Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lord of Misrule (Morganville Vampires 5) and Female Teenage Sexuality

So, I'm about 3/4 of the way through Lord of Misrule, the fifth of the Morganville Vampire series, which I've been obsessively reading since I got out of school two weeks ago. (That's four books in two weeks. I'm slipping! I so used to read faster than this!!)

I suppose we can excuse my lack of speed reading because I've been slogging away at getting two novel manuscripts ready for publication. I had a flash of burning insight sometime Saturday night, in which I realized: IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE TO HOLD OFF PUBLISHING BREATHLESS UNTIL AFTER THE SERIALIZATION ONLINE IS OVER.

I mean, seriously. I think I have maybe 200 readers of Breathless. Maybe. It's really hard to get accurate numbers, because I have to go from page hits, and since some people are obviously reading the pdf version, they show up as being on the site for less than a second in the reports. So I figure that if I publish the book version halfway through the serialization, at least 50 of those people will be willing to fork over $12.99 to find out what the heck happens to Jason and Azazel. Maybe. We'll see. So I fast tracked the book to createspace, getting the interior and exterior files ready in one day. (exhausting, let me tell you.) I'm in the agonies of waiting for proof copies currently, and I'm not a very patient person.

So, again, Lord of Misrule. I had a hard time with the beginning of this book because it was very different from the others. At this point in the series, Morganville has been attacked by some weird old vampire dude and so everything turns chaotic fast. There are riots and buildings being burnt and all of the characters are separated for a long time. At first, it kind of threw me off, and I was jonesing for more Claire-Shane time.

Being as I am not patient, I stopped and read some reviews of the book at this time, which promised there would be some nice moments for the couples. So I kept reading. And I wasn't disapppointed. There were definitely some nice romantic moments in store. I haven't quite finished the book. That's probably what I'm going to do for the rest of the evening after I finish this.

Finally, I did get a nice Claire and Shane scene. Well. Sort of. See...I explained that at this point, Morganville is burning and everything's chaotic and people are dying. Plus, we as readers have no real idea where Amelie, the Founder and protector the town is. And, well, things look pretty bleak. So Shane and Claire take some time to themselves, where, freaked out as they are, they engage in pretty heavily making out in Claire's bed.

At which point, Shane then stops himself and leaves.

Now...here's the part where I start to get a bit confused. Okay, first of all Shane is 18 and Claire is 16. Now, at some point in the first few books, Shane promises not to "take advantage" of Claire, who really technically is jailbait or whatever. This is all fine and good. But the series portrays Shane and Claire (in an earlier book) as sharing a bed and not having sex.

Which, as you might remember, is a pretty heavy factor in another teenage vampire series, namely Twilight, where the guy is also a "little" older than the main character.

In both of these books, the girl is jonesing for sex, but the older, wiser guy holds back for both of them and says, "No, we have to wait."

Listen up, teenage girls: BOYS LIKE THAT DO NOT EXIST.

Furthermore, if you are in a relationship with a boy who you want to have sex with and he doesn't, for whatever reason, want to have sex with you, it's probably NOT going to be a healthy relationship.

Teenage boys think about sex all the time. (Most teenage girls probably do too. I did, anyway. I can't speak for my gender.) If for some reason, a guy DOESN'T want to have sex with you, there's probably something wrong with him, (emotionally or psychologically. Seriously. That is very abnormal) or he has beliefs about sex that aren't lining up with yours (that is, if you want to have sex and he doesn't). Either way, unless this guy is far and away your soul mate (which let's face it, rarely happens in high school), he's not worth it.

Next, I want to be very clear with you all about one thing: Several times in my youth, I have slept in a bed with a guy I was attracted to and who was attracted to me and who said he did not want to have sex with me. "We'll just sleep," we said. I have never once been able to achieve this just sleeping thing. If you get in bed with someone and the two of you are mutually attracted to each other--you're going to have sex. Do not believe these books that try to tell you that you can sleep in bed with a guy and just kiss. You can't.

Finally, I guess I'm just kind of confused about what sort of messages these books are sending about feminity and sexuality. The idea that a girl wants to have sex, but her boyfriend, the older and wiser male, holds back because he doesn't think she's ready (besides being unrealistic) is sexist. It assumes that boys know better than girls in relationships. They don't. Nobody really knows better. Healthy relationships should be partnerships. In healthy relationships, people should trust their partners to know what's best themselves, not decide for the other person and then withhold a certain activity. Withholding sex is actually a way that some abusive men control their partners. It's not cool. It's creepy.

On top of the sexism and unequality, I'm just not sure why everybody gets their panties in a twist about teenage girls and sex. You know, my grandmother got married and had her first kid when she was seventeen. And that was only about sixty years ago, and it wasn't atypical. It was normal. We have decided to push back the responsibility of adulthood into the midtwenties. That's fine. It's nice to have time to figure out what you want to do with your life and to explore your options and be young. But if you think that just because you're not ready for a career until you're twenty-two, you won't be ready for sex until then either, you're fooling yourself.

We can adjust as humans socially, but we can't adjust ourselves biologically. Girls enter puberty earlier than they used to (possibly due to nutrition, possibly due to hormones in meat--jury's still out : ) but are expected to wait years and years after puberty to be sexually active. Contrast this with the average woman getting her first period at sixteen and getting married at eighteen.

Why is our culture frightened of teenage female sexuality? Why? Is it because things have changed, and women are no longer financially dependent on men? Or is it simply that we can't let go of the idea that women and girls are not fragile beings who need to be coddled and protected, but equal beings who need to be educated and taught to take care of themselves?

I don't know. I didn't intend Breathless to be such a sexually charged book when I conceived it, but it's become that, especially in the third book where I've somehow got myself in the awkward position of exploring the ability of teenage girls to have orgasms. Why do I do this to myself? It's hard enough to sell books when you're spouting conservative values.

I guess it's just that I couldn't write a book about teenagers without portraying sex in the most realistic way I could. And I sometimes wonder if writers like Rachel Caine, who by my estimation graduated from high school in the late seventies, have any idea what sex is like for teenagers today.

Lest my post come off as all doom and gloom, I would like to say that (at least my upperclassmen--11th and 12th graders) do seem to be pretty mature about sex. They don't have problems talking about it candidly, and I don't get the impression that they're being stifled or taught that they're sexual feelings are wrong or innappropriate. This, in my opinion, is progress, and it's a far cry from what it was like just ten years ago when I graduated from high school. So...things are changing for the better, actually. Kudos to the new generation. You guys kick ass. (Just don't listen to people who write young adult fiction. Except me. Okay, no, wait. Listen to everyone. But use your brain and draw your own conclusions.)


  1. you know i was just thinking that the other day - about the whole sex thing anyway. hhmm that didn't sound to good but here leme explain lol;
    i'm 17 and yeah i'm still a virgin and i'm pretty close with my mom and i've assured her i'm still a virgin. its not like i wana wait til i'm married or anything it's just i havent really found the right dude ya kno?
    anyway, while i was writing my book i got really caught up in the moment and i put a sex scene in there. But then I got really uneasy, like, what would my parents think if they read this? would they assume i'm having sex and are they going to seriously flip if they read a book by me that has a lot of sex in it?
    And then i thought who the hell cares? I mean seriously, people are having sex on camera all the time, and it's not like i'm turning my book into a porno. We're teenagers - sex is like all we think about. If someone can't understand that, then well, they seriously need to be laid.

  2. Ha! Yeah, when I was in high school, I always used to put sex scenes in the stories I was writing. And I didn't have sex until my senior year of high school. I remember being similarly worried about my parents finding it, but my parents were pretty strict, so they probably WOULD have freaked out.

    I still worry about that, actually. Like, I told my parents that I was posting Breathless online, but inwardly I cringed, because I didn't think they'd like the swearing and casual attitude the young characters have towards sex.

    Anyway, they haven't said anything, so hopefully they're not reading it.

    Oh finally--what you said about waiting for the right guy. That's awesome. I think that's the point I was trying to make. That we need to trust that women, even as teenagers, can make their own decisions about their bodies. Or we need to educate them or talk to them about it, which is what it seems like your mom is doing. She sounds like a good mom. :)