For a time not so long ago, there was the common but somehow romantic concept of the “pure” girl who’s never had sex falls in love with the very experienced “bad” boy. Especially in the Young Adult urban fantasy (fantasy meshing with the real world), there was the common trope of the main female protagonist being a tiny but stubborn teenager who butts head with the tall and handsome new kid, eventually falling madly and viciously in love with him (her first love, by the way). Often times as well, girls the same age who have had sex are often placed in the light as pure sluts, with their character being left very one-dimensional. At the same time, the books are promoted as “empowering” to young girls, girls who can be as young as 10 and very impressionable.
Why does this matter? Well, trying to promote this idea (plus promoting romance with male protagonists of questionable choice), this can lead many to be unaware of the toxicity of relationships like that. Let’s break it down a little bit, shall we?
Well first, the fact that the main girl is practically the only one around that is a virgin promotes the idea that she is on a level above every one else, or “pure”. Now this isn’t to say that being a virgin at 16 or 17 is a bad thing- the average age that people lose their virginity at is 17- but having her be the only one that is a virgin is saying something. Plus, these girls usually haven’t even had their first kiss yet, like how much more obvious can you get?
The girl also usually doesn’t have very many friends, being the sort of “loser” in school. She usually has around one or two friends (maybe 3), and there is always a guy that she is closest with, mostly to play the love triangle game. Unless, there is the rare chance that he is gay (True Blood), and then he is just the sassy friend trying to encourage her to get laid. This reinforces another idea-it’s not cool to be “popular”. If you’re “popular”, then you’re just like all the other girls who sleep around and party. You’re not “pure”.
The “pure” aspect contrasts greatly from the main male protagonist, the new bad boy who is always insanely attractive. He usually sleeps around, is sarcastic as all hell, and doesn’t like to follow the rules. He is the kind of guy that’s supposed to be unachievable, but always turns his attention to the nerdy not conventionally pretty female protagonist. He sweeps her off her feet, and rescues her because he knows so much more about the magical world than she does. He becomes the useful one, while she sheepishly has to follow him around for protection, and eventual romance. He takes an interest in her mostly because of her purity (a concept that appears in many different books, TV, and movies), making her all the more desirable. She is the target of his romantic advances because she is “not like other girls”.
Plus, he’s always got a broken, tortured soul for the female protagonist to save. He can have all the problems he desires, but she can’t. She’s supposed to listen to all his problems, without having any actual problems of her own to share. This can be very dangerous for an actual relationship. A girl is not supposed to only be someone’s “savior”, but should also be able to reach out to her partner. If she feels like she can’t, then that’s not a very good relationship.
To make matters worse, the idea of the man acting aggressively protective, and sometimes even controlling, gets romanticized. Any man she hangs out with is a threat (and it’s usually portrayed that way), and she must be “protected” from them. She can’t be friends with male friends either, because it turns out they just want to get in her pants, even though bad boy is the only one for her. And bad boy gets really upset when she talks to other men. Controlling behavior is made to seem romantic here, when it’s really not, which could influence young girls into believing that it is. Her heart and body should only be meant for him, and never any one else ever again, which is also not a healthy thing to romanticize. It’s dangerous and can lead to girls getting trapped in toxic relationships.