Last week I introduced the notion of talking about promiscuity in this week’s blog because frankly, I am disappointed in myself. Why? Good question.
See, I found a passage in one of my books that seemed to suggest a person who enjoys casual sex is somehow less than. One of my favorite characters is the wise-cracking Joy. She is the best friend of the seriously wronged woman in The Ultimate Betrayal. At one point, I had considered writing a new story with Joy as the main character. Of course, I was going to follow the age-old trope and give Joy her happily ever after. She would finally find a woman to stop her womanizing ways. No more one-night stands or casual sex with hoards of beautiful women.
The armchair psychology represented in the book was that Joy’s promiscuity was a wall she erected in order to keep herself from commitment and gasp, possible heartbreak. Yup, I succumbed to the notion that someone who is not in a committed relationship cannot possibly be fulfilled. That’s just one step from the old 50’s era notion that if you didn’t marry and have 2.5 kids, you could not possibly be a healthy, happy, woman.
Here’s the definition of promiscuous: having or involving many sexual partners: not restricted to one sexual partner or few sexual partners. Seems relatively factual. There isn’t any judgment and yet, in our society, there is a ton of judgment and history regarding how women who are promiscuous are viewed.
I did some research on promiscuity and it’s most definitely something that gender plays a significant role. I learned something interesting in my research. The “American Plan” began with a woman named Bessie Smith who in 1942 was jailed and forced to undergo medical tests for sexually transmitted diseases. After the test came back positive for syphilis and gonorrhea, they quarantined her. She described this as sending her to a “concentration camp” and filed suit. Unfortunately, this practice expanded across America, giving government officials the authority to scour the streets looking for anyone reasonably suspected of having an STI or those who the officials believed were “promiscuous.” Unbelievably, thousands of women were locked up and detained all the way into the 1970s.
They didn’t round up men and have them tested. Nope. Men could cheat on their wives and transmit STDs without any negative consequences, especially back in the 40’s and 50’s and in certain cultures. Catholics are famous for advising women to stay with their husbands no matter what. Promiscuity was acceptable male behavior.
As our country grapples with racism, sexism, and homophobia, including one’s own introspection on the issues, it was hard for me to ignore how I’d fallen into that trap. I understand it wouldn’t be a contemporary romance that any reader would want to explore without the notion of the heroine finding her true love and giving up her one-night stands. That would turn lesbian romance upside down. Monogamy and soul mates are such prevalent themes to the happily ever after. However, an interesting question to ask is, are they sexist or discriminatory? Maybe. I suppose a book about a well-adjusted woman who enjoys sex with many different partners would not be considered a romance. And, we all know romance is queen in lesfic. Still, I don’t have to put a spotlight on this or somehow suggest a choice to live out one’s life with multiple partners makes a person less.
I’ve joked before about becoming one of those promiscuous women. Why? Because relationships are hard and if I ever found myself single again, I’d simply seek multiple partners to satisfy my need. Now, of course, I say that now, but I suspect my Catholic upbringing would not allow me to actually do this…even though I am no longer a Catholic. It was after all a joke. But, let’s say for argument purposes this was a path I decided to take. Would all those well-meaning lesbians look upon me with pity? Would I be considered a pariah of sorts? Would you judge me harshly?
Not too many of my characters follow the trope of the woman with many casual partners. I did dance along the edges with a main character in The Book Witch. In many ways, Imara is a character that definitely has to grow on you as she develops. Here is one of those scenes that doesn’t quite show her best side, but hopefully by the end of the book, you have a more favorable view of her.
“I really am sorry. I want to explain what happened. When you met Misty, I was afraid.”
“Ha, you afraid.”
Imara held up her hand. “Let me finish, please. You have such an annoying habit of interrupting people. At least that hasn’t changed.”
“Is this an apology?”
“Oh right, yeah, back to my explanation. Anyway, you started spending all your time with that little hussy. I wanted my best friend back. All of a sudden, it was Misty this and Misty that. Good old best friend Imara was left out in the cold. Besides, I knew she would hurt you. I couldn’t let that happen, even though I do understand how overbearing that seems.”
“Yeah, you hurt my feelings. I do have them, you know. I thought if I wooed the little tart away from you we’d go back to normal, like we always did when you got your puppy dog crushes and they didn’t last. She really wasn’t worth it. I swear. The way she talked about you made me so mad.”
“But I told you. She was different.”
“I know. No offense, but when you were younger, you weren’t the best judge of character.”
“You weren’t. Remember when you started buzzing around what’s her name?” Imara gave Elle that arrogant, knowing look she’d always hated.
“Yeah, she was a piece of work. Tried to get you to steal my spells so she could further her career by combining book chants with spells.”
“Isn’t that what you’re proposing? To combine our book magic with yours?”
“I’m not gonna steal your chants. You’re giving them to me. Totally different.” Imara waved her hand in the air. “Come on. You have to agree; she was a complete bitch.”
“Okay, I’ll admit a pretty face sometimes got in the way, but not with Tanya.”
“Agreed. She’s the first one with substance. You know, falling for people with no substance is a lot like living in godforsaken Forks, Washington.”
“Yeah, the rainiest place in the United States. I spent four miserable months there. I was hoping to find real vampires and shapeshifters, but that movie series totally lied. Besides, I wanted to see what the big, flippin’ deal was. I still can’t understand why that author is moving there.”
“The one who wrote the book I plan on plucking the perfect character from.”
“Now who’s naive? And what does Forks have to do with appreciating attractive lesbians?”
“Living in Forks is like being married to a beautiful woman who’s always sick. Gorgeous location, but it rains all the time.”
“That’s horrible. Do you mean to say you would leave your wife if she got sick?”
“Figure of speech. Okay, how about I say who’s always cranky instead? Better?”
Elle laughed. “I have missed your shallow ass.”
“I am not shallow.” Imara put her hands on her hips and glared.
“Yes, you are. Chasing after beautiful women without substance is what you do.”
“Maybe I’ve changed.”
“Doubtful. A leopard does not change her spots.”
“Jai has substance…” Imara shifted her feet.
“Busted. You’re gonna make a play and chase after her. You’re not here to offer her an adventure.”
“Maybe I want my own Tanya. Do you blame me?”
“What’s so special about Jai?”
“She has this kind of quiet confidence. When she teaches, there’s magic. I swear she enchants her students. She makes a difference in those kid’s lives, especially the vulnerable ones.”
“Ah, so you’ve stalked her.” Elle said.
“Not any more than you stalked Tanya when you were deciding about her worthiness as one of the chosen,” Imara defended.
“Touché. My advice is to go into this with pure motivation. Exercise a bit of altruism by thinking of her first. If something evolves, it will be as it should.” Elle slung her arm over Imara’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s go find my girlfriend and see about some lunch. She’ll appreciate the blood splatter missing from our clothes. This is gonna be fun.”
“So you forgive me?” Imara asked.
Elle nodded. She had missed her best friend, who could liven up any adventure.
“How about I give some of my wise advice? You’d better make that girlfriend of yours your wife pretty soon.”
“Hey, don’t push your luck. I just forgave you.” Elle narrowed her eyes.
“Just saying. She’s a keeper.”
“That she is and paws off. Now I really don’t give a shit if you go after Jai, as long as you leave Tanya alone.”
“I promise. Cross my heart and hope to keep it from my cauldron.” Imara crossed her index finger over her heart.
Maybe you’ll be intrigued enough to want to read more about Imara. You know the drill by now…below are all the links for you to do just that!
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