Dreary Day, Dark Dreamers,
“Just be prepared, if your female character has sex with anyone who isn’t their happily ever after, people are going to complain.” This statement during my last week’s critique group meeting was followed quickly by “But if it’s a male character, there’s no problem.” Together we’d been looking at The American Scions first sex scene. Granted this was only mentioned in passing, but the thought has stayed with me all weekend. Double standards follow us not only in life, but into our fantasy worlds as well.
Strong female leads are needed and should have full agency. They stand up to governments, vampires, shifters, ghosts, mediums, the 101st Airborne, whatever life throws at them, but when it comes to sexual freedom and her body she needs to be chaste and pure as any medieval princess. Even if she thinks it’s love and follows all the true to life actions, if he isn’t going to be her husband soon, we have to make it bad or she’s a slut.
I am not saying that we need to have sex, sex, sex at every turn and with every possible character. In fact this entire discussion began from the first scene of its kind in the entire series. First a strong female character gets in trouble for not having sex in book one, then there’s trouble if she does in book two if it’s not with the progressively approved guy. This is a crazy catch 22, and what gets me is it is a frustrating reflection of the double standard in life outside urban fantasy. And I do understand this conversation is nothing new. To quote that pivotal 80s movie The Breakfast Club, “It’s kind of a double edged sword isn’t it? Well, if you say you haven’t, you’re a prude. If you say you have, you’re a slut. It’s a trap. You want to but you can’t, and when you do you wish you didn’t, right?” We may be CEOs of Fortune 500s, but we haven’t moved past this trap yet.
Sex does not make the man, nor the woman. Our bodies are our own. We should be judged on our abilities, not gender. There is a cultural norm that presupposes that the barriers to physical acts is only the responsibility of women. Somehow men are too weak, vulnerable, or incapable to turn down a pretty good. Men should be as upset with this image as I am?
Yet, this is not the case. We teach girls how not to get raped, rather than teaching boys don’t rape. We make girls go home for a tank top, but boys can wear pants that show their underwear. Girls get suspended for slapping a boy who grabs her butt, but the boy just couldn’t help it because she was distracting. I wish I was being hyperbolic and embellishing for effect, but I don’t have to. These have happened in real life, and continue to do so far too regularly.
In Urban Fantasy we value our strong female characters who have agency and take life in her own hands and face down all the odds. Can’t we let them also lead the way to breaking other stereotypes? So, that’s my question you, Dreamers, do you agree with the original statement about our female heroes or is it time to let them take agency not only in beating the big bads, but also in the bad double standards? What do you feel on this issue?