Tag Archives: virginity

Have you got your Vplates?

When I read this by Alexandra Adornetto, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, cry, or wonder whether I’d woken up in 1950.  (I will try to put down some of the more naive comments to her youth, but Tony Abbott has no excuse.) 

All of my YA novels have dealt, to greater or lesser degree, with female sexuality, past and present – not least my most recently completed one, which deals with the ramifications of four girls making a deliberate decision to lose their virginity.  I have therefore had some cause to reflect on the complexities faced by young women and how they negotiate the tricky area of sexuality and desire.  In the process of writing the last novel, I took a quite extensive survey of my female friends and acquaintances on their first times, and was astonished at the sheer variety of experiences women have had – although they probably came down more on the negative side, regardless of who it was with, one night stand or just-married husband.  I was also astonished at the number of women whose first sexual experiences (not necessarily sex) were not at their own instigation, but were the result of predatory uncles, family friends, older brothers etc.  For us to be having a conversation about female sexuality, this vast and undiscussed underbelly of experience also needs to be taken into account. 

But I want to ask: why are we having this debate about virginity?  Why the focus on what young women are or aren’t doing?  Where is the discussion of young men’s behaviour – which to me would seem the more worrying?  Is it because girls are acing boys academically?  Is it because Julia Gillard scares the bejesus out of Tony Abbott?  Are girls going to be told to stay home and reproduce next?  And my goodness, don’t we have more important things to worry about?

This isn’t to say that sex can’t be dangerous territory for young women: Alexandra is on the money when she mentions the damage that can be done by mixing sex and alcohol, and the sexualisation of girls and women – which also reduces females to their bodies – is concerning to many commentators (thanks Cassandra for the link).  But it’s not enough to say to girls to just say no: it merely shifts the responsibility for the problem of our porn-obsessed, hypersexualised culture.  It would be far better for Alexandra and other young women to challenge the stereotypes they are confronted with: what do they say when boys of their acquaintance call someone slutty-mc-slut-slut?  Smile politely?  I hope not.

If I had any advice for young women and sex, it would be: do what you do when you want to do it.  If your peers equate your reputation with your level sexual activity, virginal or otherwise, go find different peers.  Equating a girl’s worth with her hymen is demeaning.  Actually, equating sex with penetration is a problem in itself – ask Bill Clinton.  What about questions of pleasure and desire?  It seems to be a no-go area in discussions of female sexuality. 

The only cheering thing about this whole debate is that Tony Abbott, presumably, would appear to approve of young lesbian women.  A silver lining, indeed.

And at least it turns out I may have written a topical novel for once. 

‘Mum, you are such a freak!’

… was my daughter’s first reaction to the beginning of the virginity novel.

‘They’re doing it on the first page!’ she spluttered.  ‘Is this book going to be in my school?’

Fortunately, her second, third and forth reactions included laughing and giggling, as she kept reading.

Agnes Nieuwenhuizen once said she had a theory that YA writers tended to write a conservative novel at the point that their kids hit adolescence.

I don’t think this book is it.

As a result of the novel, however, I have had to answer a few questions about my own past that I had been planning to fudge for a few years yet.  Fair cop, I guess.

To or not to be (explicit)

No, I’m not talking about sex in writing this time, although I’ve had some amusing Facebook suggestions on how to name girls’ lower picnic areas for the virginity novel (and also a suggestion that it is called just that: The Virginity Novel.  Further opinions welcome.)

I am, in fact, talking about whether I should name the specific ethnicity of a character whose family comes from Elsewhere in the novel.  The reason I don’t want to, at this point, is because I’m writing about a family who is highly protective of their daughter (hence the lengths she has to go to for virginity-losing purposes), but the actual cultural background is less important than the fact of the family’s protectiveness.  I’ve come across such families from Croatia, from Italy, from Iran, from India, and what’s interesting to me is the way the girls in question have dealt with their constraints on one hand, and the comforting nest of family on the other.  In this case, I have in mind a particular country, and anyone who knows anything about the Middle East will recognise the source of the names, but I don’t want to pin it down because I don’t want the character to represent ‘that’ country, particularly, or for readers to imagine that all families from that background are like that. 

Writing this character is also tricky because she’s taking up the story up to the three-quarter mark, which is a hard ask at the best of times.  At this point, I just have to close my eyes and trust that the thing is going to work out, even if how the novel is working out isn’t what I envisaged.

In other news, the Productivity Commission’s draft report on recommended changes to copyright law is open for comment until this Thursday, I believe.  The changes will basically decimate the Australian publishing industry, and I repeated in my submission what many others have said more eloquently.  But I had to make comment, at the end, about the Productivity Commission’s bizarre reference to ‘psychic income’, as if this should have some bearing on the actual income writers receive.  So I finished my submission with:

I’m sure that staff members at the Productivity Commission and elsewhere also receive some internal satisfaction from the work they do. Nevertheless, I am sure they would not expect to see reference made to this in a report which has a potentially adverse effect on their earning capacity. If the recommended changes to parallel importation are brought into being, however, psychic income will be the only income available to Australian writers.

Watch this space.

 

 

Would you keep reading this book?

I don’t normally let out anything close to a first draft, but as I’m about to start my summer holidays/serious writing schedule, any views on the following are most welcome: 

Scene: Bold Park, car park, 2am. No lights, barely a moon. 

Location: The back of a Yaris.

That’s right, a Yaris. The car barely even rates as a sedan. It’s like two mopeds wrapped with tin foil, only less comfortable.

The boy: Matty.

The girl: Me.

The situation: I’m about to have sex for the first time. Yes, I’m a virgin, I’m in a car with a boy, and I’m about to have sex. 

Well, that’s what I’m trying to do. Or actually, what he’s trying to do.

And unless things improve, and improve rapidly, I may remain a virgin. 

‘Ow.’

That’s not me, that’s Matty. Matty’s problem, apart from the Yaris, is that he’s uncoordinated. In all areas.

‘What?’ I gasp. I’m not gasping out of pleasure, I’m gasping because he’s just collapsed in a heap on top of me.

‘I just banged my elbow. On that knobbly thing.’

I can’t see what knobbly thing he’s talking about, what with me being trapped underneath his torso and all.

I want to ask if the banged elbow is going to stop him from resuming insertion attempt number three, but I’m not sure I’m that interested in insertion attempt number three. In all of my fantasies about how losing it for the first time would be, none of them included a Yaris, a banged elbow, or me forcibly having the air squished out of me by Matty.