Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A virgin hero or a playboy?

The romance genre is filled with virgin heroines, especially in historical romance (my headstrong heroine in SCANDAL AT THE FARMHOUSE is a virgin, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing about her). But virgin heroes are much less common, and apparently, less popular. Why?

I would love to know the answer to that question. According to the experts at TV tropes ‘it is understood that the leading male must be sexually active. A guy who has never Done It, or even just does not Do It often, is simply Not Man Enough to save the day, solve the mystery or whatever. It doesn't matter whether sexual experience is in any way relevant to the skills needed in the plot, he just has to be Man Enough so he has to have Done It and preferably Do It Regularly. That's How It Is. Don't Argue.  Here’s the link to the whole article if you’d like to read it. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AManIsNotAVirgin

But wait – not all of us like guys who sleep around! And there has to be a first time for everyone. Some of the most successful romance novels have virgin heroes. Jamie in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander was a virgin, and so was Matthew in Anna Campbell’s Untouched. In category romance the ‘virgin hero’ theme has been done very sweetly by Anne Macallister and New Zealand’s own Susan Napier. Even in the edgy urban fantasies of paranormal writer Nalini Singh, the occasional virgin hero can be found – but I won’t reveal which book because that would be telling! There was even a hint that the irresistible Kyle in Terminator might have been a virgin - and Terminator was an action movie that found huge popularity with women. Perhaps we are not quite so faithful to the playboy hero and the Regency Rake as we used to be. Or perhaps we are more or less ‘wedded’ to our experienced heroes, but occasionally we want a brief flirtation with man who has yet to experience The Act. Are all virgin heroes beta heroes? Is ‘previous experience’ essential in an alpha male? 

I am intrigued by the whole debate. I have just finished a story with a playboy hero (a World War Two fighter pilot) and it was a lot of fun, but I adore virgin heroes. I wrote about one in American Smile, and would love to ‘do’ another, if you see what I mean, but the advice out there seems to be telling me to stick to the more ‘saleable’ heroes. If you are crazy about playboys, I want to know why, and if you like virgin heroes, I would love to know more. Please leave a comment  - it will help me to decide what to write next – virgin or playboy.


  1. I love the idea of a virgin hero - especially if he fits all the other criteria. There is something very about a very sexy man having his first time with the love of his life....Besides the playboy hero is in danger of becoming a cliche if we're not careful (uh oh I'm writing about one of those at the moment).

  2. I like my heros to be in control. Not sure how that would pan out if (not going into details!) it's his 'first time'! However it could work quite nicely in a Cougar type story.

    I'm intrigued now though - I love Anne Mcallister, can you remeber what book that was?

    LOVE the sound of your WW2 playboy pilot, my sort of guy!

  3. Rachel, the Anne McAllister book was 'Cowboy Pride' and the hero was in his early thirties, surprisingly enough. Not what you would expect in a cowboy story, but 'his past' sort of explained it.

    Thanks to Densgirl too - and yes, I think it has to be a soulmate situation to work well, doesn't it? Otherwise she's just part of his education!

  4. I think in YA virgin heroes work really well. I guess we all like the idea of the experienced partner who makes sure that our heroine has a wonderful time. If both parties are virgins, there must be a certain amount of fumbling. It also gives credence to those hardhearted alpha males, encased in a wall of stone, who have emotionless sex and can then be redeemed by our heroine.

  5. Yikes! I've just had a search for Cowboy Pride and there's one for sale. At £104.95! I think I'll drop Anne a line and let her know!!

  6. It all depends on the story. There is a place for playboy heroes & a place for virgin heroes. I think the virgin hero in American Smile was perfect for that story. However a "headstrong heroine" who is also a virgin needs an experienced lover......but that's just my opinion. Looking forward to reading Scandal at the Farmhouse

  7. I'm all for virgin heroes. One of my favorite Sherrilyn Kenyon heroes is a virgin (Unleash the Night) - although he certainly isn't a hero who struggles with what goes where the first time. And that has to be the case with most virgin heroes I've read, they tend to perform very well even that first time.

  8. Great question! I guess it depends on the type of story and the setting. YA is perfect, but I would find it hard to believe there was a modern contemporary story with an older virgin hero unless he is religious, nerdy or strange. Modern men do not work that way unless there is a reason.

    I write historicals, again there has to be a very good reason as in historical times (almost any time period except perhaps Victorian, men were men and did what they liked. Prostitution was a way of life for a huge number of women.

    Paranormals, anything can be true because again you can make the REASON connected to his character, or situation.

    For me personally, I wouldn’t like a virgin hero, only a little experience would be more realistic. BUT as in any great story – give me a good premise or reason why he is a virgin and I’ll probably read it. Anna Campbell’s book is a good example of this.

  9. The only time I don't like "virgin" is when it seems to have the plot hinge on it - where it defines the hero or heroine. Then it seems to pander more to the "virgin fetish" - which I'm not particularly happy with. I enjoy a book where she's a virgin and he gently introduces her to the world of hot sex - I hate it when the fact that she's a virgin 'turns him on'. (I wonder if these hangups of mine affect my writing :) )

  10. I reckon it's all in the execution. It's the character that makes it work, rather than the issue of being a virgin or not. If I'm on board with the character and he's sexy regardless of his 'prowess' then it could be awesome!

  11. I agree with Tyree but am also curious, what is the appeal for a virgin hero? I'm not against it but I've never thought about it.
    I'll only comment on Jamie as an example but I feel that Claire, as the older experienced woman, is very significant to that story line. Why? Because she's from the future and used to greater equality. This gave her the opportunity to have equality and respect with Jamie. Furthermore, Jamie is young and headstrong still evolving into the man. His virgin status is sweet, a kind of AWWWWW isn't that cute thing for me and very little to do with him as the hero. True he didn't find any ol' wanton lusty for a roll in the hay, but that wasn't terrible believable for me. Therefore the purpose of his virginity was in direct correlation to Claire. How rare to have the deflowering of a delectable male by a sexually confident woman. Or at least, in the books I've read.

  12. Sometimes the playboy hero really puts me off a book. I mean, I get that guys don't just sit around waiting for their soulmates, and I understand the appeal of a sexually aggressive male, especially with a virginal heroine.

    But don't you sometimes want to shake the heroine and be like: "Really? Really, girl? You want to potentially set yourself up to be another notch on his carved out bedpost? Yes! Let's sleep with Mr. Man-Whore 1876! Great idea!"

    I wouldn't mind a less sexually experienced hero in my romances--a guy who sex is a big deal to and not something casual or done in sport. I know the Carpathians in Christine Feehan's can be read as virginal. She never says it, but it's implied, and let me tell you--it did not make the sex boring at all in those books.

    I don't think the virgin hero will ever really compete with the virgin heroine device, but maybe it's time to even the playing field a little.

  13. It's been great for me reading through all these comments - it has given me so much to think about. I really laughed when I read Lizzie's post about 'Mr Man-Whore 1876'. Tyree had a good point about not pandering to the idea that 'virginity' in itself is sexy. After all, we are writing about falling in love with a PERSON - not just their virginity. I thought that was really important.

  14. First, wanted to thank you for the comment on my post it was encouraging.

    And as for the 'virgin hero" question, one of the first books my mind went to was a paranormal romance by kresley cole called "dark needs at nights edge", and the hero in that one was shown as a virgin hero but he was also shown as a manly man type of vampire. the reason given for his "v" status was because before being turned into a vampire he was a part of a sect of people who were vampire killers and had vowed to forsake all other pleasures.
    the combination really worked in that one, because though the heroine is shown as the one with more experience, she is still the more vunerable one, whereas the hero while inexperienced is the more alpha personality.
    I think having hero who as warriors with a cause and in part of it still a virgin, and a heroine who tempts him makes for an interesting combination.
    As for a hero who is a playboy, however cliche the concept is, still really works. Because who doesnt love a reformed rake.
    It's the idea the love reforms which works, no matter how it is presented. At least i think that's what it is.

  15. This was really interesting, K. I am definitely going to read that book by Kresley Cole. From your comment and from several others - I can see there is a deep affection for the other type of hero too - as long as his love for the heroine reforms him. Thanks - great comment!

  16. It was the fact that Tyler IS a Virgin Hero that I was attracted to American Smile in the first place - it's so unusual to find a sexually inexperienced male lead in novels and I was intrigued. It worked incredibly well and I loved reading it! I'd like to see more of this kind of hero in future. :)