Author Topic: Promiscuous Heroines  (Read 5556 times)  

Online paranormal_kitty

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
    • View Profile
Promiscuous Heroines
« on: September 10, 2017, 05:42:49 PM »
What are your thoughts on female characters who sleep around? How do readers react? Do you write them, or do you have favorite examples?

Offline Tilly

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1190
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2017, 05:52:14 PM »
Depends what genre you are writing. If its romance, a promiscuous heroine is a huge no-go and you'll be shredded by reviewers. Other genres are more forgiving.

Online paranormal_kitty

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #2 on: September 10, 2017, 06:03:48 PM »
Depends what genre you are writing. If its romance, a promiscuous heroine is a huge no-go and you'll be shredded by reviewers. Other genres are more forgiving.

The one that I've written is Urban Fantasy, the heroine being one of the main reasons it's not in Paranormal Romance instead. I have to say I find that double standard annoying though...the guys can sleep around all they want, but not the women. Her love interest is pretty chaste in contrast, but I mostly did that to avoid perpetuating a stereotype.

Offline LilyBLily

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1503
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2017, 06:43:35 PM »
The one that I've written is Urban Fantasy, the heroine being one of the main reasons it's not in Paranormal Romance instead. I have to say I find that double standard annoying though...the guys can sleep around all they want, but not the women. Her love interest is pretty chaste in contrast, but I mostly did that to avoid perpetuating a stereotype.

I doubt that's true anymore. And in urban fantasy, who even has time to sleep around? Aren't they all supposed to be very busy saving the universe from the Queen of Hell, or Satan Himself?

There's a huge difference between promiscuity and exercising free will, too. And when do you call a heroine promiscuous? If she has sex with two different people during a story? Or three? Or four? It all depends on the details, right?

Offline wingsandwords

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 264
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2017, 06:51:10 PM »
I write urban fantasy with female heroines. I'm referring to my first series, Codex Blair.

Codex Blair features a female, pansexual heroine. She is attracted to moooooost of the people she interacts with. There's a fallen angel, Malphas, who she kisses and is frequently conflicted by how much she wants him. There's a shapeshifter she finds terribly attractive, but doesn't interact with beyond having a leadership conversation with him, he's mated already. There's a werewolf, Geoff, who she's attracted to, but she doesn't know him terribly well. There's a human medic, Shawn, who she sleeps with on a casual basis. There's Emily, a paladin who she works with regularly, that she's just started dating.

The only negative feedback I've gotten in any of the above, is homophobic comments on her relationship with Emily. -__- But no one cares that Blair is free with her sexuality. No one has called her a slut, or shamed her for experimenting with multiple people, or yelled about her being attracted to a lot of people.

Izzy Shows | Website

Online Lorri Moulton

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 823
  • Gender: Female
  • Author of Romances, Mysteries, and Fairytales
    • View Profile
    • Lavender Lass Books
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2017, 06:55:05 PM »
I dislike that double standard so much!

In sweet romances, no one is promiscuous.  In more adult romance, why would the woman be such an innocent?  And if she were, why would she want to be with some guy, who is sleeping around with other women? 

Even Once Upon A Time had a line, where Granny accuses Ruby/Red of "sleeping her way down the eastern seaboard" and that was Disney/ABC. :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5TCeBXqhYc


Author of Romances, Mysteries, Fairytales and Historical Non-Fiction.
Lorri Moulton | Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter

Online paranormal_kitty

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2017, 06:57:47 PM »
I doubt that's true anymore. And in urban fantasy, who even has time to sleep around? Aren't they all supposed to be very busy saving the universe from the Queen of Hell, or Satan Himself?

Oh, they find time :) Conveniently slow elevators and such.

There's a huge difference between promiscuity and exercising free will, too. And when do you call a heroine promiscuous? If she has sex with two different people during a story? Or three? Or four? It all depends on the details, right?

The MC I've written has a reputation for sleeping with every vampire that comes her way (and never the same one twice until she meets her love interest), so that's why I ask the question. There's only two (almost three, but her love interest threatened to rearrange his face) within the context of the story, but the story timeline is only a couple of a weeks.

Even Once Upon A Time had a line, where Granny accuses Ruby/Red of "sleeping her way down the eastern seaboard" and that was Disney/ABC. :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5TCeBXqhYc

Hey, if it's ok for Disney there shouldn't be a problem. :)
« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 07:00:31 PM by paranormal_kitty »

Online Lorri Moulton

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 823
  • Gender: Female
  • Author of Romances, Mysteries, and Fairytales
    • View Profile
    • Lavender Lass Books
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2017, 07:01:41 PM »
Slow elevators! LOL  I'm going to have to read your book. :)

Author of Romances, Mysteries, Fairytales and Historical Non-Fiction.
Lorri Moulton | Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter

Online paranormal_kitty

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2017, 07:08:16 PM »
Aw, thanks Lorri. :)

Offline Kal241

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 518
  • Gender: Male
  • Things are never what they seem
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2017, 07:08:32 PM »
I have to say I find that double standard annoying though...the guys can sleep around all they want, but not the women.

We actually studied this in a humanities class. They did a poll, and more girls had issues with female heroines who slept around than guys. I asked one of them about this, and she said, and I quote, "I read romance to escape real life. So when I read about some girl who makes the same mistakes I did in real life, I close the book." I assume she meant that some females don't like to read about a heroine who hooks up with a ton of guys because it reminds some of them that they do/did the same thing. The heroine can get off scott-free in fiction if they do this; in real life, there can be shame, bad experiences, and such from having a lot of partners.

Maybe that rubs some people wrong?

An artist and a writer combined into one being. When you work with Kal, you get a 2-4-1 deal!  

Check out my artistry at: http://kal241.deviantart.com/
Writing samples of mine will be made available upon request.

Online paranormal_kitty

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2017, 07:18:32 PM »
The heroine can get off scott-free in fiction if they do this; in real life, there can be shame, bad experiences, and such from having a lot of partners.

Maybe that rubs some people wrong?

I'd say if they're getting off scott-free (for anything), that's probably not great character development though. Or at least not realistic.

Online paranormal_kitty

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 628
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2017, 07:21:29 PM »
I write urban fantasy with female heroines. I'm referring to my first series, Codex Blair.

Codex Blair features a female, pansexual heroine. She is attracted to moooooost of the people she interacts with. There's a fallen angel, Malphas, who she kisses and is frequently conflicted by how much she wants him. There's a shapeshifter she finds terribly attractive, but doesn't interact with beyond having a leadership conversation with him, he's mated already. There's a werewolf, Geoff, who she's attracted to, but she doesn't know him terribly well. There's a human medic, Shawn, who she sleeps with on a casual basis. There's Emily, a paladin who she works with regularly, that she's just started dating.

The only negative feedback I've gotten in any of the above, is homophobic comments on her relationship with Emily. -__- But no one cares that Blair is free with her sexuality. No one has called her a slut, or shamed her for experimenting with multiple people, or yelled about her being attracted to a lot of people.

Oh, I didn't see your comment somehow. That's really encouraging that you're in the same genre and haven't been eaten alive in the reviews for this. I've been worried about it, but not enough to change the character.

Online hjordisa

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 20
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2017, 07:34:07 PM »
We actually studied this in a humanities class. They did a poll, and more girls had issues with female heroines who slept around than guys. I asked one of them about this, and she said, and I quote, "I read romance to escape real life. So when I read about some girl who makes the same mistakes I did in real life, I close the book." I assume she meant that some females don't like to read about a heroine who hooks up with a ton of guys because it reminds some of them that they do/did the same thing. The heroine can get off scott-free in fiction if they do this; in real life, there can be shame, bad experiences, and such from having a lot of partners.

Maybe that rubs some people wrong?
That's an interesting perspective. And understandable, if sad. It becomes a problem when they bring the same attitude against real people. In fact, that's where the shame comes from. From other people. It's not inherent. As for bad experiences, those can happen whether you're promiscuous or not, though I suppose moreso if you are. In fact, so can the shame. There's a lot of shame around whether you've slept with the right person, in the right, way, at the right time. Number of partners is just one measure of that.

Personally I like the idea of being promiscuous, but I'm just not. That seems like a weird thing to say, like I could if I wanted to right? But I'm just not attracted to people often enough to be promiscuous. So I tend to cheer on people/characters who are promiscuous and proud to own it.

I think you should go for it OP. I see a lot of people trying to change the narrative in this area. There's more of an audience for this sort of character than there has been in the past, and the more promiscuous heroines are created the more normal they'll become.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 07:35:46 PM by hjordisa »

Offline D A Bale

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 821
  • Gender: Female
  • United States
  • author, editor, cover designer
    • View Profile
    • DA Bale Publishing
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2017, 07:49:08 PM »
My little mystery series has a female bartender that sleeps around some, but she's just so feisty most people love her.  There have been a couple of reviews that reference she's slutty, but they still liked the story overall.

If it's good enough for the gander, it's great for the goose.

Offline K.B.

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1431
  • Ohio
  • Something in the way
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2017, 07:51:40 PM »
I write romance and I don't have patience for this crap. My girls sleep around... a lot. Not within the context of the romance, but as a part of who the characters are. I will NEVER write virgin characters because it's a trope that irritates the  p*ss  out of me.

But many readers in the genre have different expectations. They're just not going to get those stories and characters from me.

K.B. Nelson | Website | Twitter | Facebook

Offline wingsandwords

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 264
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2017, 07:57:40 PM »
Oh, I didn't see your comment somehow. That's really encouraging that you're in the same genre and haven't been eaten alive in the reviews for this. I've been worried about it, but not enough to change the character.

lol, no worries, I responded at almost the exact same time as you :P

And yeah, I really don't think you have anything to worry about. The only comments I've gotten in any relation to romance/relationships are: everything's cool, but Blair's totally going to end up with Malphas in the end, right? Right??? - and I have other people thanking me for writing an UF where romance isn't in the limelight. They seem to really enjoy that it's just a passing thing that happens as the natural course of human interaction.

Izzy Shows | Website

Offline BiancaSommerland

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 271
  • Gender: Female
  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada
    • View Profile
    • Im-No-Angel
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #16 on: September 10, 2017, 08:10:31 PM »
Getting bad reviews for a slutty character who totally owns her sexuality wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. Personally, I'd grab a book if I saw reviews like that! lol

I think attitudes are shifting, so while you might get some resistance, you'd also get a ton of readers who are craving a different kind of heroine. There's place for the virgins and the experienced. I've written open relationships that actually did well. I think it depends on how well readers connect to the heroine. One they fall in love with, or admire, will be forgiven a lot.


Step up to The Edge
Bianca Sommerland | website | twitter | facebook

Online kathrynoh

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2378
  • Gender: Female
  • Melbourne, Australia
    • View Profile
    • Kathryn O'Halloran
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #17 on: September 10, 2017, 08:18:23 PM »
I've just launched an urban fantasy series with a FMC who uses her sexual power as her main weapon. She's not overtly promiscuous in the story but she has a history :) No complaints so far. You have a lot more leeway outside of romance because the relationship isn't the main focus.

At least when it comes to sex with vampires, depending on your world, you don't have to worry about diseases or unplanned pregnancies :)

Offline IreneP

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1020
  • Gender: Female
  • Austin, Texas
    • View Profile
    • IrenePreston.com
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2017, 08:19:02 PM »
I have a romance heroine with a promiscuous backstory. It's a reunion story, and I don't specifically address what she did during the breakup. I let my reader decide. It's a mixed bag. I had a judge in a contest eviscerate me, but I sold the book and it did okay for a debut. It was actually in print in bookstores for a while a few years back and I've gotten compliments on my "complex" character.

It completely depends on the book, the writing, the audience. Why shouldn't we have female characters who explore their sexual nature the same a men do? I'm not saying there won't be push-back from certain readers, but... really? It's the 21st century, y'all.


Online kathrynoh

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2378
  • Gender: Female
  • Melbourne, Australia
    • View Profile
    • Kathryn O'Halloran
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2017, 08:21:39 PM »
We actually studied this in a humanities class. They did a poll, and more girls had issues with female heroines who slept around than guys. I asked one of them about this, and she said, and I quote, "I read romance to escape real life. So when I read about some girl who makes the same mistakes I did in real life, I close the book." I assume she meant that some females don't like to read about a heroine who hooks up with a ton of guys because it reminds some of them that they do/did the same thing. The heroine can get off scott-free in fiction if they do this; in real life, there can be shame, bad experiences, and such from having a lot of partners.

Maybe that rubs some people wrong?

That is really sad. I don't think being promiscuous has to equate to making mistakes. I really the trope, especially in romance, that woman only sleeps around because she's been abused in the past. It's rarely because she enjoys it.

Offline P.J. Post

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2447
  • There is no spoon.
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2017, 08:24:14 PM »
I think this goes along with writing strong female characters, which again, has nothing to do with actual physical strength. There's nothing wrong with a female character enjoying sex or enjoying it with multiple people. The important point, to me, is that they take ownership of their choices, and that they learn from mistakes, as well as, enjoy the positive experiences. Ownership doesn't negate the inherent anxieties, it just promotes their agency. This character isn't going to be slut shamed because she doesn't have time for petty BS. This MC can be both a healthy representation and possibly even an escapist one at the same time.

As for how the character is received by readers, I think it depends on how they are presented. Give them agency and make them human, believable, give them passion and regret; have them learn and grow, give them depth and reason, and I think readers will have less of an issue - generally speaking. It also helps if they are likable...

Lately, I keep saying: serve the story. If your character is chaste, then there are reasons and consequences for that belief; if they enjoy sex, then that's who they are too.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 09:25:38 PM by P.J. Post »

Offline Kal241

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 518
  • Gender: Male
  • Things are never what they seem
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2017, 08:52:57 PM »
That is really sad. I don't think being promiscuous has to equate to making mistakes. I really the trope, especially in romance, that woman only sleeps around because she's been abused in the past. It's rarely because she enjoys it.

I agree, it's sad. I write females that are promiscuous (including some that are into species outside humans, which is its own bag of worms), and I've faced nasty criticism from it, but I don't see any reason to stop. It fits the characters, and I don't want to shame them, so I don't let anyone else's feelings get in their way.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 08:55:30 PM by Kal241 »

An artist and a writer combined into one being. When you work with Kal, you get a 2-4-1 deal!  

Check out my artistry at: http://kal241.deviantart.com/
Writing samples of mine will be made available upon request.

Offline Colin

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1622
  • Gender: Male
  • UK
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2017, 11:42:02 PM »

At least when it comes to sex with vampires, depending on your world, you don't have to worry about diseases or unplanned pregnancies :)

And vampires have a reputation for staying up all night.

Offline Nic

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2682
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #23 on: September 11, 2017, 12:46:49 AM »
That's an interesting perspective. And understandable, if sad. It becomes a problem when they bring the same attitude against real people. In fact, that's where the shame comes from. From other people. It's not inherent. As for bad experiences, those can happen whether you're promiscuous or not, though I suppose moreso if you are. In fact, so can the shame. There's a lot of shame around whether you've slept with the right person, in the right, way, at the right time. Number of partners is just one measure of that.

The reddened part of your post is not correct. Not for women, and not for men either.

The average numbers of sexual partners in a lifetime still are way below common estimations. Depending on country and age the median is below 8 for men and 5 for women. You of course get outliers, especially if you look at the LGBT percentage and there go back beyond the AIDS threshold, but the sheer median is these numbers, lately even less than that.

As with the reluctance to eat certain foods smelling or tasting suggestive of potential infection or disease, which is inherent (built into us on an evolutionary level), there is an equally as selected-for reluctance to "sleep around" [much]. It's only logical, seeing that the more sexual partners people have, the more likely they are to have caught a sexual disease which - during the time we were selected - would prove to be incurable and often also fatal or at least detrimental to fertility.

Not only are people on an instinctive level reluctant to sleep around for fear of catching something, they also disdain those who do, because in a tribal/survival situation of a group, they would endanger the entire group and its genetic survival. There is however even more than just the "disgusting" angle of this. In humans there's also an attraction model going for a certain part of us, which genetically and biologically favours enduring, monogamous relationships. That model is hormonally steered. I can't pull the exact percentages, but for both mechanisms the spread is around 2/3 people geared for monogamous/few sexual partners and 1/3 for promiscuous/many sexual partners. It's nature's way of ensuring that there is Big Plan A (be cautious, stay with a healthy partner to procreate) and a Plan B ([expletive] around and spread your genes, even if it's a risk).

In addition to these two mechanisms, there's more going on. As mentioned, a group's genetic survival is dependent on the number of children born healthy, raised to adulthood and procreating themselves again healthily. While the nuclear family model is just one possible solution, the other being group-raised children, there always is a certain "us vs outsiders" in this and a competition for resources. In consequence we also were selected to react unfavourably to group members squandering resources or contracting disease.

End result of all this is that, no, your assumption is wrong. Of course our preference for few sexual partners in our partner and little sleeping around in general is indeed inherent. We are selected for this. It's not astonishing that some expression of this is part of every major religion (aka ancient set of societal rules), whether favouring monogamy or group living.

Which means that you not only will be going against what people have been actively conditioned to think, you also go against instincts on a very biological level for a majority of your potential readers. They will react to this without even being conscious of why they dislike it.

Online Doglover

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3897
  • Gender: Female
  • Huntingdon, United Kingdom
  • If you want real love, buy a dog.
    • View Profile
    • Margaret Brazear Author
Re: Promiscuous Heroines
« Reply #24 on: September 11, 2017, 01:06:27 AM »
The one that I've written is Urban Fantasy, the heroine being one of the main reasons it's not in Paranormal Romance instead. I have to say I find that double standard annoying though...the guys can sleep around all they want, but not the women. Her love interest is pretty chaste in contrast, but I mostly did that to avoid perpetuating a stereotype.
I think in romance, it is equal rights to chastity, isn't it? I am old fashioned and I hate women in books who sleep around, but then I write historical fiction where such a woman would be publicly flogged. However, Forever Amber springs to mind. That was the original 'bodice ripper' a best seller in its day and set in the time of the restoration. She slept her way to the bed of the King and everyone loved her and that was in a more naive time.

I have also read books where the sympathetic heroine is a prostitute. I suppose it depends on how you paint the rest of her character. The male of the species has always been promiscuous, it was always considered to be in their nature, but not women.


The past is another country; they do things differently there
Margaret Brazear | Website | Blog | Facebook | Readers Group | Comic Covers