Steamier than a February night, virginity has been a key theme in romance novels long before 50 Shades of Grey became a bestseller. On theme with our first issue, Emily Westmoreland has manoeuvred her way through a stack of sultry books. Get ready to strap on some v-plates and enjoy some demure and disgrace in these top ‘virginity reads’ to bring something sexy to your first semester.
You could be Losing It over Julia Lawrinson’s second YA novel. Refreshingly, this teen angst isn’t the overwrought “you should lose your ‘gift’ when you’re in love” message—it’s about four girls and a pact to lose their virginity before schoolies. Hilarity and awkward situations in cars inevitably ensue. For those otherwise inclined, Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan is an eclectic collage of high school romance. It features sweetness, dancing, cross-dressing and the cliché American homecoming. It has just been reprinted and is utterly adorable. Read these books with strawberry confectionary and a sense of nostalgia and gratitude that you will never be in that situation again.
For those after a less giggly, warm and fuzzy virginity experience, try The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Darker and more sinister than its cinema counterpart and overflowing with personalities, this debut the tale of the worst ever first date. The title is imbued with spoilers, but the sultry, sleepy way in which the Lisbon sisters’ family disintegrates will have you sighing at the fragility and beauty of this foreboding text. Read in the sunshine, far away from your bedtime.
For virgin controversy, the entrancing beauty of Nabokov’s most lauded novel, Lolita, is the perfect place to start. Already bringing to mind clichéd images of perverted old men, you should read the original and learn Humbert Humbert’s obsession with nymphets goes beyond “mere” perversion. Passionate or paedophilic, Lolita has divided literary critics for decades, with only one constancy: the language is exquisite and never explicit, the imagery a pure suggestion for your dirty mind.
If classics are not your style, perhaps last year’s literary scandal, Tampa by Alyssa Nutting is. A novel so wrong it’s right, Tampa follows the life of an eighth grade English teacher who seduces her pre-pubescent students. Both novels are best read on public transport where you can enrage and engage strangers with your own seductive grin.
Virginity is not always a teen-angst issue: The Caged Virgin is an emancipation proclamation for women and Islam. This autobiographical voice of oppression and liberation is a poignant series of articles from Somalian Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her later memoir, Infidel, is an even more powerful tale of life raised in a strict Muslim family, touching on genital mutilation, civil war, despots, forced marriage, and later political asylum in the Netherlands. Read with the awareness that not all vaginas are free, oppression still exists, and that this is not an all-encompassing perspective of women in Islam; merely one narrative.
Finally, for those reading this article for pure erotica, Mills & Boon have got you covered. Forget Twilight fan-fictions that dominate the publishing world. Instead, indulge your fantasies with vikings, Scottish highlanders, warriors, rakes, billionaires, warlocks, dominants, submissives, vampires, cowboys or kings… there’s something to suit everybody! There will be euphemisms galore: swords will be thrust to the hilt, fireworks will course through blood streams, manhoods and loins will be inflamed, breaths will be lost and be found nowhere and the word penis will feature zero times. The scandalous couple will have sex in chapter three, and by the end of the book all dishonour will have culminated in matrimony or something equally placating.
Fifty per cent of all paperback novels are romance, and more than 50% of these have the same plot. It’s escapism, it’s hilarious, it’s not quality—but who wants to drop a valuable book in the bathtub? Best read surrounded by soapy suds, with chocolate, a glass of bubbles, candles and a substantial amount of alone time.