Women’s Liberation in Dark Urban Fantasy

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.


Sisters, superpowered or not, standing together for agency.

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?


About Courtney Sloan

A New Orleans native, Courtney Sloan relocated to the hills of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina. There she lives with her husband and fellow author, J.P. Sloan, their son and their crazy German Shepherd pup. Adding to her writing life, Courtney is also a professor at the local college and enjoys learning a world of new ideas from her students as she teaches them about writing and communicating. Courtney’s New Orleans upbringing has left her with a love for the macabre and a flare for the next to normal. She writes speculative fiction with a variety of horror and sass mixed in for flavor. She loves taking the world of politics that haunts us now, and adding the supernatural to create a gumbo of thrills to keep you up at night. A self-proclaimed lover of way too many fandoms, Courtney also loves crafting. From blankets to jams to stories, it’s always better homemade. View all posts by Courtney Sloan

12 responses to “Women’s Liberation in Dark Urban Fantasy

  • jadahmccoy

    Agree. I purposefully wrote my MC, Syl, as not a virgin. Sexuality is a huge part of our person. To hide it or wash it in innocence is simply not true to life. In my personal life, I’m aggressively vocal about my right to control my own body. It should be the same with our female characters. I sleep around, sure. Why is that “scandalous”? We aren’t used goods or food dropped on the floor. We’re people with desires.

    • Courtney Sloan

      Exactly! The “used goods” metaphor is appropriate. Why does it increase a man’s worth, but kill a woman’s? Rights are a big part of this. We can see it in the governing of women’s issues as well as fashion, media and even how courts see worth and judgments.

  • Vicki L. Weavil (@VickiLWeavil)

    I so agree with you! There should be room for everything, just as there is in life. If a woman wants to have sex, fine. If not, fine. Why is it always a big issue?
    Now, in my Snow Queen Saga series, I refrain from having the characters have sex, but mainly because it is a YA Fantasy based on early 19th century culture (because the stories are all based on H.C. Andersen fairy tales, and that is the culture I am using for inspiration). So the implications for a young woman in that time period are VERY different than they are today. (My YA scifi does have teens who have sex — I don’t go into detail, but it is discussed). However, if I felt that premarital sex was right for any female character, even in the Snow Queen series, I would not hesitate to include that. Because… why should a female character be judged differently than a male character? If men are not judged harshly for having multiple sex partners, or sex outside of marriage or “true love,” why judge a woman?
    I prefer a female character having her own agency and choosing to have sex (and not just with her “forever love” or whatever) MUCH MORE than all implied — or even depicted — rape scenes that seem to abound in books today. Especially since a lot of such scenes are implied to be somehow “swoony,” which… UGHHHH.

    • Courtney Sloan

      Yes. Why is a woman forever sullied if sex is not meant to last forever? The implications are not only harsh, but also damaging. Think how much we do to young women’s psyches with that kind of message. “If you do the same as a man, you are forever tarnished and your value is decreased.” And it doesn’t get better with age. Cougars are a joke while older men with younger women are high fived.

  • abetterfeelingthought

    The double standard concerning women and sexuality in our culture is a stubborn old monkey that needs to be shaken and thrown off the back of our society. Through education, example, persistence, and supporting each other I believe we can shift this paradigm.

  • Lisa

    Before reading your blog and listening to your discussions in the classroom, this issue was never really on my radar. You have made me more aware of this issue. After gathering all my information about the issue, I came to the conclusion that women should be treated with respect just like men. Men and women should be treated equally. Men should not be praised for doing something, and then when women does the exact same thing they are yelled at by others.

    • Courtney Sloan

      Absolutely. We can look at behaviors of CEOs that are acceptable in men but seen as harsh or worse in women. It’s an ongoing conversation that needs people from all political avenues.

  • Taylor Lin Campbell

    This is a double standard that effects me every single day. I am a woman who believes that human sexuality is one of the most beautiful and interesting things in the world. It breaks my heart when I see men (and other women) criticizing me or any other woman who chooses to live a sexually active life. This is one of the many ways women are oppressed in this society and it blows my mind. It is 2016, sex is a normal and healthy act. It’s natural. So why are we still shaming women for having sex? If we’re safe and not hurting ourselves or others what is the big deal? Oppression can only last as long as the oppressed allows it. Every single person, but especially my ladies, need to start standing up for equality in the sexual parts of society. Well really every part of society, but sexuality is a huge portion of it. We are officially responsible for stopping this nonsense. Stand up for your rights to sex, ladies. You’re not a “slut,” “whore,” or anything else people want to call you. You’re a human being doing natural and human things.

    • Courtney Sloan

      With so much other there that is hurting people, doing actual physical and mental damage, how silly is it to concentrate on something as small as this. “Oppression can only last as long as the oppressed allows it” is an important concept, but just as we looked at with forceful factions, there is a lot a minority must accomplish to move the majority. But, and please allow me to quote the most recent Captain America movie: “Compromise where you can. Where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say ‘No, YOU move’.”

  • Amanda Stover

    Sadly, we are going to be judged no matter what we do. Sex is a part of life and it’s natural. Not only is it for pleasure, but the main purpose of it is to reproduce. Sex helps keep our world turning, yet it is still seen as a scandalous thing for women in certain situations. Whether you have it or not should be someone’s choice, especially a woman’s. Too many close-minded people..

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