Tuesday, 19 February 2013

To Tease or Not To Tease

I've been reading Robin Hobb's latest series, The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Dragon Haven, Dragon Keeper).  Several of the main characters are teenagers who journey down a jungle river together.  As anyone who has been a teenager knows, romances are bound to develop in such a situation.  (Of course, teenagers can develop romances looking at linoleum, so maybe the exotic locale isn't quite necessary.)

One of the characters, Thymara, resists having sex because she doesn't want to get pregnant.  Her friend/interest, Tats, is pressuring her using all the classic maneuvers: promising that he would never abandon her, that he loves her, that they're meant to be together.  She sets a strong boundary of kissing but nothing further.

None of this particularly caught my attention until he accused her of teasing him.

Can you really tease someone if you've been clear from the start about what's acceptable and what isn't?  Rather, isn't it a little underhanded to continue to push beyond the mutually accepted boundary?

It's a common reaction and one I think most girls have heard in their lifetimes.  If you set out boundaries and stick to them, then you're a tease.  The other options are to refuse to engage, which makes you a bitch, or to not have boundaries, which earns you the slut label.

It always interests me when it is presented that a female really has no socially acceptable response to sex and sexual behaviour.  I suppose it's a sign our society is still in transition and while I think it does represent a sort of knee-jerk response to the situation, it's not the whole of the story. 

This is a point which I think is sometimes missed in the discussion of women, sex and society.  Yes, the 3 option system shows a basic level of misogyny.  On the other hand, it tends to be perpetrated by immature men and teenage boys, not the most credible of sources. 

I'm curious to see how this relationship plays out over the series.  Will Thymara stick to her boundaries and refuse to engage in sex until they're at least no longer in a survival situation?  Or will she cave in during a moment of passion and decide it's not so bad after all?

My preference would be for her to stay strong and be an example of a young woman who is interested in sex but recognizes the potential difficulties.  I'd like her to stick to her boundaries.  Guess I'll have to keep reading to find out.

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