that is the question:

Whether tis most arrousing in the book to suffer

The swoons and kisses of convenient purity,

Or to take charge against a sea of virginity,

And by opposing end them? To love: to hope;

No more; and by real sex to say we end

The page-skimming and thousand fictitious O’s.

That flesh is heir to, ’tis a deciet

Devoutly to be wished. To touch, to feel;

To peak: perchance to love: ay, there’s the rub…


I’m often curious and find myself rolling my eyes at the heroic lover’s discovery of the heroine’s “barrier of innocence”.  Of course the union of the pair is expected to be an emotional and physical completion neither knew was possible…until meeting.  THAT is expected.

Era is of course a factor. We are conditioned to expect any woman before 1960??? to be pure of body, unless some tragic event “ruins” her until a man of equal tarnish rescues her from the bowls of social ostracism and poverty. (pearl clutching swoons) The question I often ask is, should we?  Certainly there were soiled doves before the liberation movement. Certainly there were women who defied convention.  Do we really believe Elizabeth I was a virgin?

As I’ve pondered this question I think FOR ME, it’s a matter of my own maturity.  Relating to a twenty-something woman who suddenly finds herself so smitten, so tempted she is now willing to relinquish a part of herself to a near stranger, (9 times out of 10 they JUST MET) has me skimming the pages to get to the adventure or mystery or more about the hero’s more interesting, damaged, mysterious best friend.  Heroines who have kissed a few frogs and know what they want in and out of the bedroom; who can meet the hero on even terms…those women, those sex scenes are worth reading for me.

Perhaps it’s best to let the characters dictate, but I wonder if writers slap chastity belts on heroines because it’s expected or easier, more than because it’s who she is?

What do you think?  Do you prefer virginal heroines or not?  Does it matter if the sex is hot and the story is good?