Okay, I know I’ve written a lot already about the problems with time travel romance, but this is my last point, I think. Out of everything about time travel romance that bothers me, the most disturbing thing is when characters from a different time period have mysteriously modern views on sexuality. I understand, like I said in part five, why time travel romances tend to gravitate towards the sex as opposed to other things. But what I don’t understand is why so many of these romances assume that the hero from the past views sex in the same way as a modern guy.
The truth is, throughout most of history, society hasn’t been very kind to women who have sex out of wedlock. Of course now, after the 1960s and the push for gender equality, these negative perceptions aren’t quite as strong, generally speaking, so romance novels tend to ignore them. After all, if the whole point of the novel is to fantasize about the joy of romantic emotions, then how dare anyone suggest that giving into your emotions could EVER be wrong? It’s something people don’t want to think about.
But while many modern romance readers don’t think about sex as relating to morality, a character from most time-periods-past certainly would. A “respectable” man from one of the more “romantic” eras of the past, even if he didn’t see any harm in having sex out of wedlock himself, would never consider marrying a woman who would do so. So when I read the beginnings of novels and notice the hero thinking more and more about whether or not he can get into bed with the heroine, I don’t see a romantic happy ending in store. On the contrary, I see a guy who’s probably thinking, “This girls’s from another time period, and probably she’s a slut. Obviously not marriage material, but a one night stand would be awesome,” translated into whatever form of English people used back in the day.
Note to modern heroines: When a guy from modern day says he wants sex, it may be because he thinks you’re awesome, but when a guy from the past says that, he’s treating you like a prostitute, because if he thought you were a respectable woman, he’d never believe you’d say yes. That is NOT the kind of guy you want to end up with. I don’t CARE how beautiful his cravat is or how great his old time English sounds. He’s not worth it.
In fact, I think most women who read historical or time travel romance do it seeking for a time when chastity was respected, when a man could kiss a woman’s hand and somehow that meant more to them both than actual sex does to many in modern day. Kind of like Kate, who finally got some old fashioned respect from Leopold. But what many women don’t want to think about is that if you really want a Jane Austen hero, you have to be a Jane Austen woman.
It’s like in Lost in Austen, when Darcy has an extremely rough time accepting the fact that Amanda is not a virgin. Of course he would, because you see, Elizabeth was a virgin, and so was Jane, and Mary, and even Kitty. Lydia lost her virginity, and after that the best she could hope for was being married to Wickham.
If you want a real Knight in Shining Armor, then you’d better be an actual maiden. Or at least be acting like a maiden from the moment you meet your Knight, and even if you do he’ll still see you as someone who used to be a slut but redeemed herself for him. Sorry, but that’s how it is.
- How Not to Write About Time Travel Part 5: Don’t Write About Time Travel (mgirouxstories.wordpress.com)
- Lesser Shades of Jane (Feature) (popmatters.com)