The next chapter in my mess-in-progress is a deflowering scene. Yes, my heroine is a virgin and I feel a bit out-of-date, given the popularity of courtesan and widowed heroines. I enjoy those stories, but I can’t help it. The heroine of this story just is a virgin, though not for long. 🙂
I’ve been thinking about other “first time” scenes I’ve read in historical romances and also the comments I’ve read on review sites and reader discussion boards. They are all over the place! Some readers can’t believe scenes in which the heroine is nervous and traumatized and the hero apologetic. At the opposite end, some readers say it’s not believable for a heroine in a historical romance (or sometimes even any woman) to really enjoy her first time.
I’m guessing some of these attitudes trace back to those readers’ personal experience. Me, I have my usual response to any credibility issue: It depends.
The physical experience must have varied then as it does now.
As for the heroine’s emotions, that could depend on how much she knows. A while back we discussed the question of What did they know? and concluded there were some ways young women could learn about sex, though some likely came to the marriage bed ignorant. How the heroine would feel would also depend on how well she knows and trusts the hero, and how far they’ve gone already. Also on the spontaneity of the scene; in heat-of-the-moment sex, she wouldn’t have time to get nervous the way she might on a wedding night.
I find a little anxiety very natural. Even if the heroine hasn’t been warned it would hurt and advised to “think of England”, even if she trusts the hero and is hot for him, she might still have the normal fears anyone could have when doing something for the first time. Will it be fun? Will I be good at it?
I think a bit of nervous anticipation can make the sex more exciting. I can believe that a heroine is eager, but I find it harder to believe if she is bold and skillful, without some interesting explanation of how she got that way. A little vulnerability makes things more real and therefore hotter. And as for virginal heroes, they can be a blast. So horny and so very anxious to please… 🙂
I think some of this still applies to couples in which neither is a virgin. If it’s their first time, or even their first time after a long separation in a “second chance at love” type of story, there’s still that tension of how it will go and where it will lead. And there’s another kind of heat when people are good at it, and know it.
So what do you think? What sorts of first time sex scenarios do you find believable? Most hot? Or not?
The ones that leave me the coldest, so to speak, are the ones that pull me out of the moment–like your scenario of an inexplicably skilled virgin. It would make me wonder just how she got those skills. The ones that are the most fun are the ones that acknowledge that sex is funny (I mean, have you SEEN a penis?!?) and can be hot at the same time.
Oh, gee, Elena. I just wrote one of these scenes for my Undone. Now I hope I did it justice.
I think this is a great topic and I’m anxious (biting nails) to see what everyone has to say.
For me, the best deflowering (omigosh, what a term!) scenes are ones where there is an emotional vulnerability on the part of the male, and a definite connection between lovers even if things aren’t perfect yet.
My least favorite ones are where the sex is perfect, angels sing, and the union is the climax to the book, pardon the pun.
My favorite fictional male virgin is the hero in Jo Beverley’s Forbidden. When he brings his wife home a puppy I burst into tears. Every time. I’m a sap.
Megan, on funny sex scenes, have you seen Shoot ‘Em Up with Clive Owen? I laughed so hard I risked incontinence.
I really quite enjoy the first sex scene between hero and heroine. It can tell you so much about the state of their relationship, etc etc.
There are just two things that I don’t like seeing.
One: I always take note of whether the author knows where the hymen is. Quite a few sex scenes will be vague about it, which works fine. Others, however, have the hero penetrate a few inches and then discover a barrier…. that really bugs me because it is perpetuating the myth. [See The Great Wedding Night Myth for more of my thoughts, backed by some research.]
Two: the heroine has some magic orgasm without benefit of foreplay or great arousal. In two sentences she goes from naive and untouched, to blossoming into her full womanhood in the amazing presence of his virile member. (OK, I should have said three things, I also dislike purple prose).
Have fun with it, and do whatever seems right with your characters!
The ones that are the most fun are the ones that acknowledge that sex is funny
I adored Carla Kelly’s hero in Beau Crusoe having an embarrassing tattoo he got at the age of 14(?). Perfect!
Janegeorge, yes, that was a great scene. I think a lot of people missed just how overthetop ridiculous that whole movie was, and thought they were being serious. I didn’t like the heroine grabbing the club owner, but that was my one gripe.
Elena, I’ve just written my first virginal heroine. I’m beginning to wonder if the jaded rakes who say virgins are more trouble than they’re worth might be right 😉 Good luck with the book!
Gemma! Thank you so much for all this..um…detailed information. Can you believe so many of us are ignorant of our own anatomy?
Now I’m hoping one of my books wasn’t one of your examples….
I’m going to look at my scene again and make certain it makes anatomical sense.
In Anna Campbell’s latest, both her protagonists are good at it and know it, and yet, they have deeper anxieties associated with the act, so on one hand, they’re confident, yet on the other, so vulnerable. The story is masterfully handled, every scene nuanced with emotions, some strong, some fleeting.
The experienced widow who acts like the first time with the hero is her very first time. I mean c’mon. Even if the hero is hawt-stuff and silver-fingered, it’s still tab A into slot B. I can’t stand ninnyhammers.
Diane wrote, “I’m going to look at my scene again and make certain it makes anatomical sense.”
Rest assured, you’ve never had a third arm pop out of nowhere, or have the hero bent at a spine-snapping angle. Anatomically, you’re all, er, good. Heat-wise and emotionally, too.
I recently read a book where the heroine had no experience and had spoken to no one about what would happen, and yet somehow she knows in her heart it’s going to be the most beautiful, spectacular experience of her life. How? How does she know? On what did she base her perception?
It was so totally unbelievable that by the time the deed was done, and she knew she was right, I was completely out of the story. Not to mention the hero who promises not to hurt her but does little to prepare her.
The few virgin hero stories I’ve read I’ve loved. Though now I’ll have to hunt down a copy of Forbidden. Ack, another TBR!! 😀
Gemma, that’s very interesting stuff and I had believed the myth (horseback riding must have taken care of it for me so I never knew any different–sorry, TMI!) I hope I was suitably vague about it in previous books but I don’t dare check!
I must check out Shoot ‘Em Up, Jane and Megan.
Thanks for the kind words, Anna!
Not to mention the hero who promises not to hurt her but does little to prepare her.
Ladyhawk, I just realized this is another scenario I don’t like: when the oh so experienced hero, knowing the heroine is a virgin, doesn’t do his best to make it pleasurable for her.
As a general rule, I like my heroes to have a “one for me, two (or more) for you” attitude. 🙂
I like Catherine Coulter’s deflowering scenes in her Sherbrooke series. Granted, they are a bit tongue-in-cheek, but her scenes are closer to what I remember my first time being like. The virgin invariably is disappointed because the fellow was a little too caught up in his own pleasure. But oh how she later makes him pay!
I like ones that are clumsy and funny where both participants are nervous, and it isn’t the greatest sex in the world. This gives them a chance to improve technique as time goes on. That’s how I try to write them, anyway.
And, oh yes, Gemma, the misplaced hymen. How did that happen?
And yes, Megan, I believe most of us have seen a penis. Thanks.