Why is it that men who get around get lucky and women who do the same get slut-shamed? Why is it considered an advantage for men to be sexually experienced but that same experience makes women used goods? I actually know a man who asked his girlfriend, who is a friend of mine, whether her vagina had been worn out by its many encounters. Really?! Should I ask him if his penis has gotten smaller from all the friction he's generated using it--like a half licked candy cane? I can't believe there are really men out there who still think this way. But there are.
Why am I thinking about the haters today? It's because I just finished the new Kresley Cole Immortals After Dark offering, Dark Skye. Among other interesting themes, this book explores how two individuals, a virgin male and the sexually experienced woman he loves get past her past, which he finds both repugnant and hurtful. He has spent hundreds of years knowing she's given herself to other men (they were broken up, after all) and it's been eating him alive. When they finally get together, his attitude is one of forbearance and condescension; he feels she should be grateful for his willingness to consider her as a mate given her state of tarnish. Thankfully, his sterling mate spends quality time disabusing him of this Neanderthal attitude and explaining in no uncertain terms that she refuses to feel bad or ashamed for her choice to exercise a healthy sexuality. I was cheering her on every step of the way.
Dark Skye is the story of a Sorceri princess and a prince of the Vrekeners, creatures of the Lore of uncertain provenance. The two were childhood sweethearts whose story goes horribly wrong. She is his mate, the only woman who can complete him. She believes he killed her family. Needless to say, they have a bumpy road to achieve their HEA. But it's fun and exciting along the way, as it always is always with Kresley Cole.
I've always figured that men value virginity because they don't want to suffer by comparison. Which makes sense, of course, as most men have little idea how to satisfy a woman (see my post What Women Want). But the whole practice of making women feel bad for enjoying sex and celebrating their sexuality makes me crazy. And I become enraged when I hear about men who think less of women (or worse, their own woman) because the women sowed their own wild oats before settling down to domesticity. Personally, I want to be with someone who has been around the block once or twice and has chosen me above all others. I'll take on the competition any day of the week. Bring. It. On. Similarly, I want to be with someone who had already sown his own oats. I'd hate for him to get a wild hair later in life and wonder what he's missed. I really don’t share well with others.
So back to the double standard we call gender equality. Seems grossly unfair to me. And at first, I thought things were getting better when I listened to women talk about men who are “players” in a negative way. But then it quickly became obvious that the connotations are divergent enough to matter. Slut-shaming is a terrible term in itself and says something about the attitude implied by the nomenclature. When women talk about a man being a “player,” they are usually using the term in a derogatory way to indicate that the man is incapable of making a commitment—that he “plays” women, rather than being a “keeper.” Taken this way, it is a man’s lack of desire to commit that makes him undesirable—not that he’s dipped his wick in innumerable candles. Moreover, a man who is a “player” is considered to be in the power position—a player is someone who holds the cards, so to speak.
When a woman is referred to as a slut, she is not considered to be in control—she is considered to be the one who is controlled—controlled by her nether regions, or at least using them to get ahead in the world. Which usually implies she has no other discernable gifts or talents. She is tossed about just like a ship on the ocean—being buffeted from pillar to post. A “player” is looking to avoid relationships. A “slut” is using her body to coax a man into hanging onto her for good. Seems fairly inequitable, no?
And so, this is why I love Kresley Cole and her fellow paranormal and urban fantasy authors so much. Each and every one of Ms. Cole’s heroines enjoys a healthy sexuality and healthy sex—defined as anything consenting, otherwise unattached adults want to do between the sheets, or in the car, or in the trees or the fields, or the hot tub for that matter. And these women apologize to absolutely no one for their tastes or proclivities. They are women, hear them roar—and moan, and pant and gasp for breath as they relish the men they are with and the heat they generate. Slut-shaming is not tolerated in the world of Kresley Cole, or Laurell Hamilton, Thea Harrison, Nalini Singh, Jeaniene Frost, or Patricia Briggs, among others too numerous to name. All of these amazing authors’ amazing heroines are strong, independent women who are not ashamed of their bodies, their sexuality or the number of partners they’ve had, whether that number is high or low.
The point is, it doesn’t matter as long as everyone knows the rules. For Kresley Cole’s Dark Skye heroine, what she did when she believed her relationship to be irretrievably over was her business. And her virgin lover was finally able to get over himself and over her past as he understood that once she committed to him, what came before became irrelevant to their current reality. Past performance is not indicative of future outcomes. Isn’t that what the stock brokers tell us?
Dark Skye is a great book with an important message. There should be only one standard for both men and women. And what comes before shouldn’t impact what happens now and into the future. And true love trumps playing the field every time.