In the comments section of my last post, Laura Vivanco noted, “. . . it’s not going to be possible to tell for certain whether or not he’s a virgin.” Vivanco is correct in her assertion and thus in this post, I want to speak about how we might discuss the virgin hero and his identity as virgin.
In my work on the male virgin, I have simply relied on the hero to admit his virginity as my marker of whether or not he is a virgin. In nearly every male virgin romance that I have read, I have uncovered something of a virginal structure:
- The hero will acknowledge his virginity in an internal monologue
- The hero will confess his virginity
- An explanation will be given for the virginity
- Virginity will be lost (and often enough, sex will happen twice)
Thus, in my work, I am absolutely not—at least not now—interested in making heroes into virgins. Some texts, such as Galahad in Blue Jeans, certainly flirt with the virginal possibility, but in these cases the best we can hope to do is acknowledge a possibility.
If in romance, “virginity is a given here,” we are realizing more and more in the contemporary romance, particularly of the last decade, that virginity runs both ways—both men and women are virgins. But, while it is true that men and women are virgins, the experiences of virginity are different. It is, in this regard, that it is interesting that romance has now taken an interest in the male virgin. I can only begin to speculate on the reasons. But, there is without doubt an increased interest in the male virgin. Monica Burns provides an anecdote:
“A little more than a year ago, I was getting ready to write my March 2011 release Pleasure Me. My editor and I had talked at a conference, and she’d asked me to make the hero a virgin. My initial [response] on the outside was, ummm . . . sure, I suppose I could. Inside I was thinking WTF? I write alpha heroes. How in the hell am I going to write an alpha male who’s never been with a woman?”
The virgin hero provides an interesting, and I believe productive, challenge for authors of romance. What does it mean for a man to be a virgin in the context of a romance novel? And, more general, what does it mean for a man to be a virgin? Virgins in romance are commonplace, the virgin hero in romance is a growing commodity, and his experience of virginity is often, as we will see in upcoming entries, quite different from the virginal heroine.
Jonathan A. Allan is affiliated with the University of Toronto. Find out more about Jonathan Allan.