In a post called, appropriately, Trigger Warning, about mostly-female reviewers unleashing a torrent of slut-shaming on sexually-active female lead characters. FYI: there’s a lot of pain in that blog post.
I came across that link through a public FB post by Mary Anne Mohanraj in which she tells of a book that was declined by Harper Collins because the editor believed a great many readers would not be sympathetic to a woman who has sex when she is not in love.
I immediately thought about Ray Lilly. He has sex in Child of Fire and Circle of Enemies, and he’s not in love with either of those women (he was once in love with Violet, but not anymore). What’s more, neither of those women are in love with him.
And not one reader has said boo about it.
Ray was written to be a likeable character (my first deliberate attempt at one, actually) and a thriller hero, so the narrative context of the sex is different. It turns readers’ attention away from the fact that these characters are living their lives and making these sorts of choices. For a social realist or coming of age novel, the whole thing is *about* those choices.
Plus, he’s a guy, and guys are welcome to get it on whenever they can without much risk of losing reader sympathy. It’s ridiculous bullshit, but it’s still there.
We’ve come a long way, but it’s not far enough.