There have been a few comments about the virginity in romance thing lately, which have made me examine why the whole thing bugs me. So much that I've been avoiding a lot of romance lately. You just don't see the obsession with virginity in a science fiction novel, whether written by a man or a woman. Now, I don't necessarily think that the readership of romances overlaps evenly with that of other genres, but readers are readers, right? Most romance readers will read other types of books. But you don't see the conventions of virginity or of the virgin widow in other genres. Which makes me say "What a load of crap!" to all the protestations that publishers merely produce what readers demand. If readers demanded virgin heroines so much, then why aren't the majority of heroines in all genres virgins? But they aren't.
I see two major problems with this obsession with virginity in romance:
1) Most men don't fantasize about virginity or innocence. They might want to marry an innocent or pure woman, but their sexual fantasies and desires do not revolve around these women. Maybe for a week. Maybe long enough to marry her. But after a week a) she's no longer innocent and b) now he'll want to try some kinky stuff, and if she's not willing, then he's going to start fantasizing aobut someone else. And it probably isn't going to be about some other innocent woman. It's going to be the girl he sees in Playboy or watches in porn. (Note: I'm not saying men don't fantasize about the appearance of innocence. There is a reason for the cliche that librarians are sensible on the outside and wild inside. It is a male fantasy. They are fantasizing the lady in the kitchen, whore in the bedroom idea.)
2) I know that romance novels are reflections of women's fantasies, and that most fantasies are not particularly grounded in reality, but I can't get around the idea that if men are fantasizing about virginity and innocence, isn't that kind of sick? Is that something we want to read about in romance novels? It's certainly not something I want to read about. Way to close to pedophilia for me. And sorry, but I don't want to read aobut a hero who acts like a pedophile.
(P.S. If you haven't read it yet, Mrs. Giggles has a great rant about virgins in romance.)