heroines who own their sexuality, there is a great scene in The Mane Squeeze (chapter 17, you'll know it when you see it LOL) between Lock and Gwen that really shows this.
Chelsea Mueller
3. ChelseaMueller
@Akinna - The Jane True books are another awesome example! Nice pick.
Marina_ro
4. Marina_ro
The Pcy/Changeling series by N. Singh is another example, the shifters in these books crave touch and intimacy!!!
Marina_ro
5. HJ
Is it significant that many of these examples (most?) are fantasy or paranormal? To me this reinforces the point that heroines aren't allowed to be sexually experienced in books about real life.
Megan Frampton
6. MFrampton
@HJ: Chelsea reads primarily PNR/UF, so that's why her examples draw from those genres. You do have a point, it's easier in those genres to have experienced heroines, but we hope to have an experienced heroines in contemporary post soon.
Michelle Palmer
7. ChelleP
Great article! Never heard of the True Jane books, but can't wait to check it out.

Personally, I am sick to death of the same old monotonous historicals that feature a female virgin although I do love the male virgins, such as the hero in The Duchess War by Milan.

A Gentleman Undone by Cecilia Grant is an example of a woman who enjoys sex with a man (her protector) who is NOT the hero. In fact, for the first half of the book, she is still with her protector. Grant still manages to write a beautiful love story between the H and h. Love her writing!
Amanda Gordon
8. AmandaLyn
If you really like heroines who own their sexuality in contemporary novels, then you need to be all over Victoria Dahl's books. All of them. Ass-kicking women who don't put up with any kind of bullshit, very empowering, and HELLA sexy. Like, burn your fingers smokin'. And their men Eat. It. Up. (Double entendre?)
Marina_ro
9. Raven Clark
Love this.

I understand a certain amount of discretion has to be applied to heroines in historical settings, sometimes, because it's part of the way the world was. A woman's virginity was tied to her honor, and it isn't always beleivable to have a woman be experienced in that setting, much less openly sexual. But even then, it can work with a certain type of female.

One book I read that had an experienced heroine is Pleasues of the Night, by Silvia Day. It's not historical, so it's not meant to serve as an example against the histroical arcitype. It's a modern fantasy, erotic romance, with both the hero and the heroine expereinced, and though she isn't overtly sexualized, it's obvious she knows what she wants and isn't affraid to demand the hero give it to her. And both use the gritty, dirty language often expected in erotic romance. Plus, it's just a great book. :D Thanks for the great post.
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