I was pondering the virgin hero (the hero of my current book lost his virginity years ago, but I'd like to write a virgin hero one day) when I remembered the case of Effie Gray and John Ruskin. John Ruskin was a renowned Victorian art critic and Effie was his bride. John was handsome, Effie was beautiful ... but the marriage was never consummated. In fact, six years after they married, Effie filed a suit of nullity on the grounds of non-consummation.
According to Effie, her husband gave a number of reasons for not consummating the marriage (including dislike of children, religious motivations, and a desire to preserve her beauty) before finally revealing the truth:
"that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person"
This was confirmed by Ruskin himself during the annulment proceedings:
"It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it."
There has been much speculation about what those 'circumstances in her person' were. Menstrual blood, is one suggestion. Body odour is another. A third (and the one I think most likely) is that it was her pubic hair that revolted him.
John Ruskin was an art critic. He had seen countless paintings and sculptures of nude women -- but they were smooth and hairless creatures. If he'd only ever seen naked women in art, then it is entirely conceivable that he'd have been shocked and even disgusted by the sight of a real woman's body.
Poor Effie! Young and beautiful -- and rejected on her wedding night by her husband. Not what she would have been hoping for!
(And spare some pity for poor old Ruskin, who was a victim in this too. How upset he must have been to discover that real women didn't look like the ones he'd spent years admiring on canvas and carved out of marble!)
After six years of sexless marriage, Effie obtained an annulment and went on to marry the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais, with whom she had eight children -- so clearly that marriage was consummated!
John Ruskin never married. In fact, his biographers haven't found evidence that he was sexually intimate with anyone. (Again, spare the man some pity.)
It's funny, I can imagine that a Regency heroine might be shocked by her first sight of a naked man, but I've never given much thought to how a Regency hero might react to his first ever sight of a naked woman. It never occurred to me that he'd be so horrified that he'd never have sex! It's safe to say that if I ever do write a virgin hero, he won't be appalled by the sight of his naked lover; on the contrary, he'll be eager to get rid of his virginity!
So, what do you think of virgin heroes??? Have you read any romances with virgin heroes, either historical or contemporary, that you can recommend?