19 February 2011

Imposing Contemporary Standards

I'm not quite sure where I am going with this particular post, so apologies if I end up taking a stroll to nowhere!

Last week I finished reading Bound By Your Touch (Meredith Duran) [historical romance]. This was my first Meredith Duran book and I loved it. But...it got me to thinking about whether historical books written today reflect contemporary standards or the standards of the time period they are set in. To put it bluntly, the hero and heroine of Bound By Your Touch have sex. Before they are married. More than once. And it seems like that is the case in the vast majority of historical romances, apart from those with the marriage of convenience trope, in which the marriage happens first and the romance after. (And I am sure there are other exceptions, I just can't think of any ATM :)

The thing is, throughout history, sex before marriage was not considered acceptable. (I should add a caveat: it may or may not be acceptable in today's society depending on who is reading the book.) I'm sure it happened - women have been having children out of wedlock since....since before the Virgin Mary. But...it's never been as accepted as it is today. And yet, the vast majority of heroes and heroines in historical romances engage in it. And why is that exactly? Thoughts?

8 comments:

  1. Oh, they definitely reflect the attitudes of the time period they were written in, not the one they take place in. The same is true of westerns (I've been taking a western movie class and they are sooooo 1950s).

    I don't mind the sex before marriage thing at all. I know it was considered taboo, especially to the Victorians, but look at the Victorians! There were some sick puppies living during that time period. As long as it fits in with the story, I'm good.

    ReplyDelete
  2. heidenkind - *nods* I'm with you on the Westerns! Oh, that sounds like an interestig class. I have no issue with sex before marriage, it just struck me that I hardly ever read a historical romance where there isn't sex before marriage.

    ... but look at the Victorians! There were some sick puppies living during that time period.

    What have you been reading?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Pretty sure that they generally reflect the time period in which they were written. :) I'd love to read Kris's opinion on this topic.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Chris - *nods* I don't know why I didn't think of this before now! *grin* And I'd love to know what Kris thinks too :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I agree with heidenkind. There are still a few writers who try to stay with the time period as much as possible (Mary Balogh for example), but even they will have the couple have relations outside the marriage at times. :) Although not in a blatant way or without repercussions (social or otherwise), as I've seen it done in other historical romances.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hilcia - I need to read more Mary Balogh!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I love this topic. I don't really have anything valuable to contribute since I'm really not so familiar with the sexual norms of historical times. Heck, I'm trying to get a hold of the sexual norms of this time period!!!

    I guess it's general knowledge that a woman needed to be a virgin to be "eligible" for a good matching... but I imagine men were as willing to partake in premarital sex then as they are now... so there had to be some women who did it and not just those who did it for money. Right? I have no idea, really...

    ReplyDelete
  8. Christine - *grin* I'm not familiar with the sexual norms of historical times either. But the one thing I do know from back the is that sex before marriage is bad! Well, if you were an unmarried female of the nobility :)

    ReplyDelete